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Nazareth is a city in northern Israel. With a population of 60,000, it is the largest Arab city in Israel proper with a mixed but quite harmonious Christian and Muslim population.
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Points of Interest in Nazareth
- The Basilica of the Annunciation is built above the sunken grotto which according to the Roman Catholic faith was the home of the Virgin Mary and the place where she received the Annunciation (the announcement of the imminent birth of Jesus). The large and impressive modern-day church is built above the remains of churches dating back to Crusader and Byzantine times, still visible on the lower level. The church boasts dozens of pictures donated by Christian communities around the world. The Largest Church in the Middle East and one of Christianity’s Holiest shrines, its imposing dome dominates the Nazareth skyline and is an ideal landmark and starting point for visiting Other churches. It marks the spot where the Archangel Gabriel Informed the Virgin Mary that God had chosen her to bear his son; there is also a tradition that Mary lived in a house on this site. The complex of the modern Basilica is built on two levels. The lower one,Making the traditional Roman Catholic site of the Annunciation, contains ancient remains of churches from the Byzantiane and Crusader eras. During archaeological excavations, relics were found dating back to the Canaanite settlement of Nazareth, Though the most interesting find was of a typical Nazarene house, hewn out of the rock, from the Roman Period. The upper level, built between 1959 and 1969 on the site of an 18th-century church, is in strikingly modern architectural style. With its stained- glass windows highlighted against bare stone.A garden and courtyard connect the Basilica to St. Joseph’s Church and Workshop. Admission to the Basilica is free. Hours: M-Sa 8:30AM-11:45AM & 2PM-5:50PM; Sun. and feasts 2PM-5:30PM. Winter, M-Sa 9AM-11:45AM & 2PM-4:30PM; Su and feasts 2PM-4:30PM.
- Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation is built above a spring believed to be the source of a well where Mary drew water each day. This is the site where the Greek Orthodox tradition maintains that the Angel Gabriel revealed to Mary knowledge of the impending birth of Jesus. The Orthodox Museum is closed . Those working at the church are temperamental, and have been known to arbitrarily shout at or remove pilgrims from the church.
- St. Joseph’s Church, next to the Basilica of the Annunciation. Also known as Church of the Nutrition and Joseph’s Workshop, because it is believed that the cavern in the basement was Joseph’s carpentry shop, Built in 1914, on the foundations of a Crusader church, with Romanesque influences. Hours: Daily 9AM-11:45AM & 2PM-5:30PM.
- Mary’s Well and the Ancient Bath House. The structure surrounding Mary’s Well (known as el-Sabil in Arabic) was recently renovated and restored to its original form. Mary’s Well is the symbol of Nazareth Municipality. Next to Mary’s Well is a pleasant souvenir shop named Cactus, belonging to Elias and Martina Shama. After buying the shop in the 1990s, the Shamas discovered that beneath it was concealed one of the most exciting and important discoveries in Nazareth in recent history: a network of beautifully preserved ancient stones arches that once supported a giant bath house. It is believed the exposed remains beneath the shop may date back to the ancient Roman era – that is, to the time of Jesus – and have been fed by the same water that supplied Mary’s Well. There is an entrance fee to the site, but no advance reservation is necessary and guided explanations and hot and cold drinks are available to visitors.
- El-Babour – The Mill of the Galilee, middle of Bishara street tel.# 04 645 5596. Go in through a little door on the right of the street following the aromas to a large shop that opened more than a hundred years ago as a flour mill and which today offers an array of fresh oils and spices which are a celebration to the eye the ear and the nose.
- Diwan El Lajun Multi cultural center for the Stage Arts, Tel. #04.646 9413. In a beautiful space rich with arches is Café-Theater Diwan El Lajun which houses cultural and multi cultural activities in the stage arts and the traditional artisan work. Diwan El Lajun produces shows in Arabic, English, Hebrew and bi-lingual shows, folklore music concerts, literature, poetry and dance evenings, storey telling shows and circus shows from Israel and abroad. Arab-Jews meetings of adults and adolescents are taking place as well. Workshops in theater, storey telling, belly dancing circus and traditional crafts are being offered as well as well as Palestinian brocading. Location Sibat El Kaawer Alley (6098 near the suk)
Opening hours: M-Sa 9AM-3PM. Performances are mainly during the weekend or on special order for groups.
- Nazareth Village If you're having trouble imagining Jesus doing anything miraculous amid the bustle of modern Nazareth, then step back 2000 years at Nazareth Village. Everyday life and commerce in a traditional Galilean village has been duly reconstructed with actors in period clothing leading tours of the working farm. Leave any nightmares of tacky olde worlde historical theme parks at the door - it's well done and worth a stop.
- El Mas-jad El Abiad – the white mosque. The white mosque, the first mosque in the city was built by Abdalla El Nini, two hundred years ago. El Nini was a well respected judge and the first of the El Fahum tribe (El Fahum means the wisest of man). He set forth a policy that preaches for love and respect. In order to make sure his policy will continue after his death, he wrote in his will that the responsibility on the mosque will be given to the wisest of his sons or daughters or to the Ka-a-bee in Mecca so that the mosque will not be governed under any rule. Till today, the person responsible for the mosque (Ateph El Fahum reads all the sermons before they are preached to make sure they are fit and in honor of holidays of other religions sermons are being addressed in their honor. Opening hours: All light hours except praying hours and without pre arrangement.
