Saturday, July 25, 2015

Eilat, Israel: Gateway to Jordan

Drew and I arrived in the city of Eilat after a 3+ hour bus ride from the Dead Sea. Eilat is on the southernmost coast of Israel, and is situated on the Red Sea. Which Drew mentioned was our 3rd sea we've touched in a week (Mediterranean, Dead, and Red). Yay seas.

What It's All About:
Eilat is so pretty - it's bordered by these gorgeous red mountains and is close to both the borders of Jordan and Egypt.  A ton of the coastline is beach and it's a popular vacation destination for families (when I booked our hotel, there was super limited availability). And the boardwalk is just like Atlantic City, filled with carnival rides and food stands and shopping, and mobbed with families and childrens and teens.  Never mind that I've never been to Atlantic City; it's what I've always imagined it to be like.

Lastly, and probably the most important point, is there is a dolphin reef where you can swim with dolphins (eee!). And lots of snorkeling. Again, not like we did any of this - purely from my very cute animated tourist map.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • The drive down to Eilat was desert as far as the eye could see.  The farther south we drove, the closer the road got to the Jordan border - there were a lot of warning signs that the border was close and the roads were not passable through the border. 
Desert drive
Our hotel room had the prettiest views of the mountains and Red Sea
  • We walked down to the boardwalk for dinner. The boardwalk was full of hotels, rides, cafes, those cheesy stores filled with cheap beachwear, clubs with weird lasers, etc. 

Just like (what I imagine looks exactly like) Atlantic City
The craziest thing to me is that it was this fun vacation/family/beach atmosphere, but then all the shopping mall entrances had metal detectors and security everywhere
  • The next morning, we started our journey to cross the Israel/Jordan border and southernmost checkpoint by land.  Will be detailing that in a separate post here.
  • And then we got to Jordan!  We got a cab for the 2+ hour drive to Wadi Musa, a town right outside the ancient lost city of Petra and our next stop.  The Jordanian landscape was so pretty -  it was filled with rose-colored rock formations, and ANIMALS.
Prettiest rock formations in Jordan
CAMELS BY THE ROAD. Drew may have asked the taxi to stop so we could take photos, and then poked me awake.... because he knows that I love camels
This looks like a horse but I swear it's a camel
  • Our cab driver was awesome - having noted the fact that we love photos, he stopped again at a scenic overlook of the valleys.
Jordan valleys

And then we passed a herd of goats on the road
  • And then we got to Wadi Musa.....next stop, Petra!  
Wadi Musa

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • The second we stepped into Jordan, the people changed instantly.  They were all super curious where we were from, and when we told them, it was almost always followed with a "I love America!"  Also, apparently NBA is big there.....because when Drew and I told them we were from Boston/New York, they'd go, "Celtics! Knicks!"  In the first day we were in the country, I think we had at least 3 separate conversations about the NBA. Random. Yet awesome.
  • So many security checkpoints. Both Israel and Jordan, there are tons of security checkpoints on the highways and roads - you just kind of get used to men dressed in military uniforms with guns stopping your car and checking things out. A constant reminder as to the part of the world we were in.
  • Jordan has these groups of Arab tribes called bedouins - they were historically nomadic and lived all over the desert. Many of these tribes are more modernized now, but still retain some of their cultural/living practices today (think of a Jordan-version of gypsies).  We saw groups of them as we drove down the highway.  Anyways, as a tourist, an incredibly cool thing you can do is stay in a bedouin camp (look it up!).  You get to stay in a tent out in the middle of the desert, ride camels, etc. - and the bedouin tribe will cook for you and everything. It's apparently amazing. I wanted to do it so badly, but it didn't fit into our timeframe =(  Next time, Jordan.

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