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mapThe Muslim Quarter

Jeusalem Old City

The map was copied from Wikitravel.org.

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Jerusalem's Old city is divided into four districts, or "quarters" as they are known: Armenian, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim.

The Muslim Quarter is the largest and most densely populated section of the Old City. Although it was developed as an urban neighbourhood under Herod the Great, it was not until it was taken over by the Crusaders in the 12th century that it achieved its present form. The large number of churches and other Christian institutions date from this era.

After the Crusaders were defeated, the Mamelukes undertook an extensive rebuilding of the quarter in the 14th and 15th centuries. Much of the architecture to be seen today dates from the Mameluke period.

Unfortunately, the quarter has been decaying since the 16th century. It contains some of the cities oldest and poorest housing. It is also one of the most interesting parts of Jerusalem, and one of the least explored. With the narrow twisting streets winding up and down the hills, it is an easy place in which to lose oneself.

Israelis will tell you that it is dangerous to wander around the Muslim Quarter. We got lost in the back streets of the Quarter on several occasions, and never did we feel in any way threatened by the inhabitants. People were always very kind and helpful to us, showing us how to get back to the more well travelled streets.

The suqs are fascinating, and seem to go on and on forever. I spent many happy hours wandering around, looking at the merchandise, and of course, buying the beautiful embroidery, pottery, jewellery, spices, Hebron glass, olive wood carvings and other items for which the suqs of the Old City are famous.

Prices are usually cheaper here than in the Jewish Quarter, and the merchants really need the the sales. Since the start of the 2nd Intifada, there have been few tourists, and many of the small merchants have gone out of business. If they seem pushy, it's only that they are desperate to make a sale.

Our landlord was raised in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. He offered to give us a tour one day, and we accepted with pleasure. He took us to the home of his cousins. This part of the city was probably built or rebuilt by the Mamlukes. Most of the houses in this area have a similar plan, several unconnected rooms surrounding a small courtyard, open to the elements. Originally, each room would have housed a family. The walls are very thick, 50cm or more. Of course there is no way to install wiring or plumbing inside the walls without destroying them, so the necessary infrastructure of our lifestyle is exposed, on the interior surface of the walls. Also, it would be impossible to connect the various rooms without risking major damage to the ancient structure. It was a fascinating look at a different way of life.

As we were walking down one street, our landlord mentioned that when he was a boy he used to visit this house as another cousin had lived there. He did not know who lived there now, but knocked on the door anyway. Here we saw an example of the famed Arab hospitality. A man answered the door. Our landlord explained to him that his cousin had lived there, probably 50 or 60 years ago, and that he was showing some Canadians around the Old City. The man invited us in, a gaggle of complete strangers, sat us down in his living room, and offered us refreshments.

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Some views of the Muslim Quarter.

To view any photo at full size, click on the photo with the left mouse button.
Damascus Gate

The Damascus Gate, leading to one of the suqs or markets, in the Muslim Quarter.

damascus gate

Inside the Damascus Gate, note the armed Israeli soldiers above, a constant reminder to shoppers and residents that they have no power in their own country.

Israeli soldiers at Damascus Gate

Israeli soldiers at the Damascus Gate, a constant threat to the populace.

internet cafe sign

Old world meets new, an internet cafe sign in the Muslim Quarter.

internet cafe

In a suq, internet cafe sign overhead.

suq

Internet cafe sign overhead in a suq.

suq

The Cotton Suq, specialising in textiles, the other end of this suq opens onto the Haram, the complex surrounding the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque.

suq

Another shopping area, close to a residential section. These shops cater to the locals, not to the tourist trade.

suq

One can find everything here, from clothing to fruits and vegetables, to cooking pots, to freshly butchered lamb and goat hanging in the open air.

house of a Haji

When someone returns from the Haj, they decorate the outside walls of their home to share their joy.

home of a Haji

The home of another who has been on the Haj.

door in muslim quarter

A door in the Muslim Quarter.

shutters on an upper window

Shutters on an upper window of a girls school in the Muslim Quarter.

lion gate

St. Stephen's or the Lion Gate, where, tradition says, St. Stephen was stoned to death for his beliefs.

lion gate

Lions set into the bricks above St. Stephen's Gate, also called the Lion Gate.

kids

These little boys were going home from school, the last class was over, summer had begun, and they were delighted.

architecture

Coming from the Lion Gate toward St Anne's Church.

muslim quarter

Mameluke architecture of the Muslim Quarter.

muslim quarter

Arhitecture of the Muslim Quarter.

muslim quarter

Just another reminder, in the centre of the Muslim Quarter, that their home is not their own.

boundary of the muslim quarter

The Israeli equivalent of a 'good neighbour' fence, separating a home owned by Jews from its surrounding Muslim neighbours.

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Click on the link to visit the other pages in the Jerusalem section:

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Patti

This page was updated on 6 December 2007.

Contact me at: patti.primeau@sympatico.ca

This site was edited using Nvu and Style Master.

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