The traditional Middle Eastern City The Cases of Jerusalem and

The Traditional Middle Eastern City The Cases of Jerusalem and Jaffa During
the Nineteenth Century.*
In Sonderdruck aus Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins Bd. 97 (1981). Vom
Verfasser uberreicht: Durch den Buchhandel nicht zu beziehen, pp. 93-108.
By Ruth Kark
During the first part of the 19th century, Jerusalem and Jaffa were traditional cities,
small in size and population.1 During the period from the second half of the 19th
century to the end of Ottoman rule in Palestine their qualities changed. The aim of
this paper is to describe the major characteristics of Jerusalem and Jaffa during their
traditional period, and to compare them with patterns of other cities of the Islamic
Middle East.
1. Generalizations and typologies of Moslem cities in the Middle East
Since the 1920s various attempts have been made to present generalizations and
typologies of the Islamic city and the traditional Middle Eastern city. These
generalizations were based on research dealing with cities in general as well as the
study of individual cities in the Middle East, in North Africa, and throughout the
Islamic World.
Research on Islamic cities has covered various time spans, including the brief periods
of the founding of Islam, the Middle Ages2, the period of Ottoman rule3, and modern
times.4 Some scholars have made rather broad generalizations about the entire "preindustrial" or "industrial" periods for all cities throughout the entire world by
emphasizing their similarities.5 A common feature in all of these approaches is the
emphases on the kind of relationships found in an Islamic city between social
structures, religious significance and geographical form, and the recognition of the
important role played by cultural values in determining the social and spatial
*I am indebted to Dr. Roy H. Merrens of York University, Canada, for his critical reviewing of this
Seetzen (fn. 20), refers in 1806 to a population of approximately 3000 in Jaffa and approximately
9000 in Jerusalem. The built-up area was 108 dunams in Jaffa (Skyring map 1842) and 699 in
Jerusalem (Aldrich-Symonds map 1841) (as measured by planimeter from these maps) by the author.
X. de Planhol, the World of Islam (Ithaca 1959), 1-28; I. M Lapidus, Muslim Cities in the Late
Middle Ages (Cambridge, MA, 167)
E. Wirth, Die Soziale Stellung und Gliederung der Stadt im Osmanischen Reich des 19. Jahrhunderts,
in : Untersuchungen zur gesellschhaftlichen Struktur der mittelalterlichen Stadte in Europa:
Reichenauvortrage 1963-1964 (Konstanz-Stuttgart 1966), 403-427.
L.C.Brown(ed.),From Madina to Metropolis(Princeton 973)
G. Sjoberg, the Preindustrial City (New York 1960); L. Mumford, the City in History (London 1961);
A. Toynbee, Cities on the Move (London 1970). An opponent to this approach was P. Wheatley, 'What
Greatness of a City is Said to Be': Reflections on Sjoberg's Preindustrial City, pacific Viewpoint 4
(1963), 163-188.
I.M. Lapidus (ed.) Middle Eastern Cities (Berkeley 1969), 73-74; S. Landy, the Ecology of Islamic
Cities, Economic Geography 47 (1971), 303-313.
Many investigators believe that a large proportion of the distribution of activities in a
Moslem city (including trade and economic activities) is dictated by religion and
influenced by religious-ideological elements. To realize its religious and social ideas,
Islam needed the city. It demanded an urban background as the optimal base for
religious activities, such as communal prayer, fasting, middle-class, the separation of
women , and observing the privacy of family and kinship groups.7
Two facets of Moslem cities that have been studied extensively are: a. Local
organization, and b. Spatial Organization.
a. Local organization
It is interesting that despite Islamic ideology favouring the establishment of cities,
most traditional Moslem cities lacked both a sense of unity and corporate and
municipal institutions. An explanation offered for this absence is the decline of these
municipal institutions prior to the Moslem period.8 The city as an expression of
Moslem civilization did not lead to autonomous organization of its citizenry or to
autocephaly9 The western linguistic connection between civilization-city-citizen was
lacking in the Arabic language, and the notion of citizenship only developed at a
much later date.10 From this we can gather that the unity of the Moslem city was more
functional than civic. This greatly influenced the form and composition of the city.
