01 July 2006

haifa on the sabbath.

After spending the day in Haifa, I'm completely in love. It's absolutely stunning, rising from the water up to steep mountains, so we get the best of both worlds. We started the day with the Bahai Gardens, which run the length of our particular hill from just below our hotel almost to the water. The shrine sits in the middle of the gardens, and is one of the holiest places in the Bahai faith. When I'm fabulously wealthy, I'm hiring whoever built those gardens to design my landscaping. After the gardens, we went to the Haifa educational zoo across the street from our hotel. Among the highlights - capuchin monkeys (see pictures) and a birds of prey walk through exhibit. As many of you well know, monkeys amuse me to no end (see pictures from Morocco last year). We watched one monkey juice a watermelon on his log by slamming it down and rubbing it on the wood, then licking up the juice. We contemplated stealing one to live in the hotel with us for a while, but couldn't find a long enough rope.

Since it's the Sabbath, almost nothing is open save a few large sites and stores run by Russians or Arabs. Interestingly, because of the large Israeli-Arab population in Haifa, there is limited bus service on Saturdays, unlike most other Israeli cities. With this in mind, we set out to find the Haifa beaches at the bottom of our mountain. We waited 30 minutes for a bus only to find the line ended less than halfway down the hill. Figuring we could find the beach if we kept going downhill, we started walking, stopping for directions at an open pharmacy. We reached the water 45 minutes later, only to find that the "beach" was a garbage-filled rocky coast dotted with jellyfish the size of my head. We wandered along until we found Bat Galim promenade and "beach," which actually included some 100 meters of sand and no trash. Disappointed, we navigated the newly running bus system back up the hill, where our friendly bus driver assured us we had visited the wrong beach. Hamda allah - we'll find the good ones next time. We overpaid for some internet time at the executive lounge before venturing down to a nearby pub for dinner and the Brazil-France World Cup game. Americans just don't know what they're missing. Pictures will be posted soon, but the internet's expensive, so I'm waiting to see if I have access at my internship.

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