How Eilat is trying to shift its image

This winter, through the 101 Experiences program, the Eilat Tourism Corporation is offering tourists a glimpse into the other side of Eilat, a side that is rarely seen, completely free of charge.

 EILAT HAS much more to offer than the hotels and beaches.  (photo credit: Courtesy)
EILAT HAS much more to offer than the hotels and beaches.
(photo credit: Courtesy)

For many locals and tourists who visit Eilat every year, the country’s southernmost city is nothing more than fancy hotels, beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife.

It has become common to view Eilat as a tourism city that functions on its own, as visitors rarely exit the tourism zone off the coast into the city’s homely residential neighborhoods.

This winter, through the 101 Experiences program, the Eilat Tourism Corporation is offering tourists a glimpse into the other side of Eilat, a side that is rarely seen, completely free of charge.

The program offers authentic experiences, true to the nature of the city and its residents, in order to break its stigma as a superficial tourist destination.

The program offers everything from beautiful landscapes, sporting activities, creative exercises and exciting cultural projects that are first-of-their-kind in the southern city.

 THE EILAT City Museum opened 20 years ago. (credit: Courtesy) THE EILAT City Museum opened 20 years ago. (credit: Courtesy)

In Eilat, I was lucky enough to experience an Elad Theater production, the only theater there actively writing new plays.

Its production of The Old Man and the Sea is especially unique, as you experience the entire play while wearing a blindfold.

The immersive play allows you to enter Hemingway’s world through the blindfolds, following the actors’ and actresses’ voices, as well as background sounds, live music and the beautiful setting of Eilat’s Coral World Underwater Observatory.

During my stay in Eilat, I also visited Benny’s Farm, located just outside the roaring tourist center. 

The farm is a peaceful, remote place that attempts to forge a connection between Israelis and the Arab world surrounding the Jewish state, through authentic belly dance lessons, dinners using ingredients that can only be found in the southern Negev and a guided observation of the night sky and all its stars, which are visible away from the bright lights of the city center.

You can view Eilat’s true beauty, not only as a city, but also as a hot spot of gorgeous desert scenery by taking a guided tour of the Amram Columns.

The tour guide, 72-year-old Benny Gamlieli, has been in Eilat for more than 50 years since leaving his birthplace, Jaffa. “There are two types of people – those who visit Eilat and never come back, and those who catch the ‘Eilat virus’ and stay forever,” he jokes.

During the trip, I also visited significant cultural attractions, such as the Eilat City Museum, opened 20 years ago by residents looking to put another side of their metropolis on display.

The museum showcases Eilat’s unbelievable developments over the last number of decades, from a desolate, distant settlement to what is today an energetic, colorful city.

The museum hosts replicas of significant historical artifacts, such as a reconstructed 1940s bus, used by Israelis 70 years ago to make the long drive down to the Red Sea.

Eilat is also home to major international events. Last week, the International Esports Federation World Championships took place in Eilat, marking the first time such an event was hosted in Israel. In addition, the 2021 Miss Universe pageant is set to take place in December at the Port of Eilat, which will make it the first Israeli city to host the event.

You can take part in all of these authentic experiences and much, much more by signing up to Eilat Tourism Corporation’s 101 Experiences, which is free until March.

For more information on the 101 Experiences program, visit https://eilat.city/public-activities

The writer was a guest of the Eilat Tourism Corporation, Elad Theater, Coral World Underwater Observatory, Eilat City Museum and  Benny’s Farm.