Our tour today briefly took us through the Muslim quarter in the old city, as we walked from the Temple Mount esplanade (near the eastern gate), past the pool of Bethesda, to Antonia’s fortress, and briefly down part of the Via Dolorosa.
I wanted to share a couple marked differences between the Muslim quarter and the Jewish and Christian quarters. I know some of this isn’t politically incorrect to say, but the facts are…
- The Muslim quarter was dirty. Garbage laid everywhere. Totally different from the other places I saw in the city. It was clear that there was far less value placed on cleaning up after oneself than in other cultures. Sorry, just tellin’ you what I saw.
- It was really crowded, though this doesn’t set it apart from other areas. Like in many of the Jewish streets we walked down, I was constantly bombarded by some guy wanting to sell me something “for two dolla”. We mocked later (probably wrongfully), saying “I’ll give you 2 goats for … something” … a set of pictures on Facebook, maybe. “I make you special deal, my friend.” I don’t know how many times I heard that I was getting a special deal just for me – as was the guy behind me, of course.
- I felt relatively safe. Truthfully, in a group in broad daylight, I didn’t feel any more or less safe in one part of Jerusalem than any other. Our guide definitely cautioned us to stay in a group, especially in the Muslim quarter at night, and I definitely would have discouraged even a small group of white girls wandering around in the city at night. But I didn’t somehow feel less safe in the Muslim quarter than in any of the others.
It would be impossible for me to fully communicate the sensation of shopping on the streets of Jerusalem. It was definitely different than America. It was all about haggling, playing a game with the shop proprieters, etc. I turned out to be fairly good at it, actually. The secret is to know what you’re looking for, have a general sense of what it’s actually worth, and know how much you’re willing to pay for it. Then you have to not really care if you get it or not, and keep walking away until the guy begs you to take it for the price you had in mind in the first place. I found counter offers to be less valuable than just continuing to say “no” and start walking away. One guy even put his arm around me, and somewhat forcibly tried to keep me from leaving. I had to peel out of his grip, and keep walking away. Eventually I got the item I was looking at there for $35, when he started out at “$230, but a special price today of $150”. So, that’s like 76% off even the sale price. Rock on! Another guy said to me once, “I’m a nice guy … you take deal,” to which I replied, “I’m not a nice guy, it’s $40 or I walk.” I got the stuff (originally offered at $110) for $42.
By the way, check out the picture above. This is my roommate, Jace, in a shop in the Muslim quarter. Note the guy in the background. He’s got the whole “get your arm around the tourist and don’t let go until he gives you American dollars” maneuver going on. Been there, done that!
Anyway, at the beginning of the trip, I disliked all the game playing. By the end, I was kinda into it actually.