We decided to go to Nazareth for Christmas. But very quickly, we realized that it is possible and necessary to come to Nazareth without any particular reason. It is a very self-sufficient, authentic, traditional, and modern city with a good spirit, smiling people, and delicious food. We took a walk from Maria’s well through the streets of the old town to the colorful bazaar, the white mosque, the synagogue church, the Church of the Annunciation and the Church of the House of Joseph, the Museum of cave-dwelled Nazareth, Fahome Coffee Shop, Alreda Restaurant, and Tishreen Restaurant. It was a wonderful trip!
Convenient large parking allows you to leave the car for the whole time walking around the city. The staff helps to park and keep order in the parking lot. Parking is conveniently located for walking along a circular route.
Well of Mary. The springs are higher along the street in the church itself. There was a city fountain in Turkish time. Today, near the fountain is a large and beautiful square in many pleasant restaurants and cafes.
A giant Christmas tree stands in the square in front of the Church of the Annunciation. Once there was a city center.
The tradition of celebration with Santa Claus, festivities, and the Christmas market came to Nazareth not long ago. Usually, Christmas in Nazareth was a family holiday and was not associated with the festival.
The modern Church of the Annunciation shapes its outlook at the end of the eighteenth century. It stands on the site of an ancient Byzantine church, rebuilt during the time of the Crusaders.
Since at the end of the eighteenth century, the Arab ruler of Galilee gave the church to the Orthodox Christian community, it is usually called the Greek Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
The water source in the church is very ancient. It is mentioned in the early Byzantine era. The source itself is in the mountain, and it enters the church through a seventeen-meter tunnel. From ancient times, this spring-fed the entire Nazareth settlement with water. Women approached him to draw water, and near him, archangel Gabriel announced the blessed news to the Virgin Mary. For this reason, the church is also called the church of the Archangel Gabriel.
Stairs descend to the water source inside the church. This part of the temple recalls the times of the Crusaders. The walls are faced with Armenian tiles. In the corner stands a small cistern with holy water and a mug. People believe that spring water helps women get pregnant.
There is the grave of a priest In the church who received permission to build a modern church and collected donations for it. The Greek Orthodox community of Nazareth speaks Arabic. Prayers and inscriptions in the church are in Arabic, except for icons and names of saints, which are in Greek.
The murals in the church were made by Romanian masters in the Byzantine style.
The iconostasis was added to the church in 1876. It was made of oak by the master Andrei on the donations of a wealthy Greek merchant. To a large extent, the Russian imperial Palestinian society contributed to the development and renewal of the church.
The buildings around include various religious institutions and a small museum. The museum displays several unusual icons, among them there is an image tells the geography of the holy places from Nazareth to Lake of Tiberias.
A female dance group was performing in the square. There are religious schools for boys and girls in Nazareth, and they are taught separately.
Let us walk along the main street of the old city of Nazareth. It connects the area near the water source and the ancient part of the city. This street goes through the market.
At the end of the nineteenth century, an imperial Palestinophilian society was founded in Russia. It aimed to purchase land in Palestine and develop infrastructure for Russian pilgrims. In 1904, the construction of the Sergius Compound in Nazareth began. Gottlieb Schumacher, a German from the German colony in Haifa, designed the compound. During the revolution of 1905, Prince Sergei Alexandrovich, the founder of the compound and the initiator of the Russian imperial activity in Palestine, was killed. The compound operated before the revolution, and then it was led by the British during their reign in Palestine. There was a hospital, a school, and a hotel for a thousand people in the courtyard. The name Moskubia comes from the Arabic pronunciation of Muscovy, that is, the Russian lands.
Christmas is conducive to the fair, and the main street of the city becomes an uncomplicated market.
The Greek Orthodox Church began to develop this place in 1860. There were ancient catacombs inhabited once by Byzantine monks. These caves were recognized as the ancient dwellings of Nazareth during the time of the Virgin Mary and Joseph, and a church dedicated to St. George the Victorious was built here.
Priest Square meets us at the entrance to the most exciting part of the city. In 1995, this part of the old city began its new life. The city authorities expected more tourist traffic in the 2000th year and allocated large sums of money for the renovation of this part of the old city. Expectations did not come true, but something extraordinary happened.
People began to create a new spirit in the city. Owners of two boutique hotels on the square have renovated old mansions two hundred years old each. A characteristic feature of these mansions is high arched windows. The name of the square is the inspiration for the title of each of the hotels. However, each does it in its way. For example, El Bisar translated from Arabic means bishop, and El Mitrani means a priest. Both are on the square that was called the square of the priest, also during the renewal period. Thus, the renewal of the city was more a social phenomenon than a historical one.
The deeper we go into the renewing part of the city, the more the spirit of antiquity and tradition affects. Not only authentic boutique hotels began to open here, but also unusual boutique shops and crafts. The shop of antiques is no longer a dusty warehouse for some reason, but a neat museum of antiquity which presents private collections of obsolete items. Mixed with Christmas balls, the spirit of the new year, and the smells of the oriental bazaar, Christmas Nazareth is uniquely beautiful.
The streets of renovated ancient Nazareth are filled with tales rather than stories. For example, Michelle’s House is named after the boy Michelle, who was raised by a respected family in the city. It was the Kaur family - the first governor of Nazareth during the Turkish rule. The Kaur family built for themselves a large mansion in which there were male and female parts. An arch connected them over the street. When a little Michel was coming here, they were treating him the most distinguished guest with sweets and with rendered hospitality honors. Therefore, the owners decided to name the modern hotel Michelle's House. By the way, the rooms in this boutique hotel are named after Michel's mother, his sister, and uncle.
Women opened exclusive cozy shops. They create a unique atmosphere of unhurriedness, beauty, and peace. Many of them left successful careers of businesswomen and found happiness in crafts, jewelry, stories, meetings, and masterclasses, which are held here on an ongoing basis.
The streets of the old city lead us to its heart - the bazaar. Nazareth became a large urban center during the reign of Arab governors in the Galilee. The development happened in the eighteenth century, and since then, the city has been growing continuously. Nazareth has three large communities. These are Arabs followers of the Greek Orthodox Church, Arabs followers of the Catholic Church, and Muslim Arabs.
In a small area between the streets of the old town is one of the most famous bazaar shops. On holidays, festivities, dances in the national Arabic spirit with swords, and knocks of drums take place on this square. The most famous spice shop is closed, and only the sizeable "Nablusi" signboard reminds us that there is antiquity, history, and tradition. The history of the spice store began in 1890 when pharmacist Hajj Ismail Makhroum arrived at the rapidly growing Nazareth. He came from the city of Nablus - the biblical Shechem, and he was nicknamed "Nablusi" - the one who came from Nablus. Almost 150 years have passed since that time, and the traditions of the best spices give from father to son for nearly four generations. Nazareth is a city of legends.
The White Mosque is one of the symbols of Nazareth. In the eighteenth century, during the reign of El Jazar, the Muslim ruler El Fahome was sent from Acre to Nazareth. At this time, Nazareth was almost entirely a Christian town. From the very first day of his rule, tolerance reigned in the city. White color symbolizes understanding, respect, and justice in Islam. For this reason, the mosque became known as the White Mosque. El Fahome was buried in the mosque, and his tomb exists in the mosque to this day.
The bazaar of the old city is rich in various useful things. The main thing here is not to get lost.
The Fahome family is still one of the most essential influential and respected families in the city. Among the many businesses of the Fahome family, one of the oldest and most famous is the export of coffee beans. There are several coffee shops in Nazareth. Coffee Fahome is a real brand. In every Fahome store, coffee is roasted and ground. To visit Nazareth and not to taste Fahome coffee means not to visit Nazareth. We will do this later in one of the most famous stores situated on the street Pope Paul the Six.
To many, the name of the church as a synagogue church may seem strange and cause questions. During the time of the Second Temple, synagogues were not a place of prayer but were essential community centers and homes for the interpretation of the Bible. St. Luke describes the events that took place in this synagogue: "And he came to Nazareth, where he was raised, and entered, as usual, on the Sabbath day into the synagogue and began to read." It is difficult to state unequivocally that this particular building is the historical site of the Nazareth synagogue. At the same time, the mention of Luke has to be reflected in the geography of the Holy Land. The pilgrims mentioned the place as the ancient Nazareth synagogue, starting from the middle of the 7th century. Crusaders built a large church here, which belonged to the Franciscans. The Arab ruler of Galilee, Dar el Omar, gave this church to the Greek Catholic Melkite community, which reconstructed the church in 1887.
Many unique things can be discovered in this very traditional market. The tablecloth and carpet store is one such place. Here you can find lace tablecloths. Table napkins are starched and ironed. This place, like a time machine, sends you to those days when etiquette, table setting, and polite nods accompanied the request to hand over a dish, and the fork and knife dissected the fish with exclusive art that is sometimes shown in modern films.
Christmas ornamentals peacefully coexist with the essential everyday products of the market. Let's not forget that the Nazareth bazaar is the place where the locals do daily shopping. Only tourists come here as if they are coming to an exhibition.
Sometimes you can fall asleep while waiting for buyers. Owners often look like their things. These old copper basins, bowls, and pots are waiting for their new owners for decades.
The modern temple is lined with limestone rocks of various densities, which allows the architect to create a beautiful game of white, yellowish, and pink colors. On the upper register of the pediment, you can see the Virgin Mary and the Archangel Gabriel, below are four Evangelists with their attributes. There is an inscription along the pediment in Latin that tells us that the Word became flesh and resided among us.