Religious hegemony over Islamic social organization resulted in the total lack of any
political interest in the community itself. The king enjoyed total absolutism and his
authority was considered to be divine (as amir al-mu'minin-Commander of the
Faithful). The concept of 'nation' in Islam created a universal framework which
encompassed all believers and left no room for an urban corporation.11
The sultan imposed the city administration. He appointed all high officials as well as
the muhtesib (the municipal official in charge of the police and markets). Hourani,
Lapidus and Stern12 believe that although the cities had the de facto possibility of
political autonomy this was not realized, mainly because the leadership of the city was
in religious hands (the 'ulema).
Fig. 1 Schematic plan of the traditional Middle Eastern City.
Under the aegis of the state, neighborhood and guild organizations, as opposed to
municipal organizations, continued to exist. Every quarter of the city was governed
G.E. von Grunebaum, the structure of the Muslim Town, American Anthropological Association 57
(1955), [141-158] 142-143, X de Planhol, the Geographical Setting, in: P.M. Holt-Ann K.S. LambtonB. Lewis (eds.), the Cambridge History of Islam, II (Cambridge 1970), 453-459; I.M. Lapidus,
Traditional Muslim Cities: Structure and Change, in: L.C. Brown (ed.),From Madina to metropolis (fn.
4), [51-69] 59. 63;; W Marcais, L'islamisme et la vie braine, CRI 1928, 86-100; R. Busch-Zanter, Zur
Kenntnis der osmanischen Stadt Geographische Zeitschrift 38 (1932), 1-13.
S.M Stern, the Constitution of the Islamic City, in: A.H. Hourani-S.M. Stern (ed.), the Islamic City: A
Colloquium (Oxford 1970), 25-50.
Using the concept which Max Weber related to the Medieval Western city; M. Weber, The City (New
York 1966), 106-107.
E.M. Saari, Non-economic Factors and Systems of Cities (Ph.D. thesis, Minnesota University, 1971).
A.H. Hourani, The Islamic City in Light of Recent Research, in: A.H. Hourani-S.M. Stern (eds.), The
Islamic City (fn. 8), 14-16.
See fn. 2, 6, 7, and 8, and A.H. Hourani, ibid.,9-24.
by the local she and was generally populated by families that had a common origin,
religious belief, or profession. Trade organizations were set up in a similar manner. 13
The first local city council was established in Istanbul in the 1850s and similar bodies
were set up in the provinces more than ten years later.14
b. Spatial organization
the intra-urban spatial organization of the Middle Eastern city was greatly influenced
by Moslem religion, culture and society. This influence is evident even in cities
established in the pre-Islamic era.15 Some outstanding features of the spatial
organization of the traditional Middle Eastern and Moslem city that have been
described are:
Concentric arrangement and the hierarchical distribution of he various quarters.
Because of the central role of religion in the Moslem city, the main mosque (Friday
Mosque) was located in the city's centre. The bazaar, the khans, the hammams
(public baths) were also close to the centre. The seat of the government (near to
which the Jewish quarter was sometimes located for security reasons) was usually
close to the periphery of the city. The residential quarters were located adjacent to the
public areas and were often surrounded by walls and gates. The semi-rural areas and
the cemeteries were found beyond the city walls (fig. 1).
Ranking of functional areas. This hierarchy was manifested in the concentration of
the more highly valued crafts and trades near the central mosque which has the most
prestigious location. The less valued a trade or craft the further away it was situated
from the centre. Identical trades and crafts tended to be grouped together (e.g., an
alley of shoemakers). Roadside services and those services connected with the
periphery were found near the gates of the city (fig. 2).
Ethnic and religious segregation in the Residential Quarters. The city was divided
into ethnic and or religious quarters where the emphasis was on the privacy and
security of each quarter. These residential quarters (the harat) were closed-off
entities within walls and gates, and were characterized by a disorderly arrangement of
poorly ventilated and inaccessible blocks of buildings, narrow side streets and a web
of alleyways leading from the side streets which could also be closed off when
necessary (fig. 2). There were practically no open spaces or squares within these
residential quarters. Each quarter was partially autonomous, sometimes having its
own services.
Lack of a regular layout. Most streets were windings and narrow, allowing for the
passage of pack animals only. Main streets alone led to the gates of the city, and there
was no way to leave the city from the side streets. Some of the alleyways were culs-
H.A.R. Gibb-H. Bowen, Islamic Society and the West, I 1 (London 1950-57).
