Our very early bus journey brought us to the southern tip of Israel. Shaped like a spear between the borders of Jordan and Egypt and a hot bed for Israeli tourism due to the desert weather with a beach side setting.
For us this was a stop off on our continued journey towards Jordan, but offered 3 full days of relaxation in the sun and beside the sea as well as he pleasures of the evening atmosphere.
The heat and humidity hit us as soon as we left the bus. That, twinned with the sea air, made me think that Eilat would be the ideal place for a holiday for my mum (except everyone at home thinks we are dodging bombs because of what the media is telling us).
We checked in at the hostel where we were greeted by a very passive aggressive hostess and her husband whom appeared to be painting canvas paintings with colour clashes my class would be proud of.
Upon leaving the hostel to venture out we witnessed him having a very angry exchange with a young boy. I think a slipper was involved but I won’t be testament to that in court.
We spent our first evening familiarising ourselves with the small city, so small that the airport almost joins the beach. We were shocked to find that Eilat, referred to by many Israelis as a party town, was quiet. We initially put this down to arriving on the eve of Shabbat. But through discussions with the locals the parties kick off around 11. Despite our best efforts we didn’t make it to the parties that night. Instead we found ourselves watching the sun go down from the lovely beach with a nice local beer in our hands – enclosed by the coast of Egypt to our west and Jordan to our east.
Our second early night in a row meant we were in top condition for our Saturday in Eilat. Much like the previous Saturday and Shabbat we took advantage of the beach as the majority of business are shut during the sabbath.
As a result we were able to lounge in the 40 degree heat once more with the occasional dip in the Red Sea. This meant that within a week we had swam in the Med, Dead and Red seas. The unforgiving heat took its toll on my pastey white chest. Despite this constant exposure to sun I don’t seem to be tanning. I think my sister picked up then ‘I tan easily’ gene I always thought I had.
Naturally, as we were still in Israel, our only two budget lunch options were Shawarma or falafel. We went meat this time. In fact, we had used the previous day to stock up on food and prepared tuna pasta and sandwiches for all of our other meals. One criticism of our trip so far would be that we have been priced out of being experimental with food. Israel is the most expensive place I think I’ve ever travelled.
Having had enough of the sun a we visited a bar named ‘Mikes Place’ for the opening day of the football league season. Unfortunately for James, Birmingham didn’t start in the best of forms.
Keen to take advantage of the cities famous nightlife, but reluctant to pay the £12 a pint prices in the bars, we took a step back in time and bought a cheap bottle of vodka to drink at the hostel (which later turned out to be sambuka).
At the hostel we had a new resident in our room, Yohan of Sweden. He had just arrived from Jordan and was keen to join us in our night antics. With his help we managed to drink the bottle and head towards the beach front for about 11pm. Our preparation in the room meant we had little desire to drink the £12 beers in the bar. Whilst looking for a table to sit at we spotted a group of Israeli ‘lads’ smoking shisha. We asked if we could sit in the spare chairs at the end of their table.
They were initially quite cautious about 3 foreigners sitting on their table. Yet, after a few brief conversations with them they accepted us into their clique and we spent the remainder of the night with them. Each of them spoke English to varying abilities. They were all friends and Jewish but their families originated from all over Europe. Other than being Jewish and Israeli they were all united by one thing: the Israel Defence Forces. Each man had served his national service and spoke passionately about the army (just like everyone seems to here). Their nationalism was as endearing as it was frightening. The biggest guy in the group, referred to as ‘The Tank’ and ‘Sherman’ by the others was the best English speaker. He was able to share all of his experiences in Gaza as the others topped up his anecdotes with their own stories.
Aside from the military ‘banter’ the group were very much like any group you would find at home, right down to the ‘he’s gay’, ‘no you’re gay’ quirks. At several points before 4am we spoke to other IDF representatives in the bar, many of them girls. In fact, most of the Israeli army are nothing more than boys and girls with guns. Some don’t look any where near old enough to use them. One group of girls we spoke to told us that they were celebrating before they start their national service the following week. They were pretty, petite and very young, and in no way typical soldiers.
We got back to the hostel after saying goodbye to our new friends at about 4am. This meant the following day started later than usual and Yohan was gone by the time I arose.
Both of us limited ourselves to the sun throughout the day and instead enjoyed the cooler shade and another shawarma kebab. By 5pm we were back at Mike’s Place to enjoy Arsenal’s comprehensive victory over Manchester City.
We ended our stay in Eilat by finishing off our Tuna inside a fresh pita, ready for our adventure into Jordan the following morning.