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Tel Aviv 2013

Published: 28/03/2013 - Filed under: Home » City Guides » Home » City Guides » Middle East and Africa »

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Intriguing art and tempting tastes lie within Jaffa’s ancient walls, finds Jenny Southan.

1) SHLOMO LAHAT PROMENADE

Tensions frequently run high in Israel, but Tel Aviv seems determined to remain unruffled, with an entrepreneurial spirit and love of life that is palpable in its high-tech boom and vibrant nightlife.

To get a sense of the geographical position the city enjoys – slap-bang on the Israeli-Mediterranean coast – begin your walking tour on the 6km stretch of seaside promenade (Shlomo Lahat, merging into Homat Ha Yam) that runs between the Hilton and the ancient port town of Jaffa. If you have time to swim, the sea in front of the hotel tends to be calm as there is a breakwater – otherwise, it’s a pleasure simply to take off your shoes and socks and stroll along the sand. You could also cycle along the waterfront (bikes can be rented from docking stations), pausing to observe the locals surfing, fishing and bronzing themselves among the forest of multicoloured parasols in summer.

There are attractive marinas at both ends of the strip, and plenty of bars and eateries for refreshments. Goldman’s Court (goldmanc.co.il), by Honey Beach near Jaffa, serves frosty glasses of Goldstar beer and great food from morning until night – try the grouper kebabs, eggplant salad with tahini and deep-fried calamari.

2) OLD JAFFA

One of the oldest walled cities in the world with a history dating back 3,500 years, Jaffa (also known as Yafo) has long been a maritime stronghold thanks to its hilltop vantage point and natural harbour. It was under Ottoman rule for 400 years, during which time it was attacked by Napoleon, swept by bubonic plague and besieged for 40 days. Between 1917 and 1947, it was under the British Mandate but, in the early twenties, many Jews left for neighbouring Tel Aviv after riots flared up with fellow Arab residents.

More recently, the winding sandstone streets and blue-shuttered houses have become gentrified, with lots of families and businesses moving in, and a mix of Muslims, Christians and Jews. Pop into the Franciscan Roman Catholic St Peter’s church, by Kikar Kedumim Square, before heading over the Wishing Bridge (touch your star sign cast on the hand rail, look out to sea and your dreams will come true) to the Gate of Faith. Standing on a palm-fringed plateau that provides sweeping views of the sea and city, the 1970s monument is carved out of white Jerusalem limestone and depicts Bible scenes.

3) ILANA GOOR MUSEUM

Work your way down through Jaffa’s ancient cobbled alleys – 12 of which are named after signs of the zodiac, with hand-painted blue and turquoise plaques – to one of the most extraordinary private homes and art galleries you are ever likely to come across. The 18th-century building belongs to Israeli artist and collector Ilana Goor, with more than 500 works not only by herself but the likes of Henry Moore and Diego Giacometti, displayed throughout the numerous rooms of her stunning sandstone home. Nothing is behind glass and there are fascinating examples of tribal art, furniture, antiques and drawings that she has procured during her travels around the world.

There is also a rooftop sculpture garden with dazzling sea views, and the option to hire the entire museum for private events. Look out for photos of Ilana – all wild hair and round sunglasses – with people such as the Dalai Lama and Bill Clinton. If you are looking for unusual gifts, the on-site shop sells all manner of unique creations.

  • Open Sun-Fri 10am-4pm, Sat until 6pm
  • entry 38 NIS (£6.80)
  • 4 Mazal Dagim Street;
  • ilanagoormuseum.org

4) JAFFA FLEA MARKET

A ten-minute walk from Ilana’s place is the Jaffa flea market – open daily from 10am until sundown (weather permitting), not only are there dozens of rough-shod stalls hawking trinkets and second-hand wares, but shops selling quirky vintage, antique and army memorabilia, and hip bars and eateries. It’s a scruffy kind of place, but characterful, with lots of curios to catch your attention – in one shop I spotted a dish of glass eyes (complete with lashes) and a sign next to them in Hebrew translated as: “I don’t like pulling the eyes out of dolls – these eyes were stock from a factory for dolls. Ten shekels per eye.”

The Fleamarket restaurant (8 Rabi Yohanan Street; 2eat.co.il/eng/fleamarket) is a trendy place to try everything from Lebanese fattoush salad to Andalusian gazpacho, while a short walk away is Olei Zion (oleizion.rest-e.co.il), on the road of the same name, which is a hotspot for tasty local fare. But if you are too pushed for time to sit down and eat, save your appetite for your final stop…

5) BAKERY SAID ABUELAFIA AND SONS

This open-fronted bakery is a short walk around the corner from the market on 7 Yefet Street, near the clock tower. It’s one of the most famous in Jaffa so attracts long queues, especially at lunchtime, but it is worth stopping by for a bite. Choose from flatbreads topped with basil and zaatar (a fragrant blend of Eastern Mediterranean spices), stacks of awwami (doughnut balls), crescent-shaped chocolate rugelach, baklava and pizza. Or go for a warm sesame bagel and select a combination of fillings – you can’t go wrong with hummus – and eat as you go.

Visit thinkisrael.com

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