Dangerously Daydreaming

"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence

Streets of Antiquity: Exploring Akko

AkkoOne of my favorite places in Israel was the city of Akko. It’s one of few cities in the northern region that has been continuously inhabited since ancient times. The city is across the Mediterranean from Haifa (where my team and I stayed). Located on a peninsula and surrounded by stone walls, the quart of the city that we visited is mostly populated by Arabs. We were promised the opportunity to explore the ancient streets, a Crusader-era tunnel, and shop in the Arab market – and I was excited!

streetThe rain was coming down in fat drops under a grey sky as we entered the city. The cobblestones were slick underfoot and we ducked our heads as drains dumped out torrents of water into the streets that were too narrow for cars to pass through. Already I felt as though I was walking through a city that hadn’t changed over the centuries. Buildings were made of bricks hewn from stone, other were white-washed and accented in blue, reminding me of a city I had visited in Greece. Out of nowhere, we heard the steady clip of hooves on rock – a horse and rider appeared from around the corner and we had to lean against the walls to let him pass.

mosqueIt was as though we have been teleported back to the first century in this place so untouched by time. A domed mosque and spiraling minaret stood out against the cityscape and the only thing that reminded us of our reality was the afternoon call to prayer that rung out on crackling speakers.

First we visited a museum of Crusader artifacts. I would have hardly know the place was a museum were it not for the man behind a desk taking our money and a shelf with some brochures laid out. We descended a dark stairway to meet the opening of a tunnel that went for some distance under the city. It was built by the Knights Templar to smuggle in people and goods from the harbor during sieges. We had to duck our heads as we passed though (mind you, I’m only 5’1″) and the boardwalk we caravaned over bridged a trickling underground stream. The place was well-lit and artifacts from the era were displayed for us to see as we meandered through the tunnel. For me, it harkened back to a similar (but much older) tunnel that I explored just outside of Jerusalem, Hezekiah’s Tunnel (check out here and I hope to write about that adventure in a future post).

tunnel

wallsAt last we emerged from the Templar tunnel and were greeted with a blast of sea breeze. We were at the harbor and the wind was whipping the Mediterranean Sea into a frenzy. We continued our jaunt through the city, trying in vain all the while to capture the aura of the place with our cameras. The sun was clearing the rain clouds away for us and warmth stole into our bones again.

spicesOur next stop was the Arab market. It was exactly what I had hoped. Scents of exotic spices greeted us as we entered the crowded market street. Our group of seven white women attracted some curious glances in our direction. A few older men were sitting at a plastic patio table together, smoking and chatting. As I wandered down the market street I was met with colorful displays of fresh fruit, the smells of cardamom and cumin, vats of dates and nuts, and the distinct smell of freshly caught seafood. I bought a cup of delicious Arabic coffee and continued to explore the market where now the booths were full of glittering, shiny jewelry and brilliant scarves and pashminas fluttered in the breeze.

fishThere’s a strange romance about it, even though these markets are nothing unusual. The foodie in me rejoiced to see fresh food for purchasing and biting into the succulent date that a kind vendor offered me was a moment of bliss. There, the dirt of the streets melds with the stench of calamari, the sweetness of ripe pomegranates. It’s raw and real.

veggies

We enjoyed some delicious lunch in a restaurant overlooking the harbor, and then it was back to Haifa. But Akko will always have a place in my memories as a city untouched by time.

city

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24 comments on “Streets of Antiquity: Exploring Akko

  1. ethelthedean
    December 13, 2012

    Amazing! Such a trip, stumbling back in time like this. Also, I wish I could have all of those spices – the colours are breathtaking! I can only imagine how they smelled…

    Brilliant photos, and lovely writing. I feel as though I am there with you! x

    • Audrey
      December 15, 2012

      It was surreal to wander around there. Oh my gosh, yes! I’m with you, I wanted to buy spices soooooo bad and now I’m kicking myself for not doing it. Some of the ladies loaded up on dates and nuts to take home.

      Thank you! We would have so much fun traveling together, I have a feeling. 🙂 Hugs!

  2. Tori Nelson
    December 13, 2012

    Looks like such an adventure!

    • Audrey
      December 15, 2012

      It really was! I love all the history of that part of the world – it makes me feel a bit like Indiana Jones when we get to explore like that. 🙂

  3. CharW
    December 13, 2012

    Hi Audrey!
    Am loving your blog!! And enjoying your pics from Israel; I’ll add them to my collection.
    You’re an excellent writer which makes everything very interesting. Hope you’re doing well!

    • Audrey
      December 15, 2012

      Char! How are you??
      Thank you. Yes, please copy of the pics. I’ll be getting my SD card to Kate here soon so we can all do a photo swap. 🙂 Maybe we can get the team together for dinner too, would be so fun to catch up!

  4. betunada
    December 14, 2012

    temporarily unable to olfactorily experience anything (sinus-flu/cold?) i could almost SMELL what it was like when those pixures were taken! and the spice would-a cleared my head, eh?

