As night grips Jerusalem’s walled Old City, its ancient alleyways become a ghost town of haunting shadows and light.
Mornings used to reveal bright picture-postcard scenes of tourists from around the world stopping to buy souvenirs at Palestinian shops as they made their way to biblical sites holy to Jews.
But a modern-day plague, the coronavirus pandemic, is now keeping the visitors away from the Old City and bringing hardship and heartbreak to residents.
“In previous years, the city used to be filled with tourists during Christmas time. But now, at around 5 p.m. it becomes empty,” said Hisham Qweder, 40, a computer technician.
The light from a juice bar, still open at night, is a beacon to customers along a virtually deserted pathway.
Before the pandemic struck, overseas tourism had been booming in Jerusalem, whose Old City was captured by Israel in a 1967 war.
Khaled Salfiti, a 70-year-old souvenir shop owner, recalls how the Old City used to be “vibrant and alive” before a series of coronavirus lockdowns.
“Corona paralysed everything,” he lamented.