B. Lewis, Baladiyya (Municipality), the Encyclopedia of Islam, new edition, I (Leyden 1960), 972976; S.T. Rosenthal, Municipal Reform in Istanbul 1850-1870 (Ph.D. thesis, Yale University, 1975) ;
R. Kark, Activities of the Jerusalem Municipality in the Ottoman Period, Cathedra 6 (1977), 85-93
J. Sauvaget, Alep (Paris 1941); J.H. G. Lebon, The Islamic City in the Near East, Ekistics 31: 182
(1971), 64-80.
de-sac which were only used by the local residents. Part of the streets and alleyways
had arched roofs.
The private home. The traditional house tended to reflect social norms of modesty
both in its dimension and in the use of relatively weak and fragile building materials
(as opposed to stone). The houses were located at a certain distance from the street
and lacked a direct entrance. Most doors and windows faced and inner courtyard,
thus assuring the maximum amount of privacy. Evan the roof parapet and the latticework were designed to ensure separation of the women in the home from strangers.
Public institutions. These typically included mosques, madaras, courts, jails, schools,
guest houses, the market or bazaar, khans, hammams, sebils (drinking fountains), the
citadel, and governmental institutions.
2. Jerusalem and Jaffa s Traditional Middle Eastern Cities
When examining whether 19th century Jerusalem and Jaffa can be regarded as typical
traditional Middle Eastern cities16, the differences between the two cities must also be
considered. The most outstanding difference is the religious factor. Jerusalem is a
world renowned spiritual and religious centre: one of the three Holy Cities of Islam17,
the holy centre of Judaism and one of the four Jewish Holy Cities in Israel, and one of
the foremost centres of Christian tradition. This is expressed in many ways, including
spatial organizations, the social and economic monopoly held by religious leaders
through religious institutions and organizations, and the religious ambience. Jaffa, on
the other hand, is a port city where economic initiative and worldly matters were more
a. Local Organizations
During the first part of the 19th century there was apparently no sense of identification
of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Jaffa with their cities. Therefore, concepts of
urban identifications and urban consciousness, or the presence of autonomous urban
organizations were lacking. One can barely find evidence of organized communal
attempts to improve the cities.
The Ottoman Sultan, the Egyptian government (1831-40) or the local governor
("Pasha", who was almost entirely independent of his superiors), imposed the
administrative structure.
In a similar attempt by Paul English to examine the applicability of Von Grunebaum's and Sjoberg's
'models' to the city of Heart in Afghanistan, several obvious exceptions from the rule have been found;
P. English, The Traditional City of Heart, in: L.C. Brown (ed.), From Madina to metropolis (fn. 4), 7390.
I.M. Lapidus, Traditional Muslim Cities (fn. 7), 59, points out the Islamic quality of Jerusalem as one
of the three Holy Cities of the Moslem world. M. Maoz, Jerusalem in the Last Hundred Years of
Turkish-Ottoman Rule, in : Y. Ben-Porath-B. Yehushua (eds.), Chapters in the History of the Jewish
Community in Jerusalem (Jerusalem 1973), [260-272] 260 (Hebrew), refers to Jerusalem and the
beginning of the 19th century as a "fanatic Moslem provincial town."
R. Kark, The Development of the Cities Jerusalem and Jaffa-1840 up to the First World War (Ph.D.
thesis, the Hebrew university, Jerusalem 1976) 354-264.
The administrative bodies, although located in Jerusalem and Jaffa, were responsible
for the surrounding regions19 and now solely for the cities. There were "mutesellims"
(civil governors) in Jaffa at the beginning of the century.20 The activities of
Muhammad Aga (Abu Nabbut), the governor of Jaffa who was appointed by Jazzar
Pasha, are particularly well known.21 Jerusalem also had its mutesellim, military
leadership and a qadi who were appointed from above.22 With the use of maps and
various other sources,23 I was able to pinpoint the exact location of the seraya
(government complex) and the governor's home.
