Sun and Sand in Israel
Trip Start May 01, 2010
33Trip End Jul 10, 2010
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Well from the reports we are getting it sounds like you are all freezing down there while we are baking!
Well after some days in ancient Jerusalem our next stop was the smaller though much more modern city of Tel Aviv which lies on the coast of Israel on the Mediterranean. Originally we had planned to take a taxi to the bus station in Jerusalem, then a shared taxi (Sharut) to Tel Aviv bus station and then a taxi from there to our hotel. On the way to the Jerusalem bus station though our taxi driver offered to take us all the way to our hotel in Tel Aviv for around $20 more than our original plan which we decided to accept. We are glad we did because it was so nice to just head straight to the hotel rather than loading and unloading luggage and waiting around for the shared taxi to fill up etc.
Our hotel in Tel Aviv was a converted cinema in the Bauhaus style which Tel Aviv is known for. The cinema theme was pervasive throughout the hotel with old projectors and movie equipment everywhere, old silent movies showing in the lobby and free popcorn! Even the room lighting looked like stage lighting and our chair was of course a director’s chair. The best thing about the place though was the air-conditioning! After sweating through the night it was great to walk into a cool room after a day out in the heat.
We didn’t have any sightseeing planned for Tel Aviv (we have done as much as we can take for the moment) and instead planned on making the most of the beach and modern shops and restaurants. We spent our first afternoon looking around the area surrounding our hotel. We were very close to a major mall, lots of restaurants and the beach. We immediately noticed how much more modern Tel Aviv is compared to Jerusalem. The streets are clean and the buildings well maintained. The attitudes of the locals seem to be more modern too with girls wearing beach wear like shorts and singlets which would have caused offence in Jerusalem. In fact during the whole time we were in Tel Aviv we saw only a few orthodox Jews, a few hijabs and not even one burqa. Such a contrast to Jerusalem, it’s like a separate country
The first night we decided to try a sushi place (Super Sushi) for dinner which was just around the corner and the menu had pictures! We were actually surprised that the sushi was quite good and a nice change from the Middle Eastern food we had been eating. All the young Israelites here seem to speak at least basic English which helped when ordering. The only disappointing thing about the sushi was that it was kosher so no prawns, crab or eel. Dessert was my usual ice-cream which they sell here which is vanilla ice-cream sandwiched between two large chocolate chip biscuits. So good!
We woke up the next day to some very mild weather (around 29) perfect for the beach. The beach was only 10 minutes walk away and along the way noticed dozens of Cafes. There seems to be a real beach and Cafe culture here with plenty of people out and about. Seeking some food first we saw a line of people queuing for two different takeaway stands so being curious we each joined a queue and met back at a table. Ly had ended up with a vegetarian style pita with eggplant, salad, pickles and the omnipresent hummus while I had ended up with a falafel with the usual salads, pickles and hummus. It was pretty tasty and I’m sure a falafel connoisseur would tell you whether it was worth lining up for or not.
After the Greek Islands and the Red Sea I wasn’t expecting much of a beach but I was pleasantly surprised. It was large, not completely covered in deck chairs and the sand was similar in quality to a Sydney beach. In fact the whole place reminded us a bit of a Sydney beach with lots of people tanning themselves black and lots of young locals strutting around trying to impress each other
Occasionally I went for a swim but the beach was patrolled by an annoying guy in a large tower with a powerful microphone. Every time someone looked like they were having fun he would publicly reprimand them over the loud speakers first in Hebrew and then in English. The problem was he was always so vague that you didn’t know who he was talking to or what they were doing wrong. Usually it was something said with a thick Israeli accent in an amusing way like ‘Hey you....Don’t do that....You are very naughty’. The waves were large but not powerful and several times ‘someone’ (who may have been me) was told off for going out too far. He was obviously the beach division of the Israeli fun police. The water was almost too warm and unfortunately there were some sort of stingers in the water which were a minor annoyance. There were also some jellyfish bigger than my head (that’s pretty big) which I tried to stay away from. I kept imagining a big wave picking one up and depositing it on my face so whenever I saw one I gave it PLENTY of space.
We went back to the hotel for a quick shower and then off to the mall to see a movie. As you probably know Ly is a big fan of Sex and the City and the second movie came out while we had been travelling. We missed its release in most countries and it was not showing in others but here it was showing several times a day in English so jackpot for Ly. The billboards had been banned in Israel because they contained the word Sex in it so we were worried that the movie might be heavily censored. We had seen some censored TV in Egypt and it was ridiculous. The scenes didn’t even make sense because even innocent pecks on the check had been cut out so as not to offend. When we asked the guy on our hotel front desk if the movie would be censored he politely replied ‘This is not Iran sir, the movie will not be censored’! Maybe people were offended because there were only a few people in the whole cinema. Ly was so happy to finally see the movie and judging by what was shown it was definitely NOT censored.
The next day we decided again to make the most of the great weather and hit the beach. The man on the speaker was hard at it again telling everyone off. We found sun lounges and decided to try a Shisha or Hookah as they are also know which is essentially a water pipe for pipe for smoking flavoured tobacco. It is a very common thing in this part of the world and almost every restaurant offers them. There are many flavours such as watermelon, peach and even cola but opted for the common apple flavour. I can’t say I enjoyed it that much and it’s probably more suited to a dark bar or lounge at night rather than on a bright sunny beach during the middle of the day but it was nice to try. The apple flavour wasn’t strong but it was there and thankfully contained a lot less nicotine than what would be in a normal cigarette.
We went to an Italian restaurant for dinner just for a change and caught a bit of world cup action on the TV. I don’t know if it is because the cup is in Africa or what but there are TVs and talk of the world cup everywhere. As soon as I say we are Australian people comment on how we have been going in the cup and even know who we play next and when! For some reason a lot of the locals fly Brazilian flags from their homes and cars although I’m not sure what the link is between them and the Middle East! I guess everyone likes to pick a good team (apart from me in my work world cup tipping).
On our last day I had a bit of trouble finding something to eat because it was a Saturday which is the Shabbat (Sabbath) which in Israel means a lot of things are closed. Buses even stop running and almost all shops are closed. You normally have to pay a bit extra for taxis etc. I eventually found a restaurant which was open and could give me takeaway and then we jumped in a cab to Ben Gurion airport. Security was tight at the airport as expected and we flew back to Eilat the Israeli town sandwiched between Jordan and Egypt which we had flown to Jerusalem from.
When we arrived at the airport we took a taxi to the Jordanian border crossing. The crossing was actually pretty painless, it seems the Israelis don’t care so much about security when you are LEAVING their country. So with our flight landing in Eilat at 15:30 we were at our hotel in the Jordanian town of Aqaba by 16:30. Nice and easy.
As you may notice we are slowly catching up on our blog entries. Can you believe we have been away two months and will be back in two weeks! We can’t.
We will be seeing you soon.
Daniel + Ly