Israel's southern Red Sea resort city of Eilat has been chosen by the New York Times for its list of "52 Places to Go in 2019." Ranked 6th on the list, it outplaces such global tourist destinations as New York, which is No. 31, Hong Kong, in 44th place, and perhaps most importantly for Israel from a geopolitical perspective, it comes in far ahead of Iran, which is in the 45th spot.
In its description of Eilat, in addition to "the prismatic waters of this Red Sea resort on Israel’s southern tip" and its "coral reef with hundreds of varieties of neon fish, sharks and stingrays," the Times highlights the scheduled opening of new hotels and the new airport.
"To get there, visitors used to have to catch a charter flight from Tel Aviv or brave the dusty drive through the 5,000-square-mile Negev Desert. But with the opening early this year of Ramon Airport, set in the dramatic Timna Valley and capable of handling four million international transit passengers a year, the world will finally get a direct route – with nonstops from Munich and Frankfurt on Lufthansa, and budget carriers flying in from Prague, London and across Europe," the listing notes.
The list is a collection of relatively curious and refreshing destinations, including Hampi, India in the No. 2 spot, Zadar, Croatia at No.11 and the Tunisian capital, Tunis in the 27th spot.
Some of the destinations have earned their berth on the list for the turnaround that they have accomplished or the renewal that they have undergone that makes them merit another visit. No. 1 on the list is Puerto Rico, which has been recovering from the devastation that the island suffered in 2017 from Hurricane Maria. At No. 4, Panama is noted for its new eco-friendly Pacific Ocean resorts.
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When it comes to Tunis, the Times says: "Freedom is what makes Tunis unique. Eight years after it kicked off the Arab Spring, Tunis remains the only Arab capital with real freedom of expression, not to mention the peaceful rotation of power. But the city holds many other charms."
The Persian Gulf state of Qatar is in the spotlight for "loading its capital, [Doha], with structures from the biggest names in international architecture" in the run-up to the 2022 soccer World Cup that will be played there. Doha is ranked 37th on the list.
Iran is featured in part for "the monumental ruins of ancient Persia, the spectacular, centuries-old mosques of Shiraz and Isfahan, the Grand Bazaar and Golestan Palace in the bustling metropolis of Tehran." The listing notes that the U.S. State Department discourages but does not bar Americans from visiting Iran, but they must do so as part of a group.