Wednesday, May 29, 2013

holy land tour, day ten : the old city

It makes me sad how unobservant my generation seems to be. Arts like listening, people watching, and even silence have become at least obsolete. As I sat on the corner of a couch in the vast lobby of my hotel in Jerusalem this evening, I noticed that of the four other people sitting nearby, three were on their phones in some way and one was asleep—only I sat in total silence, totally unoccupied with anything but what was going on around me.

In fact, people watching characterized my entire day. We had the day off from touring, so my friends and I walked back to the Old City to do some exploring on our own. I wanted a chance to do some low-key street photography without the rush of sightseeing, so I made my way from the Jaffa Gate area through to Damascus Gate (in the Moslem Quarter), and simply smelled the different scents, listened to the different languages, and took note of the different people.


I smelled more spices than I could identify, mixed with the smoke of hookahs and the sourness of trash in the alleys. I watched the different interactions of both foreigners and locals, and saw long lines of Israeli Defense Force soldiers moving through the markets. I noticed the warm hospitality of the hopeful shopkeepers and the prickly harshness of the ones who had been offended by the carelessness of a tourist. And I managed to get through the whole day without losing any money or camera accessories to the “birds”!

I love this city. I never thought I’d say that about any big city anywhere—but this one feels so different from the others that I’ve been to. There’s something about not being able to understand what those around you are saying that sharpens your other senses. There’s something about the dark, narrow alleys full of strange people that sharpens your alertness. And just trying to wrap my mind around the idea that I’m half a world away from anywhere familiar is kind of cool, too.

1 comment:

  1. That's one thing that's so cool about you: you are "content to ponder the petty things," which in reality are not so petty as we might think. I love "figuring out" people too, but I generally don't just take the time to sit somewhere and watch them.



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