I love the way open-air markets feel- a perfect compilation of a thousand assorted stimuli that should overwhelm, but somehow manage to enchant. Tinking wind chimes ring through the air as crowds push past you. With each turn down a different street, a new scent emerges: sweet incense, raw fish, coffee roasting, dried herbs. The unique way everything muddles together creates an authentic piece of art daily.
Akko is one of my most favorite places in northern Israel. Since my first visit in 2011, I found something alluring about it. Maybe it’s the way the city has adopted a bright teal color for metal doors, or the way the sea breeze curls through the stone corridors as you shop. It’s the way you feel like you’re walking through a piece of preserved history, organically adorned with handmade crafts and the comforting sound of boisterous greetings of long time friends.
While I’ve loved the place for many years, I hadn’t visited the city by myself until a few weeks ago. One of my dearest friends from America had requested coffee beans from a certain roaster there and I was more than happy to oblige. I realized it was the perfect moment to see the city in a new way- the way you only can when you are alone with your thoughts and not made to worry about anyone else’s concerns. So I grabbed my camera on the way out the door and set out to find previously unrealized beauties.
And that I did.
There is a certain sort of panic to leaving the house everyday in a country where you are not proficient in the spoken language. Every conversation is a roll of the dice. Every outing seems a chance for failure. But choosing to embrace that fear can often feel more like excitement- or at least that’s what I’m always trying to convince myself of.
My first stop was the coffee shop, owned by a very sweet man who roasts all the beans himself. I managed to place my order in Hebrew and he humored me with a Hebrew response but then asked in English where I was from. We had a nice little chat about America, where he spent many years; and I met his daughter who also worked with him. When my purchase was complete, he made me a complimentary espresso to go. Whether I should or not, I usually keep a sort of mental score of my interactions with strangers in Israel (the goal basically being cultural integration). For this , I lost a couple points because he detected discomfort in Hebrew immediately, but overall it was a win because I left with coffee and a smile.
After that, I wanted to walk through the corridors without any agenda- just looking, feeling, admiring. I took time to appreciate the quaint beauty of bright, fresh produce piles and older men smoking hookah around cafe tables. I wandered through the busiest parts of the old city to some of the further merchants. My favorite shop in Akko is the one pictured below. The same Muslim woman with kind eyes has greeted me each time I’ve been there. She graciously allowed me to take some photos as she watched a show in Arabic on her TV.
I ventured to the city’s edge to muse at the sea. It was the brightest I’ve ever seen the colors there. I’ve edited the lighting a little in the photos, but the colors were really that brilliant. After approximately 6 minutes at the windy sea walls, my hair was ever-so-tastefully coiffed into a single dreadlock so I thought it was probably time to go.
One my walk back to my car, I thought of the beauty of Akko- the way each layer of sound and texture made it what it was. I realized that zooming out way up over the city walls, taking a bird’s-eye view, I was part of the tapestry that day. With all my uncertainty and insecurities, I braved the city alone and added my experience to the moving, shifting piece of art.