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Eilat: a Peaceful Resort Lodged between Egypt and Jordan

A Dolphinarium in Eilat
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  A Dolphinarium in Eilat

Stepping onto the holy soil of Israel is probably akin to the feeling medieval travellers got upon opening the gates of a large and colourful, yet heavily guarded fortress city. The gatekeepers want to know everything: what you're planning to do here, where you'll sleep, where you've been before, what your occupation is… A few moments later, provided they don’t find you suspicious, you can start enjoying the hot sun and rather empty landscape. Before you head out, a friendly woman will also give you a map and a bottle of hand cream containing salts from the Dead Sea.

Eilat mountains
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Eilat mountains

The security gates of the Ovda Airport open and the bus winds its way to Eilat through brown mountains. The road stretches along a firmly-planted fence that marks the border with Egypt. A rigmarole of fences and lonely houses of Egyptian border guards pass through the window during the 40-minute ride. On this side of the fence, a bored Israeli soldier with a sub-machine gun flung over her shoulder observes the traffic. Yes, her shoulder – Israel’s army has an equal amount of men and women. Once again, this reminds us of how much tension this less-than-hospitable patch of land brings to the region.

One Coast, Three Cities

Harbour in the city of Aqaba
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Harbour in the city of Aqaba

Ascending the highest peak of the mountain range, one can see the palm oases, the Gulf of Aqaba and the city with its minarets, all clearly visible among the cliffs. The city of Aqaba shines from below, and Eilat is just around the corner now.

In a bigger city, these bundles of houses and hotels, located along the Red Sea would comprise no more than a small district. Here, however, all three of these are separate states. On the side of Egypt you’ll find the city of Taba, Eilat, lodged on a short strip of Israel’s coastline, the nearby border with Jordan, and Aqaba, which can be reached on foot.

An Airport in the City Centre

Eilat
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Eilat

There are certain things that all resorts share: yacht wharfs, promenades along the sea and prestigious hotel strips; beyond them – the main city street, a square and some fountains; further still – markets, shops, residential quarters and wastelands that are often located beyond the city limits. Things aren’t much different in Eilat, except here, located between the hotel strip and the main street is an airport!

Planes land right next to the Jordan border, speed along the yacht wharf and the luxurious hotels, and stop in the city centre, with a shopping mall and a large crossing right over the fence. Turning around on the tarmac, the plane casts a shadow on the cars parked by the fence, while the palm trees on the streets bend at the waist from the hot air coming out of its engines. This is one of those runways that can give you goosebumps.

Passenger plane of Israeli airline flies low over the city of Eilat
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Passenger plane of Israeli airline flies low over the city of Eilat

Coral Reefs near the Sea Harbour

In 1948, as soon as the state of Israel was established, Eilat immediately began building its harbour and developing the tourism industry. In 1985, the city became a free economic zone. Now, Eilat is a rapidly-developing city with plans to soon build a high-speed railway that will connect the harbour with Tel Aviv. Reaching the resort by train will be even faster, and commerce in the city should pick up speed. There are also plans to develop hotel and catering services, different parts of the city and infrastructure.

Tube Coral. shot in the Red Sea
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Tube Coral. shot in the Red Sea

The inhabitants of the Red Sea are the only ones not too happy about the new developments. In Eilat, just like in every other settlement along the coast, the sea is teeming with different life forms and colour. Located in a row behind the harbour, here you’ll find a number of beaches, a dolphinarium, a coral reef and a sea park.

Day tickets to the Coral World park are about 8 USD. Additional fees are charged for diving masks and other forms of entertainment both under and above the surface. In comparison to the prices for other services in Israel, Coral World is, without a doubt, the most impressive park for the price. On the other hand, Eilat’s coral reefs are nowhere near as big as in some of the other parts of the world. The best thing about them is that they’re located very close to the shore, barely submerged in water, which makes them easy to explore even for those who are terrified of diving.

Panorama coastline of Red sea from coral reef
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Panorama coastline of Red sea from coral reef

If you want to save some money, though, I’d recommend you go for the beaches located next to the Coral World. These are free of charge and, needless to say, the fish are not enclosed in nets. Even though you won’t see any corals here, all the fish swimming under the structure of a local café or among the concrete blocks of the pavement at a beach are certainly no disappointment, and all you have to do is rent a diving mask. Moreover, once you’re back on shore, you can go sunbathing and sipping coffee or cocktails while listening to live music – even in December...

Eilat is an excellent place to learn deep diving with oxygen tanks, and to swim with dolphins – just be prepared to pay quite a few extra shekels for that.

East Eilat beach
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  East Eilat beach

Despite one’s desire to stay here for longer, steep prices (just a kebab at a diner is 9-10 EUR here), the sense of the city being mashed together (it’s got both an airport and a harbour) and the lack of space (beaches located near shopping malls and the buildings shining all around) soon drives many travellers to head out and go deeper inland, or leave altogether and visit Jordan or Egypt.

Once back at the airport, ready to head back home, try not to lie about going somewhere or doing something – stay relaxed and give straight answers, or you might be taken to a separate room and interrogated. Worst case scenario, you won’t be allowed to return.

Comments (1)

Linda PetersS   2 years ago  Edited
Hi, A Peaceful Resort Lodged between Egypt and Jordan Travel stories. Stepping onto the holy soil of Israel is probably akin to the feeling medieval travellers got upon opening the gates of a large and colourful, yet heavily guarded fortress city. In a bigger city, these bundles of houses and hotels, located along the Red Sea would comprise no more than a small district. Here, however, all three of these are separate states. On the side of Egypt you’ll find the city of Taba, Eilat, lodged on a short strip of Israel’s coastline, the nearby border with Jordan, and Aqaba, which can be reached on foot.I with agree your post…