Friday, January 25, 2013

Uttarkashi and Thalan (Ganges/Yamuna trail 1)

Ganges Yamuna Trail

Uttarkashi and Thalan (Ganges/Yamuna trail 1)
Uttarkashi to Agoda (Ganges/Yamuna trail 2)
Agoda to Dodital (Ganges/Yamuna trail 3)
High altitude meadows of Himalayas (Ganges/Yamuna trail 4)
Lost in the leopard territory (Ganges/Yamuna trail 5)
Lost in the mountains again (Ganges/Yamuna trail 6)
Arrival in Hanumanchatti (Yamuna Odyssey 7)
Dinner in Hanumanchatti (Yamuna Odyssey 8)
Yanuma Dreams (Yamuna Odyssey 9)
Hanumanchatti to Kharadi Falls(Yamuna Odyssey 10)
Yamuna in Barkot (Yamuna Odyssey 11)
हम भी मिले थे कभी जमुना किनारे. (We met by the river Yamuna) (Yamuna Odyssey 12)

I am in Uttarkashi and I am single and I have lots of time on my hand because at the age of 45 I am already like a retiree.
Near Vishwanath temple I see a man selling flutes and this give me an idea. I must learn playing flute then I can spend my rest of the life sitting under the sun on a mountain slope and playing flute just like the Hero Rajendra Kumar does in the ‘Geet’ movie. Well, he gets into lots of troubles but I won’t. I will only mind my business ie: flute playing. Anyway at 45, no pretty girl will be attracted to me so the chances of mine going rodeo are nil.
I buy this flute and walk on the Ganges ghat and try playing it. Whereas I am trying putting all my efforts to play the tune of Geet movie’s song: Aaja tuz koo pukare mere geet rae …. O mere mitua. ” Unfortunately my flute is only making funny pu-pu sound.
This is quite frustrating. I try hard but result is still the same pu-pu-pu. A party from Gujarat is having a good time, they move away from me like I have some sort of contagious disease.
Thalan area
Thalan area

I conclude that I have given a bad flute and I go find the flute seller and find him near the famous Vishwanath temple.
“भाई मेरे, इस टूटी बुन्सुरी को बदल कर दो, यह मेरे जिन्दगी का सवाल है ”
He takes the flute from me and inspects it thoroughly and says, “Kकहाँ से टूटी हुई है ? ”
“यह बजती नहीं, बस पु पु की आवाज़ करती है.”
He puts it to his mouth – aur bazna shuru. Wow!
Anyway I ask him to change the god-dammed flute and he changes it. I ask him to play this Geet movie song.
He plays on the flute:
Mere Mitwa, Mere Meet Re
Aaj Tujko Pukare Mere Geet Re, Mere Geet Re,
Oh Mere Mitwa, Mere Meet Re
Aaja Tujko Pukare Mere Geet Re
He plays it so nicely that crowd gathers there and applauds.

Thalan Village
I take this flute and this time I am determined to learn the secrets to play it; no matter how hard it takes, I will learn fluting and then retire in some mountain village near a river. For the rest of my life, each and every day I will eat 3 square meals and ten cups of tea and rest of the time (14 hours a day) I will play my flute. What left is goes to sleep it off.
Well then may be this magic will only work on some realistic mountain slope or by some river. It is just 11 A.M. and I make my fill at Patiala restaurant and then walk to ghat and cross the footbridge. There I catch a jeep going towards Manpur, well actually I hang behind the fully loaded jeep and it shoots off. I tuck my flute in my pants on the tummy. As it crosses Indravati River Bridge, I gradually make up my way on the top of the jeep among the goods that includes one goat and 2 roosters.
Jeep climbs the mountain and then make a scenic girdle around the Uttarkashi and then city disappears after Kutati Devi temple. When the intersection to Thalan village appears, I shout to the jeep driver to stop, I pay my fare and begin my walk to the village.
I love this village on the top. It is just 3 kilometers from this point and you can catch a passing bye jeep if you are lucky but I keep walking because I am set upon to find some slope where I can play my song on the flute. Road is ascending steep incline. Last year I came to Uttarkashi with a friend and his wife. His wife was not very happy to be in India, she was having a permanent running nose due to pollution. She is Indian origin but she does not feel India healthy and safe enough. Some how we dragged her to this village and there she declared, “If we are again coming here tomorrow, only on this condition I will spend another day in Uttarkashi. ”
Now my friend was very jubilant and upbeat for another day of parole.
There is just one tea shop at the outskirts of Thalan; fellow will make just anything possible for him on demand.

