City upon city upon city. That would be Akko, or Acre as it is also known. Akko is one of the oldest cities in the world that is still inhabited. I think the fact that it is still thriving makes it all the more exciting to visit. We visited the ruins, but as we did so we were also engaged with the hustle and bustle of daily life in Akko.
Akko goes back to the time of Pharaoh Thutmose III (1504-1450 BCE). It was once a leading port in the Middle East equal in stature to Alexandria and Constantinople. Today, the population is about 40,000 and the primary industry is fishing. Acre has been controlled by the empire of Alexander the Great, Ptolemy II, the Muslims, the Crusaders and of course the Ottoman Empire. Napoleon attempted to take the city in 1799, but failed.
According to the legend, the crusader city was discovered when a bulldozer on the street accidently clipped a Turkish building and sand started to pour out. When archaeologists arrived on the scene, they discovered a huge crusader hall. Now the subterranean city can be toured and of special note is how clearly one is able to tell where the Turks built right on top of the old city.
As we toured Akko, it became apparent that we were only seeing a few of the highlights. It would take several days to really see everything, but I would love to be able to go back and do so. The day was rainy and while the rain presented additional challenges to our day, it also heightened our senses to what was going on around us. The city was alive and bustling and around every corner was something new. One minute we might be walking through underground tunnels stooping as we went, and the next minute we would be on top of the city walls getting drenched in the rain. It was a very elemental experience that pulled in each of the senses plus a few new ones. We had lunch at a corner outdoor place and we had no idea what we were ordering – at least I didn’t. I was so hungry though that it really did not matter. One minute I was hungry; the next minute I was handed some food and so I ate it. No one could explain what I was eating, and I think that was the day I stopped asking. Maybe that is a good thing. In my daily life I have certain ideas as to how I like things, and I have come to expect that there should always be accommodations for my preferences. It’s how I maintain my world and it kind of keeps me a prisoner because I squeeze out all of life’s surprises. It is very different to be in a place where you eat what you’re handed with no idea even of what it is. There is no sending it back if it is not cooked to your satisfaction or if you don’t like it. You either eat it or you go hungry.
There were lots of surprises in Akko. I can’t really say that I had some ideas as to what to expect – other than what I had read about which means nothing without the experience – but whatever I might have been expecting was certainly not what I encountered. That seems to be true of most of the trip…come to think of it – it seems to be true of most of my life.
To see the photos, click on the album cover: