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Four Cultures: One City


Traveling to Jerusalem's Old City

The crossroads of history converge in the Old City of Jerusalem. Just 220 acres, this postage-stamp sized plot of land is the cradle of ancient history, age-old feuds and the intersection of three major world religions. Inside the 11 gates of the walled city are four distinct quarters where the cultures who call this place home have made their tenuous residences. 

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Image: A Jewish man prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem; Noam Chen for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, Flickr

From a perch high above the city, the King David Hotel Jerusalem overlooks the Old City -- it’s walls and minarets, ramparts and domes. From here you can wander through the labyrinth of alleyways and paths that snake their way through the area, exploring souks and shrines, open-air markets and houses of worship. It is the ideal location from which to observe the skyline and explore the top sites in Jerusalem’s four quarters:

The Jewish Quarter -- The Jewish Quarter of today dates to 1400 AD. The area houses numerous synagogues, shops and even the ancient Roman Cardo Street bazaar. However, its most sacred site is the Western Wall, all that remains of the second temple which was destroyed by the Romans. The prayers offered here by faithful Jews from around the world were so heartfelt, the site eventually became known as the “wailing wall.”

The Muslim Quarter -- Just around the corner from the Western Wall, a pathway leads to the Temple Mount, or Haram es-Sharif, the “noble enclosure” in Arabic. Here you’ll find two shrines: the Dome of the Rock and al-Aksa mosque. The Dome of the Rock is believed to be built upon the rock where Abraham bound his son Isaac. Muslims also believe it is where Mohammed ascended into heaven. Nearby, the gray-domed al-Aksa is reported to be the spot where Mohammed experienced the “night journey” -- making it the third holiest Islamic shrine.

The Christian Quarter -- The Via Dolorosa, or the way of suffering, is the route that Jesus walked on his way to the cross. Along this holy way are 14 stations commemorating the journey from his trial to the spot of the crucifixion. The tradition of walking the Via Dolorosa dates back to the Byzantine period. This quarter also houses the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered by Christians as the site of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.

The Armenian Quarter -- This section is the smallest, only one-sixth of the area of the Old City, and is entered through the Jaffa Gate. The Armenians have had a presence here since the first century and frequently find themselves between warring factions. The quarter features a number of shops, a monastery and the Church of St. James, a 12th century church renowned for its domed ceiling, intricate interiors and a shrine where the head of St. James, brother of Jesus, is buried.

The King David Hotel Jerusalem is one of the world’s most celebrated accommodations. Its unique position, uncommon luxury and unexpected comforts make it the ideal place from which to explore this treasured city. This exceptional accommodation is available on Travcoa’s Mystical Israel journey. Luxury travel operator, Travcoa, is celebrated for its small-group Escorted Journeys, Private Tours and Custom Travel throughout the Middle East and the world. To learn more, call your travel agent or a Travcoa Journey Consultant at 1-800-992-2003, or email info@travcoa.com.

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Topics: Israel