In those days we visited this village 3 times in succession and ate almost all eggs, Maggie noodles etc, he had.
So this way ascends steep towards the Uttarkashi side first and on the hairpin bend you can see the Uttarkashi and Ganges and then it turns to other way and here you can see the route towards Nachiketa Tal, and whole of Indravati River valley. Whole views from where Indravati is born and then its confluence with Ganges in Uttarkashi. It is April and noon is a bit hot already but as I am ascending, air is getting gentle due to height. Just before the village comes to sight, meadow slopes begin at all the sides. This used to be a green village, it is still green but water that fed to agriculture dried up due to over harvesting of the trees and grass. Rain water is soaked in the mosses and groundcover and trees and foliate protect the water to be evaporated. This same water seeps in the earth and comes out in the forms of springs below the mountains. So no more ground cover and not enough trees dried up the mountain so the water springs dried up. Village slopes have turned into scenic meadows. Some people do farming here after rains but yield is not even enough for the survival of any one family.
Thalan means the wide open space, so it this village. It is a wide open ground on the slope amidst the dwindling farmlands.
Just before the village I take up a place on the slope that is overlooking at Indravati valley and I begin my flute song singing. 2 donkeys are grazing near me they too begin singing. I am not here to do duets so I standup to move away but donkeys walk away. I resume my flute practice and in half hour I believe I am getting a catch on it then someone hits me with a stone. I look back on the road, school children are throwing rocks at me so I run further to stay out of their range.
Now I start my practice and then notice a cow on the slope because she also begins singing with me.

Way to Thalan
Well, I keep practicing my flute for another hour, sitting on the perfect slope, under the perfect sunlight and perfect surrounding. After 2 PM. My throat is all dry and perched. My cheeks are paining and it is time for a cup of tea. I return to road that is now totally empty because all school kids are gone now. I come to the shop and everybody is staring at me.
Tea shop owner says, “खूब धुन बजाई आपने ?”
“मैं तो अभी सीख रहा हूँ. आपको कैसे पता चला??”
“सारे गाँव को पता चला गया ? आवाज़ यहाँ तक आ रही थी.”
“कैसी लगी.?”
Shop owner don’t say any thing but a boy says, “यह बांसुरी आपके बस की नहीं ?”
“अरे भइ ,अभी कुछ टाइम लगेगा, आज पहला दिन है?”
“Tठीक है, लगे रहो. पर यह आपके बस की नहीं है.”
All people sitting around laugh to affirm their agreement. Neither I like their attitude nor do I agree to it. I mind my cup of tea and 6 eggs omelet and walk away towards some other place where these fellows cannot hear my practice that is now largely improving. The best place was to walk back towards Uttarkashi and then find some place by the road where only some occasional vehicle may bother me.
I take a vow – I will return to Thalan in a week to show them that they were wrong.
After one kilometer I found the best spot in the oak jungle. There edible ferns are growing and escaped the eyes of all others. I decide to harvest the fern later on, so begin my flute practice.
After 25 tries, I successfully play the whole song “mere mitua …”
Wow! I could do that although my cheeks were now worse. I guess I need some rest and also it is 4 PM. Sun is about to set behind the mountains. Soon it will be cold so I begin harvesting edible fern.

