Haifa and the Bahai’s

This post is part of my Israel travel series Scrolls from the Holy Land: Travel stories | Photo gallery

On the banks of the Kishon River, the port city of Haifa is a mosaic of diversity and home to the Bahai faith.

A bus journey from Tiberias (तिबेरीया) took me to Haifa (हाईफा) in less than an hour. It’s a straight route going towards the west from the hills of Galilee to flat plains. The bus terminal at Haifa is mammoth, very crowded and for the first time in Israel so far, I saw people in a hurry.

Bahai


Bahai Garden: Shrine of Bab

The Bahá’í Faith (बहाई धर्म) is a religion founded by Bahá’u’lláh in 19th-century Persia, emphasizing the spiritual unity of all humankind. Báb (बाब), the messenger was born in Persia (Iran) and his tomb is located in Haifa. Bahai is one of the religions that is persecuted by Iran. There are about 6 million Bahai’s in the world, 50% of them being in India. The Bahai world center at Haifa is the holiest shrines of the faith.

My first reaction to this was… what? one more? So its Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Druze and Bahai (maybe more smaller ones, I don’t know)

The Bahai center is open to public only for a few hours. The gardens can be visited only by booking a tour in advance, and it is pretty simple to do so from their website. I recommend taking a tour of the upper gardens as it gives a wonderful view of the entire Haifa town. The tour is free.

There are 19 terraces of the Bahai gardens: 9 being above the shrine of the Baab and 9 being below. The terraces are shaped like 9 collinear circles with water flowing from the top to the bottom. It generates a very peaceful feeling and immediately takes you away from the noise and rush of the city. 19 is also a sacred number for the Bahai faith.

View from the top gardens is simply awesome. Haifa is a beautiful city indeed, blessed with a wonderful deep blue Mediterranean sea on two sides.

Haifa city:

Haifa, like most other places in Israel, has a long history. It is built on Mount Carmel, which was known during 3 CE as a dye making center for Jewish priests’ temple cloth. The city prospered during the Byzantine rule and competed with nearby Akko town. In 7 CE the city was conquered by Persians and then by Arabs. In 12 CE the crusaders won it after a battle with local Jews and Muslims. The Mameluks captured it in 13 CE. In 1761, Bedouin rulers destroyed and rebuilt the city, an event that marked Haifa’s entry in modern era. Later, the city was held by the Ottomans except for brief periods when Napoleon Bonaparte and then the Egyptians conquered Haifa

German Templars arrived in 1868 and created what is known today as the German colony. This block of the town was very beautiful indeed, and my hostel was located in the vicinity. There were a number of bakeries around and one morning I simply sat at the corner of Ben Guiron street eating warm bread with butter and jam while watching the city move.

Due to its predominantly industrial nature, Haifa had bloody times during the 1948 war of Independence. Today it is one of the largest technology and industrial hubs of Israel.

Haifa is endowed with a long convex coastline and it was wonderful to spend an evening at the beach watching the sunset with a couple of friends I met there.

The promenade and touristy areas of the Ha Carmel beach (near the large train and bus station). After the promenade ended, we walked on the beach further north. Stepping feet on the naked ground, we were shocked to find what was under our feet. A beach that is covered by, not sand but, used condoms! Yes that’s right, its was a cruising beach. We noticed a number of cars and … [topic terminated]. That was the hardest (no pun intended) laugh I had!

Sunset at Haifa

I met some really wonderful people at the Port Inn hostel. There were many Bahai pilgrims visiting the place from all over the world for some pilgrimage. Haifa town is located around mt Carmel and a number of hills around and it is nice to hike on spiraling roads and trails. There are plenty of museums and tourist centers in the town, but what a pity, I was stuck with some school work that was urgent. I had to waste spend a day doing that.

This post is part of my Israel travel series Scrolls from the Holy Land: Travel stories | Photo gallery