Travels with V

Israel

Heat, cool and guns

Eilat

The next morning after breakfast we walk with our backpacks down to the main road and wait for the bus that’s going to take us via the legendary Masada rock to Eilat by the Red Sea. And later take a detour into Jordan, but we don’t know that yet…

Not yet in Eilat the bus suddenly stops in the middle of nowhere. Three young soldiers enter, machine guns in hand and they look ready to fire. All three slowly walk down the aisle and examine all passengers one by one. One of the uniformed guys has a feverish stare, like he’s high on something. Nobody talks, it’s dead quiet. The three leave the bus and we continue to Eilat.

Eilat has the look of a typical summer resort, with big hotels, lots of restaurants and bars, the snorkeling on the reefs is magnificent and the bay is swarming with kite surfers. There’s also an unusual “aquarium” by the reef, you enter it via a gangway and step down into the basement, where it’s you who is inside the aquarium looking out at the corals and fishes on the reef. 

The coral reef runs all the way along the shore and we snorkel back and forth a whole day. The water is crystal clear and teaming with colourful life.

The worst thing about Eilat is the heat. When we’re there a dry and scorching wind called “khamsin” constantly blows from the desert, pushing the thermometer up to 42 ° celsius. It’s so hot your breath makes your throat sore. The restaurants’ outdoor areas are deserted, everybody wants to be inside where it’s cool.

We do too and one evening we end up in a pub that has an excellent IPA from a local microbrewery and a band that rocks really well.

Eilat is the only stop on our journey where we stay in a hostel. We have our own room but all around there are big rooms with bunk beds, frequently occupied by noisy school kids from different parts of the world. When there’s a group of US kids there they have their own armed guard. He sits in the breakfast room with his gun visible. That doesn’t feel so good.

And speaking about breakfast, one Saturday morning something happens that we absolutely did not expect. Most of the breakfast buffet is gone. And there’s no coffee. The Manager is probably orthodox and is following the law of the shabbath, that says that on the holy day “no food may be prepared by fire”, meaning that toast, fried eggs, omelette and coffee is forbidden.

As heathens we’re allowed to heat water and mix it with coffee powder. It’s better than nothing.

Next to our place there’s a big hotel that’s totally abandoned. We see signs of a fire in one of the rooms and are curious to find out what happened. We ask an old guard that sits on a chair by our hotel entrance, gun in belt, why the hotel is empty. –A rocket, he says. Came from Sinai and it was a direct hit.

Later we ask a receptionist the same question, but in her version there was a gas explosion. And after that nobody wanted to stay there and the hotel went bankrupt. But the guard obviously wanted a story with a little more drama. And some political points.

KITESURFING IS VERY POPULAR IN EILAT
ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE BAY: AQABA IN JORDAN

Next chapter: We go on an unplanned excursion, cross a border and find a city that was forgotten.

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