The Old City of Jerusalem is divided into four quarters – Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Armenian, each of which can offer something different. The Arab markets near the Damascus Gate in the Muslim quarter will elegantly help you solve the fact that during the Sabbath, practically all food stores or restaurants in the rest of Jerusalem are closed – Muslims do not practice the Sabbath, so you can replenish food supplies or eat between Friday and Saturday night.
The journey to the markets can also be an interesting experience – on Saturday morning, the streets of the Old City are still empty, if you approach the Damascus Gate through one of the side streets, you will encounter only a minimum of people. You will then feel the difference between the empty streets and the bustling Arab market, which you suddenly enter.
At the market, you can easily buy fresh vegetables, fruits, olives, sweets, and fresh pastries. Stalls are complemented by sellers of scarves, clothing, and footwear.
The difference between the more famous Machaneh Yehudah market and this one is huge. In the Arab market, sellers often sit on the ground, arrange their goods around them, and weigh everything with portable scales. You won’t find that at the Machaneh Yehudah market.
A few dozen meters from the Damascus Gate is the Arab bus station, which also operates during the Sabbath. You can buy a light snack for the journey here and then take bus no. 231 to Bethlehem, the fare will cost you 5.50 shekels (approx. 1.60 EUR).
However, try to stop for a moment at the Damascus Gate, for example in a café, and watch the incredible hustle and bustle that prevails in the market. Strong but good coffee with cardamom here costs 10 shekels (approx. 2.80 EUR), but the sellers will gladly give it to you for half the price to take away.