Old Acre is located on a small peninsula, projecting into the Mediterranean Sea. Many of its fortifications still exist. The fabric of the city as seen today, as well as its most prominent monuments, is mainly eighteenth and ninteenth century Ottoman overlaid on the ruins of the magnificent thirteenth century crusaders city. The history of Acre dates back five thousand years. In its earlier stages is was built in an area 1.5km north of today's city walls called Tel Akko (in Hebrew: The mount of Acre) or Tal al-Fawakhir (in Arabic "The mount of shards"). Impressive fortifications from around the twentieth century BC were found at this site. Already at around 2000 BC, the city's name had a similar pronunciation to its current name in Arabic and Hebrew (Akka and Akko); different legends apply different meaning or sources to this name. The city was one of the main Phoenician ports in the latter part of the second millennium BC.
During the Egyptian period the city changed its name to Ptolemais for many years. During the Roman period the city status declined as Caesarea grew more important. The town started to regain its centrality during the Umayyad period. In the beginning of the twelfth century the city was occupied by the crusaders who named it 'St. Jean d'Acre'. It became the main port connecting Europe to the Holy Land as well as other parts of Asia and in its golden age in the thirteenth century it became the capital of the crusaders' Kingdom of Jerusalem (1191-1291), the richest and most dominant city in the area enjoying international glamour. In 1291 Acre was conquered by the Mamluk army of Sultan al-Ashraf Khalil. In order to deter the crusaders from recapturing the city, the Mamluks ruined the city, which was left neglected for five centuries.
The potential of the city was realized again during the Ottoman period in the hands of a local Bedouin ruler, Dhahir al-Umar (1745-1775), who made Acre into the capital of Galilee and a center for the export of cotton. The city became richer yet under his successor Ahmad Jazzar Pasha, the most influential ruler in determining the appearance of the old city of today. Al-Jazzar (in Arabic: "the butcher") was known for his extremely cruel and whimsical character, but also as a great builder, who, many believe to have been the architect and engineer of the buildings constructed under his supervision.
In 1799, the armies of Napoleon unsuccessfully tried to besiege Acre from al-Jazzar. In the middle of the nineteenth century an Egyptian force under the command of Ibrahim Pasha seized Acre. From this time on Acre never really recovered, different wars magnified its disintegration, while Haifa slowly gained more importance. Acre is recognized today as a cultural asset, one of the oldest cities in the world and one of the most important and beautiful cities in the country. After a sweeping restoration of the city, it has become a major tourist site. The city is also one of the holiest sites for the Bahai faith, whose prophet and founder, Bahu'ualla, was imprisoned in Acre in 1868.
Dichter, Bernhard. Akko-Sites from the Turkish Period. Haifa: University of Haifa, 2000.
Lurie, Yehoshua. Acre-The Walled City: Jews among the Arabs, Arabs among the Jews. Tel Aviv: Yaron Golan Publication, 2000.
Petersen, Andrew. A Gazetteer of Buildings in Muslim Palestine: Part 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
Schur, Nathan. A History of Acre. Tel Aviv: Dvir Publishing House, 1990.
At the time of its construction Hammam al-Pasha was one of the largest and most magnificent bathhouses in the area. A guest of al-Jazzar from the British fleet wrote in 1801: "The bath of Akko is the finest and best built of any that we saw in the Turkish empire... Every kind of antique marble, together with large pillars of Egyptian granite, might be observed among the materials of construction"
The bathhouse is named after Ahmad Jazzar Pasha (reigned 1775-1804), the ruler who constructed the building and was apparently the architect and the engineer of this construction along with few other magnificent buildings in Acre which dominate the face of Acre to this day.
The hammam, that might have been built on the site of an older bathhouse, is roughly rectangle in shape. The sequence of movement through the building starts with an open courtyard. The courtyard leads into the summer undressing room, a large, well lit domed room, similar in size to the courtyard. The domed summer undressing room is encircled by marble benches with a fountain at its center. A meandering corridor leads from the summer undressing room to the winter undressing room, followed by the warm room, both rooms are covered with small domes embedded with skylights. The warm room opens to the final and most impressive room; the hot room. This room is lit by colorful round rays of light filtered through the multicolored glass embedded in the domes of the room. The effect of the rays entering the room was strengthened by steam rising from the subterranean tunnels and marking the path of each ray. Spaces in the corner were enclosed to create private areas.
The floor of the Hammam is paved with marble slabs, its walls are decorated with colorful tiles imported from Damascus and Anatolia and its columns are made of marble, granite and porphyry (some of which were apparently taken from the ruins of Caesarea).
Dichter, Bernhard. 2000. Akko-Sites from the Turkish Period. Haifa: University of Haifa, p. 210
Lurie, Yehoshua. 2000. Acre-The Walled City: Jews among the Arabs, Arabs among the Jews. Tel Aviv: Yaron Golan Publication, p.28-49
Petersen, Andrew. 2001. A Gazetteer of Buildings in Muslim Palestine: Part 1.Oxford: Oxford University Press p.85
Schur, Nathan. 1990. A History of Acre. Tel Aviv: Dvir Publishing House, p. 207-216