Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Ramparts Walk: North Section

The Ramparts Walk along the top of Jerusalem's Old City Walls seems to be one of the best kept secrets in all of Jerusalem. For some reason, tourists and locals alike do not often make it to the Ramparts Walk. After having recently done the walk, I have to say that it's a great shame for those who have missed out on it. Walking along the ramparts provides a new view into parts of the Old City that would be otherwise inaccessible. It also allows you to peek firsthand into the lives of those who make the Old City their home as you pass by and over various residences throughout the four quarters. As you walk along the ramparts, the views both inside to the Old City as well as outside toward the New City are simply spectacular.


The Ramparts Walk is divided into two parts, the North Section and the South Section. The North Ramparts Walk takes you up and over the Christian and Arab quarters, leaving you close to the Temple Mount near the Lion's Gate. The South Ramparts Walk takes you on a stroll through the Armenian and Jewish quarters, also dropping you close to the Temple Mount, this time on the eastern side of the Western Wall. For security reasons, the Ramparts Walk does not cross directly over the Temple Mount. Thus, the walk must be done in two parts. Today, I'll show you images from my walk down the NORTH SECTION of the ramparts:

To start your journey, you can take the Light Rail from anywhere in town directly to Safra Square (also called City Hall), the closest stop to the exterior of the Old City:

Walk yourself through the trendy Mamilla Mall (seen below) until you reach its far end next to the Jaffa Gate:

Here we are looking out from the railing next to Jaffa Gate, out towards the Germany Colony, the Montefiore Windmill and beyond:

The Jaffa Gate will be ahead of you, it's one of the seven different gates bordering the Old City. Pass through it and on your left you will almost immediately find a Tourist Information Office (contact information can be found at the bottom of this post) where you will enter to buy your ticket for the Ramparts Walk (16 shekels regularly priced will gain you entrance to both sides of the ramparts and if you have a student ID, you pay only 8 shekels):

After purchasing your tickets, up you will go toward the entrance for the Ramparts Walk North where you will catch your first view of the busy Old City down below. How refreshing do be away from the hustle and bustle of the crowded streets and busy markets (granted, in these photos, it's about 9 a.m. so the world had not quite woken up yet):


As you start your walk you will find dozens of small window-like holes from which to peer out to the streets down below on both sides, both toward the New City and the Old City. These holes allegedly served the purpose of fortifying the walled city and providing a means of defense for residents in ancient times:

Be sure to have on some good walking shoes because you'll be climbing up and down steep steps, winding around beautiful bends and walking carefully on sometimes slippery Jerusalem stone:



On your journey through the Ramparts Walk North, you will begin meandering through the Christian Quarter where you will pass over the New Gate, an orphanage, some churches and a parochial school, just to name a few sights:


As you continue you will be able to take in beautiful views of the New City on your left hand side whilst on your right hand side you will be able to peer into homes, gardens and private streets down below that would never have been accessible by foot:


Onward, the scene starts to change a little bit and you will begin to notice the structures typical to Arab communities. Thus, you will know you have entered the Arab Quarter of the Old City when you see these types of views:


While walking the ramparts over the Arab Quarter, you will pass over the Damascus Gate, Herod's Gate and eventually the Lion's Gate. To be specific, once you reach the Damascus Gate, you will definitely have arrived in the Arab Quarter:



There are plenty of places to peer down into the busy markets below or into the quieter streets where residents are making their way through calmer streets:


We were surprised to find that the Ramparts Walk North was so close to many different schools, soccer fields and athletic outdoor spaces throughout the Arab Quarter's portion of the ramparts. Wanting to be respectful, we refrained from photographing people (who seem to keep their watchful eyes on you) but here's a few shots of a soccer field and a basketball court that we saw:


From Herod's Gate you will find an excellent view of the Rockefeller Museum and the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University out in the distance:


By the Lion's Gate, you can view many of the churches and the Mount of Olives cemetery outside the Old City walls. Inside the walled city, you will see down below the Via Dolorosa with its Stations of the Cross leading out from the Lion's Gate. The first nine stations are actually in today's Arab Quarter and the last five stations are in today's current Christian Quarter borders:


The Ramparts Walk North can take up to 90 minutes to walk and is utterly fascinating. After finishing up the walk close to the Temple Mount (aka close to the gold Dome of the Rock above), you will come to a dead end. You won't be able to walk any further, so turn back around and go down the stairs (just 30 seconds or so back from where you came) near the Lion's Gate leading you into the Arab Quarter below. Trust me, it's easy and will make sense once you're there in person:


My advice is to go in the morning when the temperatures are cooler and when the crowds are less abundant. I wouldn't advise walking the northern portion of the ramparts at night, I've heard it can be unsafe. However, there were no problems whatsoever in daylight hours. The ramparts are open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm in the winters and until 7:00 pm in the summers. However, on Fridays, the northern side is closed, limiting your Friday visit to only the southern side of the ramparts (until 2 pm). Thus, I would advise you to go on any day but Friday when both the northern and southern sides will be open for you to visit.  Tune in tomorrow for a stroll down the Ramparts Walk South over the Armenian and Jewish quarters. You will find the journey equally fascinating. I know I did!

For tickets and more information, visit the Jerusalem Tourist Information Center inside the Old City (this is where you will buy your tickets) or explore their website online:

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