Comments from Recent Visitors

"Madeleine gave us an objective view of the people and places we see on the news."

"She is no nonsense, easy to work with, and very flexible. I recommend her highly."

"Madeleine kept our children, 10, 13, 15 yrs interested and engaged (as only a former teacher can), and her depth of knowledge was welcome by the adults in the group."

"We were a diverse group - different ages, religions, athletic abilities - and Madeleine managed to accommodate us all."

"Madeleine gracefully navigated complex issues of faith and culture and we came away with a much better perspective of Jerusalem through 3,000 years of history"

"Madeleine has a talent for listening to what we're interested in and crafting an itinerary that when experienced, flows perfectly while she is open to being flexible and the serendipity of discovery"

"Madeleine was incredible - a huge wealth of information, extremely professional and a wonderful sense of humour"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Old City Personalities - My Mate Yousef

If you happen to be walking along Christian Quarter Road and pass by number 30, stop in and say hello to my friend Yousef Natshe whom I have known for over twenty years. He comes from the esteemed Natshe family of Hebron. To this day his family still produces the hand-blown glass for which the town is famous..
Born in 1958 in the village of Silwan just south of the Old City, Yousef is one of 8 children - 5 boys and three girls. He learned his trade through his late father, a fabric merchant.  Despite hardships - the family lost two homes in Katamon and Baka and a shop in Mahane Yehuda in west Jerusalem after 1948 - he is always positive and has a ready smile.

Yousef has owned his store on the Christian Quarter Road since 2003 but has traded in the Old City since 1973. A father of 4, he lives with his wife, three girls and a boy in the village of Anata close to the northern Jewish neighborhood of French Hill.
While I was sitting with him and drinking a refreshing glass of mint tea, I asked him what his dream was. He told me that he'd like to live on a mountain, somewhere green away from the city.
Feel free to pop in and view some of the rugs and fabrics. His honesty, fair prices and good quality have made him popular with his loyal, local clientele.  There is no pressure and you will always be greeted with a warm smile especially if you tell him that I sent you!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A few of my favourite things

Beyond the tourist shops and restaurants, the Old City is filled with hole-in-the-wall eateries offering authentic and tasty local delights which add to the fun of wandering around the alleyways.

One of my favourite areas are the three Crusader market streets which make up the Cardo of the ancient Roman-Byzantine city.  These are Butchers' or Meat Market, Spice Market and Engravers' Market.
Butchers' Market
Descending from Jaffa Gate along David Street to the bottom of the hill, make a left on Shuk HaTzorfim (engravers' street) to Arafat Restaurant. The only sign is a large pot of freshly-made hummus and a tiny cave filled with hungry customers. There is a daily special which usually lasts until 1 p.m. so get there early.

For those of a strong disposition, take the first left along Butchers' Street - Shuk HaLahamim in Arabic and Katzavim in Hebrew - walk past animal heads and entrails and walk almost to the end. On the left side is Abu Taher, a small restaurant run by Taher and his male cooks. Ask to see the daily specials simmering on the stove. The hummus is also good.

Za'atar spice mountain, spice market
Walk to the end of Shuk HaAttarin, Spice Market - the most aromatic of the three streets which contains another secret - grilled lamb kebabs. For over 70 years the family has been making this delicacy served in a pita with grilled tomatoes and onions for only 9 shekels. The tiny cafe is usually crowded so take it to go and eat it around the corner near the Holy Sepulchre Church and watch the world go by.