This was our free day in Eilat.
The plan had been to simply rest on the beach or by the pool, but when we woke up it was overcast and cold. As I mentioned earlier, it was Shabbat and the workers in the hotel kept insisting that nothing would be open, but we ventured out anyway along the boardwalk and found most things open there as well as at the mall. I have to say Eilat was not my favorite place - crowded, noisy and the big hotels reminded me of Las Vegas minus the gambling. However, it is a great location for seeing Petra, and I am sure we would have enjoyed it a bit more if the weather had been better. The kids and I ate at Giraffe, an Asian Noodle Bar, for lunch which was quite good. For dinner we all ate at Ginger, another Asian restaurant, located across the street from the IMAX theater. Isrotel Royal Beach (click here to read my review) is in an excellent location and we were able to walk everywhere we needed to go (I think we could have also walked to the airport). After dinner we headed to the mall because when we were there earlier that day Zara was one of the few stores that was closed, and Lauren really wanted to shop there. So, we got there about 9pm and all the stores were packed – not sure how late they all stayed open until.
Now, the Eilat airport is literally located in the middle of the city. As we walked from Ginger to the mall – an airplane was landing and flew so low over us we felt as though we needed to duck!
Today was our day to see Petra. This was also where that VIP service was, once again, a welcome surprise. We had chosen to book a private tour. The Travel Agent had booked it with Ahalan Olympus (http://ahalanolympus.com/), and we were very pleased with the entire day. Sergei picked us up from the hotel and took us to the border crossing (only about a five minute drive). We walked through “no man’s land” (ok I thought that was cool!) and were greeted on the other side by a man who took our passports to go through the formalities while we exchanged our money, used the restrooms, etc.
It was a bit of a wait as there were two large tour groups ahead of us. Next we were introduced to our driver and our guide, Khalid.
We had about a two hour drive which included two stops – one for drinks and restroom and the other for a view of Wadi Musa.
We arrived at Petra about 11:45am, bought some nuts and energy bars at the stands near the entrance as we would not be eating lunch until we were done in Petra. You can rent a donkey for the long walk down, but we chose to walk and it really was not that bad.
All I can say is that Petra is amazing! Probably one of my top three sites ever. Walking through the Siq and your first view of the Treasury……
We were lucky that it really was not crowded. Khalid took us climbing over some tombs – which my mom wondered what she had gotten herself into (but she was able to do it!!) and Michael absolutely loved!!
Michael was climbing all over the place, pretending he was a “parkour master”. Sometimes we would see him climbing way ahead of us.
Khalid encouraged him to come back and take the four day trip through Petra and said he would get to do tons of climbing. We did not go up to the Ministry but did go up to the Court.
When we entered the hall there was a small group of German women singing. They had beautiful voices and the music reverberated throughout the hall – it was beautiful.
Khalid said it would take an hour to walk back from the Court, but really it was only about 30-40 minutes depending on how fast you walked – the kids passed us early on and took only about 30 min. It has a slight upgrade the whole way back, and once you leave the Siq it can get pretty hot. They do have donkeys, carts, etc. that you can take on the way back.
For lunch we went to the Marriott Hotel (lunch was included in the tour), which was quite nice and we really appreciated the nice air conditioning and great bathrooms. It was a nice buffet lunch with a good variety of food.
We decided to skip the optional tour to Aqaba, but now I kind of regret that we did not at least drive around there a bit. We arrived back at our hotel in Eilat about 6:30pm. We rested up a bit before our 9:00pm reservation at La Cucina. It is located just outside the hotel on the promenade and we had a nice Italian dinner.
Read about our time in Tel Aviv here.