Dried out farmlands at Thalan
After I fill my pockets, I make a sack of my front part of shirt and fill the rest in it. When cooked they taste a combination of Bhindi (okara) and mushrooms. Locally it is called Lonkra and sometimes it is also sold in the market. In English it is called: The coy and edible sprout of the fiddlehead fern. They grow around shaded moist areas. Its season is very short and harvesting time is also very short. Just 2 days and then it develops into inedible fibery leaves.
Edible Fern also called as Lonkra, sold in the market.[/caption]
Well, as I am descending down and it is still sunlight so why waste time. I again start playing flute and now I am doing full songs.
A jeep comes at the bend and almost hits to the mountainside and driver shouts at me, “kahi aur jaa kar shoor machao.”
Well actually he is correct, I am now playing a new song that I haven’t become master yet so driver got distracted, so I walk away in embarrassment.
Not to take the chance I again start playing the same “mere mitua” song.
3 men are coming from below and they stop me. One asks me, “What are you doing?”
“Well, I am playing my flute, Why?”
“We were taking a shortcut but we got distracted by your fluting. We though some vehicle broke down and is rubbing and screeching on the road, and we took the road to offer our help.”
“Sorry that I distracted you?”
“Look Sir, this is jungle area and you may provoke wild animals.”
And then they see a jeep coming from Thalan, they stop it and ask the driver to take me to Uttarkashi.
“But I can walk to Uttarkashi.”
One man says, “No you should not, you must not.”

Road to Thalan and Indravati Valley
“You may create some serious trouble with your this broken bansuri. ’
“This is not broken. ”
“Yeah, yeah, this is broken. ”
Jeep driver looking at me says to them, “He was making noise at Thalan also. ”
They all force me into the jeep.
In ten minutes jeep passes Kutati Devi temple, it is evening now and whole Uttarkashi now looks like fireworks from this height. Ganges is still shining in the crimson twilight. Jeep makes 3 hairpin bends and comes near the valley bottom. After it passes Inderavati Bridge, I ask the driver to stop at my hotel.
I am staying at my friend’s hotel. As I enter in the gate I hand all the lonkra vegetables to my friend’s son.
At night over the bottle, owner of the Hotel and my best friend in Uttarkashi is with me and I show him my newly gained fluting skills. I sing the whole song – “mere mitua, mere geet” song as I am on the other song my friend stands up saying that he got to see someone.
“But you said you are free tonight. ”
“No I am not. ” He leaves.
Next morning, his wife comes to me and tells me that I cannot play flute in their hotel. Last night her husband got home, very disturbed and took to bottle and got very drunk and also 2 customers threatened to vacate the room. They rooms were changed to other room that was farthest from me.

Thalan village from the shortcut trail
“But I must play flute. ”
“Go play in the mountains, there are vast mountains around here. ” She ordered.
“But I played in the mountains also …..”
“Go play somewhere else.” She left, she is very angry.
Then my friend came to me and embarrassingly he told me that I cannot play flute. Friendship is one thing but playing flute is other.

Indravati Valley
As he was leaving he turned back and said, “You can go to Agoda near Dodital, my friend Dharma there will give you place to stay. And there you can do all the fluting you want. Dharma loves to sing so you can do duets there. ”
Idea was very appealing because I always wanted to trek to Dodital and then to Yamuna Valley behind the mountain pass. And also I discovered that people in Ganges valley are not even a bit inclined towards quality music. Also going towards Yamuna valley was very tempting now because that valley might love my fluting. Krishna was associated with Yamuna and he fluted.
But I pretend that I didn’t like the idea. I say, “I will close my doors and windows and flute in very low tone tonight. ”
My friend jumped and shoted, “No, you cannot do fluting here. My customers are mad, my wife is mad and my children are mad even our Goldy (dog) is mad. You can stay here only if you don’t do fluting. ”
“I will rather leave then. ”
“Thank you very much.”
I start packing.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Israel Omnibus Part 4 -5

We are at Wailing wall in Jerusalem.
The main section of the wall, where people go to pray, is about 187 feet (57 m) long and is made of meleke limestone. Most of the stones weigh 4,000 pounds (1,814. 4 kg) or more, and one enormous stone, called the Western Stone, weighs more than 1. 1 million pounds (more than 500,000 kg). There are 28 stone layers above the ground and 17 underground. An underground tunnel runs along the length of the wall.

Wailing wall
We mingle with other pilgrims and tourists at this wall and we also pray. We also make notes of our pray on the papers and inserted those papers in the cracks of the wall. Well anything that we wished that day came true. We were three friends.

