Meanwhile, I made the trip to Akko despite my Tel Aviv host’s discouragement “It’s a dirty Arab town and not really worth the time and effort to get there” he claimed. It indeed did take a while to get there and I can understand… When people tell me they are going to go by train to the Blue Mountains, I’m like, “Whatever the hell for?” But as a tourist, it’s not like you have to rush off to work or anything.. So, I threw caution to the wind, threw on a pair of shorts and off I went.
Akko is in the north of Israel on Haifa Bay, about another thirty minutes on the train past Haifa. Along with other cities, it claims to be one of the oldest continually inhibited cities in the world; about 4000 years apparently and is the holiest city for the Bahai faith. It was initially meant to be part of an Arab state during the UN partition plan for Palestine, but it was captured during the war and annexed along with other parts of Palestine. It then became a development town for thousands of Jewish immigrants mainly from Morocco and then later Russians and Ukrainians from the USSR. However, the old city of Akko still remains very Arab Muslim and is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From a distance, the walled old city of Akko is quite attractive. It sits on a peninsula surrounded by water that comes up right to the city wall. In the centre of the old city is the very attractive Al Jazzar Mosque… and no problem entering in shorts either! The rest of the town is a labyrinth of covered walkways, part market and part residential. There are a lot of sweets and spices at the market and also an open fresh fish market. I’ll pause for a minute, so you can fully imagine the aroma of fish wafting around the labyrinth in 40 degree heat…
To be honest, Akko was a bit shabby and it was mainly a case of take some snaps, tick it off your list and leave. One good thing about going to places like Akko is that it makes Tel Aviv look a whole lot better when you return. It makes it easier to appreciate what it has to offer and overlook the ill-mannered and entitled Tel Avivians and the horrible service you get in shops and restaurants. At the better end of the spectrum, the service in Tel Aviv can be quite stern. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s just downright rude. I was tip shamed the other day at a club. The barman shouted at me, “It’s usual to tip in Israel!” as I went to pick up my change from the tray. I’ve worked in the hospitality industry so I totally get tipping and I generally DO tip … But at bar, when you’ve just paid an extortionate 65 shekels (that’s 24 Australian dollars!!) for an extremely ordinary drink and the barman doesn’t speak to you… He just scowls at you and flicks his face upwards as if to say, “What the f*** do you want?” … Can you explain to me WHY I should tip you?
And now from one extreme to the other: From a dirty Arab town to staying in an Orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in Jerusalem… More to follow!