Nazareth is a city in northern Israel that is known to be the home of Jesus during his childhood. It is a pilgrimage site for Christians, although the city is mostly Muslim. Nazareth is known for being the “Arab capital of Israel” and is a small city with about 76,000 inhabitants.
In the year 2,000, Israel stopped receiving international tourists because of the conflicts with Palestine. Although there was internal tourism, Nazareth was not considered a place to visit. Monse, one of our teachers of the Mashav course, told us that the director of tourism went to the airline El Al. He told them to do a report on Nazareth, which they had never done. The airline accepted and they printed three pages in the magazine for three months and tourism grew 300%!
Maoz Inon was the pioneer of tourism in Nazareth
There are people who have vision, and that is the case with Maoz Inon. In 2004 he decided to quit his job and went backpacking around the world with his wife. They began their tour in Israel by hiking for 40 days on the Israel National Trail (Shvil Israel). Then they crossed to America and did trekking for 1,000 kilometers in California, and then finished in South America.
On their trip they decided that they wanted to open a guest house in Israel upon their return. The question was where? They thought about their journey and wanted to choose a place that was close to the National Path of Israel. They came up with Nazareth, as it was the home of Jesus and the city of the annunciation. This city is centrally located in Galilee, near Mount Tavor, Acre, Haifa and the Sea of Galilee. Besides, it is only an hour and a half from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The vision took shape in Fauzi Azar
Maoz Inon returned to Nazareth to find the ideal location for his hotel. As soon as he entered the Azar mansion he realized that the search was over. The mansion was beautiful, with an open inner courtyard, complete with arches and Ottoman era architecture. The upper part was built in the middle of the 19th century, with high ceilings, marble floors and paintings. Three huge windows provide a privileged view of the ancient city and the Basilica of the Annunciation.
The mansion had been empty for more than 15 years. Mr. and Mrs. Azar had died in the eighties and their daughters had moved from Nazareth. It was difficult for Maoz Inon to convince the family to rent the house. He was Jewish and the family was Arab. At that time there were no hostels or inns in Nazareth, there were only few hotels. People thought he had gone crazy, but finally his persistence worked.
One of the daughters gave her permission to use the Azar mansion and told him to treat people with respect and to be clean and accept clean clients. Nazareth has grown as a tourist site thanks to Fauzi Azar Inn by Abraham Hostels. The guest house is part of a chain of hostels and they have two more in Israel: Abraham Hostel Jerusalem and Abraham Hostel Tel Aviv.
Maoz Inon and David Landis created the “Jesus Trail” which is a hiking and pilgrimage route. It is a non-profit project and is managed by volunteers.
This guest house has a beautiful building from the outside because of its windows. The Arab mansion is 150 years old and offers private rooms in a boutique hotel. The Kattouf family who owned the house was known for the fine jewelry they made.
This hotel has a TripAdvisor certificate of excellence and is recommended by Lonely Planet. Its location in the old town is perfect near the souq area (market) and has free parking.
Al Multran Guest House in Nazareth has only 10 private rooms. Three rooms are deluxe and one is a two-story family suite with an attic. All rooms have air conditioning, chairs, tables, WiFi and bathroom amenities. Breakfast is included and is traditional food of the region, including olives, labneh, Arabic cheese, pita, hummus and more.
Antique Hostel in Nazareth is truly old. The building is about 350 years old and is located in the colonial part of the city. Guests can choose between bedrooms and private rooms for two, three or four people. Some of the rooms have private bathrooms and kitchens, while others have shared rooms.
The hostel has a rooftop terrace with a panoramic view of Nazareth. It is very green with plants everywhere.
Another beautiful boutique hotel is Michel House in Nazareth. The building was built in the 18th century by Mr. Tanos Kawer, who was the first mayor of Narareth. His residence was at the top and at the bottom there was a guest house for guests from all over the continent.
The house is called after Michel, who was a part of the family and went to visit when he was young with his mother. Then he grew up as an orphan. The rooms have the name of their relatives.
All 8 rooms have air conditioning and WiFi. There is a communal kitchen that guests can use and a delicious special breakfast that is included in the rate. The house has many balconies and areas to be for guests to enjoy the views.
What can I do in Nazareth?
Most people go for the day to see the Church of Saint Joseph, the Well of Mary and Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. The challenge was to make people want to spend one or several nights in a hotel in Nazareth. If you are very religious you can do the “Jesus Trail” that follows the footsteps of Jesus for 65 kilometers (40 miles) in the Galilee region.
If you are not so religious, you can see the historical context of the site. Apart from spending time exploring the old part that has narrow streets and is where all the hostels and guest houses are.
If you are like me and you love food, then you have to visit Elbabour Galilee Mill, the bazaar of the Nazareth species. It has unique species and mixtures from all over Israel. You can also visit the food market. If you like coffee, go to Fahoum Coffee that imports beans from around the world. Abu Salem coffee shop is a historic site, here you can try a cinnamon and almond tea or pomegranate lemonade while playing backgammon. Arabic food is delicious and this is a good destination for foodies, especially those who like sweets.
Christmas is the best time to visit Nazareth, since 30% of the population is Christian and is celebrated with processions and concerts. Rimonim Mary’s Well Nazareth Hotel is the best place to stay if you want to see them.
When you go to Israel, include a visit of one or more days in this lovely little town.