The whirlwind tour of the Old City had enthused me. But it wasn’t enough to zoom across a historically rich city in 2 hours. I needed more… so I spent a couple of mornings visitng the holy sites (a few posts later on specifically on that) and getting lost in the town.
My feet took me around the different twists and turns of of the Old City and I eventually found myself in corners devoid of tour groups. The most I could see were backpackers intermingled with locals.
That was when it struck me that I had entered another world – the Old City of the locals. The Jerusalem of today. Here shopkeepers were selling shoes, clothes, undergarments, children’s wear, coffee beans…
There were roadside markets with fresh vegetables,
The noisy markets were devoid of crucifixes and holy picture cards, which littered the markets near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This was clearly not an Old City for pilgrims. It was a market for the locals.
The Old City’s neat distribution of 4 quarters may give the assumption that there is clear division between the 4 groups and people cannot live in the muslim quarters if they are not muslim, but that is an illusion.
This has to do with a law that allows people of all faiths to buy property throughout the Old City except in the Jewish Quarter – where you have to be Jewish to buy the land.
But setting aside the law, should such living be surprising? Old City is in the middle east, populated by Arabs. The Arabic people are a race but not a religion, there are arab muslims and arab christians. If not for their religious garb, it would perhaps be difficult to place the orthodox Jews (too) apart from the other people in the area.
This market and the intermixing of people is the real old city of today, the old city that we don’t see as much of in documentaries and on the news. This is perhaps the closest we will come to of the old city before the messy problems that beset Jerusalem since the 1940s. This is the parallel universe going on like clockwork just as the busloads of tourist pull in like clockwork everyday.
ON THE MAP