Although the appointment of governors was imposed by the central government, the
cities as well as the entire administrative regions were subject to the arbitrary will and
despotism of their governors.24 The governors either destroyed, neglected or rebuilt
various sections of the city at will. Abu Nabbut, for example, was quite active in
rebuilding Jaffa, after the Napoleonic Wars; he renovated its walls and moats and
built a new mosque, markets, public parks and water fountains. The citizenry's
participation in these projects was limited to forced labour.25 The governor of
Jerusalem ,on the other hand, caused much destruction when he bombarded the city
from the Mount of Olives during the 1826 revolt.26
In 1808, 1826 and 1834, there was organized political activity in Jerusalem against
the local government. This activity included only the Moslem inhabitants of the city
and of neighboring villages. It represented an example of local political organization
and identification.27
I have found no mentions of the muhtesib, or of the existence of corporate
organizations inn Jerusalem or Jaffa, in the first half of the 19th century. Modern
municipalities were established in Jerusalem and Jaffa only during the second half of
the 19th century even though there were district councils after the Egyptian conquest
(1832). These councils consisted of local dignitaries (a'yan), the leaders of the larger
families, and representatives of the Moslem religious leadership, the 'ulema.28 The
council served in an advisory capacity only, and was apparently ineffective because
the Pasha, instead of consulting the council, could control it by bribing or intimidating
its members.29
J.C Hurewitz, Eretz-Israel, from the beginning of the New Jewish Settlement, Encyclopedia
Hebraica, VI (Jerusalem 1970), 498-504 (Hebrew).
U.J. Seetzen, Reisen durch Syrien, palastina, Phoenicien, die Transjordanlander, Arabia Petrea und
Unteraegypten, II (Berling 1854-59), 69; H.Z Hirschberg, The Beginnings of the Renewed Jewish
Settlements in Jaffa in: M.D. Cassuto-J. Klausner-Y. Gutman (ed.), Sefer 'Asaf (Jerusalem 1953), 223229 9hebrew).
S. Tolkowsky, The Gateway of Palestine: A History of Jaffa (London 1924), 154-155.
A.M. Luncz, History of the Jews in Jerusalem in the Last Hundred Years, Jerusalem 13 (1919), [209214] 210-213.
Aldrich-Symonds map 1841; Alderson-Skyring map 1841; M. Maoz, Jerusalem (fn. 17), 261-264.
Maoz, ibid.
S. Tolkowsky, The Gateway (fn. 21), 154-155.
S.N. Spyridon, Annals of Palestine 1821-1841, JPOS 18 (1938), [63-132] 74-83.
I. Ben-Zvi, Eretz-Israel under Ottoman Rule (Jerusalem 1968), 352-353 (Hebrew).
U. Heyd, Eretz-Israel during the Ottoman Rule (Jerusalem 1962), 53-54 (Hebrew).
F.A. Strauss, Sinai und Golgotha: Reise in das Morgenland (Berlin 1847) 278-280.
The heterogeneity of the population, the religious and ethnic differences, and the
millet system30 resulted in the creation of religious and ethnic quarters in the two
cities. Each had a separate administrative framework. This structure is similar to that
described by Von Grunebaum and Gibb and Bowen.31 The ethnic and religious
heterogeneity was greater in Jerusalem than in Jaffa. In addition to the three major
religious groups, Moslems, Jews and Christians, there were additional sub-groups and
communities. Some of these were represented in the government, but had no sense of
civic identification or solidarity.32 In the middle of the 19th century the population of
Jaffa was primarily divided between Moslems and Christians and their various
subdivisions.33 In that period a Jewish nucleus begins to develop in Jaffa.34 In Jaffa as
in Jerusalem, identification was based on religious or ethnic allegiances rather than on
a municipal or urban basis.
The Imposition of administrative appointments on the one hand, and the absence of
urban identification on the other, led to a lack of urban planning in both Jerusalem and
Jaffa, a lack of municipal supervision and regulation, and the resulting gradual decline
of existing facilities. Public buildings and installations, such as the public fountains
and aqueducts of Jerusalem, were neglected and subsequently deteriorated.35
b. Spatial organization
The spatial organization of Jerusalem and Jaffa was primarily influenced by religion,
culture and society like most other Moslem cities in the Middle East. The religious
influence was especially prominent in Jerusalem, where much space was devoted to
religious functions and institutions.
An analysis of maps of Jerusalem and Jaffa in the first half of the 19 century36 shows
that Jaffa conformed to the pattern where the market area bordered on the religious
centre (the Mahmudiye Mosque) while the seraya is close by. This is not the case in
Jerusalem, where the market place was separated form the religious and
administrative centres which were close together (the mosques on the Temple Mount
and the madares both inside and outside the Temple Mount, and the seraya and the
governor's home nearby). This may be partially explained by the fact that the
remnants of earlier periods influenced spatial organization in Jerusalem. Even during
the period under discussion, Jerusalem was a 'body' composed of Islamic 'flesh' whose
'skin' and 'sinews' were formed on the 'skeleton' of previous generations.37 Jaffa, on
By the Millet system the Ottoman authorities granted autonomy to some of the non-Moslem
See fn. 7 and 13.
