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The New Arab Staff

Over 50,000 Israelis visited UAE since commercial flight agreement: report

Israeli tourists celebrated Hanukkah in Dubai hotels [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 December, 2020

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Tens of thousands of Israeli tourists flocked to the UAE in just two weeks, a report said, driving a tourism boom in the Gulf country.
Israelis have caused a remarkable tourism boom in the UAE, with over 50,000 visiting from Tel Aviv since the two countries signed a normalisation agreement, a report has said.

Tens of thousands of tourists flew to the Emirates from the Jewish state, while Israeli authorities expected over 70,000 to arrive during the eight days of Hanukkah, The Washington Post reported.

The UAE launched tourist visas for Israeli citizens earlier in December after the two countries normalised relations in September and began talks on mutual tourism opportunities.

Shortly after the announcement, the Israeli government urged its citizens to avoid travel to the UAE, citing security concers after Iran threatened to attack Israeli targets following accusations that Israel was behind the assassination of its top nuclear scientist. 

Israeli tourists were not deterred, despite their government's warning, and flocked to the Emirates to celebrate Hanukkah.

Tour companies in the two countries are reportedly holding Zoom courses to educate each other on customs and etiquette.

According to The Washington Post, a Jewish community centre also has a contract with Abu Dhabi tourism officials to train and certify nearly 150 hotel kitchens to become kosher-compliant.

Israeli tourists in the Gulf told the paper they felt "welcome" in the region for the first time. 

Read also: Israeli criminals 'flee to Dubai' to escape arrest at home

"To me this feels like the Iron Curtain lifting," The Washington Post cited an Israeli woman visiting with her husband on a seven-night package tour as saying.

To avoid escalations with locals, Israel's foreign ministry has released a 29-page travel advisory advising citizens not to discuss sensitive cultural and political issues with Emiratis –  including the royal family, democracy, and the treatment of foreign workers.

Israel also hopes to bring a tourism boom to Jerusalem, and expects over 100,000 tourists from the Gulf region to want to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque – the third holiest site in Islam.

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