Last Wednesday morning, we headed out for our last overnight trip as a family while in Israel. It was definitely not the least of the trips as we headed down to the southernmost city of Israel—Eilat. This city sits along the coast of the Red Sea and borders Egypt on to the south, Jordan to the East, and Saudi Arabia is visible across the sea to the southeast. It is an amazing geographical sight to be able to view four countries at once, all the while enjoying the beautiful Red Sea.
The drive was about 3 ½ hours long, so once we arrived, we checked into our cozy villa about a mile from the coast, ate lunch, and headed to the beach. We went to a less crowded, but no less beautiful, beach called Coral Reserve Beach. There, you could rent snorkeling equipment and snorkel right off the beach. This was great since obviously one of us had to stay with Denyon. He’s pretty advanced but he’s not quite ready to snorkel. The Red Sea has some of the best visibility for snorkeling of all the salt bodies of water in the world due to three things: 1. Higher salt content than most (3.9% versus 3.1% in other major salt bodies). 2. Slightly cooler temperatures. 3. When the fish die, instead of floating to the top and contaminating the water, they sink to the bottom so the visibility is not impaired. So because of the great visibility, the snorkeling is amazing! It was one of those times I’d wish I’d had one of the cheap underwater disposable cameras. There were so many beautiful fish, colors, and coral. We were able to snorkel there both on Wednesday and Friday and both days were spectacular.
On Thursday, we crossed the Jordanian border and headed to the site of Petra. It’s hard to describe this phenomenal place but it’s a Nabataean city that originated over 2000 years ago. The Nabataeans were ancient Arab tribes that came from the Arabian Peninsula. The city was taken over by the Roman Empire in 106 AD, but the Nabataeans left impressive structures behind. The rock there is sandstone in what seems as though all colors of the rainbow. The light of the sun also changes the colors throughout the day. The buildings are carved out of the sandstone, so basically the builders start with a huge slab of natural rock structure, and cut away to make whatever building they are trying to construct. It is so impressive and really pictures don’t even do it justice. Although in southern Jordan and usually very hot this time of year, it was ironically very cold. We were not dressed prepared for that so we bought a couple scarves/blankets in order to keep Denyon and myself warm. Brad just had to tough it out (it did eventually warm up a bit)!
We arrived back in Eilat in ample time to have a delicious dinner at a place highly recommended by the owner of our villa. It was called the Gulf Restaurant and we had delicious fried calamari. Even Denyon liked it! It’s always so fun having new foods from different places when you travel.
Friday was another day in Eilat enjoying the Red Sea. This time, the bulk of our day was spent at the Underwater Observatory and Aquarium Park. It was fascinating and Denyon was beside himself at knowing which exhibit he wanted to see. He wanted to go in and out of exhibits and up and down ramps and stairs. We couldn’t keep up! The park included a couple different aquarium exhibits with rare marine species, all types of fish, and coral. It also housed a shark and sting ray pool, turtle pool, children’s play area, small snorkel area, and the coolest underwater observatory. This was a large building built right in the middle of the sea that you could go down underwater and see the fish live! There are some amazing coral reefs where the structure is located so the marine life was incredible. Here Brad was able to get some pictures so it does capture some of the Red Sea’s beauty.
Of note at the shark tank is a funny story. The sharks were going to be fed so dozens of people were packed in to see. There was a bridge over the tank that you could stand on and look down below to see the sharks being fed. We were standing there and Denyon was in the backpack on Brad's back. He then requested a snack, so I handed him his cheerios container. It has a flip lid that he can open and close, which I had opened. He closed it then and got frustrated so I opened it again. He closed it again, got frustrated, and this time threw it down and the container spilled open and a large portion of the contents went into the tank! There were signs in numerous places in the park that read, "Do not feed us. Your food is not digestible for us!" Brad told me to quickly put the container away so that we didn't get kicked out for not following the rules! Denyon just thought the sharks needed a little snack!
We then went to the beach again, and surprisingly ran into some friends from the school. They have three children so Denyon enjoyed playing with them, and it gave both of us couples a little bit more room to relax because the kids kept each other entertained. They are the same family that we ran into at the Garden Tomb Easter service. Katie and I had said we’d wanted to organize a play date…God orchestrated two! We had a wonderful time on the beach with them, and then had another amazing dinner. This time at a place known for its steaks and we both had one of the best we’d ever had. Yum!
Saturday, we left Eilat and visited two spots on the way home. First, we stopped at Timna, which is a reserve in the desert in the southern part of Israel which houses ancient copper mines. The climbing was incredible and we found some great rocks. Another place of interest there is a replica of the Tabernacle of Moses’ time. The guide there was so nice and actually knows some of the people we know from West Michigan that lead trips there. It was great to talk with her and remember how small the world is.
Second, we went to Mizpe Ramon and saw (as well as drove thru) the largest natural geological depression in the world, called "Mahktesh Ramon." Many are probably thinking of the Grand Canyon but that is a canyon and not a depression formed from years of earth silting away. We basically drove through the depression, and then made our way to the top where we could look out into the depression from above. It was beautiful and well worth the stop. The drive home was lengthy but these two stops helped pass the time and allowed us to enjoy some areas we hadn’t driven through previously. Hopefully the pictures captured the beauty!
We were all very tired upon our return and enjoyed long naps the next day. The trip was very relaxing and a great break for Brad before the big push of the last two weeks of the semester. It’s hard to believe we’ve only got another month here. The time has flown and we feel so blessed to have experienced so many wonderful trips including this one. We have created a lifetime of memories!
Have a blessed day!
Brad, Shallon, and Denyon