Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Ramparts Walk: South Section

Yesterday, we saw the North Section of the Ramparts Walk in the Old City of Jerusalem which takes you past the Christian and Arab quarters (click here to see the post if you missed it). I mentioned that it's impossible to cross the Temple Mount area (where the Western Wall is, the As Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock) due to security reasons, so you can only do half the ramparts at a time. Though a ticket will gain you entry to both sides of the ramparts, you'll have to head back to square one near the Jaffa Gate to enter the opposite side. Having completed the North Section, my travel buddy and I decided to call it quits for the morning (it was getting awfully hot...) and to instead meet up about an hour and a half before sunset for a beautiful evening walk on the South Section of the Ramparts Walk.


The Ramparts Walk South begins at the David Citadel just south of the Jaffa Gate, a central meeting point for anyone coming to the Old City. If you're not sure where to start, just ask around, people will be able to point you in the right direction. Make sure you have your ticket on you because you'll need it to get past security and to walk up the spiral staircase that takes you up to this side of the ramparts.

Once up the spiral staircase, you will find yourself immediately taking in beautiful city views to the right of the Mamilla neighborhood (this area once belonged to Jordan prior to the 1967 war) and looking down into Armenian Quarter living spaces on the left. The Armenian Quarter seems to be a relatively relaxed and calm quarter compared to its busy, bustling neighbors. It's definitely one of the more quaint and scenic from the ground.



We were quite surprised to fine a hefty piece of unspoiled land on the interior of the Armenian Quarter which had nothing built up on it. Talk about a prime piece of real estate property. I have heard that this land does indeed belong to the Armenians and that they have not built on it for excavation purposes. Now, the question is, when will they be getting to the excavations? Or won't they? As you keep walking, you will see more and more of this up and down sort of scene:

If you peer out those "windows" along the wall into the new city below, you will find yourself taking in views of the Artists Colony and the neighborhoods of Yemin Moshe and Mishkenot Sheananim, two of Jerusalem's first Jewish neighborhood's established outside the Old City walls. Out in the distance are the Kind David Hotel, the YMCA and onward to the German Colony and Talpiyot:


As you continue walking along the Ramparts Walk South, you can turn your head to the left and see one of the main roads in the Armenian Quarter (picture on left) which makes its way to Christ's Church and into the heart of the Armenian Quarter. As you can see, it's quite empty as compared to the other quarters. If you look straight ahead while on the Ramparts Walk South (picture on right) you will see the Zion Gate, signaling the entrance to the Jewish Quarter:


Before reaching the Zion Gate, you will see just outside the rampart's walls a huge Armenian monastery and church. There is also a cemetery located here at ground level:

This long stretch of the Ramparts Walk South allows for several key photo-ops for a travel enthusiast.  I might have been worn out and exhausted from a long, hot day but I had to get in the shot anyway. It was just too beautiful in person not to! The scenery peeking out ahead of you is breathtaking and seems to call for a photo. Out there in the distance is the Mount of Olives on the left and the Arab neighborhood of Silwan on the right:



As we got closer and closer to Zion Gate, the sun began to set so we started to scurry since we didn't know quite how long the rest of the walk would take us. As it turns out, the south side of the ramparts can be done in about half the time that you can do its sister walk on the North Side. I'd say give yourself 45 minutes to walk it. Once you pass the Zion Gate (seen below) you are not only entering the Jewish Quarter, but the rampart will soon come to an end due to its proximity to the Temple Mount:


Once you walk out the revolving iron gate just a few minutes past the Zion Gate, you will be out of the ramparts. Keep walking though, follow the crowds because just a few minutes away is the Dung Gate, the rear entrance to the Western Wall inside the Jewish Quarter. First you will catch  a few last glimpses of that beautiful scene before you, the Mount of Olives and neighboring Silwan:


See that little pathway that my friend Laura (light blue t-shirt) is walking on in the picture above? You'll just walk right along this path until you reach the Dung Gate. Don't worry, it's really easy, you would've followed it naturally without me telling you. At long last, you will see that you've reached the Dung Gate. Surely, you didn't come all this way for nothing so pass the security checkpoint into the Jewish Quarter, take a minute at the Western Wall and then finally, you can begin to make your way back up to the Jaffa Gate from where you started your day.


After visiting the Kotel, we headed up to the stairs where we took in this classic view of the Western Wall at nightfall. Then it was time to meander through the Old City back to the entrance and eventually back home after a beautiful day spent on the ramparts:

But first we had to stop to take a photo (or two...) of this magical wedding taking place above the Kotel. What a view this wedding must have had!



As you can see, the Ramparts Walk atop the Old City of Jerusalem is something spectacular to see and if you haven't done it yet, I would highly recommend it while in Israel. I had never even heard about the option of doing this walk until this year and even then, I didn't meet many people who knew about it or had done it before. For some unknown reason, the Ramparts Walk is one of the best kept secrets in the Old City. I would go so far as to say that your trip to Israel is not complete without a walk along the ramparts, so take the time to do it if you haven't done so yet!

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