W. Turner, Journal of a Tour in the Levant, II (London 1820), 292; S. N. Spyridon, Annals of
Palestine (fn. 26), 63-132; E. Robinson-E. Smith, Biblical Researches in Palestine, Mount Sinai &
Arabia Petrea (London 1841), I, 327-329. 385. 388; II, 85-88; U.J. Seetzen, Reisen, II (fn. 20), 17-23.
U.J. Seetzen, ibid. ; E. Robinson-E. Smith, op. cit., III, 31; R.C. Alderson, Notes on Acre and Some
of the Coast Defenses of Syria (London 1843), 8-9.
H.Z. Hirschberg, see fn. 20.
W. Wittman, Travels in Turkey, Asia Minor, Suria and across the Desert into Egypt during the Years
1799, 1800 and 1801 (London 1803), 118, 127-130; W. Turner, Journal, II (fn. 32), 266; T. Tobler,
Denkblatter aus Jerusalem (St. Gallen 1853), 35.
See List of Maps.
D.H. K. Amiran-M. Avi-Yonah, Jerusalem: The Saga of the Holy City (Jerusalem 1954), 31-41.
the other hand was almost entirely rebuilt after the Napoleonic conquest in the form of
a traditional Moslem city.
Both cities were surrounded by walls. A comparison of their internal spatial
organization in relation to the generalizations previously described follows.
Concentric arrangement and the hierarchical distribution of the various quarters.
There is a partial concentric organization in Jaffa where the major mosque is located
in the flat area of the city surrounded by the bazaars, all of which are situated close to
the main gate of the city. The fact that the first 'Jewish courtyard' is found in
buildings that were maintained by the government in an are near the government
complex, also conforms to the traditional pattern. Beyond these there are other
residential areas which appear on the 1842 map as built-up area without further detail.
It does not appear that internal walls were used to demarcate major internal divisions.
The entire built-up area is surrounded by a wall with a fausse bray and ditch. There
was one central gate at the eastern end of the city, and a few smaller, narrower gates
near the harbour. The famous Jaffa gardens (to which the big quarantine building was
added in the thirties) on the south side of the city, and the cemeteries, were outside the
city walls (fig. 3-4).
The layout of Jerusalem is non-concentric, but there is a hierarchical ranking within
the various quarters. Each quarter ahs its dominant religious structures: the el-Aqsa
Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in the Moslem quarter, the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre I the Christian Quarter, St. James Church in the Armenian quarter, and the
central Ashkenazi and Sephardie synagogues in the Jewish quarter. Other facilities
providing religious and education services were located nearby. These included
hostels for pilgrims, soup kitchens, and residential units-under the aegis of Christian,
Moslem and Jewish authorities. The central marketplace was located between the
quarters, extended towards the Jaffa and Damascus gates, and was removed from the
major religious centres. Residential areas were concentrated around ach of the
religious centres. The entire city was surrounded by a wall with several gates. There
were cemeteries, isolated religious buildings, and the semi-rural areas outside of the
walls. (figs. 5 and 6).
Fig. 4. Jaffa in the middle of the 19th century: a functional map. Map key: 1 Wall2functionaing gates-3 roads-4 built-up area; I Christian neihborhoods-5 Religious
institutions; I Christian, II Moslem-6 Government (including consulates)-7 Market
and trade-8 Sebil (public fountain)-9 agriculture-10 cemetery; I Moslem-11 Jetty.
Fig. 6. Jerusalem in the middle of the 19th century.
Ranking 0f functional areas. A semi-concentric pattern is evident in Jaffa, with a
central mosque in the public section of town. It is not possible to determine if there
was a hierarchical location of the economic functions. The various functions may
have been mixed together simply because of the small area of the Jaffa market.
Travelers who had visited Jaffa describe a concentration of roadside services and a
temporary market outside the main city gate on the eastern side, as well as
coffeehouses, two bathhouses, several soup factories, a ship and boat repair shop, and
a workshop, which produced pipe heads (their location is not known). During
Montefiore's census of 1839 there were Jewish shoemakers, tailors, tinsmiths and
glaziers in Jaffa.38 There were no hotels in Jaffa during the first half of the century,
but the monasteries and convents had hostels which served pilgrims and travelers.
