Immerse yourself in thousands of years of history and the genesis of change and tolerance in Jaffa
Jaffa, time-worn and mysterious, is the backdrop of several ancient myths. The most famous of these is brought to life on a rocky outcrop near the harbour. Called Andromeda Rock, the legend goes that Princess Andromeda was shackled and left to be ravished by a sea monster. Luckily for all involved, Andromeda was rescued by Perseus and the beauty and romance of the location endures.
The town is built on the ancient remains of a bustling port town that’s been inhabited since 7500 BCE. Jaffa Port, nestled between Egypt and Syria in Old Jaffa, served as a hub for both old-world adventurers and exotic trade goods (including those famous oranges). Remnants of the Egyptians can be explored at Tell Yafo, with hieroglyphic columns recording the capture of the city in 1440 BCE. The ruins sit atop the highest part of the city and offer a wonderfully contrasting view over modern Tel Aviv.
Today, Jaffa remains central to the story of Tel Aviv. It’s a melting pot of cultures, with Arabs and Jews coexisting despite a history of conflict. The residents of Jaffa are working to restore harmony by refurbishing Arab buildings and educating Jewish and Arab children alongside one another. Here you will see the turrets of mosques marking the skyline alongside more traditionally Jewish landmarks. This includes the Ilana Goor Museum, which was once a welcoming beacon for weary Jewish pilgrims.
The museum is the centrepiece of the colourful art scene in Old Jaffa. The honey-coloured building is home to both the artist and her collection of sculptures, paintings and other travel mementos. Spend an afternoon here ambling through the collection and taking in the serene sea views from the courtyard. Afterwards, arm yourself with a refreshing mint lemonade and dive into the maze of restored alleyways which offer a trendier street art scene. Don’t forget to stop at the ‘You Have Wings’ graffiti wall for the perfect tourist shot.
Antiquarians will adore the Jaffa Flea Market (Shuk HaPishpeshim), just a short walk from the alleyways. Amidst the ancient city walls, the whir of traders and wafting scents and sounds, it’s easy to imagine you’ve travelled back in time. Memorialise your journey with a vintage find from the side streets of Olei Zion and Amiad. You can also pick up some quirky arts and crafts, clothing items and delicious snacks within the main market.
Once you’ve built up an appetite it’s time to visit the cult hummus restaurant, Abu Hassan. The oldest branch can be found on Dolphin Street and it’s worth waiting for the crowds to thin. In-the-know locals order the masabacha, creamy-hummus perfection topped with tangy chickpeas and served alongside warm bread. Save some room for the delectable egg Shakshuka dish at the lively restaurants on the boundary between Jaffa and Tel Aviv.
In the evening, settle yourself on Jaffa beach alongside the locals. Gaze up at the stone buildings of Old Jaffa, and full and contented, watch the sun sink into the Mediterranean.