At the end of a bustling Jerusalem day, when residents and visitors alike have turned down their beds, local guide Moshe Gold takes over the streets with a different kind of tourism experience.
Geared toward those seeking a more active tour of the Holy City, Jerusalem Midnight Biking begins its run at 9:30 P.M.. The tour takes off from the promenade in Armon Hanaziv and makes its way through the city until about 1 A.M.
TripAdvisor awarded Jerusalem Midnight this year with its Certificate of Excellence, and the tour has maintained its #1 ranking with them for six months running, attracting visitors from all over the world.
The parking lot at the promenade starting point fills each time with a range of 8 to 22 enthusiasts, clad with green reflective lights. For some, the tour is akin to a spiritual experience - fitting for Jerusalem.
All of the Jerusalem Midnight Biking guides are skilled cyclists themselves, who explain the history and significance of each site the group pedals through. “The amazing part of the job is to witness the emotional highs of the participants experiencing Jerusalem. People have come away crying, holding their bibles," said Gold.
The route begins at the Armon HaNatziv promenade, continuing through the neighborhoods of Abu-Tor and Yemin Moshe. From there it passes through the Jaffa Gate to the Old City, via the new Mamilla Mall.
The tour drifts through the Christian and Jewish Quarters, keeping mainly to the sidewalk, before continuing up to Mount Zion. At one point in the tour, the cyclists rest their bikes aside to climb onto a rooftop, where they are treated to a night-lit view of the whole Old City.
It's best for the novice rider to clock a few hours on a bike before joining the tour .The 14 km environmentally friendly tour is geared toward intermediate riders, considering the physical challenges of Jerusalem’s cobbled streets and rolling hills.
Riders have the option of walking their bikes up the most difficult uphill 1 kilometer stretch, to keep it manageable even for those who aren't the most experienced. With two tour guides on each tour, participants never have to worry about falling behind and there are plenty of stops and first aid support if needed.
“We don’t go too fast at 15 to 20 km an hour," said Gold. "This isn’t a race, it’s a scenic tour.”
Mountain bikes and helmets are provided at a cost of 220 NIS for riders who do not have their own equipment, or 110 NIS for the helmet alone. This tour is fully insured.
Why at night? “About a year and a half ago I was trying to figure out the best way to run this tour safely and efficiently amidst the rush of daytime visitors Jerusalem brings," said Gold. "That’s when my brother suggested we do it at night.”
Doing the tour at night "gives it a magical sense," said Gold.
"It is said ‘Ten measures of beauty came down to the world," he said, adding "Jerusalem monopolized nine and the rest of the world had only one’.”
Perhaps those nine measures of beauty really are more visible at night.
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