Thursday, October 26, 2006

Walking through the Old City

Today's adventure was a great big walk.

We started at the Mount of Olives, looking back over the Old City with the Temple Mount smack bang in the foreground. We walked down the hill, past the tombs of the prophets to the Dominus Flevit Chapel. This is a beautiful, peaceful chapel built on the spot where medieval pilgrims reckon that Jesus wept over Jerusalem (see Matt 23:37-39 & Luke 19:41-44). What a wonderful place to just sit and pray, with the view of the Temple Mount framed in the window. A very gruff Franciscan monk gave the girls a postcard each.

We wandered further down past the Church of St Mary Magdalene (Russian Orthodox, closed!) to the Garden of Gethsemene and the Church of All Nations. Again this was beautiful and peaceful, guarded by a monk, and with a small garden of ancient Olive trees just like it might have been when Jesus kept his prayer vigil, the night before his arrest.

Next stop was the Tomb of the Virgin - an underground tomb accessed via a magnificent flight of steps down into a very shrine-like cave with the stone shelf where the disciples are supposed to have laid Mary's body. A very mystical atmosphere with three or four old ladies dressed in black worshipping at the shrines with weeping and chanting, surrounded by icons and other paraphernalia.

Next, we walked up the hill and entered the Old City through the Lion Gate and walked into the Arab quarter along the Via Dolorosa. We then wound our way through the souks and markets, very similar to the Khan El Kahlili in Cairo, and eventually popped out at the top of town by the Jaffa Gate. We bought beads for the girls and poked around in various funny little shops, and became very skilled at parrying the various trader's sales pitches, again, just like the Khan.

Tonight we're taking the family out for a meal somewhere nice. Really looking forward to it!

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