Clair, the Red Headed Ghost of Jerusalem

Gate of the Chain

Or the sick who became a ghost? The change of title depends on your perspective of a very funny and mysterious (at first) story I’ve to tell you about a recent so called low-budget tour in September 2016.

For the privacy for everyone involved, if I mentioned names, they are not their true names (except myself).

  1. The Tour from Hell (9/10/2019) - This tour was the tour from hell ... for me. For the group absolutely not, because they had loads of fun, costing me my hair of course. We are talking about a tour, which shows what Israel actually is, a mixture of culture, adventure, exploration and Israeli sights in all the major touristic centers of Israel. This article is part of the Tour Guide Diaries September 2016.
  2. Gate of the Chain Clair, the Red Headed Ghost of Jerusalem (9/26/2016) - Or the sick who became a ghost? The change of title depends on your perspective of a very funny and mysterious (at first) story I've to tell you about a recent so called low-budget tour in September 2016.
  3. Tour Guide Diaries September 2016 (9/24/2016) - When two large families from Canada and Israel join for a tour in Israel, WW3 is almost unleashed in Israel. The results of that almost major conflict are that the women take charge and the men wisely murmur "Yes Dear" and the kids have fun.
  4. Tour Guide Diaries August 2016 (9/23/2016) - Three stories for this month in the Tour Guide Diaries. One story is about chocolate and how it came back to the guide and bit him in his behind. The other story sounds like a soap opera, but truly happened. Our group rescued another guided tour group, who were lost in the middle of the Goat Market in Be’er Sheba. The third story is the continuation of the last one about two goats (smuggled from that market) on rampage in a hotel and its aftermath.
  5. Tour Guide Diaries July 2016 (9/23/2016) - Two stories here. One is about the relationship between a guide and a camel with the name of Fred in a tour, and the other one is about a tour with alternative transports with like trains, buses and camels! Further it describes the baptizing in Israel and renewal of wedding vows.

I received an email from a lady living in Florida. She and her group of ladies of the community she belonged to wanted to tour Israel, and they didn’t want to pay the usual amount of money, and they wanted to have fun for 10 days. Well, that she had! Not to forget the excitement!

Apartment building
Apartment building

For your information, their tour cost them $800 per person for 10 days all-in and was custom designed and brought from from the north to the south of Israel.

The group arrived at the second of September 2016 at the airport, where I welcomed the group in Israel. I brought them to their apartments in Jerusalem. I rented four short-term apartments in one apartment building with everyone on it they could wish for, from computers, WiFi, large TV screens, Jacuzzis, large fully stocked kitchens, exercise rooms, library, very large salon, dishwashers, wash machines and more like it. The apartment building and the biggest apartment had also a roof terrace for barbecues and simply sitting in the evening for relaxation.

I still don’t understand why people don’t rent apartments instead of hotel rooms, because they are two till four times cheaper, much bigger and have what hotels miss, privacy. The price for those luxurious apartments are less as one VIP room in a fancy hotel! Click here for low-budget touring.

As a low-budget tour, the group suppose to use not standard (read here hotels) accommodations, so apartments, houses, hostels, guesthouses, campings, everything would pass, but they need to have similar or better luxury as hotels and the price per person $600 or cheaper for a default duration of 7 days all-in touring. We succeed with these low-budget tours.

Anyway, the group of 30 women arrived in the street were the apartment is located and they were charmed. That lasted until they entered their building, they were amazed. After letting them settle in, we could finished the planned dinner for the group (I arranged a German cook to make their first dinner (roast)). During dinner we really got to know each other. I was there with only one additional guide with the name Junior (Lena).

We were discussing the program for the next day, where we would merge two day- tours in one day. One day tour in Jerusalem to get to know the city and the other we would do the new Jerusalem. The day after we would focus on old Jerusalem.

I knew what would happen the next day, so I was so wise to go to bed early, but the ladies stayed up till deep in the night on their roof-terrace. And were wildly cooking and eating of course in the night.

