What do slabs of meat hanging on hooks, fragrant spices and eye-catching jewelry have in common? On the surface these are completely different commodities, and yet they come together in three Arab markets – the butchers’ market (Suq el-Lahamin), the spice market (Suq el-Attarin) and the jewelry market (Suq el-Khawajat).
These three streets are located north of the Cardo, and there are those who postulate that this is also where the ancient Cardo and Decamanus met. The width of the three streets together is identical to that of the Roman-Byzantine Cardo, evidence of the changes that have taken place here.
Apparently the Cardo was divided into these three narrow, covered streets following the Byzantine Period, perhaps during the early Muslim or Crusader periods, during the reign of Melisende, Queen of Jerusalem. During the Crusader Period there was also a “street of bad cookery” in Jerusalem, an original name that whets our curiosity, but not our appetite…
We proceed northwards on one of the three market streets until we reach Oil Press Street (Khan a- Zayit). You can go from one to the next on small side alleys, which gives you a chance to see the differences between the various streets: The Butchers’ Street has shops that sell meat, as well as vegetables, pickles and household items. The bazaars along Spice Street are varied, with stores that sell jewelry, electronics and clothing. Many of the shops located along the Jewelers’ Street are no longer functioning, except for a few stores that sell fabric.
The three markets merge into the single lane of Oil Press Street, which is the largest of the Old City’s outdoor markets. This street also follows the route of the Roman Cardo and leads to the Damascus Gate. The street became narrower over the years as shop owners gradually expanded into the middle of the street and reduced its dimensions.
On Fridays women from the nearby villages come here and sell the leaves and vegetables they have grown, as the peasants (felahim) have done for generations. As the street continues the market is characterized more by local consumption and is less tourism-oriented. To the right is the Church of St. Alexander Nievski, a Russian church built in 1860.
To the left is the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, which was constructed in neo-Romanesque style on the remains of a Crusader church. The church was dedicated in 1898 in the presence of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. You can climb to the top of the bell tower for an amazing view of Jerusalem from a height of 400 meters (admission fee).
From here we can walk into the Aftimos market