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.
The white market acquired its name from the white plaster that used to cover its walls and for the abundant of sunlight bathing its space. The market is comprised of a covered east-west street flanked on both sides by shops. The street is covered by a fan vault, consisted of pointed semi-cones nearly meeting at the apex of the vault. The side vaults are pierced with large open arches that allow plenty of natural light and streaming air directly into the covered street. Just below these open arches shops extend into the street and are accessed by large arched doorways. The shop units are covered with barrel vaults from within. While the north row of stores have only small square windows facing the exterior, the southern stores open to the city through wide arches like the arches that open into the interior space.
The market was first built by Dhahir al-Umar in the middle of the 18th century and became the main commercial center of Acre and its region up to the end of the Ottoman period. Dhahir's market was larger then the current structure (110 shops compare to 64 shops). In 1817, story has it, a spark of fire from a pipe smoked by workers of a shop belonging to 'Aslan the Jew', found its way into a gunpowder keg. An enormous explosion as a result of this reckless behavior killed and wounded ten people and severely damaged the entire market. In the same year Sulayman Pasha ordered the demolition and reconstruction of the market. In 1831-2 the market was damaged by the army of Ibrahim Pasha, yet it managed to maintain its importance. The magnitude of the White Market faded significantly after its walls were punctured during the British mandate to create a bypass to the city. Until that time there had been only one land entrance to the city.
Dichter, Bernhard. 2000. Akko-Sites from the Turkish Period. Haifa: University of Haifa,196-200.
Petersen, Andrew. 2001. A Gazetteer of Buildings in Muslim Palestine: Part 1.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 88-89.