    • Audrey
      December 15, 2012

      Sounds like you’ve caught some of that nasty crud that’s going around. Are you able to rest lots this weekend?
      Yes, those spices (and for sure the coffee) have a way of clearing up the sinuses like nothing else! I just have a point and shoot camera but when you’re in a place like that, it’s hard to take a bad photo. 🙂

  5. whatimeant2say
    December 14, 2012

    You really need to be a travel writer! Your photos and articles are so wonderfully descriptive!

    • Audrey
      December 15, 2012

      Now that you mention, I’m thinking of trading in my fiction attempts and sticking to travel writing. It just flows better and seems to fit. Thank you so much! I’m feeling encouraged to stay the course!

  6. Shmuel Browns
    December 20, 2012

    Hi Audrey.
    Came across your article on BucketPublications about your hike at High Pass. Lovely photos especially the first one. Followed the link to your blog and was surprised to find articles about Israel. Akko is an incredible city, an ancient city lost in time. Very nicely written.
    Unfortunately, it’s spoiled by some inaccuracies. “one of few cities in the region that has been continuously inhabited since ancient times.” How about Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Bet Shean. You mention in 2 places “Byzantine”, I think you meant Crusader, both Christian but 500 years apart. “…the city is now mostly populated by Arabs.” Population figures from 2009 are 72% Jewish and 28% Arab out of a population of 46,300.
    Blessings from Jerusalem at this holiday season.
    Shmuel

    • Audrey
      December 21, 2012

      Shmuel, thank you for stopping by to visit! Wishing you a very happy holiday season as well. And thank for clearing up some of the confusion there. I probably should have clarified some of the information better – I understand that the quarter of the city we visited with mostly Arab and I should have dug into the history of it a bit better re: the Byzantine comments. And for the older populated cities, I think our guide was referring to that region of Israel but I should have clarified that as well. Again, thank you so much – I learned something! Many blessings to you.

  7. Villars
    December 29, 2012

    I too have a fascination with Acre, and I am involved in a major research project on the 1291 siege. But I have a question that needs a first person answer. In addition to its reputation for “bad behavior” in the late Crusader period, Acre had a reputation for smelling, stinking. From garbage, poor sanitation, dead fish washed on the beaches, whatever, and that reputation continues to today. Is it true in your experience?

    Thank you.

    Villars

    • Audrey
      December 29, 2012

      What a great research project! It’s a fascinating place.
      I didn’t notice any stench issues when I was there. That typical smell of the sea is always there because of the Mediterranean, but there wasn’t an issue with garbage.
      I hope that helps and thanks for stopping by!

  8. claywatkins
    January 4, 2013

    stumbling by as I did – from Susie’s place – made me want to know more, how long were you there, how did you get there, and it made me envious… I’d like to travel and see the Middle East where it all began. The market shots remind me of the markets in Paris or anywhere but American supermarkets… sounds like you had an awesome trip… keep making your days count.

  9. filbio
    January 4, 2013

    Hi! Just stopping by as Susie sent me over from her blog. What a terrific post. These pictures are incredible and tell the story. I feel as if I am there.

    Will definitely follow your blog.

    Phil

    http://www.blog.theregularguynyc.com

    • Audrey
      January 8, 2013

      Phil! Thank you so much for stopping by and for the follow. Akko really was amazing, I’d love to go back there and explore more. I’m also excited to return the favor and see what you’ve got going over at your blog. 🙂

      • filbio
        January 8, 2013

        Thanks! I hope you get a chance to see what I write about – kind of everything! Hope you like and follow!

  10. susielindau
    January 4, 2013

    I love this chronicle of your journey. What amazing shots! I would love to be in that market right now!
    Thanks for bringing it to the party! I hope you are having fun mingling. There are a lot of new bloggers partying down!

    • Audrey
      January 8, 2013

      Thank you, Susie! I felt like I couldn’t take a bad photo there, it was so picturesque. 🙂 And thank you for having another party, I met some wonderful new blogger friends to follow!

  11. Denise Hisey
    January 4, 2013

    Wow! Your trip was incredible! I love your adventurous spirit and gorgeous photos! The weather there sounds just like Seattle! I found your link on Susie’s Wild Ride! -always fun to meet new friends!
    Happy New Year!

    • Audrey
      January 8, 2013

      Denise! Welcome and thank you! It really was such a great trip, we got to see so much and help out so much too. I’ll be stopping by to visit your blog too! Cheers to a Seattle-ite – I’m just north of you in Bellingham. 🙂

  12. marydpierce
    January 5, 2013

    Came here by way of Susie’s party – didn’t expect to find myself on the other side of the world! Breathtaking photos! Sounds like you are packing a whole lot of living into your life. Awesome. I can’t wait to see where you take us next.

    Cheers!

    • Audrey
      January 8, 2013

      Thank you, Mary! I’m so glad you stopped by. And I’ll be popping over to your place for a visit today! That trip was chock-full of great experiences – nothing quite as memorable and thrilling as travel!! 🙂

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