Can you find Aaron in this picture? He didn’t even have to get wet to take this picture.
Near Israel’s border with Egypt and at the northern point of the Gulf of Aqaba, lies the Israeli resort city of Eliat. Here, nearly 20 years ago, Mary-Anna and I joined our Dutch cousins Randolf and Trudy at a 5 star luxury hotel. This time, our family’s visit to Eilat was brief and much less exotic.
We visited the Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat. They have many large tanks containing the variety of marine species found in the Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea. There’s also an observatory several hundred metres offshore which allows you to walk down a spiral staircase to see the coral and sea life below.
Here are some pictures of some of the other creatures encountered at the aquarium…sharks and mermaids.
The Negev desert is a harsh and foreboding place but holds beauty and intrigue as well. We traversed it from the Dead Sea to the village of Mitspe Ramon which sits on the edge of the massive crater called Makhtesh Ramon. This crater is 300 metres deep and is home to a range of wildlife, both flora and fauna. We encountered a herd of ibex next to the town.
That night, we slept in a Bedouin tent in the desert outside of the town. The altitude here is such that it actually gets cool at night. We, however, were cozy on mattresses on the ground. The Bedouin compound, which has no electricity, also includes a large tent in which guests cook their own meals on a gas stove. The night was totally quiet in the desert. Not even the fighter jets from the air force base a few kilometres away made noise that night. It was perfectly peaceful.
These and more pictures of the Negev, along with explanations of each, are found in the picture gallery on the right side of this page.
We drove to the south end of the Dead Sea where we saw mountains made of salt and beautiful flowers in a small town guarded by well-equipped Israeli soldiers, razor-wire, and land mines, never mind the scorpions and snakes that signs warned us about. This town is located next to the border with Jordan.
From what I could tell, neither our daughters nor the Israeli soldiers minded having pictures taken with each other. One of the soldiers, in fact, had us take a picture of them with his camera too.
No visit to Israel seems complete without a swim in the Dead Sea. This is a place of superlatives. It’s the lowest place on land on Earth at 400 metres below sea level and its waters are the world’s saltiest. The air feels thick and sticky. A swim is not recommended if you have any open sores since these will be very painful in the salt.
For our photos, we held our Lonely Planet Middle East guidebook, demonstrating that you can easily float and read at the same time. It’s quite a crazy feeling.
The mountain top fortress of Masada, located in the Judean desert near the Dead Sea, has a storied past. King Herod had built a magnificent, multi-level palace here that he could escape to in the event of war. The most famous story, however, is of the last Jewish resistance against invading Roman armies two thousand years ago. The Romans had laid siege to the fortress for more than a year during which they constructed a massive ramp up to the fortress walls. Upon breaching the walls, the Romans found out that the Jews had all committed suicide the night before instead of being captured and used as slaves. Today, the Israeli Defense Force, uses Masada as a symbol of their resolve to never let Masada and Israel as a whole to fall again. We took the cable car up to the top of the mountain where we explored the ruins of this ancient fortress.
Saying farewell to friends is never easy. We had gotten to know Yossi and Rina, along with their son Amir (and his family) and daughter Hagar during our stay in Israel. Their other son, Omri and his wife, were vacationing in Italy so we didn’t get to meet them.
We are so grateful to our relatives Dick and Ellie in Holland for connecting us with their good Israeli friends Yossi and Rina. Through this Israeli family, we got to see and experience so much more than if we had stayed in hotels and hostels throughout the country. We really felt very much at home at their place in Rehovot and in their incredible country. Thank you!
We returned to Jerusalem in order to visit the Western Wall (also referred to as the Wailing Wall) and to drive to the top of the Mount of Olives. From the Mount, we could get spectacular views of the Dome of the Rock and the rest of the Old City.
As always, see these and more pictures (along with explanations of each) in the picture gallery on right side of this page.