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Experience Ramadan in Jerusalem

The matriarch of the Abusarah family stands outside her home in al-Azariya, West Bank, May 2018
The matriarch of the Abusarah family stands outside her home in al-Azariya, West Bank, May 2018 | © Gabi Berger
Celebrated by hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world, Ramadan offers a glimpse into the cultural and religious traditions of the Islamic faith. Here’s how to experience the month of fasting in Jerusalem, one of the world’s holiest cities.

Jerusalem’s significance to Muslims

Known in Arabic as Al-Quds, and home to more than 280,000 Muslims, Jerusalem is an important place of pilgrimage for followers. It is home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which–along with the Kaaba in Mecca and Al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina–is one of Islam’s three holiest sites. The Dome of the Rock, a shrine located on the Temple Mount, also plays an important role as it marks the place from which Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven in the 7th Century.

Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem ©Askii / Flickr

Iftar feast in a Palestinian home

Experience a mouth-watering iftar feast with a Palestinian family in Al-Azariya (also known as Bethany), a city on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives in the West Bank. A typical meal includes traditional dishes like maqluba, which literally means upside down, a Palestinian dish of rice, chicken and fried vegetables, and atayef, sweet pancakes stuffed with cheese or nuts.

A huge pot of Maqluba, a traditional Palestinian dish © Gabi Berger
Stuffing kataif pancakes, a Ramadan culinary tradition © Gabi Berger
Maqluba being prepared for an Iftar meal, Ramadan 2018, Jerusalem © Gabi Berger
View over the Palestinian town of al-Azariya © Reuben Lewis

Soaking up the Old City’s buzzing atmosphere

The Muslim Quarter is the largest of the Old City’s four quarters. Here you’ll find mazes of alleyways, cobblestone streets, a vibrant shuk and architectural relics from centuries ago. It’s an unmissable destination. The Quarter is also home to Via Dolorosa, an important Christian site that marks the first nine Stations of the Cross. During Ramadan the area buzzes with the energy of the celebrations. The smell of food from the nearby market permeates the balmy night sky as Arabic music plays, and locals enjoy traditional delicacies, such as kataif pancakes, and sip tamarind and almond drinks.

Ramadan decorations light up Damascus Gate, Jerusalem © Gabi Berger
Ramadan decorations light up the Muslim Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City © Gabi Berger
Men smoking shisha on a Ramadan evening, Jerusalem © Gabi Berger
A deserted street is lit up by Ramadan lights in the Muslim Quarter, Jerusalem © Gabi Berger

With special thanks to Finjan. Images courtesy of Gabi Berger www.myisraelimemories.com