On one of Passover’s Chol Ha’moed days we were in central Israel, and were looking for a place to visit in which we had not yet been, that would interest the kids, and that wouldn’t be too crowded. I remembered hearing from a family member about a highly successful trip she went on with her family one Saturday, to Ramla. I also remembered The Pool of Arches, which featured in a movie based on one of the Hasamba books, and so this time our destination was a trip to Ramla.
The tour of Ramla began at The Pool of Arches, which is an underground water reservoir, built in the eighth century, the Abbasid era, in the time of Caliph Harun Al Rashid, for the local residents. One of the walls surrounding the pool has an inscription on it, describing the year in which it was founded. A staircase leads to the pool, which is over 400 square meters in area.
The Pool of Arches in Ramla
The pool is supported by three columns of stone pillars, five to each column, which carry the rounded arches giving the pool its name. The pool’s ceiling rests upon the arches, and has small hatches allowing light in. Aside from the beautiful pool, the main attraction of the site is the ability to row- boat on the pool and maneuver between its pillars. Since we visited during Chol Ha’moed, there was a lot of foot traffic and we had to wait in line. The boating itself takes about a quarter of an hour, and is very popular. As I have written in the beginning, the place got its publicity in the Hasamba movie, during which the group’s children escaped in boats into a cave hidden underground; this scene was shot in The Pool of Arches. Admission is 14NIS for adults and 12NIS for children. From The Pool of Arches we continued to the White Tower, a few minutes’ drive away.
The ruines near the White Tower
Ramla from the White Tower
The White Tower in Ramla
The White Tower is a part of the compound of The White Mosque, the construction of which began in the early eighth century, during the rule of the Umayyad Caliphate. The mosque has undergone some changes during the years, the most prominent of which is the construction of the tower, completed in the year 1318. The tower, which stands 30 meters tall and has 111 stairs leading to its top, is one of Ramla’s most impressive structures. During their mandate over Israel, the British were so impressed with the tower that they decided to adorn some of the currency bills with it. The tower was most likely built for military purposes, due to its tremendous height and its arrowslits, and had a secondary religious use: the muezzin was able to invite the Muslim public to prayer with his voice. Today, the tower’s environment is very rundown but the structure itself is very impressive; the children enjoyed the climb, and from the top of the tower one can see the whole city of Ramla and its surroundings.
From The White Tower we proceeded to Ramla’s market (The Shuk).
Ramla’s colorful market
Ramla’s market is a small one, yet it folds within it over 150 years of history, as well as a medley of aromas, flavors, and colors. The bazaar is roofed and very pleasant to walk around. It has fruit, vegetables, cheeses, fish, meat, nuts and seeds, spices, as well as clothes, bags, home goods, and more.
Because we were visiting on Passover, some of the falafel, shawarma, burekas, and fricassee (Tunisian sandwich) places were closed. Year round, it is recommended to eat at The Maharaja Restaurant: an Indian vegetarian restaurant. We had previously dined there many years ago as we were passing by Ramla, and decided to take a detour and try the highly recommended restaurant out, being the avid Indian food lovers that we are.
Our day trip to Ramla met all of our expectations: we visited new sites we hadn’t been to before; the sites were varied and attractive for the children as well, and the amount of other visitors was very reasonable, considering the fact it was a holiday.