Wadi Nisnas is a neighborhood in Haifa. And if you are a foodie and love middle eastern cuisine, you should tour this area.
Table of Contents
- 1 Map
- 2 Parking
- 3 About
- 4 When to visit Wadi Nisnas?
- 5 Wadi Nisnas Market
- 6 Restrooms
- 7 Food Stores and Restaurants
- 8 Abd al-Hadi Sweets
- 9 Street Art
- 10 Summary
Wadi Nisnas is located in Haifa. It is situated near the German Colony – the lower entrance to Bahai Gardens. And though it is a neighborhood, people mostly visit Wadi Street and several nearby alleys.
Map of the area:
Note: in this section, I wanted to mention the route of flavors of Wadi Nisnas according to Gil Hovav. You can find the map here.
Finding parking at Wadi Nisnas is not an easy task. Thus I usually look for parking in the surrounding streets. Here are several options:
- There are several paid parking lots along HaGanim Street (keep in mind that it is a one-way street). Or park a little further away, like Derekh Yafo 104 and Tel Aviv Street, and walk from there.
- There is a big parking lot by the sail tower, near Natanzon Street 20.
Wadi Nisnas is a formerly mixed Jewish and Arab neighborhood in the city of Haifa in northern Israel, which is becoming mixed again. Nisnas is the Arabic word for mongoose, an indigenous animal. The wadi has a population of about 8,000 inhabitants.
Wadi Nisnas was developed at the end of the nineteenth century as a Christian-Arab neighborhood outside the walls of Haifa, after 1948 the neighborhood become the center of the Haifa Arab community, providing the community with education, religious, and other civic and cultural services. The current Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics census estimates that 66% of the Wadi Nisnas population are Christians, 31.5% are Muslims, and the rest are Jews.
When to visit Wadi Nisnas?
You can visit this neighborhood all year round, but my favorite time is during The Holiday of Holidays (celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, and the month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr). The Holiday of Holidays is an annual festival that takes place during December. And in that time, streets and houses will be decorated, and the weather will be pleasant.
Also, since most of the population is Christian, many places will be closed on Sunday. Thus visit on other days of the week.
Wadi Nisnas Market
Most of the market is located along Yohanan Hakadosh Street, and you can start at Yohanan Hakadosh Street 29 and head to the south (towards the meeting point with Wadi Street).
The market itself is small. Thus most people and tours combine it with other nearby places (which we will mention later).
Wadi Nisnas Market does not have official opening hours since every store has its times. But the best time for a visit, when most places in the market are open, is:
Monday – Saturday: 09:00 – 16:00
Note: neither the Haifa municipality website nor Nisnas official site list any hours.
Tours and Tasting Cards
What is unique in this market?
Wadi Nisnas Market is different than other markets. Its uniqueness is that local Christians own most stores and have unique cuisine. Let’s go over several examples.
Abu Elias` Vegetable Shop
At Yohanan Hakadosh Street 33, you can find Abu Elias` vegetable shop.
Fruits and vegetables are the same everywhere. But besides the standard products, you can find nonstandard greens and vegetables.
The Abu Elias family Basta looks like another one of the few vegetable shops here in Wadi. But those with interest will stop for a moment to look at the impressive offer of the fruits and vegetables and the special leaves at the front of the store. Today Ayub and Elias, along with their sons, continue to supply goods to the store that the father founded many years ago.
In front of the store, on one of the only benches on Yochanan HaKodush is the “Parliament of the market,” which is Umm Elias and her friends who sit opposite and greet every passerby with a smile. But in fact, they prepare many orders for the store. Drained zucchini for cooking and eggplants for stuffing or pickling are tasks that Haifa women prefer to leave to them. They will already get everything ready for filling.
In the store itself, there is a very impressive seasonal produce of vegetables such as Armenian cucumber, white pumpkin, black-eyed pea, okra, and more.
Za`atar – fresh moss, sorrel leaves, regela, hoveza, chicory, bull`s tongue, and more. In the season, you can find cherries, Massachavi apricots, plowed – small and wonderful bloody melons, figs from local Arab varieties, and everything natural, not sprayed, not genetically modified, a disappearing paradise that exists right here in Haifa in Wadi. Inside the store, Elias will also be happy to show you other products such as homemade pickles, a sweet and special carob concentrate, as well as honey and vinegar that are produced right here in the area.
