Today we took a ride with a couple friends from work up to Acco (also called Akko or Acre), an old Muslim town north of Haifa.
The city is fascinating. It is mentioned in some Egyptian scrolls from around 1800 BCE, and it was an important port for centuries. Julius Caeser, Alexander the Great, Francis of Assissi and Marco Polo visited there. Napoleon laid siege to it but failed. During Crusader times, it had as many as 40,000 residents. When Jerusalem was captured from the Crusaders by the Muslims, Acco became the Crusader capital.
The town has several mosques and the old crusader citadel, complete with Knights Halls, a subterranean city and a crypt. While we were down in the crypt (you get there through a long, narrow, creepy underground tunnel, I went and explored some dark rooms off the beaten path. I heard this squeaking that I assumed was rats or mice, but the area the sound came from was too dark to see anything. So I thought I would snap a picture, and maybe with the flash I could see the rats. It wasn't rats in there, but something that rhymed with rats...BATS. REALLY BIG BATS! Oddly, bats that you disturb like to come flying at you, and these were bigger than any I ever saw in the states (when I was a kid, we'd make this whirring noise with our tongues that the bats thought were insects and it would make them dive at us. Let me tell you, those bats were little bitty compared with the ones in the crypt!). So I made a hasty exit.
The Old City is preserved really well, and is a thriving Arab town that reminds you of Jerusalem's Old City. We had a nice lunch at a restaurant on the harbor, (which has a hilarious statue of a whale with a whole in its belly so you can take pictures of your friends doing Jonah imitations!) and then spent the afternoon touring around.
We had wanted to get up there a while back, but it wasn't safe during the war with Lebanon. The area we were in was getting some serious shelling back then, though we never saw any signs of it. But today it was sunny and peaceful.
The sea from Acco's Old City wall
Acco's Great Hall