Friday, April 15, 2011

Day Trip to Acre

Acre from above (via google images)

Whenever I'm in a new country, I make a point to try to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, because I can rest assured that these places are something special to see. Israel, too, has a few UNESCO World Heritage Sites and one of those places is Acre, Israel (pronounced either "akka" or "akko").

Acre's walled exterior on the Mediterranean Sea
Acre is a charming fortress-city with towering ancient walls perched on the Mediterranean Sea. The rolling waves crash into the grandiose walls of the Old City, making for a spectacular view. With an active harbor, colorful markets, ancient ruins, and historic churches and mosques, Acre is an easy place to get lost in time for a full day. 

Today, the entire city of Acre is about 75% Jewish; however, in the Old City, which is the main tourist draw, it is approximately 95% Arab. It wasn't always this way, though. Various cultures have made their home in Acre and remnants of each culture can be seen throughout the city's ruins. The earliest record of Acre's inhabitants were of Greek and Roman descent. Subsequently, the Crusaders conquered Acre and the city went under Arab control. Following the Crusaders were the Ottomans, who took over Acre for a number of centuries. Even Napolean Bonaparte tried to conquer the city at this time, however, after two months of failed attempts, he retreated in humiliation. Ownership next went to the British, who used Acre as a prison. Finally, in 1948, Acre passed into the hands of the Israelis. Most of the Arabs who were living there were displaced. The ones who stayed retreated to the Old City, and that is overwhelmingly the culture that you experience when you enter into the present-day Old-City.

Aerial view of Old City, Acre
So what will you see on a trip to Acre? Not only can you people watch and spy on typical Arab life (think Hookahs, classic Arab garb, clothes on a line, fresh catches of fish outside restaurants, and little kids playing soccer on ancient alleyways), but also, your eyes will feast on other sites including cobblestone streets with high walls, underground passages, huge mosques, a Christian monastery, a Turkish bath, the Templar tunnel and other archaeological findings, just to name a few. Of course, you will also find museums, beaches, hotels, restaurants, a picturesque marina and a lively port.

Inside one of Acre's ancient squares
Surprisingly, Acre is also home to a Baha'i Temple and garden; and not only that, but also, Acre is considered the most holy city in the world for the Baha'i religion. Like many other cities in Israel, Acre is a place that holds religious significance for a number of cultures. Acre is also well known for its many festivals which attract crowds by the thousands multiple times a year. If you want to go on a weekend when there is no festival, you can be entranced by the bustling market which is busiest on the weekends. People who have been to Acre before will tell you that Acre is home to one of the most famous hummus restaurants in all of Israel (and you might just have to wait a good hour for a seat if you're there on a busy day). It's called Sayid's so ask around for it, it will be worth for just one taste. If hummus is not your cup of tea, there are multiple fish restaurants decorating the Old City, serving up the day's freshest catches.  Finish your day off with a romantic stroll along the marina and perhaps make your way up to the lighthouse to catch a beautiful sunset view. 

Welcome to Acre, a coastal Mediterranean city
As you can see, there are an abundance of options to explore in Acre. I've been there twice in my life, and still haven't managed to see it all...not even close! I've yet to explore the Turkish baths, the lighthouse, and the many Baha'i sites. Just another reason to go back, I guess! Enjoy some images from our visit to Acre:

The Citadel:



Wandering through the Old City:


Approaching the busier part of town in the Old City:


An Arab Mosque in the Old City of Acre:


Passing by the Turkish Baths, the Welcome Center and through more alleyways:



 We made it to the edge of town to the water barrier:




 Up above on top of the fortress:



 Here we are at the colorful pier and marina:



There are a bunch of good restaurants around (with stellar views):



Many people enjoyed a nice walk on the waterfront:



Hold a snake, catch a fish, you decide!


Capturing the moment with a photo-op:


Do yourself a favor and put Acre on the list of places to see during your time in Israel. And be sure to try the hummus!

1 comment:

  1. That looks like a perfect day trip! Cute little ocean-side walk, cafe's, history... jealous!

    I honestly have never heard of UNESCO World Heritage sights! I just looked them up for Brazil where Dave & I are going for our honeymoon! :) Excited!!


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