What comes first to your mind when you think about Portugal? Is it the Atlantic flavor, Roman or Gothic monuments or the sound of traditional Fado music? As far as Secretary of State for Tourism Adolfo Mesquita Nunes is concerned, it’s something different - fish.

“We like to say that we have the best fish in the world. If you don’t want to go to Japan and also eat cooked fish rather than raw, come to Portugal”, the said Nunes last week in Tel Aviv. He was in Israel leading a delegation of officials in Portugal’s tourism industry who came to promote their country as a prime tourist destination.

Along with travel agents and tour operators, the delegation attended the International Mediterranean Tourism Market at Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv. According to Portugal’s Ministry of Tourism, more than 35,000 Israeli tourists visited Portugal between January and September 2013.

Nunes pointed out that Portugal has a lot more to offer to Israeli visitors than fish. As one of the oldest countries in Europe, Portugal has a unique cultural and also Jewish legacy. During the foundation of Portugal, Sephardic Jews helped populate the territory conquered from the Moors. For this reason they benefited from royal protection until 1496, the date of the expulsion edict against the Jews. The Jewish communities of philosophers, doctors and scientists made contributions to the Portuguese Discoveries.

According to the delegation Portugal has even more to offer: an abundance of sunshine, beaches, cultural centers like Porto and Lisbon, a variety of leisure activities like golf, surfing and radical sports.

A guest at the tourism event was Idan Raichel, who once featured singer Ana Moura from Portugal for the duet “Sabe Deus (God Knows)” for one of his projects.

“Israel and Portugal are both multicultural countries and share the same emotions in music,” Nunes said. To back it up, three musicians then performed the national Portuguese Fado music.

Israir Airlines and Sund’or International Airlines both operate only weekly charter flights between Tel Aviv and Lisbon during the period May – October. According to the delegation, both the Portuguese and the Israeli authorities are working to promote an increase of the flight capacity between the two countries and establish regular direct flights all year round.

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