Abu Gosh/ أبو غوش / אבו גוש
Living above this bustling little village in the kibbutz has given me a unique experience with the city and its inhabitants. It is one of the first places that I remember getting to know in my first days in Israel and have grown very fond of it since then. Since one of the two ways to get down from the kibbutz is through Abu Gosh, I’ve seen the many faces of the city and learned a good deal about the underbelly of the place and its history. I think the most interesting happening, which doesn’t happen often nor should worry you (but does point to the fact that this place indeed has an underbelly), is one night after coming back from the bars in Jerusalem. The town was pretty quite, as it settles down soon after nightfall, as we turned the corner on the main street and there was a car right off the road on fire- in complete blaze. Not something that was an accident and one of the most interesting visuals I’ve ever saw here in Israel. Everyone is the cars was like, “yeah, Abu Gosh” and didn’t seem to think much of it. I couldn’t stop looking back to see the sight though and remember thinking how odd that it seemed ‘normal’!
There are two major families within the village and so there is a bit of mafia-type going ons, if lesser in extent and maybe more a of “funny” type of way-ish. Most people aren’t aware of the villages nuances and I think it is a shame, as those details give the place so much more character. I will illustrate this point by showing you a photo of one of the owners of a restaurant, who is able to keep an eye on all things from his kingdom:
I watched the stores along his, from the Sultan’s Cafe, for a while and noticed how all the store owners would come to the windows and watch what was going on in a certain way. They would even watch one another from their own window kingdoms. It was interesting to watch while sipping on coffee and smoking shisha across the road. As I said though most people visiting won’t be affected by these details, so as Donnie Brasco would say “forget about it“.
“The town of Abu Gosh, just outside Jerusalem in the Jerusalem Hills is the unrivaled hummus capital of Israel, and some would say, the world. An Arab-Israeli village, Abu Gosh is famed across Israel for its fifteen amazing hummus restaurants, with Israelis traveling from far and wide to eat. As well as its food, Abu Gosh is famous for the Abu Gosh Music Festival, a vocal music festival which takes place twice a year and attracts some impressive performers.
Whilst there is a choice of great restaurants in Abu Gosh (and everyone has their own favorite!), the most famous, and first to be established , was the Abu Gosh Restaurant, which was opened in 1993 by Jaodat Ibrahim, who, after winning the lottery in Chicago, decided to return home to Abu Gosh, and invest in the town where he grew up. In 2010, the restaurant was awarded the Guinness Word Record for the largest dish of hummus weighing almost 9,000 pounds.
A great little video about Abu Gosh.
The twice annual Abu Gosh Music Festival takes place during Spring and Fall (the time of the Sukkot and Shavuot festivals. During the week long festival, vocal performances take place across the town, and the restaurants which are popular all year round, are packed with concert-goers.
Nestled in the Jerusalem Hills, Abu Gosh is a great place to stop for a meal and experience authentic Arabic cuisine, easily located just off Road 1 – the main road between Tel Aviv and the Center of the country, and Jerusalem. The town is particularly busy on Saturdays when many restaurants are closed for Shabbat, and Israelis come to the town on a day of leisure in the Jerusalem Hills.”
From http://www.thejewishweek.com/special_sections/jewish_travel_guide (great information here),
“Most of the action in Abu Gosh is centered on Shalom Street, and famed eateries sit either side of the scenic road. The Abu Gosh Restaurant, the main impetus behind the Guinness world record attempt, is perhaps the best known, and local celebrities or lawmakers can often be found eating here.
However, any of the other restaurants in town — Abu Shukri, The Caravan, the Lebanese and more — are also worth sampling. Locals say that today there are more than 20 restaurants in the area, and all of them are open on Saturday, when most other places in the Jerusalem area are closed for Shabbat. (Observant Jewish travelers can visit on other days of the week, although the meat is not kosher.)
Of course, with Saturday’s unrelenting crowds, vying for a table in any one of these popular places can be a chore; but for a plate of smooth hummus, freshly cut Arabic salads, warm, fluffy pita bread and succulent char-grilled lamb or chicken, most people are willing to wait. Jo Shoshani, an Israeli who often visits Abu Gosh with her family, said that most of the restaurants are child friendly and offer very good value for the money.”
Photos of Abu Gosh,
- Don’t come on Saturday. If you do come, try to wait till later in the afternoon. It is busiest around lunch, unless you dig crowds.
- If you are stubborn and come on Saturday anyways, know this: all of Israel comes here on Saturday: be ready. Call for reservations in the well-known restaurants, if you are worried about the lines. (Although, I have seen it busy, I haven’t ever seen lines of people waiting.)
- Driving Tip: watch out for dare-devil kids, who seem to all love to play games with cars by crossing the roads at the worst times. Don’t get mad when they flash the smirk(once they’ve made it across) either. Those kids are crazy.
- All-time favorite place: The Sultan’s Sweets and Coffee! I love this place because, for some reason, people seem to skip it and so it a sea of calm in an otherwise mess of confusion and honks blaring. Every time I go, there seems to be very few people who come in and out, but I know that this place has some of the best service and quality snacks so who cares. There is another nargila place just across the street that is über popular with the army kiddos, so maybe they are all over there. The service is always great here and very friendly, plus they have their own parking lot with spaces never filled. (No one can park there unless they are eating there, which makes sense. So you get the best little snacks in town and parking! Amazing deal, if there ever was one in Abu Gosh.)
- People forget how to drive and invent all kinds of new laws while driving here. It gets crazy fast. Since there is only one main street that takes you through the entire village, you don’t really have many options to avoid it. You can walk, although some of the main areas where the cafes/restaurants are located are a bit spread out. Make sure to have patience and watch out for people doing goofy things with their cars.
- Second favorite place: Khobez, which is 24 hours and has great little snacks/breads/ECT and coffee/drinks/ECT.
- Explore the area around Abu Gosh! You came all this way, might as well drive around the area and see some of the nature parks and sights. It will be worth it.
- I really enjoy this little village and love visiting it when it isn’t so crowded. The people who I’ve interacted with are always pretty nice and helpful. Abu Gosh is a very interesting place, considering politics and the effects of the prosperous city with other Muslim Villages throughout Israel and Palestine. There is great wealth found here and it just interesting to notice some of these happenings beyond the hummus. The people are willing to talk and listen. It makes for a great interaction and chances to learn. It your open to these interactions, they’ll easily happen.
So now you know about this little village and know that the visit it worth it! So, yalla: see you there!
More links with further information about Abu Gosh,
- http://www.demotix.com/news/32572/village-abu-gosh-its-not-just-about-hummus (great info!!)
If you have been to Abu Gosh and have other tips or favorite memories, please leave a comment below and share with us! Do you have a favorite place for hummas? If so, please share!
– Found another interesting blog post to share: http://www.sarahmelamed.com/2011/01/abu-ghosh-a-culinary-gem/.
– I was also asked if Abu Gosh had restaurants that are considered “kosher”. I did a little looking, but I am not really sure that I would trust the “kosher” status regardless, if you are really strict about that yourself. Most people who travel to Abu Gosh on Saturday are secular Israelis, so they aren’t really keeping kosher anyhow. I wouldn’t guess it would be a good place for a kosher meal. (But I could very well be wrong. Please let me know if you know of a place there that does have a kosher certificate.)