I was thinking about visiting Jerusalem but Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak talked about invading Syria. Was it a good idea to visit Jerusalem? I asked people at Madaba hotel. They said, do go! You should know, Israeli Politian’s talk with a big mouth and do little. The Israeli people must be kept insecure, our wise their system won´t work!
If traveling around Jordan using Madaba as a base, Jerusalem is only 70 km away. It took me 2 hour 30 minutes to complete the journey from a hotel in Madaba to a hotel in Jerusalem. I needed the exact same time on the returning tour from Jerusalem back to Madaba again. I left both hotels at 9:15 in the morning and arrived at 11:45 at my destination.
You need a Jordan Visa in your passport travelling from Jerusalem to Madaba since they are not issued at King Hussein / Allenby Bridge. You can come back from Jerusalem again, if you have time left on the Visa used when entering Jordan. Jordan does not recognize King Hussein / Allenby Bridge as an official border post there is no Jordanian flags on the border post.
The journey has the following time schedule and costs.
- Leaving Mariam hotel at 9:15 with taxi using Mariam hotels excellent discounts on taxi fares 17 JD,
- Arriving Hussein Bridge border post at 9:45, screening luggage, exit stamps and paying departure tax 8 JD, buy ticket for shuttle bus to Israel 5 JD. If possible walk into the arriving building opposite the departure building and exchange JD for NIS at the bank, if not you are in for a hefty overcharge for a taxi into Jerusalem
- The shuttle leaves the border post at 10:00, drives a couple of km to a military checkpoint just before Jordan River, checking travel documents and counting passengers in the shuttle bus.
- Driving across Jordan on the Hussein / Allenby Bridge.
- Driving a couple of km to Israeli military post, heavy armed soldiers in bullet-proof vests checks the shuttle bus travel documents, counting passengers and checks the wheelhouses of the shuttle bus with mirrors.
- Continue to Israeli Allenby border post arriving at 10:15, Screening of luggage two times, staying in a long queue guarded by heavy armed policemen in bullet proof west, checking of passports, receiving arrival stamps on a yellow sticky label on the backside of the passport
- Bought taxi to National Hotel in east Jerusalem for 70 JD (about 390 NIS) normal fare 200 NIS if paying with NIS.
- Left Allenby border post at 11:10, arriving National Hotel at 11:45.
Travel time 2h 30 minutes, travel costs 100 JD. If you are going from Israel to Jordan the costs will be higher since Israeli departures tax is much higher than Jordan’s.
When choosing a hotel in Jerusalem one can ask the following questions. Should I stay in the old city? Should I stay in west Jerusalem? Should I stay in east Jerusalem? These questions can be answered with the following questions. What kind of standard is needed in the hotel? How much do I want to pay for a hotel room? How far am I prepared to walk to old City or The Mount of Olives? Do I need entertainments in the evenings? Do I need good food, drinking wine or beers?
West Jerusalem has the highest standards and most expensive hotels, the best restaurants and night clubs. But you need to walk or take the tram to old city or The Mount of Olives.
East Jerusalem has more affordable hotels with almost the same standard as west Jerusalem. Old city and The Mount of Olives is within easy walking distance. East Jerusalem is almost deserted after sun set (I believe east Jerusalem is safe even in the middle of the night although no people on the streets). Shops and restaurants close early. If you want beer or wine with the food it´s impossible to order this during Ramadan then east Jerusalem is dried up.
Old city has the lowest standards but still high prices on the hotels. There are some restaurants in the neighborhood. Of course all important sites are within walking distance.
I stayed in the Muslim quarters in east Jerusalem in the excellent and affordable Hotel National. It was five minutes walking time to old city entering through Herodes Gate. It was equally a short walking distance to The Mount of Olives. There were two restaurants close to Hotel National. I tried restaurant Philadelphia which has very nice food but no wine or beers during Ramadan. However the restaurant was open in the middle of the day during Ramadan no need to order food and eat after sun set.
Eastern Jerusalem gives a far more Middle Eastern impression than western Jerusalem. As a matter of fact the differences are quite striking. In eastern Jerusalem the buildings and houses are far more run down, people talk Arabic and wears keffiyas, shop signs in Arabic. A sudden shift occurs at the green line the old border between Jordan and Israel before the 6 days War in 1967. In western Jerusalem building and houses are of very high standards, people are wearing western world’s cloths maybe using kippas and talk Hebrew, shop signs in Hebrew. It´s like moving between to completely different countries. Both parts of the city looks relaxed with few policemen and military people.
Old city is a far more tensed part of Jerusalem you will see heavily armed policemen almost everywhere you go. They are particularly present in Muslim and Jews quarters Christian areas a little but more relaxed. Most of the streets are monitored by surveillance cameras. If you would like to see Wailing Wall it is necessary pass security checks, don´t come with unnecessary metal goods bring it down to a minimum. After all, it’s quite easy to visit Wailing Wall that’s not the case with the Muslim quarters. There are ten entrance gates into the area of the Dome of Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. If you don´t belong to the Muslim tradition only one gate is open. Here is a short description how to find this gate. Walk down to the Wailing Wall and go past the security check. Walk into Wailing Wall area. Leave old city from the exit at Wailing Wall. There is a new security check to the left of the exit from Wailing Wall. Go past this security check into a wooded tunnel leading into the area of Dome of Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Only Muslims are allowed inside the Dome of Rocks and Al-Aqsa Mosque. Certain parts of the complex mostly along the eastern wall are open to Muslims only! No signs inform you about this so be careful there you put your feet to avoid unnecessary tension and anger from Muslims.
The way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre can be tricky to find if you are travelling without a guide. There are two possible ways the easiest is to continue on Via Dolorosa from the eight station (of the fifteen stations Jesus followed from Puntius Pilate’s house to Holy Sepulchre) up to the junction with David Street. Turn left follow David Street until one sees a sign Mosque of Omar in one of the streets heading to the left. Go all the way down to the sign Mosque of Omar turn left into the Church of Holy Sepulchre. The other way, is to return from the eight station at via Dolorosa to Souq Khan al-Zeitand, turn left. Walk until you see a sign Mikes Centre; turn right up a stairway to Mikes Centre continue another stairway to the right of Mikes Centre until you see The Church of Queen Helena. On the opposite side of Church of Queen Helena a small low doors leads into another church. Walk straight through it to the compound of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
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