Prayers inserted in the wall.
One friend wanted to marry a girl but his family and her family both opposed to this relation and he begged God for his this wish come true and indeed it came true very gracefully. Second friend was none other but Harish.

Jerusalem Old city view from Fort escarpment.
He wanted a job badly after finishing his Masters and he got a very descent and respectable job. I also had some serious issues in my life and all gotten resolved after this visit. Well, call is coincidence or call it the prayers answered, but this all happened.
Many people weep silently here and many can be seen kissing this wall. After visiting and praying at this wall we explored rest of the Jewish Quarter. It is well kept and ancient quarter but not much commercial activity goes on here.

Muslim Quarters
Most of the shops are in Christian and Muslim Quarters. Christian quarter is more touristy and religious. Muslim Quarters is like a bazaar, local Muslims visit this bazaar for their daily need shopping. This quarter is most populous.
We hit a jackpot near Damascus Gate. There we found some shops selling falafels wrapped in pita-bread.

View of Mount Olives from Fort escarpment
Here people can buy Falafels in Pita breads and form the self service counters we can fill as much salads and sauces in our pita as much we wished.

Pita Breads
Falafel is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas (chana) or fava beans, or both. Falafel is a traditional Arab food, usually served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flatbread known as lafa. The falafel balls are topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and drizzled with sesame based sauces.

Falafel sandwich
Falafel is becoming an international food now. You can find it in all large bazaars in the whole world.

Pita Breads
Pita Bread: is a round pocket bread widely consumed in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean countries. The “pocket” in pita bread is created by steam, which puffs up the dough. As the bread cools and flattens, a pocket is left in the middle.

Falafel Stall in Israel
It is same thing that we can call it fulka, or the roti that balloons up with steam while cooking. Now a day’s many high-tech automatic plants make Pita Bread. One such plant is installed in the Golden Temple, Amritsar.
In Langar Hall, pilgrims are served Pita Bread along with the roti made on Tawa. Many pilgrims visit the pita bread facilities to watch the Pita being made with dough. Whole operation consists of large conveyer’s belts and ovens. When we were single in USA, we always used to cook either rice or eat Pita Bread because making desi bread is a big deal for a student.

A colorful shop in Muslim Quarters.
Another things that we find in Israel is Bagel. It is a hardened bread with a hole in it. Bagels are of Jewish origin. Bagel come in many flavor; salt, garlic, onion, spinach, sun-dried-tomatoes etc. to name few.

Assorted variety of Bagels.
Our breakfast in Jerusalem was mostly Bagels with butter of cream-cheese. Actually my breakfast in USA is also mostly bagel. Bagels were brought to the United States by immigrant Polish-Jews and now it has become a popular American Breakfast. This trend is growing up in Canada and England and many other countries.

Muslim Quarters near Damascus Gate.
The Muslim Quarters are the most interesting and largest quarter in the old city, and most of its population arrived after its original Jewish and Christian residents moved to newer neighborhoods. The Moslem Quarter has churches and mosques, and there are several Jewish homes and Yeshivas still remaining.

Bagel with cream cheese.
We spend 4 days in the old city and each day we come to Muslim quarter for our lunch and dinner. Its bazaars remind me of the colorful bazaars in the narrow streets in India where you can buy just anything that includes raw food, fruits, meat, milk, sweets, ropes, lamps, nails, rat-traps and other hardware etc.

A man on the Donkey in West Bank.
Another blessing that we found in these quarters, that we saw Egyptian type tea shops where black tea with mint is served along with hookah and some chess like games that you can play while sitting there. I am not writing more about these shops because one day I will write about my Egypt visit.
Area outside the Damascus gate is West Bank, controlled by Paternalists. Or you can call it an entire different country.

Temple of Mount.
Area outside the Lions Gate is 100% Israel and its prosperity reflects there but in just 2 kilometers country changes and area changes. There outside the gate we feel like we are in some different and not so prosperous country.

