Old Akko – Israel

An Ancient Casbah by the Sea and an Underground City

Locked within massive Ottoman-era walls, Old Akko (Acre) is genuine. It has not been gentrified, tidied up, reconstructed, or reborn as an artists’ quarter.

St. Francis and Marco Polo dropped by when Akko was the regional seat of the Crusaders in the Holy Land. The present Old Akko was built in the 18th century on top of the Crusaders’ city. The veritable warren of underground corridors, recently excavated, was once the home of 50,000 knights and inhabitants. Aboveground, the silhouettes of mosaic-adorned mosques, towering minarets, a Turkish bath, and cara­vansaries are monuments to the Ottoman influ­ence and evoke the Arabian Nights.

Old Akko teems with real life, not tourists; the souks sell spices and household wares, not souvenir tchotchkes and postcards. The importance of Akko as a principal Mediter­ranean port can be traced to records dating from A.D. 1. Enjoy dinner at one of the many waterfront restaurants and admire the muscu­lar seawalls. Hope for a table on the reed-shaded terrace of Abu Christo and order a feast of Middle Eastern appetizers and grilled fish fresh off the boat.

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