Israel is a new nation, built on very ancient land that so many people in this world lay claim to as their own, their history. There are some newer cities like Tel Aviv, where the architecture dates to the 20th century and others like it’s neighbor Jaffa, an ancient port city that leaves your mind reeling when you think of the people that have walked these streets for centuries. An intrinsic part of visiting Israel is seeing this duality.
One of the places where I felt this the most, is the city of Akko (pronounced this way in Hebrew, spelled Acre in English). The old city of Akko is a UNESCO world heritage site and it sits on the Haifa bay, an extremely strategic site for a port city in ancient times; it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the world. From the Greeks to the Crusaders to the Ottomans, everyone has tried to lay claim on this city and it was one of a few places I went in Israel where signs were both in Hebrew and Arabic due to the high Arab population.
Being so rich in culture, the city does draw history buffs but thanks to Akko resident and ambassador, Chef Uri Jeremias, Akko has fast become a global foodie destination as well. While I was in Tel Aviv, countless people told me, I “could not leave Israel without visiting Uri Buri,” Jeremias’s restaurant right on the port in an old ottoman building with the decor of a Bedouin tent; hopefully while there I would meet it’s eccentric proprietor of 27 years, Uri Jeremias. “You can’t miss him, he looks like Santa Claus.” Without a doubt, this is the best seafood you will have in Israel. In this no-frills, no BS settings you’re going to drool over dishes like seafood soup with coconut milk, or salmon crudo with wasabi sorbet. Even the bread is a delectable experience! And after you’re exorbitantly full wobble over to Chef Uri’s latest gem, the Efendi hotel. The building of the hotels combines two ancient homes, over 1,500 years old, the were once palaces to Ottoman rulers. The beautiful hotel today is the result of a meticulous eight year preservation and renovation. Absolutely stunning, this 12-room boutique hotel houses a bar, open to non-guests as well in a wine cellar made with stones dating back to the Ottoman empire!
And now, as if his famed restaurant, Uri Buri, and stunning Efendi hotel were not enough to draw visitors to Akko, Chef Uri Jeremias latest program brings travelers into the historically rich area of the Western Galilee and Akko, a crossroad of civilization with one of the world’s largest collection of Crusader ruins, Ottoman, Byzantine and Roman relics, led by one of Israel’s leading professors and scholars of Crusader studies. Paired with luxurious stays at Efendi Hotel, as well as visits to wineries, cooking workshops, music performances and beyond, this one-of-a-kind experience is ideal for history and culture buffs, academics and scholars with a fine taste for luxury and gourmet dining.