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Eilat ( ) is Israelmarker's southernmostmarker city, a busy port as well as a popular resort, located at the northern tip of the Red Seamarker, on the Gulf of Eilatmarker. Home to 65,000 people, the city is part of the Southern Negevmarker Desert, at the southern end of the Aravamarker. The city is adjacent to the Egyptianmarker village of Tabamarker to the south, the Jordanianmarker port city of Aqabamarker to the east, and within sight of Saudi Arabiamarker to the south-east, across the gulf.

Eilat's arid desert climate is moderated by proximity to a warm sea. Temperatures often exceed in summer, and in winter, while water temperatures range between . The city's beaches, nightlife and desert landscapes make it a popular destination for domestic and international tourism.

Archaeology and history

Despite harsh conditions, the region supported large populations as far back as 8,000 BCE.

Beginning in 1861 ancient sites have been recorded throughout the region, but to date only around 7% of the area has undergone a detailed archaeological survey with around 1500 ancient sites recorded in a area. In contrast to the gaps found in settlement periods in the neighbouring Negev Highlands and Sinai, these sites show continuous settlement for the past 10,000 years.

The geology and landscape are varied: igneous and metamorphic rocks, sandstone and limestone; mountains up to above sea level; broad valleys such as the Arava, and seashore on the Gulf of Aqaba. With an annual average rainfall of and summer temperatures of and higher, water resources and vegetation are limited.

"The main elements that influenced the region's history were the copper resources and other minerals, the ancient international roads that crossed the area, and its geopolitical and strategic position. These resulted in a settlement density that defies the environmental conditions."

Early settlement

The original settlement was probably Eilat at the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba.

Archaeological excavations uncovered impressive prehistoric tombs dating to the 7th millennium BCE at the western edge of Eilat, while nearby copper workings and mining operations at Timna Valley are the oldest on earth. Ancient Egyptian records also document the extensive and lucrative mining operations and trade across the Red Sea with Egypt starting as early as the Fourth dynasty of Egypt.

Eilat is mentioned in antiquity as a major trading partner with Elim, Thebes' Red Sea Port, as early as the Twelfth dynasty of Egypt. Trade between Elim and Eilat furnished Frankincense and Myrrh, brought up from Ethiopiamarker and Punt; Bitumen and Natron, from the Dead Seamarker; finely woven Linen, from Byblosmarker; and copper amulets, from Timnahmarker; all mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

In antiquity Eilat bordered the states of Edom, Midian and the tribal territory of the Rephidim, the indigenous inhabitants of the Sinai.

Biblical references

Eilat is first mentioned in the Bible in the Book of Exodus in the stations. The first six stations of the Exodus are in Egypt. The 7th is the crossing of the Red Sea and The 9th-13th are in and around Eilat after they have left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. Station 12 refers to a dozen campsites in and around Timna in Modern Israel near Elat.

When King David conquered Edom, which up to then had been a common border of Edom and Midian, he took over Eilat, the border city shared by them as well. The commercial port city and copper based industrial center were maintained by Egypt until reportedly rebuilt by Solomon at a location known as Ezion-Gebermarker (I Kings 9:26).

In 2 Kings 14:21-22: "And all the people of Judah took Azariah, who was sixteen years old, and made him king in the room of his father Amaziah. He built Elath, and restored it to Judah, after that the king slept among his fathers." And again in 2 Kings 16:6: "At that time Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath to Aram, and drove the Jews from Elath; and the Edomites came to Elath, and dwelt there, unto this day".

Roman and Muslim periods

During the Roman period a road was built to link the area with the Nabataean city of Petramarker (modern-day Jordanmarker). The remains of a large copper smelting and trading community which flourished during the Ummayad Period (700-900 CE) were also found between what is now Eilat's industrial zone and nearby Kibbutz Eilotmarker.

The Darb el Hajj or "Pilgrim's Road", from Africa through Egyptmarker to Meccamarker, passed out of Sinai from the west at Eilat before skirting the sea and continuing south into Arabia.

Modern settlement

The area of Eilat was designated as part of the Jewish state in the 1947 UN Partition Plan. During the 1948 Arab–Israeli War an old Ottoman police station, called Umm Rashrash in Arabic, was taken without a fight on March 10, 1949 as part of Operation Uvda, in which both the Negevmarker and Golani Brigades participated. (Only one of Umm Rashrash 's mud-brick buildings remains standing, in a tiny park.) Having forgotten to bring an Israeli flag with them, the Negev Brigademarker soldiers improvised and raised the "Ink Flag" in order to claim for Israel the area upon which Eilat would be constructed. The Timna Copper Mines near Timna valleymarker were opened, a port was constructed, the Eilat Ashkelon Pipeline laid, and tourists began visiting.
Eilat Skyline


