Friday, 16 November 2012


Annunciation Church, built 1969
Wednesday 7 November: Kfar Kish to Nazareth - 15 miles (24km). My aching thigh an bum muscles resist climbing Mt Tabor, but I force them to work. From Shibli it's tough going on the rugged uphill trail, up and over rocky limestone crags. Clambering, at times on all-fours, it's a very steep incline that seems never ending. It takes me two hours to get to the summit and the 20th century Transfiguration Church built on the spot where Jesus is said to have had a fashion makeover and decided to recruit a permanent gang of followers. Down again, more limestone crags and conglomerate with cobbles as big as your fist in a limestone matrix, and the trail takes a big loop north, then up again, to the summit of Mt Devora with views back over Mt Tabor. After a picnic lunch I've found new strength and stride purposefully onwards to the village of Mashad and a short bus-ride, off trail, to Nazareth. It's late and I can't stop the lyrics of an old song by 'The Band' reverberating in my head:

I pulled into Nazareth, I was feelin' about half past dead 
Just need to find a place where I can lay my head 
"Hey, mister, can you tell me where a man might find a bed?" 
He just grinned and shook my hand and, "No", was all he said
Thursday 8: Fauzi Azar Inn is a very atmospheric tumbled-down Christian-Arab Ottoman style mansion in the heart of old Nazareth. Rooms are set around the central ground-floor courtyard with another mezzanine lounge area above. Open arches, Ottoman-Christian painted ceilings (the winged-angels are a dead give-away) and Turkish marble floors make it a cool place to stay in every sense. Nazareth is an Arab city and the Arabic run Inn offers a free daily tour of the old city which includes the market, the White Mosque, carpentry workshops (of course), coffee traders, spice merchants, an old Crusader home, and juice vendors - lemonade and pomegranate, delicious. Falafel for lunch and in the evening I push the boat out by dining at the swish Tishreen restaurant: delicious chicken breast in lemon sauce with Goldstar 'dark lager beer', so far, the only ale to my taste. The 10% discount offered is soon wiped out by the hefty 17% government tax and 10% service charge added to the bill, ouch.
Friday 9: Few visitors stay in Nazareth. They are bused in, take a whistle-stop tour of three churches, then leave. It rains all morning but in the afternoon I stroll around the sights. First is the largest church in the Middle East, the unusual Basilica of the Annunciation, under which it is claimed that Mary first conceived of Jesus, well, perhaps just a twinkle in the eye of that angel Gabriel? Next, the Greek Orthodox Church at the top of the main street makes the same claim. There's not much to see at the Synagogue church where it's believed Jesus read from the Torah scroll. Finally, just before it rains again, I follow the 'Jesus trail' north out of the city centre for views back down over old Nazareth.
Saturday 10: It's still raining but after a wonderful lunch of hot humus topped with chick peas, olive oil, yogurt and red spicy sauce, the sun breaks through and I catch a bus to Kafr Cana. So, armed with a bottle of water, I head for Cana. "Will it turn turn to wine?" I ask myself, for this is regarded as the site of Jesus's first miracle - the wedding where water in opaque jars mysteriously turned into wine. The tour group hoards, mostly Nigerian, have beaten me to it. Many souvenir shops are selling 'Cana wedding wine' all with US dollar price tags and at US$17 a time they are piling high and selling it, well, high. I taste a little and, quite frankly, I'd prefer water. The bottles of 'Cana Chocolate Liquor' look interesting though. Well, if Jesus had produced chocolate in the Middle East, I too might believe in miracles. I wait for a bus back in the rain, plenty of water but no wine, or chocolate.
Slideshow of Nazareth: INT from Kfar Kish to Nazareth.

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