Geographically, Eilat is at a natural crossroads. For centuries, nomads made their way from Sinai through Israel to Jordan, and back. With a mystic atmosphere much like that of Tangier as described by Paulo Coehlo in The Alchemist, Eilat has been the stomping ground for people from around the globe for hundreds of years. This coming weekend, The Golden Tulip Club Hotel in Eilat will be home to a series of such exotic and unique encounters. The fifth annual International Belly Dance Festival brings to our southernmost town a world unlike any other: a world of unusual music, fascinating tradition and, above all, hypnotizing dance. Hosting guests from the far stretches of Europe and Asia, this festival will explore belly dance from a number of cultures over a three-day weekend (January 22-24). The festival consists of three major components: workshops, performances and a competition. International experts in a wide array of Oriental and Eastern dances will teach classes of all levels in their respective areas of expertise. In the evening, the visiting artists will perform either solo or with their companies. And finally, an international competition in which dancers from Belgium, France, Israel, Russia and Germany will face off in order to win a prestigious invitation to The Oriental Bazaar Festival in Berlin will take place throughout the weekend. Between festival activities, participants will be invited to stroll through a bazaar of goods from around the world. Egyptian music, Turkish costumes, Indian jewelry and many other finds will be on sale during all three days of the festival. The workshop element of this particular festival in especially intriguing. Over 20 teachers from abroad will join Israel's finest experts in Oriental and Asian dance to bring belly to the public. For the first time ever, international success Magdy el Leisy will visit Israel. Leisy is of Egyptian origin and has, until this point, not been able to attend the festival for various reasons. This year, despite the recent tensions, Leisy decided that the moment had come to see Israel. Joining him on the guest list is Mayodi, an esteemed Muslim dancer, who will be making his second trip to Israel for the festival. Mayodi is of Moroccan origin and has been performing throughout the Middle East for many years. Until recently, Israel was not included in that list. However, Mayodi explained that art was not political; rather, it is international and should be treated as such. This festival's outstanding program proves that Mayodi is far from alone in this belief. For those who would like to participate in the festival, there is still room at the hotel for new reservations. And for anyone who is in Eilat anyway, stop by to take in some truly extraordinary performances. For tickets and reservations call: (03) 511-0000 or visit: www.eilatfestival.com.