At seven o’clock in the morning it was rise and shine and with some effort everyone complied. After the breakfast, the day started in Israel, exploring the outside of the old city (the walks and direct environment). All of the group, except one! That women with long red hair was not feeling well (not surprising after all that eating and drinking last night and the time differences) and she decided to stay at home. She said “to sleep it off”. So we went on tour without her that day with our first city bus in Jerusalem.

City bus in Jerusalem
City bus in Jerusalem

The tour starts with the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem and before we knew it, we were walking over the old city-walls and I was in tour mode, telling the old and recent history of each wall (and yes, each wall in Jerusalem as its own unique history, which you can’t find in the normal tourist books, then maybe in a summary).

The Jaffa Gate
The Jaffa Gate

We headed north to one of the first (of the 35) watch towers, which has a raised platform to look at the large new shopping and office development that is currently taking shape outside the city walls. One of the women suddenly cried out and jumping up and down in excitement, yelling, pointing and waving at something at the other side of the wall (the inner city). She claimed she say Clair, the woman who stayed behind in their apartments being sick.

Damascus Gate
Damascus Gate

We all looked, but no Clair. The woman who thought she saw her clearly was swearing that she saw her. Everyone had a laugh and we continued the tour until we reached the Damascus Gate. We looked down at the old city at El-Wad road, and who do we see?

The lady with red hair, Clair.

One of the women took her mobile phone and called Clair. She did not take the phone! The red headed woman on the El-Wad road moved out of sight and at that moment she answered the phone. After wild talking in the phone, we all learned that she was still in her apartment and that we’re all ‘crazy’.

We continued with the tour, like nothing happened (some women were murmuring that Clair was pranking them)!

Ben Yehuda Street
Ben Yehuda Street

The tour continued without any additional excitement with ghostly Clair until we reached the Jerusalem’s main shopping streets. We started with the Ben Yehuda Street and the group went everywhere with me in the middle and Junior was running around trying to keep everyone as close as possible together. Ha!

And who was standing there about 30 meters from me (next to a clothing shops)? Clair, our becoming strange and mysterious women with red hair. I mean she looked like her! So I started yelling loudly “Clair! Clair! We are here!” while waving both my arms, but she didn’t respond (but half of the street noticed of course). One of the women from the group with me called Clair immediately, who still claimed that she was at home, in bed this time and not at any market.

This happened again when we were 20 minutes later at the Mahane Yehuda market, but this time with the whole group! Clair was enjoying her Shawarma near the end of the market! I was eating Kebab and group was eating Kebab, Falafel and Gyro, so we could react fast enough! We had someone, who claimed to be home, but following us! What’s going on? When the women were talking with Clair on the phone, I talked with her as well. I could hear in the background the sound of CNN, the American news channel on TV, which you definitely will not hear here on the market.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem

The next time it happened again when we arrived at the Holy Trinity church. One of the women saw Clair slipping into the church and what did we do as group? Right, we followed.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem

First the group was shocked at the beauty of this church, or more accurately the cathedral. Inside this cathedral was amazing, like so many orthodox churches in the Holy Land.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem

And we were right on time for a Holy Mass! But we didn’t see Clair. I asked the woman who said she saw her if she was sure, but the woman nodded, while claiming that she was very sure that she saw Clair entering the cathedral.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem

We spread out, but after 20 minutes of searching and gawking, no Clair. I was starting to suspect that the group was pranking me. But on the other side, the group was making great effort to find the woman, who didn’t seem to be there. Maybe she was a ghost? An attractive, red headed ghost with the name Clair?

When we left the Holy Trinity, I laughed at the idea. Right. Red headed ghost Clair. That was a very good name for my grave stone maybe. “The Hunter of Clair, the Red Headed Ghost of Jerusalem” or something like that.

Cotton Merchants’ Market
Cotton Merchants’

The next sighting was at the Cotton Merchants’ Market (or el-Qattanin). This is a covered market with next to no natural light but lots of small softly-lit shops. It is possibly the most atmospheric street in all the Old City, started by the old Crusaders. This is truly a nice place to buy some food for the apartments and so we did. After we were satisfied with the loads of fruit we bought, we approached Hammam el-Ain (bathhouse) and who stood there? Right, Clair. In her full glory, carrying a shopping bag, looking at us smiling. She was about 50 meters from us and we started to yell her name, and guess what. She waved at us, and disappeared in one of the side streets.