Jerusalem did not exhibit a full concentric patter (fig. 2), but it did have a certain
hierarchy and a concentration of functions accompanied by territorial distribution.
Secondary specialized markets such as the cotton market (the qaysariya which had a
prestigious location near the major mosques), the perfume markets, the gold and
silversmith's market, and the butcher's markets, were all located on three parallel
streets in the central bazaar. The central khan (Han es-Sultan) was close by. The
wheat market was located not far from the Citadel (near Jaffa Gate). A centre for
selling devotional wares and souvenirs was found near the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre. Some of these markets were locate din permanent arched structures and
were equipped with gates which enabled them to be closed at night on specific
occasions. Besides the concentration and ranking of the functions found in these
marketplaces, minor religious and ethnic centers were also found there.39
During the first half of the 19th century, there were also centres for small industries
and crafts in Jerusalem in addition to the commercial and trade centres already
discussed. Seetzen, who visited Jerusalem in the beginning of the century, described
soap and oil factories, a cloth dye house, a tannery (a nuisance in the centre of town),
an industry producing souvenirs from the Holy Land, candle manufacturing, as well
as 20 or 30 metal smiths, blacksmiths, carpentry shops and services such as bakeries
and coffeehouses.40 The exact location of these places can only be partially
reconstructed with the help of maps and recorded descriptions. Some of the soap
factories appear to have been located on the way from the central bazaar to the
Damascus Gate, an oil press and a flour mill were not too far from the Citadel, and
near Zion's Gate, on the outskirts of the built-up area, was a pottery workshop and a
windmill, next to the isolated houses of the lepers.
Ethnic and religious segregation in the residential quarters. Religious and ethnic
segregation within the residential quarters existed in both cities. The population of
Jaffa up until the middle of the 19th century was mostly Moslem, consisting for the
most part of local Arabs, with a Turkish and Egyptian minority. The rest of the
populace consisted of Christians-Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Armenians, Maronites,
and a small Jewish minority. Turner estimated that of the 1200 houses that were in
Jaffa in 1815, 1000 belonged to Turks (he was most probably referring to the
Moslems in general), 170 to the Geeks and 30 to Roman Catholics.41 The only
indication of the separation of the various religious communities or ethnic groups
comes from Skyring's 1842 map, where the Christian Quarter (Haret en-Nasara)
appears in the southern section of the city to the east of the area where the churches,
convents and monasteries were found. In addition Skinner pointed out that the
I. Ben-Zvi, Eretz-Israel (fn. 27), 380.
E.A. Finn, Home in the Holy Land: A Tale (London 1866), 279; Alderson-Skyring and AldrichSymonds maps (1841).
U.J. Seetzen, see fn. 32.
W. Turner, Journal, II (fn. 32), 292.
Moslem section of the city was in a very dilapidated condition42, and Tobler noted
that the Christian lived in the lower part of the city near the Harbour.43 The Jews
were isolated from the general population and lived in an area near the harbour called
"Dar el-Yehud", which was the center of the small Jewish community of Jaffa.44
Egyptians who lived in the Jaffa area in the first half of the century isolated
themselves from the rest of the population and lived in sakinat outside the walled city.
The Egyptian colony found to the north of the wall consisted of Copts. One may
assume that the local Arabs lived in the rest of the city with the wall, while the Turks
most of whome were government or military officials, lived either in the government
buildings or in their vicinity (fig. 3-4).
By the beginning of the 19th century, the more heterogeneous population of Jerusalem
already includes Moslems(Arabs and Turks), Christians (Greek Orthodox, Catholics,
Copts, Abyssinians, and Syrians), and Jews. At this time, these diverse populations
each lived in their own separate quarter or neighborhood, or around a block of
courtyards (hos) or an individual courtyard.45
According to Luncz, around 1800 the various religious and ethnic communities were
segregated into five quarters: the Christian quarter (which was further subdivided into
Latin and Orthodox, and also included concentrations of Maronites, Copts and
others), the Moslem Quarter, the Moghrebine Quarter (North Africa Moslems), the
Armenian Quarter, and the Jewish Quarter. In a map prepared by Sieber in 1818, a
quarter labeled as the Judenstadt appeared in the southeaster part of the city. In the
Catherwood map of 1835, the Jewish Quarter also appears in the centre of the
southern part of the city within the walls. In the Admiralty map of March 184146, the
city was divided into six harat (or quarters): Haret al Narasa (Christina), Haret al
Muslimin (Moslem), Haret bab e Hitta (Moslem), Haret el Mugaribe (North African
Moslem) ,Haret el-Yehud(Jewish), Haret el-Arman (Armenian), based partially on
religious and partially on ethnic divisions. Within the general framework of the
quarters was a further sub-division based on religious, ethnic, communal, or familial
criteria.47 The residential segregation was no absolute.48 The various groups
intermingled and met in the economic spheres of life.
