I was in Tel Aviv recently, doing some sightseeing before my research starts in Jordan. It’s a beautiful, modern, liberal city with great food and beaches. Only having three days, I was on a marathon tour of the main attractions. The first place I went was the old city of Jaffa, just a short walk south of Tel Aviv. You can walk along the boardwalk next to the beach.
Jaffa has a long history as a port city, dating back to the Bronze Age. In fact, Tel Aviv was originally founded as a suburb of Jaffa and only recently overtook Jaffa as a major city. We ate lunch at a famous resutant known for its shakshuka – poached eggs in tomato sauce. The guy who founded the resturant popularized the practice of serving the dish in the frying pan in which it’s cooked.
The park is full of shops selling typical Middle Eastern goods with tourist appeal. The modern buildings often incorporate older architectural features. We found an old archway inside a hookah shop that was tiled with ceramic vessels. Instead of tearing the archway out the owner just repainted it white to match the rest of the building.
Since I’m a sucker for wildlife, I was also really excited to see a colony of bats living in the 19th century soap factory. Jaffa was well known for its soap industry during this time. Thousands of bats now make their home in the derelict building. These bats aren’t like the small southern California bats. No no. They are easily the size of your open hand (bigger if you have small hands). You can see them hanging from the ceiling and along the back wall.