A woman on Donkey in West Bank
It takes us full 2 days to explore full Old City. Many enclaves were residential and we don’t bother to get in those streets because of the resident’s privacy concerns because Muslims are very concerned about the privacy of their women folks but we were welcome to explore just any street in all other quarter. We also circled the old town from outside and visited Mount of Olives; it is named for the olive groves that once covered its slopes. It is said by believers that Jesus gave an end-time prophecy at this location.

Temple of Mount
The Mount of Olives is associated mainly with Jewish and Christian traditions but also contains several sites important in Islam. The most of the mount is an ancient Jewish cemetery.
In the evenings we go to bus stand and catch any random city bus and visit other neighborhood of Jerusalem but it turns out unappealing, just like any western cities and enclaves. We always return to our beloved Old City hotel and have a couple of beers and then we walk to Muslim Quarters for dinner in the Muslim Quarters.
Whole Old City Jerusalem is kept very clean very efficiently. We should learn this lessen.

Wailing wall
They use 2 wheeled small and narrow tiller like tractors that were manufactured in India and were used mostly in South India but they lost popularity. These small tractors pull small trolleys in the narrow alleys of Old City and all garbage is hauled out, a couple of times each day.

Muslim Quarters.

I lost part 5, will recreate it soon.

Israel Omnibus 1 to 3

All roads lead to Jerusalem.
We left the beautiful small seashore town of Sharm El Sheik (Egypt) in the morning by taxi to Taba that is 230 kilometers. Road goes along Red Sea in the deserts of Sinai Peninsula. At our left side were the rugged and dry deserts of Mount Sinai Mountains where God gave laws to Moses. To our right side Saudi Arabia was visible on the other side of Red Sea.
Saudi Arabia is visible across Red Sea in Egypt.

20 kilometers before Taba our driver pointed out a building at the other side of Red Sea that was the Durra Border Crossing between Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
Sianai Desert
Then after 7 kilometers we could see 3 countries from the Egypt side. To our north was the City of Eliat in Israel, across the Red Sea was the Jordan’s famous city Aquaba, and in the south west was the Saudi Arabia. Road near Taba became very scenic but unfortunately we didn’t stop in Taba. Our taxi driver dropped us near Israel border right on the Red Sea. We walked and first got our passport stamped by Egyptian authorities and then walked in Israeli immigration building. Israeli immigrations and customs were managed by young aged boys and girls who looked like school children. They were professional and efficient. Since Israel is very vulnerable to attacks so each traveler and each luggage passes through extreme but very efficient scrutiny.
View of Aquaba (Jordan) from Israeli Immigration office.
We were asked if we want our passports stamped with Israel entry and we said no, they stamped our visa on a separate paper. Many Muslim countries deny entry in their country, it person is bearing Israel stamp on his/her passport. We walked out of the immigration building, into the Israel. Nearest city is Eilat.
Israel Egypt Crossing
Eilat is Israel’s southernmost city, a busy port as well as a popular resort, located at the northern tip of the Red Sea, on the Gulf of Aqaba. It is in the Negev Desert. From the sea shore, Jordanian port city of Aqaba as well land of Saudi Arabia was visible.
In Israel
After some distance was a local bus and we sit on it. Israel is shockingly expansive due to high inflation because of high defense budget. We get our first shock when we pad the bus fare at this local bus. Bus brings us in the main downtown. Restaurants were also shockingly expansive, not just we are in a trauma but also other people who crossed into Israel and then took the same bus with us were in the same state. Israel is a developed country, in Eliat we were feeling as we were in Arizona.
