Akko (or variously Acre or Acco)
While Akko‘s history spans over 5,000 years, it is mainly the Crusader and Ottoman periods that standout because of the way that they molded the city, both above and below ground.
The Old City of Akko as we see it today, was built during the Ottoman period. Its thick walls, wide moat, khans, markets, Turkish bath and the Ahmed Jazzar Mosque are all products of 400 years of Ottoman Turkish rule. Beneath the present day Acco lie the ruins of the Crusader city, which can be visited in the Knights’ Halls and Templar Tunnel. The Pisan Harbor and Templar Citadel are hidden, submerged in the Mediterranean just off city’s walls.
The Old City of Akko’s northeast tower, called Burj El Commander, offers a great view of the Acre skyline. Then head across the parking lot to the Knights’ Halls. At the admission booth ask about a joint ticket, which includes several sites. From the Knights’ Halls’ continue on to the Turkish Bathhouse. Don’t skip the audio-visual presentation and make sure to look up at the ceiling to see the tiny glass ‘skylights’ that adorn its dome.
Next visit the Ahmed Jazzar Mosques and then wander through the nearby market towards the Acco port. The market is home to Sa’id, one of Israel’s most renowned humous bars. If the lines are intolerably long, try Shamsiya, an excellent small homous bar just a few steps away. While in the market don’t miss the spice cum folk medicine shop. If you’re not shy, ask what dried geckos are used for.
Weaving the through the market, head in the direction of the port. After looking at the port and the ‘Tower of Flies’, which once guarded its entrance, peek into Khan El Umdan, an old merchants’ inn next door. Nearby is the entrance to the Templars’ Tunnel. From the tunnel’s exit continue to waterfront and climb up on the walls near the lighthouse to look out across the bay at Haifa and Mt. Carmel. In the water below the lighthouse to the northwest lie the sunken foundations of the Templar citadel.
The Museum of Underground Prisoners in Akko
The Museum of Underground Prisoners in Acco embodies an interesting chapter in Israeli modern history. Used by the British mandatory authorities as a prison for Jewish underground fighters, several of whom were eventually hung there. The gallows is still on display as a memorial room.
The story of the daring Acco prison escape is also recounted. A highly dramatized version of the escape was portrayed in the book and film Exodus. The entrance to the Museum of Underground Prisoners is off of Haganah St. at the northwest corner of the Old City.
For more photos – please see the Akko Photo Album