- Location:Western Galilee, Northern Israel
- Significance: Historic City
- Attraction Type: Archaeology, History, Ancient Fortifications, Shrine of Baha’u’llah
- How to Reach: Acre airport is well connected to the Tel Aviv International Airport by a number of regular flights. The Acre rail station is also an important station that can be accessed from other parts of Israel.
- Nearest Airport: Acre Airport
Acre, or Acco, is one of those ancient Israel cities whose history dates back to the Biblical times. First mentioned in the Egyptian scrolls nearly 4000 years back, this important harbor city of the ancient world has been variously visited by famous historical figures from Alexander to Napoleon. Marco Polo also visited this city and spoke highly of its culture and influence in the early modern period. Although lying somewhat outside the main Israelite cultural milieu, the town of Acre is one of the most significant historical sites of the country. Being the harbor city, Acre has never invited a marked Jewish occupation until recently. Presently, it is a place where the Arabs and the Jews share a life in peaceful co-existence.
History of Acre
History of Acre dates back well into the pre-Christian era. The first mention is in Egyptian scrolls from about 1800 BC. It was then called Ptolemias, after the Egyptian king, and was an important site lying in between the trade route from Greece to Syria. Thereafer the city came under Roman control, like most parts of the world during the first millennium. Once the Arabs started to take interest in this harbor town, crusades ensued. The Battle of Acre in 1191 saw the crusading factions meet. The Knights of the Hospitals played a very important role in this crusade, and signs of their overwhelming presence are still being excavated from various parts of the city.
The Ottomans began their reign on the city in 1517. It was the beginning of decline for this city, and by the end of the 17th century it was in all but ruins. The city had to wait till the arrival of Jezzar Pasha, the governor of Damascus to improve and fortify it. The British, during their occupation of the city, maintained it with proper respect. One of the most significant incidents that happened in between was the visit from Napoleon before his onward march to the East and India. However, his forces were thwarted and it was effectively the beginning of the end of his dreams of his eastern expansion. Even now, guns, morters, armors and other materials from the Napoleonic times are found buried under the long forgotten ruins of the city.
The attractions of Acre, as is obvious, is largely of a historical nature. The best part of the city’s history is that all the parties who have ever visited this city, has left something in the way of heritage that has contributed to the ever growing cultural profile of the city. Some of the major attractions of Acre are: The Templar Tunnel: This was built by the Knights Templars, the Poor Knights of Christ who were anything but poor at the height of their power, in the 12th century while the crusades were still on. This medieval structure never fails to fascinate the visitors. The tunnels, after a long and rigorous process of excavation, has been made open for the public from 1999.
The Shrine of Baha’U’llah: This may not have the haloed antiquity of some of the other Accre shrines, but plays an important role in the modern spiritual history. Baha’U’llah, the founder of the modern faith of Bahaism is laid here in rest. The shrine is surrounded by beautiful gardens and is one of the most pleasurable sites in the city.
Pasha’s Turkish Hammam: This is like a piece of Turkey in Israel. The marble floors, the domed roof inlaid with beautiful glass circles and the colorful Turkish tiles make this one of the most fascinating historic buildings in Acre. Museum of the Underground Prisoners: this rather macabre building was absolute impenetrable for the last three hundred years or so. The fortress is built on a moat, and the underground chambers housed prisoners. The entire structure is built on the medieval and crusade building called Dahr-el-Omar. It was converted to serve as the main prison during the British Mandate in Palestine, which accounts for its present day importance.
Accommodation in Acre
There are quite a few hotels in Acre, that cater to the needs of the large number of visitors who come to this historic site every year. The Palm Beach Resort is one of the most popular ones.