Me and my family stayed at the Fauzi Azar Inn in Nazareth last year. Normally tourists, even backpackers don’t put Nazareth top on the list for visits. Somewhere between hostel, hotel and your best friend’s secret the Fauzi Azar Inn is changing the way people see Nazareth and the Israeli peace process.
A new research paper proves it.
Until the Fauzi Azar Inn opened in Nazareth in 2005, there were no real attractive options for staying in the predominantly Muslim city with a rich Christian background and legacy which continues to modern times.
The Old City and Arab market (read about Green Prophet’s visit here), once an attractive market and home for many became decrepit and unvisited by the early 2000s. Nazareth’s once glorious Old City, not unlike the cobblestone paths in the Old City of Jerusalem, Akko (Acre) and Jaffa, was dangerous and avoided at all cost.
This is what Souraida (pictured left), the granddaughter of Fauzi Azar told me when I stayed at the Fauzi Azar Inn with my parents and small family. She gives free talks about the inn on a regular basis. She talks about her family, and their dreams for peace. The 200 year old home belonged to her family and grandfather Fauzi Azar.
An Israeli Jew named Maoz Inon had an idea –– to turn the old crumbling property once belonging to her grandfather into a stunning hostel, one that was affordable for backpackers and mid-range travellers.
After some convincing the idea came into being and against all odds, including pressures from her family and friends. The Fauzi Azar Inn is now a beacon that points the way as to how sustainable tourism, between partners however unlikely, can change a neighborhood and create peace.
New research on the Inn shows how one small idea can transform the peace process in a big way.
In the study, researchers from Israel and Sweden argue they argue that bottom up tourism, like the approach being offered at the Fauzi Azar Inn is a good model for uniting people with shared cultural interests.
A shop in the Old Market today: Fahoum Coffee, for the best coffee in Israel:
The study is being presented by Prof. Daniel Laven, Department of Tourism Studies and Geography, Mid Sweden University, Sweden and Alon Gelbman from the Department of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Kinneret College on the Sea of Galilee, Israel.
“One hostel drove a change in a city recovering from conflicts,” the paper explains. The paper will be presented next week at an academic conference in Tiberias.
Courtyard of Fauzi Azar Inn at night, in winter
As for staying at the Fauzi Azar Inn: even in winter the facilities provide ample heating to keep you cozy at night. The beds aren’t fancy and there is even a dorm option for the budget traveller but the company and food is magnificent. We also highly recommend the free market tour, usually occurring every day, and eating at the local restaurants made into stars thanks to the Inn.
Nazareth plays a starring role around this time of the year, at Christmas, when there are religious events and festivities put on by the local Christians and Catholics. Nazareth was the boyhood home of Jesus, according to the New Testament.
It is the largest Arab city in Israel, with 80,000 people. And its heritage is unmatched by few. Archeological excavations show the city is very important for Christians.
Up top in the morning:
Before the hostel turned things around ongoing conflict, crises and lack of planning killed the Old City.
Nazareth’s heritage sites remained in neglect. Seeing its potential, in 2005 the Israeli Jew Inon decided to turn one property around and since it has transformed the city in many ways.
Lonely Planet lists it as a highlights of the Galilee region.
I love the constantly cooking cookies in the stove, the tea on the burner and the feeling that I’d come to meet some old friends during my stay at the Fauzi Azar Inn. I also got to learn the narrative of some Israeli Arabs who are often misunderstood as waves of gentrification flow over Israel’s ancient cities.
Want to support the peace process in the Middle East? Get out of your comfort zone this holiday season and escape commercialism and visit Nazareth, the ancestral home to the Christian religion. It will probably go down in history books for the place that started Middle East peace. Just maybe. Backpacker Becki is doing it, why not you?