Travel to Jerusalem: Walls, Gates, and Streets
John Ruskin should have called his book "The Stones of Jerusalem." It could have been a heavy volume, too, for each block of the city has been closely studied.
It was the British who, cleaning up the rubbish left by the Turkish army, developed a scenic walk around the walls of the Old City. The circuit isn't complete: even the British weren't able to get the Islamic authorities to permit the walk to pass on the edge of the Haram Ash-Sharif, at the southeast corner of the Old City. Here, at the northwest corner and in the Christian quarter, things went smoother, though the British had to push some encroachers away from the wall. Amazingly, there are a few trees.
The Jewish Quarter, completely rebuilt from the rubble seized in 1967, rises here over the southern wall of the city. The first houses that went in here were acts of faith, rewarded by 30 years of rising real-estate values.
At the southern end of the eastern wall, Herodian blocks form the foundation of the Haram, or Temple Mount.
Water has usually been in critically short supply in the city. Here, at the foot of the southern wall, a clay-pipe conduit carried water in the Turkish period from springs south of Bethlehem. Almost as soon as General Allenby took Jerusalem, the British scrapped the hopelessly inadequate old conduits and replaced them with steel pipe.
Remnants of an even older conveyance system: rock-cut channels along the southern wall.
This strange corner projecting from the southern wall lies at the southern end of the old Roman cardo, the main street that ran south from what is now the Damascus Gate. Here, at the southern end of this urban axis, Justinian built a new church, the Nea, to complement the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The huge stones at the base of the corner are all that's left of it.
The Jaffa Gate is now just a gap in the city wall: not so the Damascus Gate, battered on its massive frame and hinges. Except in the early hours, the passage is a crowded one.
The "best" neighborhood of the Old City has for many centuries and quite logically been the land adjoining the Haram. Here the Emir Tankiz, a longtime Mameluke ruler of Syria, invested much of his fortune. The buildings he left behind include a large school, the Madrassa Tankiziyya, on the Street of the Gate of the Chain, or Tariq Bab es-Silsila. They all carry Tankiz's cup logo, testifying to the trust placed in him as cup-bearer to the sultan, who was always fearful of poison. In 1340, something went wrong. Tankiz was sent to Alexandria and executed.
The Suq el Qattanin, or cotton-merchant's market, is probably one of Tankiz's creations. Commonly judged the grandest of the medieval markets in the Old City, it stretches west from one of the Haram gates that are closed to non-Muslims. Hence the market remains a dead end for tourists. They avoid it--and so do the merchants who might otherwise rent the space from its owner, the Islamic Waqf. Income from stall rentals once funded charities and helped maintain the Haram, but there isn't much income today. The picture looks west some 300 feet through the market.
The Bab el Qattanin, or the gate of the cotton market, with its weakened main lintel. This is a far cry from the kind of maintenance work done in the Old City's Jewish Quarter. This western half of the market is of Crusader origin, rebuilt in Tankiz's time, when the market was extended eastward to join the Haram.
A more typical street: south from the Damascus Gate through the Suq Khan ez Zeit, or oil market. This is tourist country, captured in an off (early) moment. Modest as it appears, the street follows the alignment of the city's main street in Roman times. At that time, it was elaborately colonnaded. For centuries, it led past the entrance to Constantine's Church of the Holy Sepulcher and to Justinian's Nea Church, at the south wall of the city, but the entrance to the first was destroyed in the 11th century, and the New Church was demolished even earlier, in the 8th. The surviving corner of its foundation shows up in the chapter here called "Walls, Gates, and Streets."
There isn't much meshrabiyya left--the projecting and screened wooden windows that once were characteristic of cities from Cairo to Aleppo and beyond.
Many of the streets are solidly roofed over, with rows of skylights supplemented by powerful lighting.
The Moslem Quarter is the poorest part of Palestinian Jerusalem. Even so, rooftops reveal a modern cultural network.
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