R&R in Tel Aviv
I arrived at the Taba/Eilat border post in the late afternoon. I was worn down after a difficult few weeks on the road, not stopping much on my march north from Nairobi. My time in Egypt had not been a happy one and I was eager to get to Israel. I had planned to stay with some family friends in Tel Aviv and the thought of not moving around for a couple of weeks was pretty good at the time.
I was used to difficult and long border crossings, and I assumed that the Israeli border would be the same. I was a lone man who had visas and stamps from Sudan in his passport, that will raise flags in Israel. The Israeli border is an immediate contrast to Egypt, it was very hi-tech and secure. The white uniforms and AK47s were replaced by very stern-faced guards in khaki and blue with TAR-21 assault rifles, all very serious business.
I was unfortunate to arrive at the same time as a busload of tourists returning from Egypt, so the wait was long while the officials dealt with them first. While I was waiting with my car an official brought me a cup of ice-cold water, and thanked me for being patient. I had to empty my car entirely and scan everything, much like at the Egyptian border, however here I had two officials helping me carry and load my luggage. Once I had passed security for my luggage and reloaded my car I was interviewed by a border security official. This is pretty standard for solo travellers with stamps from any country on the State Sponsors of Terrorism List, which is Iran, Syria and Sudan. It was a Friday evening so things were going pretty slowly but the officials got me some coffee and something to eat while I waited. It was all very civilised, and after a few hours I was sent on my way.
I spent the night in Eilat, which was very buzzing with tourists and people. It was strange to suddenly be back in a normal country. There were restaurants and cafes and people having an evening out. It was a stark contrast to the closed Arab societies I had been in for the last couple of weeks.
I was still exhausted the next morning, so I got in my car, filled up with high octane fuel, and drove through the desert to Tel Aviv, a gleaming city on the Mediterranean Sea. I arrived at the home of my friends Michel and Yael in the afternoon. It was good to be off the road, to be in one place for a while, and in a home. The house was in a beautiful leafy suburb, where children played in the park and people walked dogs, it felt a world away from Egypt and Sudan.
I was very at home in Tel Aviv, and for a few days I rested and recovered and took short trips to the beach, where there were great cafes and the cool breeze off the sea was refreshing. I spent many hours sitting on the old stone walls of Jaffa Port, watching the boats coming and going. It was lovely to be beside the sea again.
All in all, it was nice to have some downtime in such a lovely place. I found the people in Israel to be very warm and welcoming. Tel Aviv has a great vibe and it pulls you in like very few cities can, it’s definitely on my list of places I want to visit again.
I spent most of my time reading and relaxing and trying to think about other things than my trip. I wanted to take a break from the world of overland travel and just enjoy the city, and I think I did rather well at that.
After a few days I met up with a fellow car enthusiast and friend, Andy, to take some photographs at Caesarea, half way between Tel Aviv and Haifa. There’s a Roman Aqueduct along the beach which made for some pretty cool photos. We drove in convoy from Tel Aviv in the busy city traffic, luckily Andy drives a bright Yellow Porsche so it was difficult to lose sight of him.
Andy definitely got the best shots, which I’m grateful for, as I hardly ever pose for photographs. His pics have now become my profile pics for just about everything. He’s a professional and it shows. I hope one day to take photographs on this level.
It was great to take it easy in Israel. I was glad for the break from the rush of overland travelling. The lack of border crossings and language barriers was rather nice. And Israel really is a wonderful place to take it easy, the friendly people, the beaches, the warm weather, the food. I hope it’s not too long until I return to Israel.