Tales of ancient cities buried under the sand for hundreds of years have always fascinated us and captured our imagination.
Akko, a port city located in Israel, is just one of these cities. For centuries, this ancient crusade city was hidden under stone and sand until its intriguing story has been revealed layer by layer during an archeological project.
Until today, there are still many uncovered areas of the ancient city, extending beneath large areas of the upper modern city of Akko.
If you want to enjoy this city in Israel in style, join our tour of history and attractions.
The history of Akko starts with the Bronze Age – when Tel Akko was first settled, but the history being uncovered under the modern city begins with the Crusaders.
The city was sieged by the Crusaders twice, one in 1103 with no luck and once in 1104,
when the city’s defenders were defeated.
At the times of the crusaders, Jews were having a good life in Akko and the Maimonides (Rabi Moshe Ben Maymon) lived in the city for six months after immigrating to Israel.
In 1887 the city was conquered by Salah-A-Din and then, during the third crusade in 1191, the city was re-conquered by the crusaders who then made it their capital.
The Hall of Knights
Sultan El Malik El Ashraf (Mamelukes) conquered Akko from the Crusaders in 1291.
In order to prevent the Crusaders to return to the city, he destroyed the houses and covered them with dirt and sand and so the City was standing, destroyed, until the 17th Century.
In fact, the city as we know it today was built on the ruins of the old city by Dahar El Omar,
the Bedouin who ruled the Galilee at that time in the 18th century and renovated by Ahmed Al Jazar, his successor, who built the water tunnel and the large fortifications that are still standing till this very day.
The archeological project, taking place during the last years, gradually uncovered houses and whole streets that were covered in sand and stone for hundreds of years.
One of the most impressive structures that were uncovered is the Hall of the Knights, with its crusader dining room and big massive poles with iron rings.
In one of its corner s, you can see a Lily symbol on the wall, which was later adopted by French King Louis the 7th as his royal symbol.
From the Hall of Knights, you can walk through a long narrow tunnel –
this is the sewage tunnel that has been also used as an escape way to the port in case of an invasion.
At the entrance, along with the entrance ticket you can rent some earphones which will accompany your tour with some interesting explanations and stories about the site.
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Attractions in Akko
If you want to enjoy and fully experience the city, here are the recommended attractions.
For some of them, you can buy a combined ticket that is valid until the end of the year, so you can use it several times. Some are free:
The Walls of Akko
The Akko walls are surrounding the city from all four sides of it. They were built during the Othman period, for 90 years, until 1840.
These walls guarded the city during the siege of Napoleon in 1799 and were reinforced to endure any artillery attack, with defense towers on the 13 meters high eastern side of the wall.
From a bird’s view, the walls are shaped like a pentagon and you can walk along the walls and get a nice view of the blue ocean and a taste of the fine fresh fish in the local restaurants.
Treasures Museum on the Wall
The museum is located within the great eastern wall of the city.
It is divided into halls and each hall exhibits the life in the area during the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century.
There is an authentic exhibition of professions, furniture, clothing and documents reflecting the day-to-day lives of the people who lived in the area.
The El Basha Turkish Hammam
The Hammam, built at the end of the 18th century and turned into a museum, manages to give you an authentic experience of a bathhouse that was an important social center.
The visit is accompanied by a movie and earphones guided tour.
The place is impressively restored and preserved and you can actually feel as if you are in a real vivid Turkish Hammam.
Buy and Eat
Akko’s Market and Hummus place
The colorful and lively market offers you stands of food, souvenirs, local candies, fresh fish, spices and narghilas.
The stands are located along a street which, during the crusade period, led to the Akko port that had an important and active part in the commercial life of the city.
The city is also famous for some of its extremely popular Humus restaurants such as Hummus Said, Hummus Sohaila, Abu George and others.
RabiMoshe Haim Luzzatto
Near the market center stands the modes and lovely synagogue named after Rabi Moshe Haim Luzzatto who lived in Akko between 1743 and 1747.
The original synagogue was grand and luxurious but it was confiscated by the Bedouin ruler, Dahar El Omar, who built on it the El Malek Mosque. The Jews received this small structure where there was hardly room to stand and the women had to stand outside and pick through the windows.
Khan El Omdan
The khan of Pillars and the Clock Tower
Near the market, close to the coastline, stands a preserved Khan which is the biggest khan in Israel.
It was built in 1784 by Ahmed El Jazar and has a big yard surrounded by two floors and 40 pillars made of Granit stone brought from Caesarea.
The ground floor of the khan used to be an important commercial center and the upper floor was a guesthouse.
In the 19th century, the port lost its importance and the khan became a storage place and was used by the founder of the Bahá’í Faith – Bahaa Ollala – as a guesthouse.
In 1900, a five storage high clock tower was built at the north side of the khan, with four different clocks on its four walls: one with Hebrew letters, one with Arabic numerals, one with Latin numeral and a one with regular numerals.
Near the Khan you can find the Templers’ tunnel which was dug in order to bypass the Pizny District. Water runs on its floor and parts of it have low ceiling so be careful of your head when you pass through.
Now you have really uncovered the hidden city of Akko.