Sultan’s Pool

October 23rd 2013

Jerusalem Sultans PoolOften overlooked by tourists, Sultan’s Pool is an archaeological site that provides insight into Jerusalem’s public works needs throughout the millennia. Today, Sultan’s Pool serves as one of Jerusalem’s most popular major venues for summer concerts and cultural festivals.

Named for the sovereign rulers of the Ottoman Empire, Sultan’s Pool was originally used to provide water to the residents of Jerusalem from the time of Herod (1st century CE) up until the 19th century. Located just outside the Old City, it was upgraded in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent, the same Ottoman sultan who built the Old City walls that visitors see today. The ancient water basin is located in the Valley of Hinnom, on the west side of Mount Zion, opposite the Tower of David. Looking down from the Old City walls, one can see directly into what appears as a large, dry valley.

Widely considered the best place to hear live music in Jerusalem, internationally known musicians, ranging from opera singers to Bob Dylan, play in the Merrill Hassenfield Amphitheater in Sultan’s Pool. Active only in the warm summer months, concerts at Sultan’s Pool offer not just great music, but a stirring, inspirational setting at the foot of the Old City walls.

Every summer, during the last two weeks in August, Sultan’s Pool hosts the International Arts and Crafts Fair, called Hutzot Hayotzer. At one end of Sultan’s Pool is the International Pavilion, with booths featuring national crafts from 40 different countries. Each night, there is live entertainment in the amphitheater as well as street performers strolling through the crowds. The festival food court offers a variety of cuisines from around the world and almost all food sold at the International Arts and Crafts Fair is kosher. At the other end of Sultan’s Pool are Israeli craftspeople selling their own wares, which range from high end paper products to furniture, children’s clothes to local wines.

Expect to wait in line 20-30 minutes to purchase your admission ticket to the International Arts and Crafts Fair. Your ticket includes admission to the nightly concerts, but seating is limited, so get to the amphitheater early.

The opening night of the Jerusalem Film Festival each June also customarily takes place at Sultan’s Pool, with a movie screened on an enormous surface for an audience of thousands under the stars.