Lack of a regular street layout. This is quite apparent from the first glance at maps of
Jerusalem and Jaffa. Most of the streets appear in the maps lack a well-ordered layout
and very often are dead end streets. According to written sources from that time49, the
T. Skinner, Adventures during a Journey Overland to India by Way of Egypt, Syria and the Holy
Land, I (London 1836), 183.
T. Stobler, Lustreise ins Morgenland (Zurich 1839), 123.
H.Z Hirschberg, see fn. 20.
A.M. Luncz, History of the Jews in Jerusalem (fn. 22), 209-214.
Aldrich-Symonds map 1841.
In the Christian Quarter there were concentrations of Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Copts.
In the Armenian Quarter there was a concentration of Syrians (Syrian Orthodox [Jacobite] Church),
and in the Jewish Quarter there were concentrations of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews and Karaites.
The Moslem Quarters were divided probably on ethnic and familial lines (A.M. Luncz, History of the
Jews in Jerusalem [fn. 22], 211. 238; Y.Ben-Arieh, The Growth of Jerusalem in the Nineteenth
Century, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 65 [1975], 252-269; I, W.J. Hopkins,
The Four Quarters of Jerusalem, PEQ 103 [1971], 68-85).
A.M. Luncz, loc. cit.
W. Turner, Journal, II (fn. 32), 285; W. Wittman, Travels (fn. 35), 118, 127-130.
streets of Jaffa were narrow, winding, unpaved, dirty, without proper drainage, and
wretched in appearance. They were described as deserving the name of alleyways as
opposed to streets. Some of the streets were terraced because of the irregular
topography of the city. The only street which had an exit-way at the eastern gate of
the city was that which reached the gate from the harbour.
Even though the layout of the main streets of Jerusalem was obviously dictated by the
city plan designed by the Romans, both the various maps and the descriptions of the
city clearly indicate that most of the streets were narrow, crooked, and uneven. The
main streets were slightly wider, partially paved, had sidewalks, and led to the city
gates, while the side of the streets were narrow, unpaved, and sometimes dead-ended.
The Private home. The houses of Jaffa were made of stone (mostly limestone or
sandstone), sometimes covered with white plaster. The limestone was brought in for
secondary use from the ancient sites of Caesarea, Atlit, and Ashkelon. Houses were
either domed or had flat roofs. Wood was only used for doors and for certain items
within the house. The houses have been described as being low and crowded.51 The
quality of housing differed among the various sections of the city. The best houses
being found near the harbour.52
The houses of Jerusalem have been described as being of inferior quality and
neglected appearance despite the fact that they were made of stone. The few wellbuilt houses were used by the Turks. As in Jaffa, there was secondary use of ancient
stones taken both from inside and outside the city wall. The houses had domed roofs
and the majority had enclosed courtyards and one indirect entrance. Many visitors
mentioned the existence of parapets on the roofs to ensure privacy.53
Public institutions. Due to the heterogeneity of the populations of Jerusalem and Jaffa
during the period under discussion, non-Moslem public institutions were also found.
In the first half of the 19th century the only public buildings in Jaffa were: three
mosques, three churches, three monasteries and convents, a few European consulates,
a citadel, the seraya and the Governor's Home, a military hospital (in the Quarantine),
markets, public fountains, bathhouses, coffeehouses, and the cemeteries outside the
The public buildings which appeared in the maps and descriptions of Jerusalem
during the same period were mostly of a religious nature: mosques, churches,
monasteries and convents, synagogues, and guest hostels for pilgrims. The
government buildings included the seraya, the Citadel, the Governor's Home, and the
consulates. In addition the markets, the khans, the bathhouses, the public fountains,
the coffeehouses, and the cemeteries outside of the walls should be mentioned.55
W. Turner, op cit., 266.
W. Wittman, loc. cit. (fn. 49).
U.J. Seetzen, see fn. 32.
E.R. Robinson-E. Smith, Biblical Researches (fn. 32), III, 327-329, 386-388.