The Port of Eilatmarker became vital to the fledgling country's development. After the 1948 Arab–Israeli War Arab countries maintained a state of hostility with Israel, blocking all land routes; Israel's access to and trade with the rest of the world was by air and sea alone. Further, Egypt denied passage through the Suez Canalmarker to Israeli-registered ships or to any ship carrying cargo to or from Israeli ports. This made Eilat and its sea port crucial to Israel's communications, commerce and trade with Africa and Asia, and for oil imports. Without recourse to a port on the Red Sea Israel would have been unable to develop its diplomatic, cultural and trade ties beyond the Mediterraneanmarker basin and Europe. This happened in 1956 and again in 1967, when Egypt's closure of the Straits of Tiranmarker to Israeli shipping effectively blockaded the port of Eilat. In 1956, this led to Israel's participation alongside the U.K. and France in the war against Egypt sparked by the Suez Crisis, while in 1967 it was cited by Israel as an additional casus belli leading to the outbreak of the Six-Day War.

Open borders

Following peace treaties signed with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, Eilat's borders with its neighbors were finally opened. In 2007, over 200 Sudanese refugees from Egypt who arrived in Israel illegally on foot were given work and allowed to stay in Eilat. Eilat's population includes a large number of foreign workers, estimated at over 10,000, working as caregivers, hotel workers and in the construction trades.

Transportation

Eilat is connected to the rest of Israel and internationally by air, road and sea.

Eilat has two main roads connecting it with the center of Israel.

The Port of Eilatmarker and Eilat Marina allow travel by sea.

Near-term plans also call for a rail link to substantially decrease travel times from Eilat to Tel Avivmarker and Jerusalemmarker, via the existing line at Beer Shebamarker; planning is underway.

Economy

In the 1970s tourism became increasingly important to the city's economy as other industries shut down or were drastically reduced. Today tourism is the city's major source of income, although Eilat became a free trade zone in 1985.

Tourism

Eilat offers a wide range of accommodations - from hostels to luxury hotels - as well as many unique attractions and recreational options within a 50 kilometer (31 mile) radius.
  • Bedouin hospitality.
  • Birdwatching and ringing station: Eilat is located on the main migration route between Africa and Europe.
  • Camel tours.
  • Coral Beach Nature Reserve, an underwater marine reserve of tropical marine flora and fauna.
  • Coral World Underwater Observatory - allows visitors to view marine life in its own habitat. The park, located at the southern tip of Coral Beach, has aquariums, a museum, simulation rides, and shark, turtle and stingray tanks.
  • Diving: Skin and SCUBA diving, with equipment for hire on or near all major beaches. Scuba diving equipment rental and compressed air are available from a number of diving clubs and schools open all year round.
  • Dolphin Reef, offering visitors an opportunity to swim and interact with dolphins, is also a marine biology and research station.
  • Freefall parachuting.
  • Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve, established in the 1960s to conserve endangered species, including Biblical animals, from this and similar regions. The reserve has a Visitors Center, care and treatment enclosures, and large open area where desert animals are acclimated before re-introduction into the wild. Hai-Bar efforts have successfully re-introduced the Asian Wild Ass, or Onager, into the Negevmarker. The Hai-Bar Nature Reserve and animal re-introduction program were described in Bill Clark's book "High Hills and Wild Goats: Life Among the Animals of the Hai-Bar Wildlife Refuge". The book also describes life in Eilat and the surrounding area.
  • IMAX theatre.
  • Kings Citymarker, a biblical theme park located in the hotel area next to the Stella Maris Lagoon.
  • Marina with some 250 yacht berths.
  • Timna Valley Park - the oldest copper mines in the world. Egyptian temple of Hathor, King Solomon's Pillars sandstone formation, ancient pit mines and rock art.
  • "What's Up" the Observatory in Eilat, a portable Astronomical Observatory with programs in the desert and on the promenade.


International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Eilat is twinned with:

Eilat has streets named after Durbanmarker, Kamenmarker, Kampenmarker and Los Angelesmarker as well as a Canadamarker Park. Several Maple trees also grow in various parts of the city.

Climate



Gallery

File:EilatSunset01 ST 07.JPG|A winter's twilight.File:Ink flag.jpg|Raising the Ink Flag.File:AmramColumns.jpg|Amram's Pillars.File:Gulf of Eilat.jpg|At Coral Beach.File:North Beach Eilat new.jpg|Eilat North Beach hotel area


See also



Trivia

  • Folksinger Pete Seeger recorded The Road to Eilat in Hebrew ("Hey Daroma" - היי דרומה).


References

  1. Avner, U. 2008. Eilat Region. In, A. Stern (ed.). The New Encyclopedia of Archaeological Excavation in the Holy Land, Volume 5 (Supplementary). Jerusalem. 1704-1711.
  2. Nelson Glueck(1959). Rivers in the Desert. HUC. ISBN
  3. Dr. Muhammed Abdul Nayeem, (1990). Prehistory and Protohistory of the Arabian Peninsula. Hyderabad. ISBN.
  4. Michael Rice(1990). Egypt's Making. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-06454-6.
  5. "What's Up" Observatory in Eilat


External links




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