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.
When Acre was the capital of the Crusaders' Kingdom, Khan al-Ifranj (Franks, Europeans) was called the Venetian Hostel (Fundus Venetorum). Situated just in the center of the Venetian quarter, it was located in a convenient proximity to the port. In 1291, as Acre was conquered by the Mamluk Army, the khan like the whole city was deserted and left in ruin. Only in the16th century the first buds of recovery started to sprout as the port of Acre revived some of its old livelihood, especially when in 1535 an agreement was signed between the Ottoman power and the king of France granting special rights to Frenchmen in several east Mediterranean ports, including Acre.
The remains of the Venetian Hostel gradually became the focal point for the activity of the European merchants in Acre. The structure was refurbished by local rulers, apparently starting with the reconstruction by Grand Vizier Sinan Pasha and continuing into the 17th century with restoration work by the Druz ruler Fakhr al-Din. In the middle of the 16th century the Franciscans purchased a few rooms in the khan to serve them as a hospice and later a school. In the 18th century a Franciscan church was built to the north of the khan. The khan is primarily used today by the Franciscan community.
The building, surrounding a square courtyard, is the outcome of several layers of construction while most of it is covered by 20th century additions. The southern façade of the courtyard is the only façade that retains much of its older appearance. It is the façade of a two story high building with large and round open-arches on the ground floor and a vaulted passage leading to the street.
Dichter, Bernhard. 2000. Akko-Sites from the Turkish Period. Haifa: University of Haifa. P.59-66
Petersen, Andrew. 2001. A Gazetteer of Buildings in Muslim Palestine: Part 1.Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 87
Schur, Nathan. 1990. A History of Acre. Tel Aviv: Dvir Publishing House, p. 138- 177
Khan al-Ifranj (Variant)
Khan al Afranj (Variant)
Khan al Faranj (from literary and colloquial Arabic: Franks (Variant)