Beauty + The Bride of the Sea

DESTINATION: JAFFA, ISRAEL

Located at the southern and oldest part of Tel-Aviv, the city of Jaffa is home to a dizzying array of vibrant markets, quaint shops, delicious eateries and a wealth of other special finds all quietly nestled along the banks of the majestic Mediterranean Sea. With its winding alleyways, caramel-colored buildings and delicate stained-glass windows, Jaffa presents a mysterious, but beguiling façade that beckons one to stay awhile and unearth its seemingly endless collection of ancient and modern treasures.

The rich and multi-layered textures of the old city become more apparent in the enormous Jaffa Flea market, where everything from regional antiques and jewelry to Persian carpets and brightly-colored scarves are sold in stalls of varying sizes. At every turn, an intoxicating mélange of incense lingers in the air while bargaining vendors wander about in their tiny stalls filled with goods that offer a glimpse into the town’s ancient past. Meaning “Bride of the Sea” in Arabic, Jaffa’s beauty can best be measured at sunset, as visitors stroll around the enchanting seaside gardens and authentic markets.

Located in a converted airplane hangar in the harbor, Jaffa Port Market is relatively new to the area, but already rivals the great gourmet food markets of the world—with its array of savory hummus options, as well as fresh oysters, higher-quality meats and delectable local treats such as knafneh, a cheese pastry soaked in rose water syrup. Further along, on a hill overlooking the sea sits St. Peter’s Church, one of the most enchanting and storied buildings in Old Jaffa, with its gorgeous marble walls, ornate vaulted ceilings and a pulpit carved to resemble a lifelike tree. Outside this apostle’s monument, a stunning view of Tel-Aviv has the power to humble those privy to this tranquil scene during a spectacular sunset.

Just a short distance from the ancient city is Neve Tzedek, a fashionable neighborhood filled with trendy boutiques, shaded gardens and small art galleries amidst winding alleyways and gorgeously restored homes. Visitors to this serene retreat from the crowded streets of Tel-Aviv are rewarded with a delightful sea breeze that wafts through Shabazi Street, a famous thoroughfare. Here, as in all of Jaffa, this ancient settlement can only be appreciated with complete immersion into its many sights, sounds and tastes found down every narrow pathway and around every timeworn stairwell.