Allow yourself at least a half-day to wander through Old Akko’s medieval streets. Unlike the restored Old City of Jaffa, which is filled with tourist galleries, Old Akko is both charming and genuine, and its streets teem with real life. The best place to start your tour is at the Jezzar Pasha Mosque. Right across the street from Al-Jezzar Pasha’s mosque is the marvelous Subterranean Crusader City, and just a few steps farther is the Municipal Museum (exhibits sometimes closed for renovations) housed in Ahmed al Jezzar Pasha’s Turkish bath.
Next you’ll wander through the pleasant and colorful streets of the bazaar. Be sure to see the most picturesque shop in the bazaar, Kurdy and Berit’s Coffee and Spices, at no. 13/261 (ask around, it’s deep in the market). The showcases here are filled with exotic objects and herbal remedies. If you make a purchase at Kurdy and Berit’s, the very hospitable owner may invite you to try a cup of thick Arabic coffee. Also look for Abu Nassar’s Oriental Sweets and Hummus Said, both located in the market near the Khan el Shwardia and each a legend throughout northern Israel. Akko’s “formal” market is Suq El-Abiad, but numerous streets within Old Akko serve as shopping areas. You’ll pass the El-Zeituneh Mosqueto the Khan El-Umdan caravansary, marked by a tall, segmented tower. A caravansary, or khan, was a combination travelers’ inn, warehouse, banking center, stable, and factory traditionally built around a lightly fortified courtyard to house caravans, pilgrims, and other visitors.
At the port, you can hire a boat to take you on a sea tour of the city walls (about NIS 50 per person). Don’t be afraid to bargain. Many boat operators will be glad to take you on a motor- or fishing-boat cruise around Old Akko. Settle on a price in advance (about NIS 125 for an hour is average), and get a boat that looks comfortable.
In Venezia Square (Ha-Dayagim in Hebrew), facing the port, is the Sinian Pasha Mosque, and behind it the Khan El-Faranj caravansary. Yet another khan, named El-Shwarda, is a short distance to the northeast. A few steps back is the Jezzar Pasha Mosque. You’ll also want to visit the dreaded Al-Jezzar Wall, where barbaric punishments were meted out, and the outer wall of the Akko prison, scene of a massive prisoner escape in 1947 (during the British Mandate) engineered by the Jewish underground and dramatized in the film “Exodus.”
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To appreciate the elaborate system of defenses built by Ahmed al Jezzar Pasha to protect against Napoleon’s fleet and forces, turn right as you come out of the Municipal Museum/Museum of Heroism onto Ha-Hagana Street and walk a few steps north. You’ll see the double system of walls with a moat in between. Jutting into the sea is an Ottoman defensive tower called the Burj El-Kuraim. You’re now standing at the northwestern corner of the walled city. Walk east (inland) along the walls, and you’ll pass the citadel, the Burj El-Hazineh (Treasury Tower), and cross Weizmann Street to the Burj El-Komander, the strongest point in the walls. The land wall system continues south from here all the way to the beach.
To Baha’is, this shrine to their prophet Baha’ Allah is the holiest place on earth. Baha’i followers believe that God is manifested to men and women through prophets such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, as well as the Bab (Baha’ Allah’s predecessor) and Baha’ Allah himself. The Baha’i faith proclaims that all religions are one, that men and women are equal, that the world should be at peace, and that education should be universal. Baha’i followers are encouraged to live simply and to dedicate themselves to helping their fellow men and women. They look forward to a day when there will be a single world government and one world language.
The Baha’i faith grew out of the revelation of the Bab, a Persian Shiite Muslim teacher and mystic who flourished from 1844 to 1850, and was executed by the Persian shah for insurrection and radical teachings. In 1863, Mirza Husein Ali Nuri, one of the Bab’s disciples, proclaimed himself Baha’ Allah, the Promised One, whose coming had been foretold by the Bab. Baha’ Allah was exiled by the Persian government in cooperation with the Ottoman leaders to Baghdad, Constantinople, Adrianople, and finally to Akko, where he arrived in August 1868. He and several of his followers were imprisoned for 2 1/2 years at the Akko Citadel. The authorities later put him under house arrest, and he was eventually brought to Bahji, where he remained until his death in 1892. He is buried here in a peaceful tomb surrounded by magnificent gardens. Baha’is are still persecuted, especially in Iran where the faith was born; the Shiite Muslims in authority today look upon them as blasphemers and heretics.
You can visit the shrine at Bahji (Delight), where Baha’ Allah lived, died, and is buried, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only, from 9am to noon. The house’s beautiful gardens are open to visitors every day, from 9am to 4pm. Catch a no. 271 bus heading north toward Nahariya, and make sure it stops at Bahji.
Going north from Akko, you’ll see an impressive gilded gate on the right-hand side of the road after about 2km (1 1/4 mile). This gate is not open to the public. Go past it until you are almost 3km (about 1 3/4 miles) from Akko, and you’ll see a sign, shamerat. Get off the bus, turn right here, and go another short distance to the visitors’ gate. The Ottoman-Victorian house holds some memorabilia of Baha’ Allah, and the lush gardens are a real treat.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.