Jerusalem Trip November 2017
Tips for Visiting
Typically, I like to research places of interest- I did look up some information on sites but I got the usual “Must See” so this time we relied heavily on my DK Travel Book. But you know what would be great if someone wrote out real TIPS. And why it should be followed cause then you won’t be wasting your time waiting for nothing!
Let us begin.
Tip 1: Stay within the walls of the Old Jerusalem!
Why? Because it’s within the walls of the Old City, within these walls you get to know what is around your hotel and see how each denomination interacts with each other. We stayed in the Muslim quarters and it was the absolute best decision ever. We were within minutes (walking) to the Church of Sepulcher, Dome of the Rock and Western Wall!
Tip 2: Stay in the Muslim Quarter-heck Stay at Hotel Hashimi!
Why? Location, Location, Location. Besides, they served great breakfast and the staff is really helpful and friendly. Did I mention Location? The rooms were a bit small, but it was clean. We happen to stay in a quad room for the first 3 nights (My husband and I) this gave us more space, the last night I forgot to book our room, so we ended up moving to a double room. So, it was much smaller. It can easily be resolved if they choose small furniture. Like do you really need a big wooden antique dresser in the room?
Tip 3: Wake Up EARLY. No Joke.
Why? This is the HOLIEST city in the world. So every day there are tons of tourists, pilgrims, and whatnot but… they seem to not wake up early. If you want to get ahead and not WAIT in line for hours only to be turned away WAKE UP E A R L Y!
Tip 3A: (or is it Scenario #1) Visit the Church of Sepulcher first thing. It is open from 4am til 7pm. We read in our book all about the Church and how it abides by the “Status Quo” There 6 Christian denominations that lay claim to the Church and yep, they all can’t get along so long story short – The Ottomans sealed all the doors and left one open and gave the key to a Muslim family! It’s quite a fascinating story! Perhaps I’ll have another entry about it.
We woke up at 3:00 am and got ready- we walked in the dark and wanted to see the opening of the doors, but when we got there it was already open! It was only 3:45am! We spent a few hours roaming ever single area without the crowds. It was perfect.
Extra Tip 3A: Feel Free to Chat up the Ottoman Guards. They are there every day, we started noticing the same guy working and he told us about certain areas we didn’t even realize have such big historical significance! Besides they are most likely bored because they are assigned to guard certain head figures or keep order but when we went it was quiet so he had plenty of downtime.
I will dedicate an entire post about the Church of Sepulcher and how we went there every single day and what we did there one day for four hours!
Tip 3B: (or is it Scenario #2) Know the Visiting hours for Dome of the Rock. Basically when it isn’t prayer time for Muslims. Their hours are 7am – 10:30 am then 12:30 to 1:30 pm. These are hard time frames. As in there is an Israeli Guard that will not let you in after these times and there are Arab Guards inside that will kick you out.
Our tip Go in the morning. We got there at 6:00 am and lo and behold no one was there! No one showed up till 6:30-6:45 and when we finally got in there were no more than a hand full of people behind us. Oh, btw don’t be upset that other people get to go in front of you… I was confused because there was a man that looked like a tourist and another woman that was let in right at 7am. Apparently, they are Jewish worshipers and this is the only entrance for Jews and Tourist. Dome of the Rock is also known as Temple Mount to the Jewish people. In fact, when the guard let us in a little after 7 am he said, “Temple Mount is now open, Enjoy!” He was happier today than he was the last time I saw him. Again this should be another dedicated post on our Dome of the Rock experience.
So in short. Get there when it opens, you get the entire place almost to yourself. No crowds. Dome of the Rock is beautiful. It is too bad we weren’t allowed to go inside the actual building.
Tip 4: Take a Cab to Mount of Olives, then walk back down. On your way down visit Gethsemane Gardens and if you are there on Tuesday or Thursday visit the Church of Mary Magdalene.
Why? Cause the Mount of Olives is, in fact, a MOUNTAIN. We walked to it, doable in 15-20 minutes but believe me you will be drench in sweat. Everyone saw us walking and was surprised we decided to climb up the Mountain instead of zipping up on a cab like everyone else. This one tour guide said…”You are young, no problem” Another dedicated post on our climb to the Mt of Olives and the Chapel of the Ascension.
Tip 5: Pack Light or at least use a backpack!
Why? The old Jerusalem Is paved in old cobblestone, there is no vehicle traffic, there are steps everywhere and it is crowded!
I yet didn’t realize this, I mapped out the distance we had to walked from the Damascus gate to the Hotel, 4 mins walk. NBD right? Wrong. It was around late morning when we got to the gate, so it was Crowded. Vendors, Tourist, Israeli Police. Basically, loads of people. Imagine maneuvering your wheelie luggage through. I didn’t have to imagine I HAD to drag that medium-size suitcase on what seems more like a 40-minute walk. It was really 4 minutes. Not to mention the hotel had a flight of stairs to reach the lobby from the street. They had an elevator to access the rest of the hotel though.
Tip 6: Dress Conservatively, or at least bring a scarf to cover IT ALL up!
Why? Jerusalem is the holiest city in the world. Have some respect. In most places, they will let go some exposed arms or shins, but come on. Keep it modest. When we were the there the temperature was nice in the low 70s (F). If you happen to be there during the hotter season – go with nonsynthetic fabric. Loose fitting clothes will definitely keep you cool. The Bedouins know what they are doing-loose and natural fibers.
My standard outfit was either an ankle length dress or skit or a loose-fitting pair of pants with a t-shirt. I always had a scarf with me-long and wide enough to cover my head and even go over my arms if t-shirt length wasn’t sufficient. Another option I went with was having a white linen button up which is light enough to stuff in my purse and goes with pretty much everything.
So now that these TIPS are out there on the internet I hope it helps! Ok, so these Tips are probably commonly known but it’s nice to read them all in one place not to mention why they are helpful.