After Israel Immigration
We meet a gentleman from India who somehow got Israel visa but then overstayed there and found work. He directed us to a supermarket and advised us to buy flavored breads and spiced hummus. We followed his advice and ate our lunch in the roadside small park under the date trees that turned out great. Eilat is a resort town, rich Israelite come here for their beach vacations.
In Israel after border crossing
We take another bus to get to main bus-stand. At this modern Main Bus-Stand so we get the bus for Jerusalem and we buy our tickets in such a way so we could spend 2 hours at Dead Sea.
View of Negrev Desert from the road.
Gradually we are overcoming the cost shock in Israel. We have a cup of coffee in a restaurant near Bus Stand. Bus moves at 1PM.
Bus Stand near Israel entrance.
Bus departs and enters in the deadly Negrev desert.
Negrev Desert in Israel
In the patches we can see the Israel agriculture revolution. Fully machinated farms were on the way that use drip irrigation. Bus has to travel about 200 kilometers distance in 2 hours.
Israel Flag at Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is in between Israel, West Bank and Jordan.
A Bedouin near Dead Sea.
Its surface and shores are 423 meters (1,388 ft) below sea level, Earth’s lowest elevation on land. The Dead Sea is 377 m (1,237 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world. With 33.7% salinity, it is also one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. It is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea is 67 kilometres (42 mi) long and 18 kilometres (11 mi) wide at its widest point. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River. The Dead Sea has attracted visitors from around the Mediterranean basin for thousands of years.
Dead Sea
Biblically, it was a place of refuge for King David.
It is the ancient health resort, and it has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from balms for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers.
People also use the salt and the minerals from the Dead Sea to create cosmetics and herbal sachets. In 2009.
Dead Sea, other side is Jordan.
Dead Sea has saltwater has density of 1.240 kg/L, which makes swimming similar to floating. I read my book while floating in the Dead Sea. Water is honey like and very bitter in taste. I made a mistake of tasting the water. Whereas sea water is 97% Sodium but Dead Sea water sodium is just 30%, rest is other salts and chlorides of calcium, Potassium and magnesium etc. Israel erected a potash plant to extract potash and other chemicals and Jordan followed the example and erected its own plant. Unfortunately water in Dead Sea is drying up because Jordan River is drying up. Israel has planned to build a tunnel to bring sea water from Red Sea and generate power and also restore Dead Sea but this requires the cooperation with Jordan so idea has not been materialized yet.
Masada Fort near Dead Sea
When we came out of water, we were sticking with viscous like chemicals that begin drying instantly in the dry air of deadly desert. There were coin operated fresh water showers to take a shower that we used. Unfortunately I shaved in the morning so my face was brutally burning with the salt contact.
Two settlers doing on a Donkey near Jerusalem.
Two years ago I visited Dead Sea from Jordan side that was visible from Israel side. Israel side is more developed and user friendly. People form many countries come to Dead Sea for their skin ailment and osteoarthritis treatment. Psoriasis patients claim that each bathing brings them some relief.
Armenian Quarters near our Hotel.

