As fantastic as Cyprus is, equally fantastic is the island’s closeness to other inviting destinations around the Mediterranean. Imagine being able to sit on an airplane in Larnaca and 40 minutes later find yourself landing in the Middle East’s happy bubble Tel Aviv! New Cyprus Magazine packed its bags and took a trip over the sea to see how our neighbour’s live life in Israel’s buzzing metropolitan.
Tel Aviv is a city where tall skyscrapers meet white beaches and where the murmur of the outdoor restaurants never seems to stop. We are in the Middle East with an atmosphere that feels European. Beach cafés are full of sun-kissed people and in the sea lie surfers tightly packed awaiting the next wave. Tel Aviv is a young city, just two hundred years ago there was only sand here. Since then there has been rapid development and today Tel Aviv is the cosmopolitan centre for the East.
We walk along the promenade towards the old town of Jaffa, stop for a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice on the way, and then continue towards the viewpoint which offers magnificent views of the city’s picture-postcard skyline. A little further away is Tel Aviv’s most popular hummus place Abu Hasan / Ali Karavan, which has been highly reviewed in several international newspapers. In the kitchen there is an organized chaos with orders spontaneously being called out over our heads. The delicious creamy hummus that we will soon receive raises the question whether we have previously eaten hummus “for real”. The hummus with pita bread, raw onion and some lemon slices will delight the taste buds.
We walk back towards town and eventually end up in Tel Aviv’s bustling heart Carmel Market, which pumps out a colourful firework display of fruit and vegetables. The market place is so full of people that we barely manage to get out the other side.
Later we walk around among the typical Bauhaus buildings until we end up at the city’s pride and joy Rothschild Boulevard. It seems as though the unbroken rows of restaurants and bars never end. Amongst the strolling families, segway riders, tourist groups, and zigzagging sports cyclists we see an occasional Orthodox Jewish kippah. The hummus lunch that we’ve barely had time to digest, doesn’t seem to matter when we pass the hippest falafel place in town. At Hakosem the queue winds itself long into the street. The wait was well worth it, as the falafel with tahini, grilled eggplant and lettuce was so good.
With the low sun shining in our eyes we finally arrive at the city’s trendy marina. We sit down with a takeaway coffee on a wooden bench and watch the planes that are regularly landing. As we walk back to the hotel the horizon turns crimson with the moon visible in the distance.
It is early morning when we arrive to the holy city of Jerusalem. Busloads of tourists pour out onto the historic streets. Our guide will take us up on the Mount of Olives to the place where Jesus is said to have made his celestial journey. The place is also sacred to Jews, who used the hill as a cemetery for over 3000 years. According Jewish faith, the Mount of Olives is the place where the Messiah will one day return and when this happens the dead will be resurrected. If you’ve been buried on the Mount of Olives, the belief is that you will be amongst the first to return from the dead, hence the popularity to be buried here.
From the Mount of Olives there are stunning views of Jerusalem. Our guide points out some twenty major religious sites, ranging from the Temple Mount where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaac, to the grassplot in the valley where Jesus knocked down the tent pegs the first time he visited Jerusalem.
We descend from the mountain and inside the mighty city walls. Jerusalem is completely steeped in religion and profound faith. We walk in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim quarters. We place a note with a prayer on the Wailing Wall, and then walk the same path as Jesus when he carried the cross. The route is called the Via Dolorosa, the path of pain. It is a pilgrimage that begins at the Antonia Castle and ends at the Church of Resurrection and on the road there are 14 posts where you can stop and pray. We eventually arrive at the Church of Resurrection where Golgata and Jesus’ grave is said to be.
The day ends with a visit to the Dead Sea where we weightlessly float in the salty water. The muddy ground in the Dead Sea is full of good minerals which, among other things, promote cell renewal and stimulate blood circulation. Many tourists take advantage of the opportunity and cover their bodies in the soft mud. You can also buy beauty products made with Dead Sea minerals.
Back in Tel Aviv the Sabbath is approaching and all the shops and shopping centres start to close again. Restaurants and nightlife, however, are open as usual. Tel Aviv is known as the Middle East’s Miami, a beach metropolis which is awake around the clock. The hotel where we stay, Brown TLV Urban Hotel, boasts a magical roof terrace where you can sit back and take in the view of the glittering skyscrapers and millions of twinkling stars against a deep purple backdrop.
On the way back to Cyprus, we must have had a tailwind for we were barely in the air for fifteen minutes before the captain announces to prepare for landing. Once back in Cyprus, we agree that one rarely gets that much experience from a nearby destination, in the short time we just had. Both in terms of new impressions and culinary delicacies, Israel impressed.
Getting there: From Larnaca to Tel Aviv, you can travel with the Greek airline Aegean Airlines and the Israeli airline El Al. The price is around £80 return. The journey takes about 40 minutes. Norwegian Airlins flies from Stockholm to Tel Aviv and back for about £160.
Tel Aviv has several stylish boutique hotels, like these for example:
Melody, 220 Hayarkon Street, atlas.co.il.
Shalom, 216 Hayarkon Street, shalom-hotel-ta.co.il.
Brown, 25 Kalisher Street, browntlv.com.
Eating and drinking:
Social Club, 45 Rothschild Boulevard. International cuisine with a great bar and spirited atmosphere.
Suzana, Shabazi St 9. A popular restaurant with the locals. Excellent food cooked the Israeli way. Try the grilled eggplant!
Tubal Barzilay, 6 Ahad Ha’am Street. Friendly vegan cafe with delightful ingredients.
Lulu’s, Shabazi St. 55, Trendy little restaurant with a really good breakfast menu.
Hotel Montefiore, Montefiore Street, 36. The hotel is an attraction in itself. Has an impressive cocktail list and good place to start a night out.
More pictures from our trip to Israel: