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Jaffa and Tel Aviv (but mainly Jaffa)

Jaffa, or as the locals call it, Jaffo, was our bookend stop -  it was our first and also our last port of call in Israel. And, as with a first kiss, it's a place I feel most tender about.  It was there that we gently acclimatised to being in the Middle East, and a couple of weeks later it was where we could say our nostalgic goodbyes to Israel. 


The city nestles right along the ocean's shore, and from there it is just one continuous line of seaside and beaches all the way to Tel Aviv.












                                                                         From Jaffo all the way to Tel Aviv











                                                                                    Jaffo beachside park

Old Jaffo is charming, quaint, with numerous ramshakle buildings and many restored, renovated or new ones. Rooftops were used for storage, for example curiously we saw dozens of bicycles on one, old furniture or just stuff on others. 











                                                                                          Old buildings...







                                                                        ...and a new one with bougainvillea 

Talking about old stuff, the antique shops (and there were many of them) were full of curios, brass ware, restored old doors, furniture, knick-knacks. I could've spent hours in those.








                                                An antiques shop                                                                Restored old doors


The Mediterranean was gentle, the harbour graced with one of the oldest mosques in Jaffo, the Al-Bahr or Sea Mosque.

We stayed at the Abraham Hostel, olde-worldly, welcoming and somewhat decrepit, with toilets that we could just squeeze into, but found much harder to squeeze out of (the inward-opening door blocked the way out).  Our room had a balcony overlooking the main street, which made us feel part of the city even after retiring to our room - maybe a little too much so, because on Friday night we couldn't shut out the music and the noise of the street.  On the Jewish sabbath the partying and merrymaking went on all night, until the noise of the normal daily activities took over.  (I'm guessing that it was mostly the Arab population of Jaffo that were so active, but maybe not).

    Al-Bahr mosque






                                                                                        Yafo street at night   



                Abraham Hostel

                                                                                                                                                                   View from our balcony

Jaffo, indeed, is an old town, probably one of the oldest known in the world - archaeological evidence shows that it was already inhabited by about 7500 BCE. It has given rise to many stories, some tall tales and some true, e.g., it is thought that it was from Jaffo's harbour that Jonah left on his adventures with the whale. And according to Greek legend, it was to one of the rocks on the shore of Jaffo that Poseidon, the god of the sea, chained Andromeda, who was meant to be eaten by a sea monster, but instead was rescued by Perseus.


Jaffo is in a strategic locations between Asia, Africa and Europe, and for this reason it has been a desirable bit of real estate for conquerors throughout the ages. King David and his son King Solomon took advantage of Jaffo's port to bring the cedars from Tyre used in the construction of the First Temple around 950 BCE. The city remained in Israelite hands even after the split of the united Israeli Kingdom, past the rule of Solomon. It was under the Egyptians until around 800 BCE, known as the city Ya-Pho.  

Its colourful history continued: Jaffo was in Assyrian, followed by Babylonian, then Persian and eventually Phoenician hands. The Romans burnt it down during the first Jewish War (66-70 CE), when more than 8000 inhabitants were massacred.  The Arabs conquered it in 636, Saladin in 1187 (is he the one with the magic lamp?), King Richard the Lionheart and the Crusaders in 1191, the Egyptian Mamluks in the middle of the 13th century, and 250 years later the Ottomans. Napoleon captured it in 1799, then the Egyptians just 30 years after that. Much of the city was damaged in the battles, and the city wall, the citadel on top of Jaffa Hill and other buildings were renewed with hewns stones shipped in from ruined ancient cities on the coast, mainly from Caesarea.  



               Dancing in thestreet                                                                                                           Centre of Jaffo


                                                                   Image by Ike Harel from the net 

And the history continued to modern times: nearly all the Jews were expelled from Tel Aviv and Jaffa by the Turks during World War I, but they returned after the British conquest. After WWI, the city was under the management of the British Mandate authorities. Now Jaffo has a heterogeneous population of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, but mainly Jews. 

The very first afternoon we visited the flea market in the middle of the town.  It was one of the best markets - intricate jewellery, old bits and pieces, worn down tools, pre-loved clothes.  We found two identical silver rings with a lovely piece of amber inset, and bought it on the spot.  We proudly wore our twin rings until, sadly,  a little while after I returned home mine slipped off my finger.







                Flea market, Jaffo


One day we decided to visit the market in Tel Aviv, only about 40

minutes  away from our hostel.  We walked by the beach, where a

fascinating, quirky-looking bird caught our attention, pecking in the

grassy areas.  Neither of us had seen one like it, but it turned out to be

hoopoe, just voted to be Israel's favourite bird.  On the way back we

took a different route, and saw a little of the popular Bauhaus 

architecture of Tel Aviv.  


The main market at Tel Aviv was huge, full of life, hundreds of people milling about.  The food was abundant, full of vitality, fresh, got our mouths watering.  We bought cheese, poppy seed cake etc.Large, ripe strawberries piled into small mountains, capsicum, tomatoes, greens bursting with colour.  And

                                      some Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv.  

















Hoopoe bird
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