§ Akko, the City on the Plains §
Stranger, let me tell you of the Akko that I remember, the Akko of so many years ago that disappeared in my absence.
The city stood upon a great stretch of plains of white and yellow that rolled out in carpets from the city wall. The land I knew was fragile, yet fertile enough to dye the hills green with shrubs and trees when the seasons called for it. The rolling hills and near mountains to the east are plotted with farming lands that bring food to the city. To the west runs a great length of beach with sands of gold and deep ochre.
A great wall encompassed the city limits like a great stone sash. I pray often that if only those walls would have stayed the Franks’ advance all those years ago when they first besieged my home. I was not born when the infidels first came into this city, but I survived the battles that pushed them out and the battle that brought them back. My brother broke his back during the second siege. He broke under duress and I never saw him again. I did mourn him when I could amidst the battle that had raged on the plains those years ago.
The waterfront of the city jutted out from the coast like an old man’s finger, arched and jagged, curling in on itself. The bulge behind it was where boats were drawn in and docked in great rows, pouring fourth their trade goods out into the market places. A single tower stood up from the middle of the harbor as a beacon to welcome Muslims and Christians into the fortress city’s embrace. The city of Akko was where the gold of the desert sands and the glittering blue of the ocean began as the though the hand of God (Glory be to him) himself had been set down between them to draw the boundaries.
The streets were narrow and so often clogged with people that the heat from living bodies made walking nearly impossible. Yet, this was the city’s blood. The heart that beat at its center and the force that drove its greatness was the sheer amount of travelers and merchants that poured into it. They sought goods and a place to sell their wares. They sought guides and leaders who would take them to Jerusalem.
The resident infidels made their homes in great clusters in the south of the city around the harbor. Each of their grating languages gathered around similar sounds like rats from a family pack. They squabbled with each other and they squabbled with those who lived in each of their sections for each different flag carved up a part of our city to claim as their own. They built their Churches and converted our mosques, but God (Glory be to him) in all his graces sought that they should leave one partially even though it sat in the heart of their quarters.
Dipped deep down in to the earth there was a spring that God brought forth the cattle for Adam. It had a Mosque built over it, yet little remained of it as most had been defiled by the Frankish pigs. They had taken over and turned the once painted sides into sides of harsh gray stone. No longer were there smooth curves of careful hands, instead there now was jutting spikes of foreign architecture spiraling out from the main trust of the old building. The minaret now housed a bell that would ring and call the Franks to prayer.
Built off of this converted Mosque was a hospital and it was in this hospital that I found my home. The hospital was a square shaped structure with an open courtyard that so often was buzzing with activity. Great arches supported walls of pale stone blocks, covered with delicately painted tiles. The Franks had spared us this when they took over as they simply used our hospital as theirs. Since the siege that put Akko in the hands of the Christians and the two subsequent ones, we who worked at the hospital have done our best to keep it running.