Day 14: Haggling and Tipping

Trip Start May 19, 2009
Trip End Jun 16, 2009

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of Israel  ,
Monday, June 1, 2009

(Day 14, Jerusalem, Monday) Bus route 99, a red double-decker that is open-air on top, makes a big circle around Jerusalem. It kind of screams "tourist," but we thought it would be a good way to see the city, hit a number of spots, and save on cab fare. So we went to the nearest stop, the Haas Promenade (the "Tayelet"), which has a sweeping view of the city from the south, and caught the bus. The driver provided earphones for the recorded audio portion, which was offered in a choice of eight languages, punctuated with classic songs about Jerusalem between the narrations. After an hour seeing the sights, we disembarked at Machané Yehuda, a large marketplace covering a number of streets and alleys, which serves a segment of Jewish West Jerusalem (many great pictures here). (Incidentally, this was also the site of several terrorist attacks, one on the very day I arrived in Jerusalem in 1978.)

We wandered around, past the vendors yelling out the prices of this or that, getting some candy, spices, baked goods, and Judaica, checking out the bootleg music and videos, avoiding the fish and meat stalls, and having some great shawarma for lunch. We also stopped at a well-known stand selling some unusual juices, sprays, and creams with supposed health benefits. Kevin had some pomegranate-chili concoction, and I tried the etrog (yellow citron) juice, made from a fruit best known for its ceremonial use on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. (For a cool film reference for etrogim and Sukkot, watch the beginning of "Ushpizin"--then watch the rest of the film.)
We rejoined the bus amidst the absolute chaos that is Jaffa Road, an arterial suffering from years of light rail construction, and headed through my old university up on Mount Scopus for another great view, then back down to the Old City, where we got off again. The plan was to see the City of David, the origins of Jerusalem, but the heat was stifling, so we satisfied ourselves with a look at the excavation sites and climbed the hill back to the Old City via the Dung Gate, near the Western Wall. Pausing under a tree to cool down and rehydrate, we watched the black-coated Orthodox hurry by (how do they not melt away?) and the beggars asking for charity.

Back on our feet, we climbed into the Jewish Quarter and through the maze of narrow streets to the warren of the Arab market, which runs through much of the northern half of the Old City. Fruit, vegetables, spices, clothes, souvenirs, candy, jewelry, artwork, shoes, music... you name it, it's there. It's a great sight to apprehend the colors and smells in the narrow roofed alleys or the sunny outdoor streets. We each had our souvenir goals, but the obstacle is the bargaining. It has its charms, but when pressed for time, it's a real pain. There's no getting around it, though, no matter how much you wish they would just tell you the damn price of something. It only takes one to play, and the salesmen are playing, so you have to, too, or else you'll pay the asking price, which is usually double or triple what something is worth. You have to pretend you don't want something and be prepared to walk away in order to get it at a decent price. Of course, if you really don't want it, they pursue you anyway, with one come-on or another (there's a veritable arsenal up their sleeves), since it looks exactly the same to them as if you really did want the item. Show no weakness.

Anyway, after wandering through some of my favorite sections of the market, Kevin and I came away with the items we wanted, and some surprised faces when I used my Arabic. One salesman got us in his store (always an important stage in making the deal, aside from eye contact, haggling, walking away, etc.) and treated us to some tea in the process. I ended up spending more than I intended there, but did pretty well elsewhere.

Exiting the city at Jaffa Gate, we couldn't find the stop for route 99, the heat was intense, and the traffic monumental, so back into a cab and a long rest at the hotel. After sunset, a nice walk back to the hopping Emek Refa'im St, chock full of restaurants to choose from. Finding that the Mexican restaurant (supposedly Jerusalem's only one) gone, we settled on outdoor seating at an upscale Italian restaurant. It was very comfortable out, but the table next to us asked for one of those heat lamps that are common in Seattle. I guess acclimation is everything--we think 80 degrees is hot; they think 70 is cold.

The check included 50 cents for each of us under the heading "security," i.e. the security guard you'll find at the entrance to many establishments. Not a bouncer, I think, since many don't fit the physical description. But restaurants and cafes (along with public buses) have been frequent targets of suicide bombers in the past. An unusual thing to find on the bill, in any event. (Moreover, while the tax is included in the price of things, making the mathematics of splitting the bill much easier, there's never any place to add a tip when using a credit card. You had better have cash or make sure to include the tip when running the card.) A walk home through the quiet side streets, past the charming residential architecture of the Ottoman and British periods, and our last day in Jerusalem came to a close.
Slideshow Report as Spam
  • Your comment has been posted. Click here or reload this page to see it below.

  • Please enter a comment.
  • Please provide your name.
  • Please avoid using symbols in your name.
  • This name is a bit long. Please shorten it, or avoid special characters.
  • Please enter your email address to receive notification
  • Please enter a valid email address

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: