Visitors Center in the Enchanted Garden and introduction to Acre (Acco)
Acre (Acco in Hebrew) is accredited as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which tells us something. Its Old City is very quaint, the harbor is picturesque and its tourist sites are superbly presented. It is very easy to spend most of a day here and remain engaged. A good place to start a visit is the Visitors Center. It provides a free map, shows a short movie about Acre, is the place to buy a combined ticket to multiple sites, and can plan your visit to Acre. It is also adjoining the Citadel, a site that should not be missed.
Directions and parking: To begin your visit at the Visitors Center in the Enchanted Garden, enter into Waze “Knights Hall” and click on “Knights Hall, Old Akko.” There is free parking at Hafir (moat) Parking lot. Eucalyptus Parking lot is free Sunday to Thursday and has paid parking Friday and Saturday. Parking is 20 ILS for a full day at the Abirim Parking lot. There are also other parking areas in the city.
Admission: A combined ticket includes entrance to many of the tourist sites and museums. This includes the Knights Halls (the Hospitaller Fortress), the Turkish bath, the Templar tunnel, the Ramchal synagogue and new Jewish Heritage Center, the Okashi Museum of Modern Art, and the Ethnographic Museum ‘Treasures in the Wall’. The combined ticket does not include entry to the Al-Jazzar Mosque, the Museum of Underground Prisoners and the Tunisian Synagogue and the latter two have separate charges. There is a short free movie in the Visitors Center about Acre that can be viewed in English. A free map of the Old City is available. You will need this if you intend walking to any of the other sites in the city. Their contact number is 04 995 6706/7. This is their website.
The port and walls of Acre.
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Acre is probably one of the oldest, if not the oldest, continuously inhabited settlement in the world. Because of its location at the northern extremity of the Haifa Bay, its road connections from the coast and through the Jezreel Valley, and the usefulness of its port, Acre has been permanently occupied by most of the great empires that engaged themselves with Israel.
Because of this, it is very easy to get overwhelmed with its history. However, a good idea (as for any historic site in Israel) is to focus on the historic periods that relate to what can be seen here. The Crusader Hospitaller Quarter and Fortress was discovered by archeological work and with the help of visual displays reveals the Crusader period in a very vivid way. Many of the public buildings you see are from the Ottoman period and were built by Ahmud Pasha.
Depending on your interests, consider visiting some of the following places:
The Visitors Center in the Enchanted Garden
The Hospitaller Quarter and Fortress
The Underground Prisoners Museum
The Turkish Bath
The Templars Tunnel
The Ramchal synagogue and Visitors Center
Treasures in the Wall Museum
The Tunisian Synagogue
Who was Ahmud Pasha (al-Jazzar)?
The Ottoman Empire was a vast empire which by the late 17th century covered large parts of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. Suleiman the Magnificent was the tenth sultan and is usually regarded as the greatest Ottoman ruler due his political, military and cultural achievements. However, following his death in 1566 and the reigns of his heirs there was internal strife and a gradual decline in the central authority of the sultanate.
Ahmad Pasha rose to power in 1776 when he was appointed governor of Sidon by the Ottoman authorities, and his areas of authority included Acre and Yafo. His nickname and most favored name was al-Jazzar, meaning “the Butcher.” He earned this name because of his ruthlessness and cruelty. He was particularly known for his brutal methods of torture and execution. On the other hand, he was also a very strong and effective administrator and the reforms he initiated led to improved economic development in the area.
He constructed a number of public buildings in Acre and these can be visited. He strengthened the existing walls of the city and fortified the city’s seafront. This enabled him to successfully resist the siege of Acre by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799. This led to Napoleon abandoning his attempt to create a French empire in the Middle East and crawling back home without his army.
He built the Hammam al-Pasha, which was one of the finest bathhouses in this region. This has been restored as a cultural center and can be visited with the combined ticket. He erected the Khan al-Umdan, a large caravanserai center for trade, commerce and accommodation. This building has been preserved and contains shops, cafes and restaurants. The Jezzar Pesha Mosque (White Mosque) remains a prominent landmark and is open for Muslim prayer.
The visual displays on the walls bring to life the Hospitalier Quarter and Fortress.