I have made several drafts for blog posts for this epic trip. I don’t even know which one to post first because it was pretty overwhelming (in a good way) to write about it. I was debating if I should write just a summary of the whole experience or break it down into parts but then there were other sites and adventures that just had to have their own post so that’s how I decided to do it.
I don’t know about other women, but I have never gone on a trip where I didn’t have to shop for gifts for the ones back home. Yes, it gets expensive and think about excess luggage on top of that. But it’s a culture thing so it’s something we gotta do. I also buy some local stuff and collectibles for myself to remember the trip. It was impossible not go shopping during this trip because Israel is not one place where you can just pack your things and go. I feel it’s one of those places that has to be planned ahead before you go.
Before you get carried away on a buying spree thinking that you got a good deal on your first stop, I want to let you know that there will be plenty of opportunities to shop and chances are if you wait, you’ll most likely get a better deal. Promise!
But then again, if there’s anything that you find that you really like and you cannot take a chance of maybe not finding that item anywhere else then go for it. That’s what I did. No regrets!
Our first stop for shopping was the Dead Sea. We went to the AHAVA Factory. The small kit on the left photo is worth $250. But there was a promo that if you buy 2 you get 1 free so I encouraged my friends to get 2 and we can split the $500 into 3. Smart! I received the small (4) mud masks for free. The Dead Sea Mud on the left were about $9 each (if you buy 3. I bought it on sale.) I found them at the hotel. Everywhere else I found them to be $15. But I was worried that it was pretty heavy. It’s about 5 lbs for those 3 packs of mud. Mind you, I almost left it instead of paying for excess luggage.
When we went to Bethlehem we stopped over at the Bethlehem Souvenir Center. They have a lot of really nice things that you can buy. It looks like a one stop shop. They sell jewelry, too. I almost bought a pair of Eilat dangling earrings for $1,000. I’m glad I didn’t, coz I bought a set of earrings that I really liked later on. I have a separate blog post about that, it’s made of Roman Glass in sterling silver setting. Anyway, their eilat was cheaper than the ones my friends bought at the diamond factory. I found their items to be a good price but we did find cheaper ones later on. However, I have to say that this place sold really good quality items. The olive wood rosary however was twice as much as if you bought it along Via Dolorosa. I paid $20 for 12 here and it was only $10 (for 12) over there at VD.
Then we went to the Palestine side. We were in a hurry so we didn’t really get a chance to go shopping after we went to Bethlehem but there was a strip mall where our bus was parked and we ended up buying Cashmere shawls. The guy was initially selling it for $5 each but we managed to buy it for 3 for $10 and thought it was a steal. Then when we were at St. John the Baptist church (Ein Karem, Israel), we found cashmere shawls for 5 for $10. Ugh!!! I didn’t buy any more coz I was already worried about paying for excess luggage and I wasn’t the only one having that problem in my group. We were shopping left and right and most of them bought an extra luggage already coming from Dubai (where we stayed for a week before coming here) but not me. I learned my lesson from my last Europe trip where I got carried away and almost spent as much on shopping as my vacation. haha
When we went to the site of the miracle of the Wedding at Cana, we coouldn’t help but buy some Cana Wedding Wine. There’s a souvenir shop across the street from the church and they let you taste the wine so you can choose which one to purchase.
The transformation of water into wine at the Marriage at Cana or Wedding at Cana is the first miracle attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John. In the Gospel account,Jesus, his mother and his disciples are invited to a wedding, and when the wine runs out, Jesus delivers a sign of his glory by turning water into wine.
1 Now on the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.89 Jesus’ mother was there,902 and both Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no wine left.” 4 Jesus replied, “Woman, why are you saying this to me? My time has not yet come.” 5 His mother told the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.” John 2:1-12
We also went shopping at Mount Carmel. They have pretty expensive stuff but I ended up buying these rosaries for $10/12 pieces and the small anointing oil was $5 each then we went to another place where I got a bigger bottle of anointing oil for $10 each (or $20 for 3). The rosaries are individually packed with each case having a prayer. The rosaries are pink color, Rose-scented with a Jerusalem cross and the crucifix has the word Jerusalem printed at the back.
There was a point where we stopped over at a a diamond factory/jewelry store. This is where I found out about the Eilat stone. They were selling other souvenirs also and I got this one for my dad. They only had 2 (the 2 on the left and center) and I wanted more so I was looking around for this item. I found one at Yardenit and it was $38 each. Thank goodness I decided not to buy it. Well, we were pressed for time anyway. I ended up finding them at stores lined up along the entrance leading to St. John the Baptist church (Ein Karem, Israel). They were being sold for $10 each or 3/$20. For real! That’s the one on the right. It looks a little bit less in quality but that’s a huge drop in price.
Then we had a stop over at the small store before we went to the Diamond Factory. This is actually the only store where our tourist guide took us that had good deals. I don’t know why I bought Virgin Mary key chains when I already bought a lot of religious items. It turns out I only have 5 items (key chains) that I can give to non-Catholics. Ugh! What was I thinking? Well, that’s not entirely true. I had several mud masks, shawls, evil eye door hangs, etc.
The prayer shawl is usually worth $10 wherever we went. However, I managed to buy it for 3/$20 while waiting for our bus outside the Church of All Nations (Garden of Gethsemane). The shemagh/keffiyeh was worth $20 wherever we went but I managed to buy it for $10 outside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
These are just some of the common things I bought that tourists buy when they’re in Israel. I didn’t want to post everything and bore you with shopping stuff but I want you to have an idea so you may stretch your dollars while you’re there because there’s a lot of places we went to that were pretty pricey especially the food. It was a good thing that we had breakfast and dinner at the hotel because we spent $10-$15 for lunch everyday for piece of falafel or schnitzel and a drink. That’s it. Ridiculous, right? And if you don’t care for that kind of food it just really sucks! One day I decided I just wanted to have soup and they were charging me $5 for an onion broth. Yuck!
I almost forgot, I bought this robe for $25 at the Yardenit before we went for baptism at the River Jordan. I found out that it’s only $10 at the hotel. Your other option at Yardenit is to rent a plain white robe and towels for $10. It’s your call but I think it’s good to know that you have options before you get to your destination. Or maybe order it online prior to going on your pilgrimage if you plan to do the baptism. Also, don’t forget to bring a pair of swim shoes with good traction. You’ll need it at Yardenit and the Dead Sea coz the bottom is pretty rough and somewhat slippery.
I hope you find this post useful. I have another post about Travel Essentials as I have learned the hard way that poor packing practices will definitely cost you. I’ll provide the url as soon as I finalize my draft.
LIVE LAUGH … BELLE PAPILLON
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please remember to like, comment, share, and “follow” and/or subscribe here before you leave. Have a blessed day! Come join me on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram. See you there!