An Early Morning in Jerusalem’s Old City, a Photo Essay

5 minutes

Written by David / Photos by Michelle & David

5 minutes

Roaming the deserted streets of Jerusalem’s Old City in the early morning is an experience you can’t miss.

When your early morning bus from Tel Aviv enters the outskirts of Jerusalem on its way to the Central Bus Station, you’re most likely to be overwhelmed with a heap of mixed messages.

Modernity clashes with tradition. Glass-and-metal buildings mingle together with sandstone terraced houses, men in orthodox Jewish attire ride electric bicycles, full-armored military vehicles parked on the side of the street, …

Into Jerusalem’s Old City Through Jaffa Gate

The tram ride from the Central Bus Station to Jaffa Gate adds to the confusion. However, at this point, as excitement kicks in, this cultural mayhem becomes more bearable.

As you enter the walls through Jaffa Gate with the first rays of the sun, time seems to stop.

Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem's Old City

Entering Jerusalem’s Old City through Jaffa Gate

These stones have been here since the 1500s and have seen so much. Now, however, no one is around, let alone the hordes of guided tours that regularly meet at this very same point a bit later every day.

The Citadel of Jerusalem

Once you’re through the gate, the first imposing structure you will see is the Tower of David, or the Citadel of Jerusalem.

Tower of David, Jerusalem

The Tower of David

This is the last building of these dimensions you will find until you reach the Western Wall, this is if you don’t get lost in the labyrinth ahead.

Getting Lost in the Old city

Getting lost in Jerusalem’s Old Town is not difficult. And in fact, it’s quite an adventure on its own. Kilometres of staired streets, souks, winding backstreets and narrow alleyways are waiting for you.

Street in the Muslim Quarter, Jerusalem's Old city

A deserted street in the Muslim Quarter

For thousands of years, this city has been conquered, lost, and reconquered for many. Persians, Babylonians, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Egyptians, Islamists… the list goes on and on.

And footprints of these cultures can be found still today everywhere in any of the quarters within the walls of the Old City.

Speaking of… the Old City is still today divided into four quarters: Armenian, Jewish, Muslim and Christian. And life awakens equally in any of them.

Closed souk in Jerusalem's Old City

A closed souk in the Muslim quarter

Arched street in the Armenian quarter

Arched street in the Armenian quarter

Staired street in Jerusalem's Old city

A staired street in the Cristian quarter

Ultra-orthodox students in the Jewish quarter, Jerusalem's Old City

Ultra-orthodox students in the Jewish quarter

As Jerusalem’s Old City Awakens

As the Old City awakens, parents take kids to school; men of any faith walk to morning prayer; shop owners are preparing to receive their patrons. There is too much going on at once.

Walking the kid to school, Jerusalem's Old City

Walking the kid to school

Back from the Western Wall, Jerusalem's Old City

Back from the Western Wall

The bread delivery man

The bread delivery man, Christian quarter

The Western Wall, Finally

One would think the Western Wall is deserted so early in the morning, judging from the few people on the streets.

Well, it is not.

The two sections of the compound (one for men, the other for women) are now bustling with activity. And they have already been for hours.

Disposable kippot at the entrance of the Western Wall

Disposable kippot at the entrance of the Western Wall

Hand washing fountain at the Western Wall

Hand washing fountain at the Western Wall

Prayer books at the Western Wall

Prayer books at the Western Wall

Men's section at the Western Wall

Men’s section at the Western Wall

Back to Jaffa Gate

When you’re ready to head back to Jaffa Gate, you’ll see the streets coming to life.

Street in the Muslim quarter, becoming busier

Street in the Muslim quarter, becoming busier

Souvenir shops will already be open for business and loads of pilgrims will be already flooding the narrow streets following the Via Dolorosa, anxious to start their processional recreation (and hungry for some of those souvenirs).

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Tour groups waiting outside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Let’s Wrap It Up

So, here is the bad news, this is the only way to avoid the crowds and genuinely experience life in Jerusalem’s Old City. For those of us not used to getting up early, this will come as a shock.

Good news though, if you make an effort, you’ll be rewarded with a rare glimpse of the everyday life in each of the four quarters of Jerusalem’s Old City. And not only that, you might be compensated with the occasional greeting in Hebrew (Shalom) or Arabic (Salam Alaikum) on your way back.

How To Do It

  • The day trip from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is better done by bus, it will set you back NIS 18 for a single ticket or NIS 30 for a return ticket.
  • There are two convenient options by the company Egged, bus 405 (runs from the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station) and bus 480 (from Tel Aviv’s Arlozoroff Bus Terminal).
  • For an early arrival in Jerusalem, you should aim at taking any of these buses at around 6 am from Tel Aviv (make sure you check schedules here and avoid travelling during the Shabbat)
  • Once in Jerusalem, you can take either a taxi to Jaffa Gate or the very convenient and affordable Light Rail (tram) right outside Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station.

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5 Comments on “An Early Morning in Jerusalem’s Old City, a Photo Essay”. Join the Conversation Here!

  1. Amazing article.with awesome clicks. Really, I wish to enjoy these places. Your post is very informative and inspiring for the people who love to travel. Very well written about Jerusalem City and the images were stunning.
    Thank you so much for your post.

    1. Both Jordan and Israel deserve proper attention. Specially Jerusalem, you need to spend some time there to fully understand its history, its people and the reasons behind all conflits still today. I hope you have a chance in the future. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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