Nazareth – A Muslim City in Israel
I’ve been to Israel three times already and I did two trips to Nazareth. On my last visit, I was collaborating with Abraham Hostels in order to write a City Guide about Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Since I also address sightseeing trips in my guide, I made sure to absolutely explore Israel further and get to know all the good spots. Therefore, I spent five days in Nazareth.
How to Get to Nazareth
There are different possibilities for getting to Nazareth. The easiest is staying in the Abraham Hostel (or Fauzi Azar in Nazareth) and taking their shuttle service. It might be a little expansive, but you don’t have to take care of anything. You will get picked up and dropped off at your accommodation. Easy! Negative – the shuttle is not available every day.
The next possibility is a Sherut. Sheruts are minivans, which travel fixed routes back and forth. You can either enter at one of the stations or just hold up your arm as soon as you see one passing and hope for the best. If there’s room they definitely take you in, otherwise they’ll give you an according signal. Positive – they are available every day, even on Shabbat.
The third possibility is taking the bus. It’s called Egged Bus and easily recognizable by its big green X. Negative – only available on Shabbat. To find out, when exactly that Shabbat is, you need to ask around, since it depends on the time of sundown.
The City of Nazareth
Nazareth and its 69% Muslim citizens are known as the Arabic Capital of Israel. 30% are Christians, so it’s no wonder the atmosphere of the city is quite different. I always had the feeling of being in the Middle East, more than in other cities. Also due to the fact that the population speaks predominantly Arabic.
Nazareth is famous for being the village where Jesus spent his youth. The city is riddled with churches and with the so call Jesus Trail – 65km of hiking and pilgrimage trail to various sites where Jesus is said to have lived and worked or simply was present. Therefore, this trail could have been walked by Jesus itself. It begins in Nazareth and ends in Capernaum
If you want to take a deep dive into the history of Nazareth, you definitely shouldn’t miss the free tour around the city. You can join daily – just ask at your accommodation what time it starts. The beautiful thing about this tour is that it not only covers the historical highlights, but also gives you a glimpse into modern everyday life.
Religious Sites in Nazareth
The city offers numerous religious sites. These are my personal highlights:
At the edge of old town, you can find Mary’s well. At this well, Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she is pregnant with the son of God.
Weirdly enough, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus regarding the location of the „Annunciation of the birth of Jesus”, as the archangel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary at other places as well. Not far from the well, a church was built, where Mary and Joseph supposedly had their house. It is named Church of Annunciation. Sadly, I don’t have a proper photo of the church since the surrounding area is rather narrow and the church itself is rather large. And by the way, this is the biggest Catholic church in the Middle East.
If you follow the Jesus Trail from old town uphill (yes, 15 minutes of walking up stairs but well worth it!) you will reach the Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent, where Jesus supposedly spent his youth. Not only is the church beautiful by its own standards, but you can also find a magnificent panorama across the city. In my opinion, this is the best view you can find in Nazareth.
Accommodation in Nazareth
During both of my stays, I was at the Fauzi Azar. When I first stayed here, it was not yet part of the Abrahams chain, but it was on my second visit. It is a beautiful Arabic building in the middle of the old town. The rooms are a direct portal into the Arabian Nights. Or rather, they were. This time I was in a newer part of the building and it felt like was accommodated in a cave without windows or any interior decoration that goes beyond the bed itself. So if you book your stay at the Fauzi Azar, ask for an older room that looks like this:
Similarly, the outdoor area is beautiful as well. As the surrounding old buildings also have a cooling effect, you will not start sweating and can enjoy the outside at a comfortable temperature. For my part, I really like sitting and working outside with my laptop. However, I have to add that Nazareth is not a big city and therefore, travelers don’t gather at bars or pub crawls. They rather spend their evenings in the cozy atmosphere of the hostel, which might not be acceptable for some Digital Nomads.
The real beauty of the Fauzi Azar is, that the collaboration (!) of Jewish and Arabic Israelis together created what it is today – a gathering place for people from all religions.
Sadly, I cannot give any information about other accommodations in Nazareth.
In my opinion, Nazareth is always worth a visit and you shouldn’t miss it during your stay in Israel. It is a special place – not only interesting but also very photogenic. I can definitely imagine going there for a third visit and even stay a little longer. Maybe I will even walk the Jesus Trail to really set the mood.
Have you ever been to Nazareth? How did you like it? Put it in the comments!
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