Nazareth, a Galilean City between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee is an important one for all major monotheistic religions. Most notably it has become a must-see pilgramage site for Catholics looking to see the Basilica of the Annunciation, and Mary’s Well. The city is believed to be the hometown of young Jesus. And it is there where faithful believed he attended synagogue and gave sermons. In a bold attempt to keep the busload of tourists in Nazareth for more than an hour or two in the crumbling city, the delightful Fauzi Azar Inn, in the Old City of Nazareth, has designed a must-see Old City Tour. The best part is that it’s free, the better part is that you’ll see nothing like it if you ventured around the Old City on your own, or even on an expensive historical and religious tour.
Touring Nazareth is a great way to learn how to support the local economy and learn more about the traditional ways of life in Nazareth, as they were then, and as they are today.
Given by volunteer Linda Hallel, explore Nazareth with her as she shows you the points of interests that most Israelis an tourists most certainly have never seen themselves. While she asked us not to expose all her secrets –– what fun would it be to take the tour then? — below we’ll show you some pictures of Hallel’s stops on the tour that won our hearts, and also convinced us that Hallel must be no less than an angel for her peace work and commitment to local charity.
On the tour we got a sneak peek into the White Mosque of Nazareth, a place where some amazing interfaith community work is going on in the form of a new school for Muslim, Jewish and Christian kids soon to be opened.
Taste the best coffee in Nazareth (roasted, ground and prepared by shop owner above), quite possibly the best in the Middle East at this stop on the free Old City Nazareth Tour. We sampled Arab coffee, boiled for hours and served at weddings and funerals. It was a bit sour, but an interesting cultural experience.
See the 150-year-old spice mill (in top picture above, lower pics in the shop) which still works to this day, although it can be heard kilometers away when the steam engine fires up. Walking through this spice shop makes you feel like you have stepped into another century.
Tour some of the neglected an ancient Nazarene architecture, built over centuries and by different ruling societies. Hallel will show you some layers and ask you thought-provoking questions about culture, people and place.
There are loads of other “insider” stories and treats to be seen and tasted, but Hallel made me promise to only reveal a little. Stay at the Fauzi Azar Inn for the free tour, which happens daily on weekdays. For a nominal fee it is also possible to take the tour without staying at the inn. Book ahead because there might not be room at the inn if you don’t plan ahead.
I won’t reveal much about Hallel here either, because I feel the personal stories she shared with us on the tour were personal. What I can say is that she is American, is living in Nazareth, and has a strong connection to the Holy Land and to this Old City. She will share with you the things about Nazareth that she loves, while sparing you the tours through history and churches that you can do on your own, tours I find achingly boring anyway.
She’s quite a character, and obviously much loved in this Arabian city, population 85,000. The imam of the White Mosque told us that he wishes Hallel would run for mayor of Nazareth one day. He helps her find needy people in the community who can benefit from donations made to the tour. In my eyes she is an angel.