So the whole group started to run to meet her, but when we arrived at Hammam el-Ain, no Clair. Another bloody mystery. I hate mysteries. And guess? She was at home and this time she was taking a bath. With loads of bubbles, according the blushing women calling her.

I looked at Junior, who nodded. She disappeared from the group and was on her way to the apartment to check out what’s going on. Now I wanted to know if they were making fun of me or not! Or if Clair was pranking the group or the group was pranking me. We will see, not?

Gate of the Chain
Gate of the Chain

We amused ourselves in the meantime and we reached the Gate of the Chain. The Arabic name for this street is Tariq Bab el-Silsila, which means “Street of the Gate of the Chain”. The name refers to the magnificent entrance gate to the Haram esh-Sharif situated at its eastern end. The street is a continuation of David Street, and together the two streets run the width of the Old City from Jaffa Gate to the Haram esh-Sharif.

Chain Street has several noteworthy buildings commissioned by Mameluke emirs in the 14th century. We heading eastwards from David Street and reached the Khan el-Sultan Caravanserai, a restored travelers’ inn. After some relaxing at the inn, we left and who was there? In front of the tomb of the emir Tashtamur (on the right of the inn)? Right! Clair again. The women start calling, Clair disappearing, and Clair claimed that she was watching TV or something.


The next sighting was at the Butchers’ Market (el-Lakhamin). This market was full with people and who was there negotiating with an older Arab man? Right, Clair. I stopped listening to the phone calls, what she was doing in the apartment (throwing up according the women), and I didn’t even want to see her ‘suddenly’ disappearing.

I had enough of Clair and her wonderful, wandering ways of following us. But the group was mystified and they seem to like it, so I was happy too, ghost or not.

That moment Junior called me and she said that she was at the apartment and Clair was there, being sick, the poor dear. I was relieved of course, and told her what she wanted? To come to us or stay there. Junior preferred to stay at the apartment. We both knew that we would be home within two hours, because it was the end of the day.Restaurant

Talking about end of the day, it was indeed getting late, and the group really didn’t want to go back home, but decided to stop at a small “cute” restaurant near the St Stephen’s Gate and to eat there.

We entered the place and I started to talk to the owner (this was not planned, but this was the unscheduled wish of the group, so …) and the negotiations started. We are talking about 29 people and me. We came to a compromise and everyone took their seats. It’s a very nice place and in the back of the ‘small’ and ‘cute’ restaurant there was place for privacy, just like the group preferred. Everyone was calling Clair again and chatting and having a good time.

When the time came that the actual dinner started to arrive at our table, I looked up to prepare a toast. I stood up and lifted my glass and looked at my group. From my point of view, I could see everyone and with my back to the wall I could look straight through the restaurant and watch the door and the terrace too. I opened my mouth to start my speech … then my eyes widened and my mouth stayed open, but no sound came out.

As one, the whole group turned their heads and looked where I was staring at!

Who was sitting there right outside the restaurant on the terrace? Clair!

Everyone (except me, my mouth was still open) stormed out of the restaurant to get to Clair, who didn’t seem to notice anything … yet. She was sitting quietly enjoying her cola, until she was almost molested by 29 women, storming from the restaurant and screaming and yelling “Clair! Clair! Clair“.

The restaurant owner was not amused that a group of women suddenly turned into a bunch of screaming barbarians attacking his customers on his terrace and all of that without paying!

Three hours later we came finally home totally disheveled, tired, exhausted, where we found Clair and Junior sitting on the sofa watching TV and eating pizza.

What happened? We found the mysterious Clair, Clair the ghost, and she was not our Clair, Clair number 1 or Clear being sick. After she was almost molested by us, we explained that we were sorry and it was a mistaken identity, which caused us to react so rude. We tried to explain that to the owner of the restaurant too, so we resumed our dinner. And we had dinner with Clair the ghost. Clair the ghost came from Peru, visiting her family in Jerusalem and her name was Petra.

For your information, their tour cost them $800 per person for 10 days all-in and was custom designed and brought from from the north to the south of Israel.

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