t the southern tip of Israel, where the country meets the Red Sea, is the resort city of Eilat, a bustling place that barely existed 60 years ago. From the beach at Eilat you can see 4 countries: Israel, Egypt’s Sinai to the right, Jordan to the left, and Saudi Arabia just beyond Jordan. To the north is the Negev Desert.
Archaeological findings in the area show that Eilat’s history began a great millennia ago. Over the centuries, the city was ruled by the Egyptians, the Edomites, the Nabataens, the Romans, the Byzantins, the Crusaders, the Mamelukes, the Turks and the British.
But for its present-day residents, the city was “born” on 10 March 1949, when it was conquered in a swift military campaign. Then called Umm Rash Rash, it was a desolate and sparsely populated place whose only access was overland by tortuous and difficult roads.
The ensuing six decades have seen Eilat undergo a startling transformation. From the barren, empty place that was so isolated from the rest of Israel, Eilat has been turned into a green oasis and a thriving city, easy to reach, and often called “the most beautiful and attractive resort on the Red Sea shore.”
Eilat hugs the bottom of the slopes where the Arava mountains meet the Red Sea. It has a sophisticated marina, a lagoon, lovely beaches– and many hotels clustered around them. Eilat has been called the center of the “Red Sea Riviera”, a tourist promenade purposely designed to link Jordan, Israel and Egypt. This city is the country’s southern gateway to the African continent and the Far East, and from almost anywhere in it you can see the Jordanian port of Aqaba, which shares a border with Saudi Arabia. At the southern end of the city is the port and the famous Coral Beach, with its underwater observatory, colorful shore and even more hotels. The observatory and coral reefs attract scuba divers from around the world.
Eilat is also an ideal base for visiting Jerusalem, Massada, the Dead Sea, Sinai and Jordan’s ancient city of Petra, carved out of sandstone. Each of these places can be visited in just one day, and each is well worth visiting. There are camel-back tours, jeep tours, boat cruise tours– you name it.
By far the most popular activity in Eilat, though, is sunbathing and swimming, kind of the local version of a national sport. You are free to oil yourself up at any of the several beaches scattered along the shore line, though the most popular are probably the Village Beach, pictured below, and Coral Beach to the south. All beaches in Eilat have a snack bar, bar or restaurant– sometimes all three– and lounge chairs. Some beaches offer towels, sunglasses, suntan lotions and other swimming/tanning accessories for sale. All of them are wonderful places for striking up a conversation with the locals or with other tourists from all over the world.
If you are the more active type, rest assured that you can indulge in a multitude of water sports, including wave runner, parasailing, water skiing, snorkeling and more.
Once the sun sets in a rosy glow and the last of the boats have made their way back to the marina, Eilat takes on a whole different attitude. Night spots slowly fill up with thousands of people, a profusion of colored lights are reflected in the waters of the Gulf, and an enchanted ambiance of freedom settles over the city.
Even if you are not the party type, nightlife in Eilat is hard to resist with its variety of live music, dancing and fabulous restaurants. Just strolling along the sidewalks people watching is an event in itself. If you are the party type, you may not get back to your condo until it’s time to hit the beaches again the next morning.
Shopping in Eilat is also a favorite pastime, for tourists and locals alike. Since Eilat is defined as a Duty Free Zone and most products and services are available VAT-free, you can really get down and enjoy yourself. It has modern, air-conditioned shopping malls with outlets of most of Israel’s major chain stores as well as fashion boutiques, jewelry stores, toy stores, books, sports equipment, souvenirs, and pretty much anything else you can think of. Not to be missed is the Thursday open-air market in the plaza of the City Center from 8 AM to 6 PM. The carnival atmosphere is lots of fun, and the market (sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism) sells everything under the sun at prices that can’t be beat.
While you explore this lively city and the surrounding areas, you might want to stay at the Interval International-affiliated Premier resort Eilat Club Hotel. Just a few minutes’ walk from the commercial and business centers of town, and only a few steps from the Red Sea, Club Hotel Eilat is the largest suite hotel in the Middle East and the only theme hotel in Israel designed and built around a sea theme. It offers efficiency, 1- and 2-bedroom units that sleep from 2 to 6 people.
The property extends over a spacious area of nearly 10 acres, 3 of which hold a water park containing 7 swimming pools for adults and children, Jacuzzi pools, large tan surfaces, spectacular waterfalls, fish ponds, fruit trees, entertainment platforms, playgrounds for children and more.
This modern complex boasts over 700 suites and all the amenities, making it the largest timeshare resort in the Middle East– plus an ultra friendly staff to help make your stay a pleasure.
Club Hotel is located on the Arava Road, near the tourist center. The suites are fully equipped with TV, safety deposit box, a dining area, a sunbathing balcony, and air conditioning– a necessity if you visit during the hot summers. You will also find Pirates’ Bay onsite, a huge fun and catering complex for the entire family, including: modern puppet theatre; simulation games hall with about a 100 playing machines and latest technology simulators; Teens’ Disco and the Club Hotel Band Group with exciting activities for children.
If you have always thought about visiting Israel but want to combine your interest in history, archaeology and other serious subjects with a seashore and some lightheartedness, Eilat may be your spot.
And if you are a scuba diver– well, you already know why you’d like to stay here on the Red Sea, don’t you?
Come on in. The water’s fine.
Some Web sites to explore for more information:
- http://www.explore-eilat.com/ –The official Eilat website
- http://www.eilat-city.net/eilat.aspx –Eilat city guide
- http://eilatnature.com/ –What’s up in Eilat?
- http://www.inisrael.com/tour/eilat/index.html –More good info.
- http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/vie/Eilat.html –More about Eilat
- http://www.eilatredsea.com/ –Underwater photography from Eilat
- http://www.virtualjerusalem.com/ –An excellent site for Jerusalem and the rest of Israel, “The Place Where Jews Click”
"On the Road" is a compilation of destination ideas, resort reviews, videos and more gathered from a variety of sources that includes our readers.
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