Notes: please dress modestly and speak softly. In carpeted areas please take off shoes.
- The Ethnological Museum at the Saraya
- Old Ottoman Houses with Ornated Ceilings - possible to visit with tours only
- Tel Megiddo - Armageddon, a World Heritage Site. A Biblical tel with an extensive underground water system
- Beth Shearim - a talmudic Jewish necropolis
- Seppheris - a Roman town famous for its synagogue and marvellous mosaics
- Bethlehem of the Galilee - a German Templar town from the 19th Century
- Cana - the site of the Marriage of Cana
Nazareth is best known as the home of Joseph and Mary and hence also Jesus, although he was born in Bethlehem.
A number of Christian holy places in Nazareth are associated with the Annunciation, the childhood and the early ministry of Jesus. In addition to the imposing Basilica of the Annunciation, these sites include the Greek Orthodox Church of the Archangel Gabriel (built over the freshwater spring known as "Mary’s Well"), the Greek Catholic "Synagogue Church" (assumed site of the synagogue where the young Jesus was taught, and where he later read from Isaiah), and the Franciscan Church of St. Joseph (built over a cave identified since the 17th century as the "workshop" of Joseph).
As the place where Jesus may have grown up, studied and lived most of his life, Nazareth has for two thousand years been closely identified with Christianity and has attracted hundreds of millions of pilgrims from around the world. Nazareth is also Israel’s largest Arab city and as such serves as a major cultural center. Over the past decade the historical Old City has been extensively renovated, preserving and restoring the architectural beauty and unique character of its narrow lanes and alleys. The combination of these three elements – history, culture and architecture – assures the Old City of Nazareth a place among the most beautiful historical destinations in the world.
- Walking Tour of the Old City (duration 3 hours). The route begins at the Mary’s Well Square (ample parking nearby). Visit the recently renovated well area (el-Sabil). Opposite is the ancient bath house, also well worth a visit (entrance fee payable), including the pleasant souvenir shop Cactus and a guided tour followed by hot and cold drinks. The remains discovered beneath the shop are believed to date back to the early Roman era – the time of Jesus. From here continue to the nearby square to visit the famous Greek Orthodox St. Gabriel’s Church. This is the site at which, according to Greek Orthodox belief, Mary received the Annunciation from the Angel Gabriel. On exiting the church, walk along the Pilgrim’s Path towards the Municipality and the Mascobia building – an impressive project built in 1904 as a hospice for Russian pilgrims. Further along the Pilgrim’s Path, on Street 6098 (most of Nazareth’s streets are known by numbers rather than names), you reach Bishop’s Square. On the right is the Greek Orthodox Bishopric, a white building in the Greek style, faced on the opposite side by picturesque houses reminiscent of Venetian palazzos, which have recently been preserved and renovated. The house on the left is Authors’ House, an art institute. Continue along Street 6098 to an alley named Sebat Qa’war until you reach Folklore House (Beit al-Sebat), the home of Tanous Qa’war, Nazareth’s first mayor in 1875. From Folklore House turn left to Street 6132 going towards the vegetable market, then left again to Street 6089. Here you can visit Casa Palestina, a beautiful building that from 1810 was used to store barley, where the owners will tell you the history of the place. There is a cafי bar here, where you can take a break with Arabic coffee or a cold beer, as well as enjoying a free exhibition of handicrafts. Leaving Casa Palestina, pass through a vault leading to the Saraya building, the center of Ottoman rule from 1735 onwards. This attractive building is currently undergoing preservation work in preparation for conversion to a municipal museum. Returning to the direction of the vegetable market and the courtyard of the White Mosque with its pencil-shaped minaret, walk along Street 6133 into the well-preserved and restored market. Stroll through lanes and alleys leading off to the right and left and investigate the shops with their great variety of goods. Among these alleys you will find the Synagogue Church. Eventually you will emerge opposite the Basilica of the Annunciation, an essential highlight of any tour of the city.
- Hike the Jesus Trail (4 days - Nazareth to Capernaum). Beginning at the Basilica of the Annunciation, the route winds through the Old City up to the Salesian Church and continues on to Zippori National Park, Mash'had and Cana for the first day. The trail is blazed with white/orange/white painted stripes, and more information can be found on the trail's official website .
- Hike the Nativity Trail. Trek along the path that took Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem
The city’s many restaurants provide a full gastronomic experience in all types of Arab cuisine. Any visit to Nazareth must allow time to enjoy to the full the renowned and delicious local tradition of welcoming diners.
Right behind Mary's Well is a restaurant/bar called Al Bayat "The House". You can find pretty much any kind of alcoholic drink you like there and an extensive menu of international fusion cuisine. Locals like the outdoor patio for a local Palestinian beer called Taybeh, "Tasty" with complimentary pretzels and peanuts. Local musicians also play some nights.
A souq (Arab market) extends up the hill from the Church of the Annunciation.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Nazareth on Wikivoyage.