Jerusalem Old City - Photo Diary
Jerusalem, Israel’s capital, is one of the most fascinating and famous cities in the whole world. Unfortunately, Jerusalem’s treasures have led people to fight over it many times throughout its rich history leading to its destruction not once but twice. Christians, Muslims and Jews have had a special place in their heart for Jerusalem for many years and many come especially to Israel to visit the holy sites within the Old City. Jerusalem is so special, and there’s no better way to get familiarize with its ancient history than getting lost in the alleys of the Old City. Wondering through Jerusalem’s Old Town is a special experience, one you would probably cherish for many years to come. We loved strolling around the winding alleys and discover its everyday street scenes and hidden gems. Moreover, we even had a chance to visit Jerusalem during Easter and we took part in the famous Good Friday Procession. We really tried to capture the special atmosphere in Jerusalem’s Old City and share it with you in this photo diary of Jerusalem.
The Four Quarters of the Old City
The Old City of Jerusalem might be less than 1 square kilometer but there are four quarters in this Old Town, each with its own character.
The Christian Quarter – this is probably the most visited area of the Old City. You’ll find here plenty of souvenir stands and shops, churches and other holy sites and of course the most significant site for Christians – The Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The Armenian Quarter – this is the smallest quarter that is home for more than 2,000 Armenians, a community who has been living here over 2,000 years. In the Armenian Quarter you can visit the Armenian Museum, the beautiful St. James Cathedral and the Tower of David.
The Jewish Quarter – this quarter is the place of residence of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish families. There are a few schools for Jewish studies in this compound as well as synagogues, shops and restaurants. For history lovers make sure to visit the ancient Roman Cardo street and the old Byzantine bazaar and of course, the Western Wall.
The Muslim Quarter – this is the largest quarter in the Old City, always busy with activity and crowds. You’ll find here a maze of alleys filled with shops and produce stands as well as restaurants and little hummus joints. You can also find here a few Christian churches and the famous Dome of the Rock.
The Western Wall (Ha-Kotel)
The Western Wall or the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City is probably the most sacred sites in the world for Jews. This Wall used to be one of the supporting walls of the Second Temple which was destroyed by the Romans. Archaeological researchers have proven the authenticity of the Western Wall whose history dates back to the second century BC.
For years Jews from all over the world have come to pray in this holy site and place notes in the crevices with prayers for God. Over 1 million notes are placed every year in the Wall’s cracks, and these are collected twice a year and buried in the Mount of Olives. Nowadays, thanks to modern technology, you can even email your note to The Western Wall Heritage Foundation and they will put it for you! Remember that this is a holy site and you are expected to dress accordingly. In addition, due to the gender separation in Judaism, Men and women need to pray in different sections that are separated by a barrier. For more information about opening hours and location of the Western Wall.
Via Dolorosa or the Way of Sorrow is believed to be the route Jesus walked on his way to the crucifixion. There are fourteen stations along this route. The first Station of the Cross is located in the Muslim Quarter and the last five stations are located in the compound of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. For many Christian believers walking Via Dolorosa is the highlight of their trip to Israel. You can walk this route by yourself or for a more interesting experience you can join the Friday Procession that is led by Franciscan priests. The procession starts at the Church of the Flagellation just near the Lions Gate at 3:00 or 4:00 pm (depending on the season).
Easter and Good Friday in Jerusalem
During Easter, there are many events all over the Old City starting with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter Monday. One of the most special dates in and a really unique experience is the procession of Good Friday in Jerusalem when hundreds and thousands of believers from all over the world congregate to walk Via Dolorosa, singing, praying and carrying crosses. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to attend Good Friday in Jerusalem. Hope we did it justice in our photo diary.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
There are many churches and holy sites in the Old Town of Jerusalem, but for Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the most sacred one. It is the site of the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Since the fourth century many Christians pilgrims have visited this hole site and nowadays several Christian denominations share the control over this sacred place. For more information about opening hours and location of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock
The Temple Mount is a holy site for Muslims, Christians and Jews. For Christians, many events in Jesus Christ’s life occurred here. For Jews, it is a holy site since parts of the four walls around the Temple Mount date back to the time of the Second Temple. The Temple Mount is sacred to Muslims since according to their beliefs it is where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. The Dome of the Rock, one of the symbols of Jerusalem, was built when the Muslims conquered Jerusalem in the seventh century. This spectacular shrine is, in fact, the oldest standing Muslim monument in the world. Although it is located in the Muslim Quarter, the visitor entrance to this compound is through the Mughrabi Gate just next to the Western Wall. Due to very limited visitor hours for tourists (2 hours in the morning and the same at noon) and the security checks required to enter this holy site, this is one of the busiest sites in the Old City, therefore, make sure to arrive very early in the morning, and even then there will probably be long queues. Bring your passport and don’t bring any Jewish religious artifacts since you won’t be able to enter with them. Officially the site is closed for visitors on Fridays, Saturdays and Muslim holidays but sometimes it can be closed without notice on other occasions. You should find out with your host regarding the opening hours since they change quite often. Non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosques on the Temple Mount.