Navigating around the Old City of Acre

The Old City of Acre (locals call it Akko or Akka) is a maze of winding streets, narrow alleys, and small plazas. The buildings in between are mostly residential, although there are plenty of mosques, churches, and businesses interspersed among them.  Just getting from one side of the city to another is an adventure – even for someone who has spent months here!

Signage, while often a welcome guide to navigation,  probably won’t be your biggest help – street signs are largely non-existant, or in Arabic.  In addition, the numeric addresses of buildings are bipartite.  For example, an apartment might have the address “12/098.” The first number means that the apartment is in block 12 of the old city, the second means that it is the 98th interior space of that block. Said numbering system was devised by the British, during their rule of the region after WW1 – it’s probably the best solution to a difficult problem.

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Next challenge is the winding nature of most routes through the Old City. While you can walk along the wall promenades circling the city and can get to most of the important spots that way, an old hand at Akko will plunge straight into the maze. You develop a mental bank of details that remind you of which way to go – a corner store, a column, a wall painting, a door.

Once you are walking through the neighborhood (the size of the large lake in Central Park NY) be prepared for various moving obstacles. Groups of tourists come through the city every day, and shoppers come from the New City for fresher fish and other things, especially on weekends. Clusters of kids run through; adults drive scooters, cars, and other motorized vehicles around. Finally, pony and horse rides are offered in the city, so you may turn a corner & come face to snout with a large riding animal!

In short, be observant in the Old City! Every corner is a challenge, but also an opportunity to take one small turn and experience something unique.

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