Source: official site
In the following photo (to the right), you can see Umm Elias and her friends preparing vegetables:
On the opposite side of this vegetable store, you can find several places that sell prepared food. You can purchase ready meals or just several pastries. One of these places is the grandma project.
When you get to the heart of the market on Yohanan Hakadosh, you will hear music playing in the background, and from inside the store, Samira will smile at you from the wallpaper on the wall. She and her daughters Soha, Samia, and Sana, born in the Wadi, created the Savtush project here. On the one hand, a project commemorates Samira but on the other hand, grandma’s food. Sometimes you can see brother Sami around who comes to lend a hand, but most of the time, it ends with his help not being wanted. Here you see women’s handiwork. Two of the sisters are twins: Sana and Soha. Soha is vegan since 2010 is a topic that is less known in Arab society but is becoming more and more common. She came to the business quite by accident out of the desire to help her sister Sana.
Sana, who left a comfortable life in the United States, returned to Israel when her mother did not feel well and has not left since. After she started cooking here in Wadi, she once asked her sister Soha to prepare a pot for her. The pot was finished within 3 minutes from when it was placed in front of the store, so another stew and another pot have passed through here since then. Until Soha quit her job and joined her sister instead.
The taste of Soha’s dishes has gone far and wide, and she is responsible for an entire wing of vegan Arab food, such as Koba with hummus and sunflower seeds, Iraqi Koba, hit makluba, and one of the most requested dishes – stuffed cabbage and vegan Moss-za’atar pastries. At the Sabtoosh project, you can also find okra stew, potato stuffed with meat, fatayer with spinach, and more. On weekends, the sisters look at the pots and smile triumphantly when one of the pots is being emptied. The work is not easy, they say, and admit that there are tensions and fights, but in the end, they sit together and continue to empty the zucchini because it is impossible without
Source: official site
Here are several pastries we purchased:
We are used to pastry filled with cheese, potatoes, and meat, but everything we purchased was unique. For instance, this is spinach fatayer. Unusual and tasty.
Another popular place is Coffee Haifa, also called Coffe Mustafa (Wadi Street 19 – inside a small alley between Wadi and Yohanan Hakadosh):
The shop is small and crowded and seems to belong to the beginning of the last century. In the back, you can see ancient equipment for roasting and grinding. But it is a people’s place, and everyone comes here. Sami Michael was a regular customer and Maccabi and Hapoel players and residents of the neighborhood, and customers from Haifa, as well as those who come because they have already toured the neighborhood and must not give up the place.
Always with a smile, patience, and great life wisdom, welcomes those who come. The owner of the house, Mustafa, came here with his family in the early eighties and initially worked at Sami’s on Yochanan Street. But the place was closed due to a conflict, and Mustafa, who gained enough experience, opened the place. Amongst the stories about the love of a man in any form, you can hear from him about the coffee he has been brewing here for more than thirty years, about the amazing airy halva, about the paradise candy as it is called, about tahini from Nablus, carob honey and other treasures hidden on the shelves.
Source: official site
And you can taste (or at least smell) traditional coffee with cardamom.
Note: Za’atar is one of the most popular spices, and if you want to find more, see: Herbs and Spices in Israel.
Since there are public toilets near this exit from the market, let’s elaborate a little on that subject.
There are several public restrooms in this neighborhood. The first one is on the opposite side of Emil Toma Street. And there is another near Hadad Street 20.
Food Stores and Restaurants
As I mentioned before, this is a popular place for foodies. Besides the market, there are many restaurants and food stores. And we will continue exploring this neighborhood and visit some of those places.
Victor the Fisherman
Exiting the market, we saw a tour group tasting fresh fish at Victor the Fisherman. This restaurant is located at Wadi Street 30.
In the following photo, you can see a vegetables stand at the market and a tour group at Victor the fisherman (at the bottom of the image).
If you continue walking uphill at Wadi Street, you will find several bakeries and stores. But most food places are situated down the street. So let’s head there.
Falafel Michel and Falafel of the Elders (on the opposite side of the street) are among the most famous places in Wadi Nisnas. I ate at both several times, and usually, there was a long line at both locations.
The place has been run for 37 years by Michel himself, who also opens it every morning and puts his heart and soul into each and every dish. The place was recently renovated, and it looks modern and clean, with a calm and bright atmosphere on the place that can accommodate more people on the inner and upper levels where the kitchen is also located. With the opening of the place in 1984, there was always a fight for the crown against the falafel of the Elders. Who is the best falafel in Wadi?
