The Israeli port city of Jaffa is a research in contrasts





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    Young people play under streamers stretched out over a street in the old city of Jaffa, Israel. The port city is filled with memories of the ancient heritage, against all the attributes of a modern cosmopolitan community.

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    An Israeli shopkeeper folds a carpet in his shop at the Shuk Hapish-sheshim trade market. Jaffa is known for its ea market, but also for trendy bars, galleries and boutiques.

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    The mannequins guard boats in the port of Jaffa.

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JAFFA, Israel >> Just south of the glass towers of Tel Aviv and the concrete houses are the white stone buildings of Jaffa, the old port city.

Jaffa has existed for thousands of years, but today it is a united city with Tel Aviv, founded in 1909. Both Jews and Arabs live in Jaffa and that is reflected in the flavors of the neighborhood.

Visitors will find a luxury hotel, the Setai, built from a crusader fort that later became a prison and police station. Trendy cafes, galleries, bars and boutiques line the narrow streets, through Jaffa's famous Arab hummus and bakeries, along with mosques, churches and synagogues.

In and around the famous flea market of Jaffa, Shuk Hapishpeshim, streets are full of cafes. On one of my visits I sat in an alley and chewed at the shakshuka of Shaffa Bar, poached eggs fried in tomato sauce, while chickens on the roof of a building were jostling down the street.

Cafe Puaa has comfortable, chic, but not matching furniture and sells the plates you eat (almost everything is for sale). The menu is full of the vegetable dishes that Israeli cuisine is known for. After sitting on a couch in the alley in front of the restaurant, I had a deconstructed saber, a breakfast sandwich with baked eggplant and hard-boiled egg of Iraqi origin, a popular Israeli street food. (Try a regular sabich, at Sabich Hasharon, a small storefront in Tel Aviv that specializes in that.)

The market itself, surrounded by streets Yefet, Beit Eshel and Yehuda Margoza, is a paradise for people who crave waste vs. treasure. Vending scattered suppliers were on the ground and stacked in stalls. There are antiques, furniture, clothes, trinkets, coins. On Friday morning and the summer days, a pop-up market of crafts and jewelry is added to the mix. & # 39; Afternoon a party breaks loose in the outdoor bars.

But do not forget hummus. In Jaffa you can not eat enough hummus, the chickpea puree that is a regular meal in Israel.

There is Ali Caravan's famous spot on HaDolphin Street, worth waiting in line. Another overflowing hummus is Ha & # 39; Asli on Yefet Street, cacophonous with families, workers and tourists, all looking for the dishes of hummus, lab, kebab and salads that are delivered to the tables minutes after ordering. You can see the bakers in Abulafia, a popular bakery that stacks bread and other treasures in the glass-tiled glass cupboards on the sidewalk.

The offer of Jaffa extends over the Mediterranean Sea. Inside Tash and Tasha's romantic, stone-walled interior are delicious dips, dumplings and bread from Georgia (the country, not the American state). Milk, a coffee shop with limited seats, has expensive coffee and nice pastries.

Those interested in learning how to cook Arabic food can take a course with a local guest. For years, Myasser has been hosting Seri tutorials in her small kitchen. She can prepare a multicourse meal for your group to cook, or you can recommend dishes that you would like to try. Among the dishes we made were maqluba, a hill of rice or bulgur and vegetables turned upside down on a plate; meatballs cooked in a sauce of tahini and yoghurt; the parsley-and-bulgur salad, tabouleh; and the Arabic dessert knafe. Her version had thin pieces of pastry and nuts cooked in butter, sugar and lemon.

Seri has also introduced us to what she called the & Arabic Parmesan & # 39; mentioned: yogurt dried in the sun to a hard clot. She grated the block into a powder whose sharp, savory taste did indeed evoke Parmesan cheese. It was added to a salad of baked eggplant and chopped celery.

One of Jaffa's most popular spots for tourists is the old port. Ships have sailed here since ancient times; it is even mentioned in the biblical story of Jonah, referred to as "Joppa," where Jonah began the journey that led to his fatal encounter with a big fish – or, in some versions of the story, a whale. The port is still used by local fishermen, but it also offers seafood restaurants, shops and entertainment.

There is plenty to eat and buy in Jaffa. But one of the best things to do is just wander around and absorb the contrasts.

Doors in old stone walls are catnip for Instagrammers; turn the corner and there is a block of modern apartment blocks. Galleries are plentiful, but the streets create their own art.


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