Images of the Holy Virgin Mary adorn the courtyard and second floor of the church. Various Catholic countries and communities presented these images to the temple. Most of the pictures abound with various allegories and graphic elements transmitting the names of St. Virgin Mary, whose source is the Book of Songs. They also convey the national attitude to the Holy Virgin - the patroness, supplicant, merciful mother.
The modern Church of the Annunciation was built and consecrated in 1969 at the end of a long and complicated construction project that began in 1955. A small church stood above the site of the house of St. Virgin Mary before. St. Helena - the mother of Emperor Constantine, who proclaimed Christianity the state religion of the Byzantine Empire first identified the home of Mary and the good news of the Archangel Gabriel in the fourth century.
On the ground floor of the church, which is a large and spacious hall with dim lighting, is a part of the cave, the former home of the Virgin Mary. Here you can also see fragments of mosaics and walls of the time of the Crusaders. On the second floor of the temple is a modern parish Catholic church.
The architect of the Temple of the Annunciation - Giovanni Muzio used the principle of architectural brutalism at the ground floor of the temple and called for various sculptors, stained-glass artisans, and painters to decorate the second floor. The purpose of Muzio was to show the difference and versatility of the image of the Holy Virgin in the national characteristics of Catholic peoples while drawing the central common thread of the image of humility, mercy, love, and motherhood.
The history of the Church of the Annunciation is similar to the history of most churches in the Holy Land: destruction during the time of the Persians, restoration and new destruction, the rebirth of churches during the time of the Crusaders, and, finally, reconstruction in modern times - the 18th and 19th centuries.
Each time you visit this magnificent and at the same time family temple, a person has a feeling of touching the true beauty, restraint, depth, diversity of the universe, and the eternal power of spiritual values.
The inhabitants of ancient Nazareth were poor. It was expensive and challenging to build a stone house, and there was not enough building material for the wooden one. The easiest way was to use caves as a dwelling. The caves were expanded, dwellings were cozy, but they lived in the caves. Here you can see parts of ancient cave houses.
St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary lived in different houses. After all, they were married but did not live as husband and wife. Near the temple of the Annunciation is the church of the house of Joseph.
A commemorative plaque at the entrance to the church of Joseph’s house is dedicated to Polish soldiers. British initiated the handing of the Polish army on the territory of the Soviet Union during the Second World War. Stalin allowed the Polish military to redeploy through Iran and Iraq to British Palestine. The church of Joseph’s house is a classic Byzantine basilica. Thus all the churches of the Holy Land looked during the time of St. Helena and Constantine.
The ancient mikvah - a pool for ritual baths was found next to St. Josef house. Water flows and leaves the mikva in a direct stream. For this reason, the mikvah was built on the surface and not inside the cave-dwelling.
The entrance to the cave-dwelling looks like a descent into the basement.
We have already talked about what the cave city of Nazareth looked like. At this place, you can very clearly see the cave houses.
In Nazareth, traditions are kept not only in the bazaar but also in the kitchen. Nazareth cuisine has a special place in a vast and delicious range of Israeli food. Nazareth cuisine is a traditional Arabic Galilee cuisine with light touches of Italian and French cuisine.
Perhaps the most authentic restaurant that fully expresses this unique game of tradition and innovation is the Alreda restaurant. In the AlReda restaurant, everything is genuine. These are tables, floors, walls, dishes, chandeliers, windows, and of course, food. Everything is authentic. The final touch to Alrid's portrait is the fact that the restaurant speaks only Arabic or English.
Always crowded and noisy on the street near the Church of the Annunciation. In the nineteenth century, a Turkish inn was built here, which is a hotel to this day. Souvenirs of various topics and interests are also available on this street.
This is the real Fahome coffee shop. Locals come here to pick up a bag of freshly ground coffee. The ceremony can take place several times a day because you should definitely go for fresh coffee at least in the morning and in the evening. During conversations with the miller, all city news is revealed. The heady smell of coffee does not allow you to leave, even when everything is already agreed, the money has been paid and the miller serves another visitor. You just want to be here a little longer. Inside the story, close to tradition, shrouded in the smell of coffee and the smile of people.
The main street of Nazareth is named after Pope Paul the Sixth. He consecrated the Church of the Annunciation. It is the largest church in the Middle East. The main street of the city as an avenue with its shops, restaurants, traffic, and crowds.
Tishreen restaurant is the best place to complete a walk around the city. Here, local cuisine is addressed by a delicious and kind taste to the visitor. What would I choose from the menu? I would choose this: Salad of pickled eggplant, cauliflower, and zucchini with tahini sauce with herbs. Сhicken breast stuffed with cheese and smoked goose in the mustard sauce as a main dish. Knafe for dessert. Bon appetite!