Caesarea is a city of the past and the future, the new sitting across from the ancient. While new Caesarea is adorned with magnificent modern homes, ancient Caesarea offers tourists the ruins of unique, remarkable buildings. While golf players enjoy lush fairways, horse races are re-enacted in the huge hippodrome in the national park. While modern Caesarea’s neighbourhoods are quiet and serene in the grandeur of contemporary architecture, ancient Caesarea is lively with tourists who come to see the wonders of the past that were built by one of the greatest builders of the ancient world – King Herod.
Caesarea’s antiquities park is one of the Holy land’s most impressive parks, housing unique buildings from various eras, bearing silent witness to the turmoil that has visited Caesarea several times over the past 2,300 years. Standing next to each other over an area of 500 dunams (125 acres), there are architectural remains from the Hellenistic period (3rd century BCE) to the Crusader period (12th century), when Caesarea was a port city and spent many years as Palestine’s capital. Caesarea was given to King Herod as a present by Augustus Caesar and is named after him. King Herod built a massive port there alongside entertainment facilities, bathhouses and temples. In the Byzantine period, Caesarea was an important Christian centre. The early fathers of Christianity (Origen and Eusebius) lived there and according to Christian tradition it was here that the first idol worshiper was converted – the Roman centurion Cornelius. In the Crusader period the city was fortified with walls and gates, which were eventually destroyed by the Mamluk Conquest in the 13th century.
A tour of the national park is like walking through history, and wandering between the ancient buildings one can both sense how people lived here thousands of years ago as well as enjoy modern, contemporary experiences, such as the riveting musical performances held in the beautiful Roman Theatre. Tourists can walk along the city walls and around the towers, wander through the ruins of the castle and the various temples, watch the horse races in the hippodrome, visit the ancient port and the tiny artists’ square and watch the interactive 3-dimensional computer simulations of the city’s past. The port hosts cultural festivals year round and offers a wide range of activities: historic riddles, jeep tours, target practice with a variety of weapons, paintball, Tai Chi on the beach, toga workshops and treasure hunts. Visitors can enjoy Caesarea’s beautiful beach while diving enthusiasts can explore the underwater ruins in the archaeological park beside the port.
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|New Israeli Shackles (NIS)