Jerusalem is gloriously beautiful city. It is also an overwhelming place. One of the world’s most important religious cities is the site of ongoing conflicts over land and territory. It is difficult to visit Jerusalem without considering these issues. Even a short visit to Jerusalem (especially one that includes Palestinian cities to the north and south of the city) compels visitors to think about religion, culture, state conflict, and land.
The preponderance of religious sites, the throngs of religious tourists, and the tension that buzzes through the Old Town’s air make for a very particular atmosphere. You could forgive visitors for hankering after a break in scene.
If you’ve got cash to burn, there’s the admittedly spellbinding Orientalist sanctuary of the American Colony Hotel, with its incredible ambiance and storied history. The American Colony provides a true oasis from Jerusalem’s chaos.
For visitors in search of a grittier, more contemporary sort of respite, a posh hotel will not do. Happily for these anonymous hipsters, Jerusalem boasts a very cool cafe called Uganda (4 Aristobolus Street) that is absolutely worth a visit.
A record store-cum-bar/cafe named after the former British protectorate once proposed as a Jewish homeland, Uganda feels well and truly countercultural. Opened in 2005, Uganda sells zines, comics, and graphic novels as well as music from Israel and beyond.
The interior is a curious mixture of hipster and hippie. On the hipster side, there are classic vintage (or lookalike) pieces of furniture; for the hippies, there are waitresses with dreadlocky situations atop their heads. The clientele is young and geeky-hipster, an the scene is undeniably bohemian. Uganda’s scene is sustained by a packed calendar of performances throughout the year. Recent months have featured scheduled gigs on a near-nightly basis.
And if none of the above wets your whistle, there’s this: Uganda serves an excellent Palestinian beer called Taybeh.