U.J. Seetzen, see fn. 32; W. Turner, Journal II (fn. 32), 285. 292; Skyring map 1842.
A.M. Luncz, History of the Jews in Jerusalem 9fn. 22), 209-243; U.J. Seetzen, see fn. 32; E.
Robinson-E. Smith, loc cit. (fn. 53); T. Tobler, Denkblatter (fn. 35), 121-126; S.N. Spryidon, Annals of
Palestine (fn. 26), 63-132.
3. Summary and conclusions
The "uniqueness Thesis" enjoys much support among historians and some
geographers. If we take this point of view, we may find that Jerusalem and Jaffa, as
well as every other city or form of settlement, possess a uniqueness which results
from the local geographical setting, particular location, situation and site
characteristics (topography, climate, water supply, etc.), history and its remains,
components and size of population, specific economy, and other variables. However,
generalizations at the level of a cultural region, geographical area, and a particular
time period are likely to assist us in clarifying and illuminating specific themes of
interest with which we are dealing in order o better understand them. On this level,
many generalizations have been made by researchers concerning the Moslem city and
the traditional Middle Eastern City which have for the most part been based on
inductive and empirical research.
This article has identified a number of characteristics and patterns attributed to the
Moslem city, and has examined the extent to which Jerusalem and Jaffa at the close of
their pre-modern period accord with the general model.
The validity of the generalizations presented concerning the local and spatial
organization of the Moslem city is extensively verified here. Despite the fact that
both of these cities were established before the Islamic Period and differed in their
geographic conditions, and although Jerusalem commanded a special religious and
spiritual important (which Jaffa also enjoyed by serving as the gateway to the Holy
City), they fit the general model of the traditional Middle Eastern City.
Although the generalizations were based on research on cities larger in size and
population than Jerusalem and Jaffa, they suit there smaller cities as well. Jerusalem
and Jaffa were similar to other Moslem, Middle Eastern cities in that they lacked a
local urban organization. They possessed a concentric type of arrangement, a ranked
functional hierarchy, residential ethnic and religious segregation, streets lacking a
fixed plan, and houses built in a certain style, and had the public institutions typical of
a Middle Eastern city.
Traditional Jerusalem and Jaffa exhibited the interrelation between social structures,
religious significance, and geographical forms. Social values played an important
role in determining the spatial organization (this was most evident in Jerusalem). This
organization wasn't determined only by economic competition or considerations of
accessibility, but was influenced also by motivations of prestige, proximity to holy
places and earlier patterns. The strong influence of Moslem religions and culture,
combined with the fact that these cities were under the same rule, was responsible
both for their similar lack of local organizations and their uniformity of spatial urban
organization. To a great extent it was these religious and cultural influence that
determined the geographic qualities and character of pre-modern Jerusalem and Jaffa.
List of map sources.
R.C. Aldeerson-C.F. Skyring, Plan of the Town and Environs of Jerusalem, 10th June,
1841, in: Great Britain, Public Record Office, F.O. 78/455
Aldrich-Symonds, Plan of the Town and Environs of Jerusalem (London 1841)
F. Catherwood, Plan of Jerusalem (London 1835)
M. Jacotin, Jaffa section, in: M. JAcotin, Carte topographique de l'Egypte (Paris 1810
[for 1799])
G. Pink, Plan of Encampment of His Highness The Grand Vizier at Jaffa, in Syria,
1800, in: W. Wittman, Travels in Turkey, Asia Minor, Syria and across the Desert
into Egypt during the Years 1799, 1800 and 1801 (London 1803)
E. Robinson-E. Smith, plan of Jerusalem, in: id., Biblical Researches in Palestine,
Mount Sinai and Arabia Petraea (London 1854), suppl. (see fig. 5)
Th. Sandel, Yafa, 1:20,000, in: K Baedeker (ed.), Palestine and Syria: handbook for
Travelers (Leipzig 1876), 129.
Th. Sandel, plan von Jaffa, 1:9100, 1878-1879, in: G. Schwarz, ZDPV 2 (1880),
opposite p. 44
F.W. Sieber, Karte von Jerusalem (Prag 1818)
C.F. Skyring, Plan of Jaffa, June, 1841, in: Great Britain, Public Record Office, F.O.
S.F. Skyring, Jaffa & Vicinity, 1842, in: R.C. Alderson, Notes on Acre and Some of
the Coast Defenses of Syria (London 1843), pl. 7 (see fig. 3).