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14 Jan

My impressions of ISRAEL – the land of the Dead, Med and Red Sea

Subhash Motwani – Founder Director of Namaste Tourism (www.namastetourism.com) had visit Israel in 2015 and shares his first hand experience of the land of creation and creativity. Subhash is the Tourism Ambassador of Israel in India and specializes in bespoke customized tours to Israel and other niche destinations.

 Dolphin Reef

Shalom – that is the greeting you hear when you enter the land of creation and creativity. Israel has a great fusion of the Orient and the West surrounded by the three seas – Dead, Med and the Red Sea of which the Dead Sea is a lake but considered a sea due to the high level of salinity and is also the lowest point on earth at -416 meters.

 

Israel is a compact country with great diversity and our tour started closer to the Mediterranean sea and the commercial capital Tel Aviv quite similar in character to Mumbai, along the sea front and a vibrant city that never sleeps. We started our tour at the Rothschild Boulevard known for its Bauhaus Architecture and various cafes alongside. Visiting the Carmel Market open air market selling fruits and vegetables reiterates why Israel is known for its Agriculture. A visit to the Carmel Market is a must as is a visit to Nahlat Binyamin Pedestrian Mall known for its Arts and Crafts Bazaar. What amazed me is the Sarona complex that houses a centre of culture, leisure and shopping and some of the most trendy restaurants serving fine cuisine. We had a sumptuous meal before making our way to the Tel Aviv Marina which offers amazing yachting and swimming experiences.

Negev Desert

The following morning we made our way to Jaffa – a town just 20 minutes from Tel Aviv and can be accessed by road or boat and is the oldest town of Israel. It is here that the Egyptians arrived more than 4000 years ago and thru Jaffa was the gate of the Roman door almost 3000 years back. Jaffa was used as a port by the Turks and the British in 1916-17 and post the war with the Arabs in 1948, Jaffa became a free religion to all. Our first stop was in the amazing museum of Ilana Goor and the interesting thing about Jaffa is that all streets are named in the name of the Zodiac – so you can definitely find your street here. Another interesting experience was Na Lagaat which means Please Touch – and experiencing wine tasting in the dark is something very unique and a must do for any visitor.

TIMNA VALLEY

Just 45 minutes from Tel Aviv is Jerusalem – the capital of Israel and the home of the pilgrims. Any visit to Israel is incomplete without visiting Jerusalem. This city of contrasts where the walls of the Old City and the malls of the New City connects is simply out of a story book and contains shrines holy to the Jews, Muslims and Christians.

 

The drive from Jerusalem across to the Dead Sea crossing the Judean Desert is simply picturesque and en route you can visit Masada and ruins of King Herod’s mountaintop fortress built between 31 and 37 BC and last stronghold of the Jewish revolt against the Romans. An ascend by a cable car offers you a stunning vista across the Judean Desert. One can do 4×4 Jeep safaris across the desert. Those interested in experiential travel – a stay in a kibbutz is highly recommended.

 

The pearl of the south is Eilat – the town located on the Red Sea accessible by crossing the Negev highlands and the Arava Desert after visiting Masada. Eilat – the sun-drenched resort town is located between Jordan and Egypt and you can see the airport of Aqaba, Jordan as you make your way into the city which has amazing resort hotels, great adventure activities for lovers of marine life – snorkelling, scuba diving, Marine Park, Dolphin Reef and more. The highlight was the hidden treasure of Timna Valley – which is just 20 minutes from Eilat and I was simply awestruck by the magnificent valley of cliffs spanning across hundreds of metres as if touching the sky with stunning views and breathtaking scenery.

 

Israel is much beyond a destination of pilgrimage offering unique leisure and incentive Opportunities for the discerning traveler and is one of the friendliest and safest country to travel as I discovered during my short sojourn – easily accessible from India and should be high on the priority and you are guaranteed to come back with pleasant and truly memorable experiences.

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