But Michel has respect for his neighbors across the street and focuses on making falafel for his customers who come back and enjoy his flavors. In the 1990s, Michel tried to expand with many branches in the center and in the north, but he realized that “more assets, more concern” and slowly returned and reduced to this branch in Wadi, and his son built another branch on Derech Jaffa Street in the lower city. This is the only branch where Michel makes the falafel himself. The other branches that bear the express name only purchase his mixture.
Source: official site
Falafel Michel is situated on Wadi Street 21.
Note: in the photo above, near falafel Michel, you can see Hummus Alsham. It is also a popular place.
Falafel of the Elders
The old institution “Falafel of the Elders” is considered by many to be one of the best falafel institutions in Israel. The place was opened already in the early fifties. The founders of the Haifa falafel are an elderly couple without children named George and Najala Afara, Haifa Arabs called the place Najala, and it never had a sign in front. The Jews of Haifa, from then until today, have always said, “let’s go to the elders.” One of the customers of the place, Afif Sabit, decided in the early eighties to put a sign in place, and the name caught on, and from then until today, people come from the north and the center to taste the legendary falafel, which has become a real, local institution.
In the early fifties, Najala and her husband lived in the alley next to the place. Najala decided to earn a living by selling falafel, and she had a recipe and some other recipe… They say that the couple used to prepare a fixed amount of falafel paste every day in their home, and in the place itself, which was tiny, they just fried the balls. The residents of the Wadi remember the long line that stretched every day due to the slow pace of the “old men.” That’s how the place worked, and by 13:00, there was no more pulp left, or it was time to go to rest, and those who bought bought.
At the end of 1984, one of the falafel customers decided to buy the place and the secret recipe from Angela and George, who were already tired of managing and operating the place. His name is Afif Sevit.
Source: official site
Falafel of the Elders is located at Wadi Street 18.
If we continue with Wadi Street downhill, then at Khuri Street 38, you can find Abu Shkara.
Abu Shkara is a butcher shop which operates for more than thirty years. And besides purchasing fresh meat, you can also eat there. You make an order, sit on the stools outside and watch how your food is prepared.
And here is one of the sandwiches we ordered:
It had a mix of different meats, vegetables, and salads.
And now, after eating at several places, it is time for dessert. But if you are still hungry, here are several honorable mentions:
- Umm Sabri Bakery – Wadi Street 44
- Huri Bakery – Khuri Street 43
- Shawarma Emil – Derech Allenby 33
- Mama Pita – Derech Allenby 57
- Shawarma Sabbah – Derech Allenby 37
Abd al-Hadi Sweets
Many stores sell sweets. Here are the most known:
- Abd al-Hadi Sweets – Sh’Hada Street 3
- Konditoria Hamizrach – Derech Allenby 34
- Abbasoglu – Oriental sweets (mainly Turkish sweets) – Derech Allenby 19
Here are several photos from Abd al-Hadi Sweets:
If you are looking for a particularly delicious Knafeh, it is worth entering Abd al-Hadi sweets. You will find here mountains of all good things – Knafeh, baklava, and an array of other oriental sweets. You can also order strong Turkish coffee on the spot. If there are free places, you can eat inside, and if not, you can ask them to pack for you and eat wherever you want.
Abd al-Hadi Sweets is a well-known Arab sweet establishment from Nazareth. They have a huge variety of baklava on all existing types, with pistachio and peanut fillings. Dry cookies and jam and more.
Source: official site
Abd al-Hadi Sweets is located near Saint Elijah Cathedral:
As I mentioned, most food places are situated downtown. In this section, we will walk uphill on Wadi Street and see what you can find there.
Here are several photos of the upper section of Wadi Street:
You can also find signs and art by Museum Without Doors:
Over the years, I have visited many times at Wadi Nisnas, which was always a tasty and unique experience. Also, most places are open on Saturdays, which is a big plus.
For attractions, you can browse the interactive map at the top of this post.
Have you ever been to Wadi Nisnas? Tell us in the comments below.
That’s all for today, and I’ll see you in future travels!
For additional points of interest nearby, see Haifa.
Additional ResourcesHere are several resources that I created to help travelers:
- Israel Trip Planner is the page that will help you to create your perfect travel route.
- National Parks And Nature Reserves page lists and put all national parks on the map. There is also a top list, information about ticket types and campsites.
- If you are looking for things to do, here are the pages for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Sea Of Galilee, and Makhtesh Ramon.
- Wondering what events are there in Israel? Here is the Events And Festivals By Season guide.