Old City of Acre
Old City Of Acre
Cultural Israel Europe And North America Western Galilee

Acre is an exceptional historic town in that it preserves the substantial remains of the medieval Crusader buildings beneath the existing Muslim fortified town dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. The result is an exceptional picture of the layout and structures of the capital of the medieval Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. Present-day Acre is an important example of an Ottoman walled town, with typical urban components such as the citadel, mosques, khans and baths, well preserved, partly built on top of the underlying Crusader structures.

Ancient Acre was situated on Tel Akko, about 2.5 km east of the location of the old city. Around 1900 BC the town was fortified by a high earthen rampart with a brick gateway facing the direction of the sea. It was successively under Assyrian rule in the 9th century BC and a Phoenician town under Persian rule between the 6th and 4th centuries BC. Following the death of Alexander the Great the area around Acre was first ruled by the Hellenistic Ptolemid dynasty of Egypt and then the Seleucids of Syria. The present city, founded on the peninsula in the 3rd to 2nd centuries BC, was named Antiocha Ptolemais after its founder, Ptolemy II of Egypt. Acre was a centre for international trade because of its strategic position and its natural port. The city fell to the Romans in 63 BC and was granted the status of colonia . In 330, during the Byzantine period, this region passed into the control of the Roman Empire. During the early Arab period (638-1099) many cities were abandoned and destroyed: Acre decreased in importance as an international port. The city began its economic recovery during the 10th and 11th centuries and the port and city walls were rebuilt.

The Crusader period began for Acre in 1104, following the successful siege by Baldwin I, King of Jerusalem, and the Genoese commercial fleet. The king settled in the northern part of the city, where he built a fortified palace. Genoese, Venetian, and Pisan merchants built autonomous quarters nearby the port. The military orders installed themselves nearby. During the two centuries of Crusader rule Acre symbolized the interchange between the eastern and western cultures better than any other city. In 1187 the Muslims captured the whole of the Crusader lands and Acre was held for four years. It was not until 1191 that the Third Crusade led by Richard the Lion-heart led to the recapture of Acre and the adjoining coastal regions. A second Crusader kingdom was established with Acre as its capital, as the Crusaders were unable to retake Jerusalem. New neighbourhoods such as Monmizar to the north were built and Acre was given a new double city wall. More palaces, churches, and public buildings were erected, at a time when styles in the west were changing from Romanesque to Gothic.

The Mameluke period began in 1291 with the conquest of Acre and continued until 1517. Acre came within the mamluka of Gaza. The city was destroyed and totally abandoned, with only a few buildings remaining around the port. During the Ottoman period (1517-1917) Acre was a deserted ghost town. Reconstruction did not begin until the mid-18th century, under Daher El Amar, who renewed the port, manned it with officials and merchants, built a palace for himself, and rebuilt the fortifications. Acre enjoyed renewed economic expansion in the 19th century. Mosques, bathhouses, and caravanserai were built. Wealthy merchants settled there, building grand mansions in the eastern neoclassical style of the end of the 19th century. After capturing Acre in 1918 and being given control of Palestine by mandate of the League of Nations, the British developed the city outside the boundaries of the walls, constructing dwellings and administrative buildings. The port fell into disuse as the nearby modern port of Haifa superseded it. After Israel's independence in May 1948 only a few Muslim residents remained in the old city, but after the fighting had died down many Palestinian Arab refugees from other places began to arrive and settle in the old city, whereas many Jews settled in the new sections.

What remains today is a remarkable mixture, both above and below ground, of cultural elements from every period of Acre's eventful history between the 11th and 20th centuries.