A different kind of free walking tour in Nazareth, Israel

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You know the type—you arrive in a city and immediately see flyers for a “free walking tour.” The tour is usually led by an expat, someone who’s got a more-than-passing interest in the city that you’re in. The tour ends with an awkward moment, where the guide tells you to leave a tip if you enjoyed the tour—that it’s his or her only wage. Generally, I’m a big fan of these tours. Of course, the tour’s usefulness is completely dependent upon your guide, but more often than not, they’re a great introduction to whatever foreign place you’re visiting.

Though I’ve been on countless free tours across the world, the one offered by the Fauzi Azar Inn in Nazareth, Israel was one of the most memorable. For starters, the tour didn’t take us to the typical tourist destinations in Nazareth, but instead focused on the community that lives in the Nazareth Old City.

The historic Old City has been revitalized in the past 10 years and new shops and small businesses are opening every month, according to our guide. The walking tour is meant to give visitors and tourists a brief history of the Old City, but, perhaps more importantly, to showcase the community that lives and works together in Nazareth. The tour took us to many local shops where we had the chance to meet and speak with the local proprietors. The chance to hear their stories and learn a bit about Nazareth then and now.

Our guide, Linda, also highlighted four places in Nazareth where peace seemed to be the name of the game; where Jews and Arabs peacefully coexist. The four peace projects included:

  1. White Mosque
  2. Cafe Abu Salem
  3. Mary’s Well
  4. and the Fauzi Azar Inn

During each stop on the tour, we had the chance to hear the stories on what makes each place so special, so unique…and so important to Nazareth.

Fauzi Azar free tour

Fauzi Azar story

The Fauzi Azar Inn story

The guest house obviously took center stage during the tour. The tour, run by one of the volunteers, started with a brief history of the Fauzi Azar Inn (@fauziazarinn). Later in the tour we heard the personal story about the house and mansion from Suraida, one of the daughters of Fauzi Azar—whom the house is named after. To briefly summarize, the hostel is heavily involved with the local community, so much so that it won the 2011 Responsible Tourism award. Not to mention that as the Old City’s first hostel, it was a joint venture between a Jewish Israeli and the Arab Azar family.

White Mosque, Nazareth

imam-nazareth

Nazareth’s White Mosque

The mosque located in the Nazareth Old City has actively been engaged with the local community and makes a concerted effort to ensure all religions are respected. Imam Abu Annas keeps a shop down the street from the mosque where visitors are always welcome.

Woodworking in Nazareth

Mary's Well

Mary’s Well

The site where, according to the Bible, Mary received the Annunciation—news that she was bearing the son of God. The Basilica of the Annunciation is located just outside the Old City. Today, the site of Mary’s Well is run by the religious International Center for Mary of Nazareth. The extensive center for peace features exhibits about Mary as well as an archaeological site with excavations of a house from the time of Jesus.

Coffee in Nazareth

Cafe Abu Salem

The coffee shop has long been a go-to place for the old men of Nazareth. With coffee and backgammon, there’s not much more needed to start peaceful conversations among men! At least you wouldn’t think so until you try the shop’s specialty—a cinnamon tea with crushed walnuts. Delicious!

Other stops on the peace tour included an ancient home under renovation, a local coffee producer and a spice shop. We had the chance to meet with the shop owners at each stop. At the end of the tour, like most free tours, we were asked to provide a tip. Linda, our guide, has been a long-term volunteer in Nazareth and collects the tips to provide for local Nazareth projects. The money has been used previously to fund birthday parties at a local orphanage and other noble causes. After the tour, I felt like I hadn’t only discovered a city, but helped to contribute to its continued success. That’s the kind of tourism I can be proud of.

Nazareth Old City

Nazareth Old City

Nazareth Old City market

Za'atar spice

Nazareth spices

Nazareth

Nazareth

Blogs published by Adam Groffman • Please note some posts do make me some money, but I never sacrifice my integrity in exchange for a favorable review. Read the full disclosure policy.

10 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. Lovely pictures as usual Adam! I’m pretty sure that I’d be joying this kind of tour if I was in Nazareth, need to keep it in mind for the future :)

    • Thanks Franca. And I do hope you can visit Nazareth – it’s a city with an incredible history that’s currently being remade by the likes of places such as the Fauzi Azar Inn!

  2. Nazareth is also known as land of milk and honey.Nazareth invites you to explore holy land products like:honey, Silan date syrup, dates spread and carefully developed cosmetics and natural products.

  3. I love that last photo as well as the stone alleyway. That’s so cool that the tips got o fund orphanages and other awesome causes.

    • Thanks Rease. Yes, the Fauzi Azar Inn really knows how to make visiting Nazareth a very special experience.

  4. Wow, what an amazing post with stunning photos. I’ve really enjoyed your nuanced and considered posts about Israel, daring to touch just below the surface.

    I quite like pay-what-you-like tours, but especially if they are clearly advertised as such beforehand. There is nothing more embarrassing than thinking something is free and being caught without money at the end!

    • Thanks Mandy! I find Israel and Palestine to be fascinating places to visit — and ones that I’m deeply passionate about — so it’s important to highlight all aspects of travel in the region.

  5. Wonderful Blog! Photos are excellent, the story reads well.

  6. Oh wow! Lovely photos Adam. This would be my kind of tour.

    • Yes, it’s a great tour Cheryl and one that I *definitely* recommend!

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