Part 2:

We had 2 hours at Dead Sea in Israel and then our bus departed for Jerusalem. On the way it passed in front of Masada.
Herod the Great the cruelest King in the human history; fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE as a refuge for himself in the event of a revolt. , Irony of the matter is that he was a Jew himself and a Roman Client King. In 66 CE, a group of Jewish extremists overcame the Roman garrison of Masada. After the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE, additional members of the Sicarii and numerous Jewish families fled Jerusalem and settled on the mountaintop.
In 72, the Roman governor of Judea laid siege to Masada.
Jerusalem Old City
The Roman legion surrounded Masada, and built a circumvallation wall and then a siege embankment against the western face of the plateau, moving thousands of tons of stones and beaten earth to do so. Refugee did not counterattack the besiegers during this process.
The rampart was complete in the spring of 73, after two to three months of siege, allowing the Romans to finally breach the wall of the fortress with a battering ram on April 16. Roman troops entered the fortress, they discovered that its 960 inhabitants had set all the buildings but the food storerooms ablaze and committed mass suicide.
From Dead Sea, our buses begin its climb to Jerusalem that is 2500 feet above mean sea level, hence road climbs about 4000 feet. Very fast desert vanished and greenery begun.
Jerusalem Old City
Near Jerusalem, juniper trees begin appearing. First trees were stunted and stress but as city came closer trees were tall and healthy. Terrain was now grassy and rock but green. It was evening when we arrived in Jerusalem. Other passengers directed us to get down at a stop that was at walking distance from Old Walled City.
We pass a market, things were very expansive but we were overcoming the shock and were now spending on food.
Jerusalem Old City
We had coffee and snacks and then entered in old city through the Jaffa Gate. To our right were Armenian quarters and to our left were Christian quarters. We saw the sign of our hotel and went inside to ask for room. We like the hotel, this was a historic building but then all structures here are historic. Later on we discovered that there were no windows in the tunnel, still we liked it. It had a modern bathroom with running hot water.
Jerusalem Old City
It was 7PM and dark in the Mediterranean winters and we are not familiar with the maze of old city streets so we retract our steps and return to the same market where we had tea. It feels like a market in the downtown of Brooklyn or Queens. We cannot find anything vegetarian to eat here but wander around and finally buy beers, salads, breads and hummus. We return to our room with provisions and enjoy beer and salad and hummus sandwiches. We are falling in love with hummus.
Hummus is a Middle Eastern and Arabic food dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas (white grams or white chana) blended with sesame seed, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic.
Jerusalem Old City
It is popular throughout the Middle East, Turkey, North Africa, Morocco, and in Middle Eastern cuisine around the world. Now it is sold in America also on almost every supermarket. It is also sold in big supermarkets of India. I bought it in Bangalore.
After dinner we walk around the town in night. Security is extremely tight, very young Jewish security men with automatic weapons are stationed at various places but they don’t bother us or interfere in our walk this is very unlike in India.
Jerusalem Old City
They are very vigil and alert. In Srinagar in J&K we see such vigil but at night security people stop and interfere into everyone’s life.
Next day we get oriented with the maze of old town of Jerusalem which is like Darya Ganj area in Old Delhi (between Azmeri Gate and Jama Masjid)
Ancient maps show Jerusalem at the center and Europe, Asia and Africa in a circle. A city like Jerusalem does not exist anywhere else in the world. Jerusalem is a myriad of towering stone walls, ancient buildings, narrow alleyways, colorful markets, war and peace, love and hate. The Old City was originally built by King David in 1004 B.C.E
Jerusalem Old City
This is the holy city for three religions. This was the place where the Jews built the Temple, where Jesus was crucified, and where Mohammed rose to Heaven. Pilgrims, beggars, convicts, merchants, scholars, warriors and slaves have all walked its streets, and have praised and revered Jerusalem.
This city is resting on the original hills of the City of David and surrounded by an ancient wall over four kilometers long with seven gates, 34 towers, and a citadel (the Tower of David).
Jerusalem Old City
Old city Jerusalem is divided in 4 parts also called quarters. The Armenian quarter is the smallest quarter of the Old City. Armenia was the first country to become Christian in 301 CE. In February 313, Constantine I, emperor of Rome controlling the west of the Roman Empire and Licinius, controlling the east, met in Milan and agreed to treat the Christians compassionately. Constantine I himself converted into Christianity. Then Armenians begin settling in Jerusalem in 4th century because Jerusalem was ruled by Romans.
Jerusalem Old City
We stayed in an ancient hotel in Armenian quarters. Our windowless room was in a tunnel like place made of heavy stones. History indicated that our room was where used to be a garrison in the bygone era. As we are staying in Armenian quarters so we begin exploring this area first. This is the most peaceful area of the old city.
Jerusalem Old City
Jerusalem Old City

