Last week, I got the chance to visit Tel Aviv for a friend’s wedding. It was a really exciting trip for me, not just because of the wedding and the chance to catch up with all my girlfriends but also because I’d never been to Israel before. It was also the first time in 7 years all my school friends from Madrid were all together in one place!
Travelling there was a breeze. The flight was pretty easy going and I was there in no time. As I passed security there were a few personal questions that were asked that threw me off a little but whatever… I was in Tel Aviv!!
I stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv, which was stunning. It was right by the sea front and my room had gorgeous views.
The whole wedding party stayed there and buses were organised to take us to and from the hotel for each event, which was particularly useful for me as I was new to the city and unsure how to get around!
It was a great vibe in the hotel with everyone staying there and a lovely way to meet new people. It also made the whole weekend such a breeze because everything was organised for us. The food in Tel Aviv is something I really enjoyed. Everything is healthy, and there is a melange of mediterranean, greek, turkish, spanish and Italian styles which is just perfect for me.
The hotel also had a gym so I was able to squeeze a bit of exercise in as well as a few runs by the beach in between tanning and exploring the city.
The first Night I arrived was the Berberisca Party which is a traditional ceremony celebrated by the Moroccan Jews.
There were so many food options…Drummers…people dancing like mad. Thank goodness I never leave my Spanish fan at home as I couldn’t stop sweating with the heat
What a great night I had, and what a great first night in Tel Aviv!
My mum joined me on Saturday, and seeing as she had never been to Tel Aviv before either, we decided to do an organised tour. We got up at 5am and were driven to Jerusalem to see the city before going to Bethlehem. We saw the Gate of Zion and visited the Wailing Wall which was mesmerising. I wrote a note for good fortune and placed it in the wall as is tradition. We also saw the 14 places where Jesus is said to have stopped when he carried the cross and the manger itself.
Jerusalem is fascinating because of the mixing of culture, religion, history and art and doing this tour was a really helpful way of learning about the city’s history. I would definitely recommend it! The mix of religions that make up Israel and few Jerusalem and Bethlehem as sacred is also something that stood out to me and made me want to read more about the history of the country.
The main event of my stay, however, was the wedding. It was a three day affair, starting with a moroccan inspired Beberisca, then a ceremony in the Synagogue followed be a dinner on the second day, and ending with a huge European style jewish wedding and party. This ceremony took place on the beach front, a 45 minute bus ride from the hotel, and was timed perfectly so that they were married just as the sun was setting. It was so beautiful and just like a film.
They had multiple performances throughout the night, and with 450 guests in attendance it was a real party. There was Jewish dancing, excellent music, an indoor and an outdoor space and we danced all night. I spent the night catching up with school friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen for 6 or 7 years but I’ve known for over 20 years! We reminisced over our school days and all the crazy things we used to get up to and filled each other in on our lives now, all whilst dancing on the beach. It was amazing and so lovely to see everyone!
It was a whirlwind weekend and by the time I got on the plane home I was exhausted, having gone straight to the airport from the party!
However, my journey home really put a downer on what should have been a magical weekend. I was stopped at security for over four hours whilst security guards went through the entire contents of my suitcase, laptop and phone, body searched me multiple times, and asked me intrusive questions about why I was in the country.
They wanted to know every detail about my family, and I had to show them pictures on my phone, lengthy messages I had with friends and family and the wedding invitation to prove that I was really in Israel for a holiday. I had to show them my website, my Instagram, articles about my family and more just to prove I was who I said I was. They took my phone away almost instantly so I wasn’t able to contact my Mum who I was flying with, to let her know where I was, and I knew she would be so worried. We both missed our flights home as she refused to get on the plane without knowing where I was. After four hours, they were satisfied that I wasn’t lying about my identity or my intentions and they released me, but it was a really stressful experience and I’m sure that my skin colour was the cause of it all. By the time I finally got on the plane, I was shattered and really upset. Rather than flying home scrolling through the pictures from the wedding and reminiscing over the best weekend, I flew home in tears and just wanting to be in my own bed.
So the weekend really did have its ups and downs. I loved seeing Tel Aviv, catching up with my Mum and my friends and being part of such a gorgeous wedding. But my experience on the journey home wasn’t pleasant at all. No one likes being detained for 4 hours when trying to catch a flight back to my own country!
Below is a pic of how my Charger pack and laptop arrived to Heathrow Airport as they would not allow me to carry these on the plane with me.