We arrived into Tel Aviv as the heavens opened. Literally. We had gone almost a month and a half in the field, with not so much as a drop of rain. We were baking, the bees were happy and the flowers were slowly frying. Feeling as though we were being prepared in a slow cooker, we decided to take a much-earned break from work and venture down to the nation’s capital. Having rented an apartment in the old port town of Jaffa, we were ready for a weekend of relaxation, good food and yet more sun.
The walk from the city centre to the southern port took about 45 minutes, though midway to our destination this walk turned into more of a frenzied run. We sought shelter under the canvas roof of Shuk Ha’Carmel, which protected us for a few minutes until the heavens opened further (perhaps due, in part, to the collapsing of said canvas roof…) and the path through the market turned into a river. Cutting our losses, we dived into a small café and warmed ourselves up with hot drinks. The young couple who ran the establishment took pity upon the three soggy bodies leaving puddles on their chairs, and invited us to a party they were hosting later that night.
It turned out that we had visited Jaffa during the Purim festival – a celebration deriving from the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian empire, after a plot had been set to destroy them. In today’s world, the festival runs over a long weekend and can most easily be likened to our Halloween festivities. In other words, the city was full of people in fancy dress.
The old town of Jaffa is very beautiful, with winding cobbled streets and sand stone alleyways lined with fairy lights. The outer segments of the district are vibrant and arty, with a wonderful sense that the people live the majority of their lives outside.
Café culture appears rife, and days can be spent wandering among the markets in search of second-hand possessions, quirky souvenirs or falafel. I personally ate my body’s worth of hummus during my two and a half days in the city. Artists’ studios and warehouses are open for the public to explore, where regional knickknacks – ceramics, carpets, tiles – can be bartered over.
Apologising in advance for our lack of costumes for the party, we were immediately provided with golden masks and light-up Minnie Mouse ears by the young Israelis. Feeling very clever at having been invited to such an intimate party within hours of landing in the city, we waddled to find our apartment, got ourselves looking presentable, and walked out to find the party, armed with a nice bottle of red to gift our kind hosts.
But we should have guessed, given Tel Aviv’s supposed reputation of grand nightlife: it transpired that we had been invited to a large-scale rave in an abandoned carpenter’s warehouse. With only seconds to choose our plan of action, we unanimously decided to stay, promptly danced the night away and drank Arak with Moses, a giant banana, and a butterfly. We left the party extremely merry, in love with Tel Aviv and still clutching our bottle of red.