Early morning in the ancient city of Jaffa and the streets are coming to back to life; the smell of freshly baked bread, car horns bleating from impatient drivers going to work, the sound of shop shutters being raised, a faint chant of a far off muezzin calling to prayer. This is the beating heart of old Jaffa and I love it.
This was the once mighty biblical port of Yafo, the port where Jonah set sail for his encounter with the whale. But over the decades as Tel Aviv expanded, Jaffa went into decline, the proud byzantine buildings and twisty alleyways becoming derelict, dusty and decaying.
Today though Jaffa is once again looking proud. Transformed and gentrified with artist galleries, jewellery shops and trendy cafes, yet still undeniably Arabic in culture and feel. A place where the young and wealthy generation have come to live, bringing with them all the trappings – the luxury apartments and the boutique hotels side by side with antique shops and ancient courtyards.
The Clock Tower is Jaffa’s gateway, built in 1900 to honour Ottoma Sultan Abd al-Hamid II and within a few steps of this lies the luxury of The Clock Apartments Jaffa. Housed in a building from 1890’s its faced still intact, the heart sinks as I first look at it, yet behind the creaking hinged front door, and up the time worn staircase lie a nest of luxury apartments where the future most certainly meets the past.
King size beds, fluffy bathrobes, comfortable spacious living rooms, fully fitted kitchens, an espresso machine, well equipped bathrooms free wifi and more flat screen televisions than chess sets in an Arab souk. The higher suites have impressive terraces beyond the shuttered balcony doors that offer stunning views over old Jaffa. And best of all, if I need anything, the Clock office is open till 9pm offering local tips, or laundering or just a top up of more coffee if you need it.
These apartments offer you something an international luxury hotel could never come close to. Living like a local, very comfortably and privately in the very heart of old Jaffa, just a few steps away from some of the best restaurants, clubs and cafes in all of Israel. You can spend hours just wandering these twisty streets and discovering a tiny bakery, or an art gallery or, if you want the sea, just a 2 minute walk away is the wide stretch of Tel Aviv’s beachfront.
Jaffa is a true 24 hour city now, with the new port complex full of high end cafes. I sit on my balcony sipping an espresso and look down at an Arabic street vendor manoeuvring his wooden cart between the cars and wonder just what Jonah would have made of all this. I think he might have stayed around for a bit.
Luxury Apartments up to £220 per person per night.