Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The Port City of Acre

We last visited Acre in 2011 and still had good memories of our day trip, but when I discovered the Akkotel boutique hotel online, above, I decided that we were due for a return visit.
Akkotel is a boutique hotel built into the walls of the old city of Acre. You can actually see the wall inside the hotel when you pass to the older part of the building. It has a roof terrace overlooking the town and the sea. The building is a beautifully renovated historical building that was constructed by the Ottomans and served as accommodation for their army officers. It is close to the Land Gate in the eastern wall of Acre which was the only entrance to the old city during the Ottoman period. The hotel's dining room complex was a stable for horses. It is a charming hotel - quiet and clean with well-appointed and beautifully decorated rooms - and was a great choice for our short stay in Acre.
Acre - or Akko as it’s known in Hebrew and Arabic - is a historic walled port city with continuous settlement from the Phoenician period. It was an important northern city in ancient times. Various cultures made their home there. The Crusaders captured it and the Ottomans lived there for many centuries. Even Napoleon Bonaparte tried to lay his hands on Acre and conquer it, but after two months of siege and failed attempts to storm the city’s walls, he retreated in humiliation. The present city dates from the Ottoman 18th and 19th centuries. The citadel, mosques, khans and baths remain from that time. The remains of the Crusader town, dating from 1104 to 1291, lie almost intact, both above and below today's street level.
Acre’s rich history has meant a long list of cultures playing an important role, including Israelites, Greeks, Romans, Crusaders and Arabs. Acre is also a holy city in the Bahá’í Faith and can add recognition by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site to its impressive resume. Since the 1990s, large-scale archaeological excavations have been undertaken and there is a fascinating historical site around every corner.
There are many must-sees in Acre, though we didn't make a return visit to them this time. Not to be missed is the Hospitaller Fortress, built by the Templars at the end of the 12th century, where you can wander through the enormous stone rooms with vaulted ceilings. The Templars also built a 350-metre long tunnel, which leads from the fortress to the city port. It was only discovered in 1994 when some plumbing work was done in the area. The underground Templars Tunnel is great fun to walk through, as you hear the sea above and around you
The Turkish Bath House, Hama al Basha, is perfectly preserved. It hails from the end of the 18th century and consists of spectacular domed rooms, adorned with ceramic tiles and exquisite floors. This was the space where all the important men came to steam their troubles away, while their wives held parties in a separate enclosure.
The Old City market is a great place to check out some authentic Middle Eastern goods, from fresh fish to buckets of spices to delicious Arab pastries and desserts.
The 18th century Khan Al-Umdan, above, a large caravanserai (a roadside inn where travellers could rest and recover from the day's journey) near the port, was once the hub of international trade. Merchants unloaded their goods in storerooms on the first floor and resided in rooms on the second floor. Plans to update this ruined complex have been in limbo for years though; when we passed through, it was only possible to peer through the gate.
Acre port has a 2000-year-old history. It was first mentioned in relation to a Greek campaign to conquer Egypt in 527-525 BCE, and was built during the reign of Ptolemais II (285-246 BCE), transforming Acre into an international port city and the gateway to Israel. It reached its peak during the conquest by the Crusaders, when the port became the main gate to the Land of Israel. Remains that can be seen today are mostly from that period. After the Ottoman conquest the port was neglected, serving only as a marina for fishing boats.
In the late 17th century, Zahir al-Umar tried to renovate and fortify the city.  During the first third of the 19th century, the port was kept in good working order and it often served the Egyptian fleet of Muhammad Ali and Ibrahim Pasha. The port was destroyed during the shelling of Acre by the British and Austrian navies in 1840, when the breakwater wall and the Tower of Flies were damaged.
Today, visitors to Acre can walk along the promenade and watch the fishermen at work, or sit down and grab a bite in one of the many restaurants. Acre is known for its hummus and its falafel, as well as a number of incredibly popular Arabic style restaurants specialising in the fish caught by the local fishermen.
Acre is also known for the fact that Arabs and Jews live together in relative peace. Acre’s 46,000 residents are two-thirds Jewish and one-third Arab. The city's population includes Christians, Bahá’í, Jews and Muslims. The Old City is made up mostly of Arab residents living along the narrow alleyways of the ancient neighbourhood. Arabic is an official language, alongside Hebrew.

* This post has been shared on Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday), Tuesday's Treasures, The Keeping It Real Link UpWednesday around the World, Wonderful Wednesday Blog HopThe Wednesday Blog Hop, Share Your Cup Thursday and Little Things Thursday.
DIY Daddy


passion fruit, paws and peonies said...

Oh I have been watching a new tv series about the templars and they have been exploring this place and the tunnels beneath it. How wonderful to see more photos. Thanks for sharing xx Maria

likeschocolate said...

Incredible! So beautiful! Thanks for sharing! Hope you have a lovely week!

Esther said...

That looks like an absolutely delightful place!

Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid said...

You had me at hummus and felafel! I was on a kibbutz in the nineties and had some amazing adventures in Israel but I don't think I ever went to Acre. That hotel looks so cool - I'm definitely adding this to my Israel wish list!

Aditya Narayan Mohanty said...

Lovely architect . Please tell something about my captures on my blog.

Michele Morin said...

Beautiful and fascinating!

Snap said...

I love sitting at home in my armchair and reading about where bloggers are traveling. Armchair traveling at its best. thanks for taking me to Acre.

Kim Carberry said...

What a gorgeous place to visit. It looks and sounds full of character and history. #PoCoLo

Lizzie Cole said...

It looks absolutely beautiful. I love the old buildings!


Jessi (Two Feet, One World) said...

What a fascinating place - I would be overwhelmed with that much history around. Would love to visit one day! #WanderfulWednesday

JOhn Adams said...

I saw the name Acre and thought "I know it, but can't place it". Pretty sure it's mentioned in the Bible and that's where I know it from. Alas, it has been many, many years since I visited Israel but you post certainly makes the city sound appealing as a place to visit. I hope to return to Israel again one day so who knows, maybe I shall get a chance to visit this beautiful destination. Love the sound of the Templar tunnel! #thatfridaylinky

Isabelle said...

Looks amazing!! Beautiful place! #PoCoLo

VeggieMummy said...

It looks like a wonderful visit - so much history. As for the hummus and falafel - it definitely sounds like my kind of place! Apologies for the lack of comments on previous posts - I've been away for 10 days and am now swamped in laundry! xx

restlessjo said...

It looks a fascinating place to spend a little time, Lisa. Many thanks for sharing it with us :) :)

Jayne said...

What a beautiful location and so immersed in history! I really enjoyed learning more through your little tour so thank you. Lovely captures too!

Thanks so much for sharing with #MMBC. x

Debbie said...

Hi Lisa, what a fascinating town with so much history! It sounds like the sort of place you could keep visiting and still walk away having learned more. Just seeing the old wall in the hotel must get you wondering about the stories behind the people that built the wall. Imagine still finding things as a large as below sea tunnels that were built all those years ago. I'm not sure I'd fancy walking to the end of it though!

Thank you for linking up with #keepingitreal.


Stephanie 139a said...

It looks stunning, and I don't think you can beat somewhere with a bit of history. Thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

Have a Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson said...

It looks amazing and the hotel sounds so interesting! Thanks for sharing with SYC.