Eilat, the City of Promise
BY Lee Saunders DATE 01/03/2017
History is read in books but the future is written by those with imagination, and Eilat, Israel’s beautiful desert city, has a bold future ahead, as one of Israel’s shimmering jewels.
In April 2017, a new international airport is due to open in the Timna Valley, southern Israel, while the government continues to discuss the introduction of a string of casinos in the city, following in the footsteps of Eilat’s glitzy desert sister, Las Vegas, Nevada. However, even before any of these plans begin to materialize, there is a range of fascinating musical, entertainment and healthy pursuits to delight any visitor.
Eilat is the destination in Israel for live music
As the year kicks off, Eilat is the destination in Israel for live music. Classical music aficionados can celebrate the Eilat Chambers Music Festival, a regular fixture in Eilat’s cultural calendar, and one of the leading international music festivals worldwide.
For the fifth consecutive year, the Dan Hotels chain is the main sponsor of the event and the Dan Eilat Hotel hosts both the festival itself and guests looking for luxurious accommodation and tantalizing food throughout. In 2015, Dan Eilat was chosen by Conde Nast Traveler magazine readers as one of the five best resort hotels in the Middle East for 2015.
The Eilat Chambers Music festival continues to earn rave reviews and attracts newer and larger audiences from Israel and around the world, previously hosting renowned artists, including Hollywood stars John Malkovich and Sir Roger Moore.
In addition to hosting first-rate soloists, violinists and many other international music groups, there are masterclasses and workshops for opera singers throughout the festival, which takes place in February every year.
Established at the initiative of maestro Valery Gergiev, the Red Sea Classical Music Festival is also held at the beginning of every year at the port of Eilat. Around 300 orchestras, leading choirs and soloists perform in the sunshine city, supported by the Mariinsky Orchestra of St. Petersburg while the ClassiCameri Festival also features all of the greats, including Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert and Mozart.
As the classical music winds down, the city buzzes with singers, bands, string quartets, legendary bassists, trumpeters and saxophonists, such as Oded Tzur, who brings his American and Indian influences to entertain fans at the 7th Winter Red Sea Jazz Festival, one of the most prestigious festivals in Eilat, also every February.
There is no letup in entertainment as Eilat revs up its musical engines again throughout the spring. The Fattal Rock Festival comes to town between 23 and 25 March when rock lovers will head for the desert to hear artists, including Ivri Lider, one of Israel’s biggest-selling contemporary artists, as well as 80s stars Arkady Duchin and influential band T-Slam.
Eilat pays homage to the influence of salsa at a parade celebrating the passionate Latin American dance while the Mizrahi dance festival features some of the most prominent names in the field of Mizrahi music, every January. The city’s annual Pride festival, held now for more than a decade, continues to tempt visitors with a range of music, parties and high revelry every May.
Thousands flock to explore the city and attend popular family shows such as WOW Eilat, one of the city’s hottest and longest running attractions. A short walk from both the Dan Eilat and the Dan Panorama Eilat, the show has been dazzling visitors with breathtaking dancers, comedians and acrobats from all around the world throughout the year for more than 15 years.
Every August, there is a heartwarming three-day Yemenite festival comprising authentic music, food and costumes from one of Israel’s thriving minority communities. Every September, visitors rush to experience the electric atmosphere and see the impressive production and workshops put on by the BatSheva Dance Company at a festival in Timna Park, near Eilat.
The following month, street performers, musicians, circus performer, jugglers also keep visitors entertained at a free live three-day street festival to mark the festival of Sukkot.
Eilat is Israel’s Atlantis
If you want to take a well-earned break from the music and sounds above ground, there are many opportunities to explore all that lies beneath. Hidden treasures glimmer underneath the water’s surface, inviting snorkelers and divers to enjoy spectacular views beneath the Red Sea.
Away from the distractions of the world outside, be as close to nature as you possibly can be by taking a memorable dive at the Coral Beach Nature Reserve, a world of technicolor, a short drive south of the Dolphin Reef Eilat, a unique ecological site around the world where visitors magically bond with dolphins in their natural habitat, choosing either to snorkel or dive among these more intelligent mammals.
If you are feeling somewhat bolder, the Underwater Observatory Marine Park boasts Sharks World, the largest shark pool in the Middle East, allowing visitors to witness the fascinating world of 20 types of sharks, including tiger, fox and hammerhead sharks, up close and personal – but not too close! Offering spectacular views of the Gulf of Eilat, the Marine Park also offers you a mesmerizing display of more than 800 species of fish, coral, stingrays, turtles and much more as well as the opportunity to take a short cruise on the Coral 2000, a glass bottom boat, to capture amazing views of the coral and see Mother Nature at her finest.
Capture these views on camera and you can submit them to Eilat’s popular underwater photography competition.
Camels and Jeeps – Eilat’s own taxis!
If you wanted to get around and explore as Mother Nature intended – on foot – or with a little help, Eilat has many options. There are many tours but we recommend three, in particular.
There is an easy two-hour free guided tour of ‘Eilat: Past, Present and Future,’ which explores Eilat’s journey from in front of The Eilat Tourist Office, also just ten minutes on foot to the Eilat City History Museum on Yotam Street.
For the more adventurous, a three-hour ‘Nature Tour’ takes you every Monday morning from the Ice Mall starting point, through the flora, fauna and a Bird Watching Park, exploring one of the most fascinating natural and geological regions.
Every Tuesday, there is a challenging four-hour Hiking Tour up to the peak of Mount Tzfachot, offering superb views of the four countries whose borders meet around the Gulf of Eilat: Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. This tour begins from the Camel Ranch, located in Eilat Mountain Nature Reserve, from where you can also join unique desert tours, just ten minutes from the center of Eilat.
In addition to Camel Safaris, which Camel Ranch has been running for 30 years, there are Donkey Carts and a fun Rope Park, the largest of its kind in Israel, will keep children and adults entertained for hours.
For those adrenalin-seekers, who want to go a little faster, there is a popular international triathlon in Eilat, every year, challenging the fittest to swim, bike and run.
While Eilat offers many exciting and adrenalin-filled activities for all the family, there is no substitute for just chilling out and enjoying the city’s food, shopping and nightlife if you just want to take it easy.
Close to both the Dan Eilat and Dan Panorama Eilat, the enormous dome-shaped Ice Mall offers an escape from the heat, combining two floors of fashion stores and dining options with an ice skating rink its centerpiece, while there is a diverse and inexpensive shopping experience at Mall Hayam, due to Eilat’s status as a Free Trade Area.
A popular weekly market every Friday sells an array of local products and foods, while the city is home to many restaurants and bars, among them wonderful seafood restaurants, such as Fish Market, dishing up some of the freshest produce from the sea to the plate, Rak Dagim, offering an delicious menu, relaxing music and excellent service, and the delightful and ambient Pedro Market Restaurant, which provides a mix of meat and fish dishes in a residential area, away from the tourist center.
Fifth Avenue, a short walk from the Dan Eilat, is one of the newest and most enjoyable venues in Eilat. Drawing its inspiration from the five boroughs of New York, Fifth Avenue offers an array of mouthwatering cocktails, sumptuous food and live music, once again a regular feature of Eilat’s diverse offering.
With such a range of activities, it is not hard to see why Israel’s beautiful desert city continues to shine.
Written by Lee Saunders