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Middle East 


Dead Sea   After our first visit to the Dead Sea in 1997 and we came away with this 3 MUST DO LIST for a day in the Dead Sea.

  • Watch sunrise from the top of Masada [***] , looking across the Dead Sea towards Jordan.  Of course, you'll have to get to the top early.  The trail opens at 6 AM (maybe earlier??).  There will be dozens or hundreds more lined up for the pre-dawn rush up the mountain.    

  • Float in the Dead Sea [***].  You don't have to be a swimmer because sinking in the Dead Sea is impossible (like trying to force a helium balloon under water).

  • Mud up your face and maybe your whole body.  (& Take a bag of mud home to re-live the experience in your bathtub.) 

2005 update:  The Dead Sea has shrunk.  The water line is further from the road, parking lots, and beach facilities.  One resort is trucking visitors a kilometer to the water line.   The black mud is also a bit harder to find and reach. 


Dead Sea mud gives you a sensational facial.   You just scope it up with your hands.  Also pack a plastic bag with mud, allow it to dry, seal and take home.  At home just add water to reconstitute mud.

Off beat Israel.  Over the years we discovered many off-beat things to do and see in Israel.  Here are our favorites:  Hiking The Burma Road built in the final days of the 1848 War of Independence to rescue Jerusalem. At the end of the hike there is a great Mediterranean/ Lebanese/ Falafel restaurant, the Abu Gosh Restaurant [*,$$]) with indoor/patio seating.  In Jerusalem visit the Museum of the Underground Prisoners  [***] where the British imprisoned (and in some cases tortured and executed) members of the Jewish underground - the Hagana, IZL, and LehiOur favorite Jerusalem dinner location is Focaccia (**,$$) on 4 Rabbi Akiva St, a block form the main drag.  It is very popular.  Great food, huge proportions.  They make the best designer pizza in Jerusalem in a brick oven on the dining patio. 

(2007) The Israeli Trail is now established from the North border with Lebanon to the Elat in the South, makred in 47 sections (which you can do in 47 days if in good shape). Walking the whole stretch is now becoming a ritual for many your Israelies. Older ones do it in "weekend" sections. As tourists we set a goal of doing the entire length over as many future trips to Israel as it will take (at least 15!). So far we have done stretches of the North Galilee, Central Israel (Hadara, the Burma Road), and the extreme South. In the South end the best leg is the 4-5 hour trek over Mt. Timna. This is a bare-knbukle claw up steep cliffs. Not for the feint of heart. (While in the area make time to visit the Spice & Herb Farm outlet, a "supermarket" of spices, on the Yitzhak Rabin Border Crossing turn-off from the main highway, about 5 km N of Elat. This is a great place to stock up on rare spices, whicha are OK to bring back to the USA.)


Best cheap hotel and a great location:  Beit Shamuel (**,$).  A large room, with balcony and view of the old city, and a decent Israeli breakfast for two cost $90 in 2005.  (2007 update: The old Beit Shamuel is deterioting and in need of remodeling. However, they have a new addition with very bright and modern rooms, less view and only slightly more expensive. This new addition is now the best option for price and location in Jerusalem.)


Exploring North Galilee with bicycles offers challenging hill climbing, discovering kibbutzim, beautiful countryside, tense border, and lots of history.   In Safed is one of Israel's best falafels: Falafel Tritto (Universal Falafel), on Jerusalem St, near city hall and the square.


Sde Boker: The Ben Gurion Collegehas a "field school" B&B that makes a great base for activities in the Northern Negev, which includes desert hiking,  visting the Ben Gurion's retirement hometour family farms, etc.

(Feb 2009) 5 days in Tel Aviv. We experienced te Ben Gurion's residence, the Palmach Museum, and an Israeli folk song sing-along night club.

Moadon Hayekev club. A large hall with perhaps as many as 500-800 guests. They start with wine and (pretty decent) food including fresh baked breads. Then the food (but not the wine) is cleared from the tables and singing and dancing begins. Many patrons jump dance on the table.s

Ben Gurion's residence (the equivalent of the White House and Mt Vernon in the early years of Israel's existance) is a [***] attraction for Israel history buffs. The "residence" and Ben Gurion's office are on the ground floor. (The residence is as auster as the Ben Gurion home in Sde Boker that we visited in 2007.) There is the "hot-line" telephone to the Ministry of Defence in the office. A bomb shelter in the back yark. A huge library takes up the entire 2nd floor.

We ventured to Jaffa for some evening meals. Central Jaffa restaurants are "touristic to the Nth-degree." We discovered better options not too far away. First and closest is the Fishermen's Restaurant [**,$] at the S end of Jaffa Port. The Port is only two blocks long so you can't miss it. Fresh seafood. charming atmosphere, good service. The clientale is local, mostly Russian immegrants judging by the talk and bottles of Vodka on the tables. As we write this the Port is being developed with boutique shops and a new promenade which will draw the tourists crown to the Port. . Let's see if the charm of Fishermen's survives. A bit further, on Kedem Street in the Ajami district, are several neighborhood family-style restaurants. We were very happy with the Afloka (seafood) on 69 Kedem.

Falafels are Israeli's'  favorite fast food.  For a guide to the best Falafels in the Middle East and elsewhere go to our Pizzas & Falafels web page. (2009) Our cab driver tells us his favorite falafel vendor in Tel Aviv. Turns out to be well know to Israelis. It is a very poor section of town, on Salame Road, near corner with Aliya. Soooo good we went twice. Don't know the proper name so we'll just call it the Salame Falafel and rate it [***,$] for falafel aficionados.


Retracing the Exodus The 40 years trek started in Goshen (Egypt) and ended in Jerusalem.  Our first expedition to the Sinai covered the Goshen-Aqaba portion.


There are some great restaurants in Jerusalem.  In November 2007 we discovered Darna.   Darna [$$$,***]  ('Our House"), 3 Horkanoz St, is a Moroccan restaurant, run by a Moroccan, Ilan Sibony.  Fabulous food in fabulous outdoor seating.  Tables very well spaced, lighting is intimate, service impeccable.