Part 3

Facing our hotel was the Christian quarter; this quarter has more than 40 churches, monasteries and hostels. In the center is the Church of the Resurrection. Where, it is said that Jesus was crucified and buried following his final walk along the Via Dolorosa (Way of suffering). The famous Via Dolorosa begins at the courthouse near Lions’ Gate and ends at Calvary Hill or Golgotha. It is the tradition that all pilgrims walk along the Via Dolorosa.
Christian Quarters
We then enter in the maze of the streets of Christian quarters. First we find a small restaurant and we have breakfast of toasted bread and butter. Then we walk on this famous Via Dolorosa along with other pilgrims. Many pilgrims are walking with rented symbolic crosses.
Pilgrims retracing the path where Jesus carried the cross.
We enter in the Church of Resurrection and witness the religious activities going in there. Then we enter in several other churches. We again walk on the Via Delarosa; this is not just one street but a path that follows several streets.
The market – one of Jerusalem’s most popular tourist attractions, is located in the Christian quarter and is a noisy, colorful market where one can buy decorated pottery, candles, souvenirs etc.
Christian Quarter
The Jewish quarter is the main Jewish area in the old City. Temple Mount also touches this quarter.
The Temple Mount is one of the most important religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a religious site for thousands of years.
Church is built where Jesus was crucified.
At least four religions are known to have used the Temple Mount:Judaism, Christianity, Roman paganism, and Islam. First temple was built by Solomon the son of David in 957 BCE and destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. The second was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE and destroyed by theRoman Empire in 70 CE. Jewish tradition maintains it is here the Third and final Temple will also be built.
Via Deloroas – path of suffering. Jesus walked on this way with his cross.
The location is the holiest site in Judaism and is the place Jews turn towards during prayer. Due to its extreme sanctity, many Jews will not walk on the Mount itself, to avoid unintentionally entering the area where the Holy of Holies stood, since according to rabbinical law, some aspect of the Divine Presenceis still present at the site. Among Sunni Muslims, the Mount is widely considered to be the third holiest site in Islam. Revered as the Noble Sanctuary (Bait-ul-Muqaddas) and the location of Muhammad’s journey to Jerusalem and ascent to heaven, The Al Aqsa Mosque rests on the far southern side of the Mount, facing Mecca.
Christian Quarter
The Dome of the Rock currently sits in the middle, occupying or close to the area where the Bible mandates the Holy Temple be rebuilt. Due to the dual claims of both Judaism and Islam, it is one of the most contested religious sites in the world. Since the Crusades, the Muslim community of Jerusalem has managed the site. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority claim sovereignty over this site, which remains a major focal point of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Christian Quarters
In an attempt to keep the status quo, the Israeli government enforces a controversial ban on prayer by non-Muslim visitors. Israeli police first asked us if we are Muslim when we said no they told us that we cannot go in there. But then we saw some other foreigners in the temple and this time we were adamant with police men. Many Palestinian onlookers gathered to watch our argument with the police and crowd was only growing and abruptly police asked us to proceed in the temple.
Pilgrims retracing the path where Jesus carried the cross.
But when we went to Wailing Wall, nobody prevented us along with other many pilgrims and tourists.
The Western Wall or Wailing Wall is located at the foot of the western side of theTemple Mount. It is a remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard, and is arguably the most sacred site recognized by the Jewish faith outside of the Temple Mount itself. Just over half the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the Second Temple period, commonly believed to have been constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great
The Western Wall refers not only to the exposed section facing a large plaza in the Jewish Quarter, but also to the sections concealed behind structures running along the whole length of the Temple Mount, such as the Little Western Wall–a 25 ft (8 m) section in the Muslim Quarter.
Christian Quarters
It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries. Attempts to purchase rights to the wall and its immediate area were made by various Jews, but none were successful. With the rise of the Zionist movement in the early 20th century, the wall became a source of friction between the Jewish community and the Muslim religious leadership, who were worried that the wall was being used to further Jewish nationalistic claims to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. Outbreaks of violence at the foot of the wall became commonplace and an international commission was convened in 1930 to determine the rights and claims of Muslims and Jews in connection with the wall.
Wailing Wall where Jews Pray and also they insert their prayers written on the paper in the cracks in the wall.
After the 1948 Arab-Israeli War the wall came under Jordanian control and Israelis were barred from the site for 19 years until Israel captured the Old City in 1967.
Jews from all countries, and as well as tourists of other religious backgrounds, go to pray at the wall, where many people believe that one immediately has the “ear of God. ” People who cannot pray at the wall can send in prayers or ask for the Kaddish, a specific Jewish prayer, to be said for departed loved ones. Prayers that are sent in are placed into the cracks of the walls and are called kvitelach.
Pilgrims retracing the path where Jesus carried the cross.
There might be a small charge for this service, depending on the person or organization that is providing the service. When the small pieces of papers become too numerous — more than 1 million are placed each year — they are removed and buried.
The Wailing Wall can be visited at any time of the day. Visitors typically are thoroughly searched for security purposes.
Christian Quarters
Women of any religion, out of respect for Judaic law, should wear modest clothing. There are separate entrances for men and women, although they can regroup at the Wall. . .
Christian Quarters.

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