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The Short History and Wonder of the Old City of Acre

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Napoléon Bonaparte had this city under siege for two months in the spring of 1789. Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar defended the city successfully. Acre, is an old Ottoman town in the shore of the east mediterranean. Today, its within the borders of Israel. It was established around 2000 BC and was occupied by the Muslims in 636 in the reign of Omar and was used as the fleet base. Famous Turkish ruler Tolunoglu Ahmed built huge breakwaters to the harbour. Acre became the center of the Christian Kingdom at Palestine after 1229. It was invaded by Sultan Selim I (Selim the Resolute) in 1516 to become Ottoman land.

If I had not been defeated in Acre against Jezzar Pasha of Turk. I would conquer all of the East.” -Napoléon Bonaparte

Ottoman cannons
Ottoman cannons and the black walls of Acre.

The city in ruins was erected and renovated by the Ottomans. Acre became an important harbour in the east mediterranean. It became a proud and rich city with military and strategical importance. The English invaded Acre in 1918, after the Ottoman-Turkish reign of 400 years. It became a city of Israel after 1948. Acre lost its importance with the development of Haifa nearby. The richness of the past is gone. Historical streets and bazaars are far from the former glamour. And Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar square is one of the centers in the city.

Jezzar Pasha Mosque is the most glorious structure in Acre. It is a complex of mosque, madrasah, fountain, tomb, water kiosk and shops. The prayer hall of the mosque on a wide courtyard attracts visitors. Perfect tile and color marble decorations give a striking effect. The fine decorated prayer hall has six columns and five domes. Decorations at sides are symmetrical. Green tile boards are unique. Main characteristic of the mosque’s decoration is color marble. Blue and white tile inscriptions can be seen over decorations. Small upper balcony. Blue tile relief inscription. The altar of the prayer hall. Color marble board with an interesting order.

El-Jazzar Mosque

Repairment inscription is seated on marble in the prayer hall section. The portal is decorated with color marble boards. Over the gate is the beautiful blue tile inscription. The quality of workmanship can be seen in windows and altar. Symmetrical tile boards, marble decorations and tile inscriptions. The inner part of the mosque is luminous and comfortable.

Arches on elegant columns high dome and marble works are impressive. The altar is a masterpiece. Color marbles support its design. Time has not been able to fade colors in here. The crescent and star embedded in a heart should have a message. There is a pulpit to the right of the alter with marble decorations.

Its listening to the voice of time. A cone has replaced the dome of the pulpit in this mosque. Color marble boards and writings surround the arched windows. Daylight sneaking in through the windows like a prayer behind the high arched columns bring peace inside. There are belts of writings all over the mosque. High pointed arches where the dome is seated are decorated with writings and stained glassware. The mosque is a good example of Turkish aesthetic in Israel its color marble decorations, writings, stained glasses and architectural order.

There is an onion dome fountain in the courtyard of the mosque. Its wooden canopy is seated on marble columns. This marble fountain is like a breeze from Anatolia. Here is a sundial left from the Turkish times. The Turkish seal carved on a stone. Belongs to Sultan Abdul Hamid II. In the Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar madrasah, three sides of the rectangular courtyard are surrounded with domed rewaqs.

There is a line of single storey chambers behind these. The library of the madrasah is under the large green dome. There is a naive double dome tomb at the northwest corner. The legendary Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar and Suleiman Pasha lie here. All alone on a foreign land…

The Grave of Jazzar and Suleiman Pasha

The marble works reflect the 19th century Turkish art. The headstone is engraved neatly.

The 19th century Turkish art

And the Tomb of Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar…

The tomb of Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar

Here lies history. Date of his death is 1804. The stairs of the main entrance of Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar complex. The inscription has been placed recently. It is far from Turkish aesthetics. To the right of the main entrance is a domed small water kiosk. A memory from Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar. Inscriptions in marble frames are under the domed canopy. Interior of an Ottoman water kiosk. The sprinkler and marble basins.

All are witnesses of the past. Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar water kiosk is an example of fine Turkish art. Pasha’s palace lies to the west of the al-Jazzar Pasha complex. The monumental gate seems so forgotten and deserted. Its inscription is dated back to 1851. Merciless time has taken away most of the decorations of the gate.

And Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar bath. The entrance of the bath which has been transformed into a museum. The ancient hallway and the sprinkled hall of the bath. The warm part of the bath is reached through corridors. Turkish bath culture and social life has been animated with mannequins and drawings on curtains. The hot section of the bath.

Its like a frozen timeframe of Turkish bath culture. A little away from the bath is the Shazeli Dervish Lodge. It has been founded in the middle of the 19th century by the Turkish Sheikh Ibrahim Yeshe. It is covered by a large dome seated on high pointed arches. The place where the hearts of the dervishes beat. A school of heart. Believers of Shazeli Lodge still gather in here. The section where the Sheikhs lie. Three Shazeli Sheiks lie in similar tombs. The last Sheikh Ibrahim al Huseyini passed away in 1980.

And his eternal rest place. Every is covered with the Quran verses. Turkish originated founder of the lodge, Sheikh Ibrahim lies here. Sultan Abdul Hamid II has presented this chandelier. The tomb of Sheikh Ali Nureddin, he has passed away in 1925. His tomb and sarcophagus are similar to the others. The bazaar built by Ahmed Pasha is named Turkish Bazaar today. The bazaar is not crowded. Trade activity is poor in the city. The bazaar consists of fifty shops. Another fountain Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar had built in Acre. A rare example of Turkish fountains with open sides and a single column. Water is not flowing anymore. Its only a Turkish memory.

Deserted fountains. Some in a corner, some in a square. All mosques decorating Acre with their Istanbul style minarets are left from the Turkish times. Damel Mosque, Zeytune Mosque and the first Turkish mosque in Acre. It was built by Sinan Pasha in 1586. The repairment inscription at the main entrance. The elegance of the entrance and the water kiosk has been lost because of poor renovations.

The courtyard has also lost its soul with recent repairments. The prayer hall is surrounded with high arch rewaqs. A repairment inscription is placed under the balcony. The rectangular structure lost its unique specialities because of poor renovals and repairments. It has a simple altar and pulpit today. The mosque is decorated with stained glasses of crescent and stars.

Burj al Sultan, the city walls to the east waiting for the enemy.

Burj al Sultan

They were built in the 18th century. Its inscription is damaged. It can partially be read. Next to it is Ham El Shwada. Tea is served in one corner. The courtyard is being used as a car park today. The Arab fountain is a memory from the old days. The hostelry built for merchants is a ruin today. A road is passing through it. The erect parts are being used as warehouses. And Khan al-Sunar, Wheat Store. An Ottoman structure dated back to the 18th century. Used for a totally different purpose today. A glorious structure next to the harbour, Khan al-Umdan.

Khan al-Umdan in Acre

As you can see, the clock tower rises above it. It was built in the memory of the 25th anniversary of the crowning of the Sultan Abdul Hamid II. The inscription defines it as the Hamidiye Clock Tower, dated 1901. The Ottoman State seal was placed to the entrance same year. Here was an Ambassador’s Residence built by Sinan Pasha in the 16th century. The building was run down in time and Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar replaced it with this magnificent building. A double storey building with columns and rewaqs. The architecture gives the feeling of power. And the tower rising high to the sky. The crescents and stars on the facade are like lookouts to the Mediterranean…

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