The City of Acre
Acre, Akko in Hebrew, or Akkā in Arabic is a coastal city in the Northwestern Israel located north of Haifa Bay (formerly, Bay of Acre). Acre runs along the Mediterranean Sea and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, claiming this title in 2001 for its valuable history and ancient sites. Additionally, Akka proudly claims the title of being one of the oldest ports globally. It is interesting to note that in 1271, the famous trader and adventurer, Marco Polo, began his historical voyage from Acre to the Orient.
The foundation of this 4000-year old city was shaped mainly by the Crusaders and the Ottomans. This heritage site is home to one of the oldest communities in the world. It has been found that the first-ever habitants dated to approximately 3000 BC., and the initial mention of this city takes us to an Egyptian text dating back 19th Century BC.
Although it is officially called The Old City of Acre, it has undergone a major revamp since it was declared a heritage site. Some of that took place at The Knights’ Hospitallers. This was a military order providing care for the poor, sick, and also looked after the personal care of the pilgrims in the Holy Land. These Hospitallers ran the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem.
If you are around Marco Polo Street, chances are you are close to the Arab Market in Acre where locals shop for their daily essentials from fruits to vegetables and local fish. You will also find shops for your clothing needs, household items, and juice stands too.
If mouth-watering seafood is what you crave, Acre has a delicious solution – its seaside restaurants. One of the most famous restaurants for seafood is Uri Buri Restaurant, but their menu includes a variety other dishes as well. El Marsa is another popular restaurant. Many others offer delightful cuisines such as Mercato Restaurant, and for the best humus in town, visit Humus Said.
Attractions such as the Templars’ Tunnel, the Enchanted Garden, and the large Al-Jazzar Mosque are interesting, historical places to visit. Like Hospitallers, Templars too were a monastic order helping pilgrims pass safely from Europe to Jerusalem. The Tunnels, located beneath the city, aided their passage from port to the halls.
The Enchanted Garden, with its impressive greenery, is an entrance to the Hospitaller Fortress. This Garden is also known as The Festival Garden.
The green and white Al-Jazzar Mosque, dominating Acre’s skyline, was built in 1781 during the rule of Turkish governor, Ahmad Pasha Al-Jazzar. Other than in Jerusalem, it is Israel’s biggest mosque and visitors must wear modest, appropriate attire to enter.
History, food and a vibrant night life – a lovely mix, enough for visitors to leave with the lingering thought of having enjoyed a pleasant experience in this city.
Visit www.akko.org.il for more.
Photos: Itamar Grinberg