Old Akko

Al-Jazzar Mosque in Akko

I had my own personal tour guides for my first twenty minutes in Akko. Mohammad, Asma, and Shy greeted me at the gates to the Old City when I arrived around the time that school finished for the day. Within seconds they were asking me my name and where I’m from. Mohammad and Asma were both very friendly and asked a lot of questions, but Shy was too shy to speak to me directly. (I think he mentioned his name at some point but I couldn’t hear what he said over Mohammad’s questions about whether Spiderman still lived in New York.) Unfortunately, being between the ages of 5 and 7, the kids couldn’t take me on a real tour of the city. But it was a very nice welcome to Akko, the first predominantly Muslim town I’ve ever been to.

In fact the thing that struck me most about Akko was that I was even more foreign here than in Haifa. Arabic was the predominant language of the locals, and I wasn’t sure if I should speak to them in English or try a little bit of Hebrew, since of course that’s not their native tongue.

As I explored the city several locals would say “Konichiwa” or “Nihao”as I walked by. My first reaction was alarm but after a few moments of reflection I realized it was misplaced. In America if someone says that to me I feel insulted because it’s symptomatic of how Asian-Americans are regarded as Asians first and Americans second, and we somehow remain foreign even in our home country. But of course in Israel being Asian is indeed being foreign and the locals were just trying to be friendly.

The archaeological sites in the city were actually very underwhelming; the excavations were still underway and the stuff they’d dug up was, well, kinda boring.

Inside Old Akko

On the other hand, the living Old City was amazing. This place is still vibrant with life (not so obvious from the picture above, but I promise it was!), not a museum city like so many of the places that you visit in Europe. Shops are still steaming with freshly made falafel and hummus, the souq is dirty and packed with goods, and kids are playing on the street. In fact there were even kids riding horses through the narrow paths!

Akko used to be one of the main ports in Ottoman Palestine and even earlier under the Romans and Byzantines. The harbor is very pretty and you can see people fishing in the ocean; Mohammad originally asked me if I wanted to go fishing and I said no, but I kind of regret not trying my luck in the ocean now!

Fisherman in Akko

~ by therandomoracle on April 2, 2008.

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