Renown by many other names, such as Acre and Ptolemais, the city of Akko stands today as one of the oldest surviving cities in the world, dating back roughly 4,000 years. Between the bridging land routes and natural harbor, this city has played a significant role within the history of the Holy Land.
A Brief History
The origins of Akko date back to the first Early Bronze Age around 3000 BCE. It is widely believed that the name is derived from the Canaanite word Adco, referencing the North-most border of the Israelite tribes. Other than for a brief time, the city has been continuously inhabited since the Middle Bronze Age (2000 BCE), although it has been subject to conquest and destruction several times over.
Akko, or Ake as Greek historians called it, was conquered by Alexander the Great in 333 BCE, being renamed Ptolemais in the process. During the years of Greek and Roman rule, Akko became the most important port in all of Israel. It was during these years that Christianity began to flourish. According to the Book of Acts (21:7), the Apostle Paul and Luke spent some time here teaching Christianity to all those who came to learn.
Realizing its strategic importance, Muslims and Crusaders alike restructured and strengthened the fortifications of the city between 638 AD and 1517 AD. Akko served as a primary naval base for the coming centuries of reconquering. It is important to note that in 1799 when Akko was under Ottoman rule, Napoleon Bonaparte tried to capture the walled city and ultimately failed.
Being a cultural hub for Jews and Arabs alike, the population stands at 46,300 residents to date. Dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001, the city boasts a handful of stunning landmarks. Here is a sample list of what you will see in Akko!
- The City Walls are a heavy defensive barrier set to keep invaders out. The walls have been reconstructed and reinforced throughout the centuries by many who occupied the city.
- The beautiful port of Akko is still used by many today. The port was first mentioned in roughly 525 BCE and has been active ever since. After the Crusader conquest of Acre in 1104, the port became the main gate to the Land of Israel.
- The Hospitaller Refectory was used by the Knights Hospitaller during the crusades. The Hospitallers were a militarized monastic order that was devoted to caring for the sick in the Holy Land. They established hospitals in Jerusalem and Acre dating back as early as 1110 AD.
- Khan al-Umdan was built in 1784 during the Ottoman era and rule of Ahmed Jezzar Pasha in Galilee. Because of the khan’s proximity to the port, it has been a central trading spot throughout its history. Today, it is being renovated into a hotel for those visiting Akko.
Home to roughly 48,000 residents of mixed faith, the city boasts a colorful variety of cultures that will be sure to take your breath away. While these four sites only scratch the surface of what Akko truly has to offer, these landmarks give an insight into what you can expect during your tour. This ancient city has something special locked away that only those visiting will experience.