Click the image for an expanded view of this map of Jerusalem's Old City, Aer Atika. Never mind its efforts at a "vintage" look; this comes from the map they hand out at the Tourist Information Bureau at the Jaffa Gate.
I've always enjoyed poring over a good map. I can tell a good map because, after studying one, I come away with the feeling that I know something about the place depicted, that I have the beginnings of a feeling for what it would be like to be there. A good map invites the eye to an open-ended narrative of exploration, and in so doing distills the notions of Place and Journey.
It may come as no suprise, then, to hear that I've accumulated a fair collection of the things since I left the States. Since this blog is partly about digging into the various forms of locality, and partly about communicating my travels to the folks back home, I think it makes sense to share some of these maps. Let's try weekly.
Today, to add a bit of context to my peregrinations in Jerusalem documented last week, I chose a map of Aer Atika, the Old City of Jerusalem. For a tourist-oriented freebie, it's a suprisingly good one. Notice that the grey boxes between the major roads are meant to represent individual buildings -- not something to be attempted in the average city map. On the other hand, there isn't a whole lot of major construction going on here, so the buildings do mostly stay put. The density is overwhelming, even before taking into account the fact that in reality, many of the buildings are indistinguishably joined by common walls or roofs, and frequently vault across the road on stone archways. Moreover, the main market roads are generally covered by awnings, probably more to keep off the summer heat than the rain.
In theory, cars are only allowed a short way in through the Jaffa Gate, to a parking lot in the Armenian Quarter, and through the Dung Gate to the Western Wall parking lot. Actually, cars seem to penetrate much farther than I would have even thought practical on the narrow and frequently stair-stepped paths, much less allowed. I also note that, in blatant contradiction to my understanding of the posted regulations, this map indicates some kind of parking lot near almost every one of the gates. On the other hand, the vast quantity of goods sold in the Suks must get in somehow. Sure, rugs may sell slowly enough that they could be carried in -- but the dozen lamb carcasses I passed hanging in one shop?
The reason so many roads are stepped is because, not indicated by the map, the Old City is far from flat. In fact, it straddles the flanks of Mount Zion to the south, and Mount Moria (the Temple Mount) to the east, which are both decent sized hills (but far from being mountains, traditional names aside). As a result, the area slopes modestly down into the Muslim Quarter. I would speculate that this is was intentional in the layout established under the Ottomans, as it would give the Muslims the best sources of water. The downside, which I got to witness, is that the area really gets quite soggy when it rains.
If you've read this far, thanks. As your reward, I give you this article from the January 2005 notices of the American Mathematical Society. A brief quote to demonstrate why you should give it a perusal:
Q: What's hot, chunky, and acts on a polygon?
A: Dihedral soup.
Ba-dum-ching. Thanks, I'm here till, oh, whenever. Enjoy the soup.