The last two weekends have been chances to get out of Haifa and away from classes. Last weekend, I took a trip to the nearby town of Akko. Akko, or Acre as it is also spelled, is the site of Israel’s first main port. I got a couple people from the group together and we took a bus and train to reach Akko. Once there, we followed some road signs and walked to the Old city.
Akko’s Old City consists of old, white stone buildings and winding alleyways. There are mosques, temples, underground tunnels dating back to the Crusaders and a Knights Hospitaller, also from the Crusaders. We toured the city, walking through the Old City market to get to the “best hoummus in Israel”, Hummus Said.
The hummus was fresh and delicious, and the restaurant was packed, with city residents flowing in and out as tables cleared. After eating, we continued to walk around the market, passing stands of freshly-caught fish and goods ranging from souvenirs, scarves, spices and nuts. There were also many different stores and stands selling fresh sweets, including baklava and knafeh, an Arab sweet consisting of cheese, crispy noodles and sweet honey.
We walked down to the port after and somehow wound up on a boat tour of Akko. The tour, which only cost 10 shekels (about $2.50) and took us on a tour around the walled city, lasted less than an hour and gave us an amazing view of the city. The tour boat drivers entertained us the entire time by blasting Arabic music, which I have a new appreciation for.
Our trip to Akko finished up with visiting the tourist attractions and taking a tour of the Crusaders’ Knights Hospitaller. We headed back to the train stop once it started to get dark and returned to Haifa.
The next weekend, the International School had a trip to Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea organized. The bus left at 6 a.m. on Thursday and drove us 4-5 hours down to the Judaean Desert. There, we started a full day hike through the desert, up and down cliffs and across barren land. Our guide found camel prints, but we did not get to see any actual wild camels there.
The hike took us to the top of cliffs and gave us an amazing view of the Dead Sea, which Jordan visible on the other side.
We then walked the entire way down to the Dead Sea before changing into bathing suits and “diving” in. Due to the high salt content, you can’t actually dive into the sea or put your head under water. You also don’t want to swallow any of the water or get it in your eyes. We floated for awhile, bouyant in the salty sea, before getting out to rinse off and head the the campground.
The next day, we took a drive to Ein Gedi and went on another hike. This hike took us to a variety of desert pools and waterfalls, one of which was the location for our lunch break.
On that hike, we had the pleasure of seeing a lot of wild ibex and a few rock hyrax. The rock hyrax is a small, furry animal that resembles a large rodent, or a squirrel with no tail, and is actually the elephant’s closest relative. An ibex is similiar to a deer or gazelle, with a small body and curved horns. While that hike was less intense than the one in the Judaean Desert, we were all tired from traveling and waking up early. We were done by early afternoon, and after a quick trip to the nearby, ancient Ein Gedi synagogue to see the intricate floor mosiacs, we headed home.