By Mehdy Ghannad
After an incredibly long and tiring day making our way to the other side of the planet, The Hostel Life team touched down safely on the tarmac of Ben Gurion International Airport in Israel. By the time we picked up our bags and got through customs, the sun had set and the jet lag had kicked in. The original plan was to head to Nazareth from the airport, but as trashed from the trip as we were, Tel Aviv seemed like a much more viable option than traveling north at night. So we hopped a train into Tel Aviv to check in to our first hostel of the trip: Hayarkon 48.
We woke to a knock on the door at 5:30AM and got ourselves up and out. We split a cab with a German girl to the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station to catch a bus north to Nazareth. The bus ride took about two hours and change and cost each of us 35NIS, or about 10USD. The bus was overflowing with young Israeli soldiers decked out in their browns and khakis, some toting large M-16s and others with iPods. The bus driver could tell that we had no idea where we were and was kind enough to tell us when it was time for us to get off.
We started walking toward the old city of Nazareth with absolutely no idea where we were going or how to communicate in Hebrew or Arabic. We did, however, know the name of our new hostel so we started asking around. When we failed to find anyone who spoke enough English to help us out, we wrote Fauzi Azar Inn on a piece of paper and handed it to a couple of young men at a bakery who were then able to point us in the right direction.
The Fauzi Azar Inn is an old Arabic mansion located in the middle of the old city of Nazareth, and it is out of this world incredible. To think that a family had once lived in such a large, immaculate home was mind-boggling to say the least. With soaring ceilings, open-aired common areas and balconies, and multiple stories with a variety of different types of accommodations, the Fauzi Azar Inn has something to offer to all kinds of travelers.
We checked in to a nice and cozy four-bed dorm (with a private bathroom!), and dropped off our gear. Hoping to beat the rain, which appeared imminent, we made our way into town, but were soon forced to seek refuge from the downpour that ensued in an Arabic pastry shop. The owner and his three sons welcomed us with open arms and offered to teach us how to make kanafeh, a sweet Arabic delicacy. They were really excited to show Mehdy the ropes in the kitchen and made sure that he was involved with every step of the process. After quite a few laughs, a couple mishaps, and an incredibly messy lesson, the kanafeh was ready for tasting. We thanked the gents numerous times for their hospitality and open arms and darted back to the hostel to meet with the two owners, Suraida and Maoz, and hear how the Fauzi Azar Inn came about.
Named after Suraida’s grandfather, the house had been in her family for generations. It was built by her great, great, great grandfather in 1830 and served as the base for the Azar family for years. After chatting it up for a bit with the proprietors, we left the hostel to scope out the markets and meander through the narrow streets of Nazareth. A Belgian guy and American girl, both volunteers at the Fauzi Azar, joined us on our trip to the market to pick up food to cook for dinner. A large group of backpackers and international volunteers joined The Hostel Life team for dinner, a delicious stir fry with mashed potatoes, courtesy of the Belgian volunteer. The hungry posse indulged and after quite a few laughs and a lot of chow, we crashed in order to get up early the following morning to hike part of the Jesus Trail.