Just one day before my last departure to the Holy Land, I met a client who was with me in this region (I'm a travel guide). "Jerusalem was a top for me," he recalls of last year's experience in the Middle East. I smiled because I share the opinion abot the best or top place, even though this region has a really strong competition of incredible places.
I have visited many cities in Europe, in Asia or in in Africa, which have been etched in my memory and are rightly among the BEST (most interesting or beautiful) places in this world, but if I have to choose the one that was etched in my mind the most, it would definitely be Jerusalem. Here are my reasons why:
1. There you will find the ATMOSPHERE AND THE SOUL of the city, which you have never feel before. I often tell people that they don't have to be believers who go to church regularly... Jerusalem can still engulf you by its magic. It is difficult to describe the strength of the places in words. It's really like a kind of magic. You feel the energy of the places that sometimes make people crazy. The places are already doing it long centuries and millennia! Only when you stand in front of the walls of Jerusalem and you know just a little bit about everything that has happened behind them during the whole history, you have a certain tremor!
2. THE HISTORY of this city is one of the main reasons that contributes to its indescribable atmosphere. Such a rich and long past, full of interesting stories, powerful empires, ups and downs, great personalities... No region has the such rich history what you can find and see here in this area of the Middle East! Of course, Jerusalem is no exception but the best example of it. You can walk to places that have been walked by various great nations and armies, including the phalanx of Alexander the Great, the Roman legions, the Crusaders, who were replaced here in the city by the famous Saladin… and many others. Walk through places that are part of a great history!
3. THE NEW CITY is a completely different world/contrast to the Old Jerusalem, but it good because sometimes you have to switch off, take a break from all that knowledge and discovery. New Jerusalem can be more than a sufficient helper for it. ? If after walking in the most sacred places in the world, old, historic streets and monuments you get the desire to sit with good beer, wine, music, dance or typical local water pipe (shisa) in the Middle East… in the new city, there are such possibilities more than enough!
4. MEET THE WORLD IN ONE CITY is not a problem in any metropolis of Europe today - people and food from different parts of the Earth in only one city is really common in London, Paris, Berlin... but Jerusalem is more specific! Meet, for example, traditional Ethiopian monks or Orthodox, Coptic Christians and other various, really interesting groups... I think you should have a problem even in the most multicultural cities in Europe, but not in Jerusalem.
5. FOOD is without a doubt another reason why I love not only Jerusalem, but the whole Middle East. For example, I was not a salad type, until I became acquainted with the local "meze" - the dishes of various extremely tasty salads and appetizers that they tend to serve before the main course. I also didn't like falafel (fried chickpea balls) before, until I tasted it here in Jerusalem under the Damascus Gate. I was never attracted to humus. Today I eat it here several times a day.
I thought that the only perfect desserts are those from my mother and grandmother - today, I also include to my favourite the local desserts as "Kunefe (Kanafeh)" or "Um Ali", which I have to try every time in the Middle East. I also considered the Slovak bread to be the only good bread in the world (really), but the Arabic bread is more than just strong competition. I can't describe how the local people know to prepare meat on the grill… I can say just: Good bye for diet! ? Simply put, the Middle East and Jerusalem have completely turned my gastro-life!
Text & photos:
František Fefe Kekely