Guest Relations Manager
Avi Ochayon joins the sheikh
and retinue in welcoming visitors
to Herods Palace

Sheik and His Wives
Welcome You Royally

Text and Photos by Tim Boxer

ILAT, at the southernmost tip of the Negev, may be at the end of the world in Israel, but the newly opened Herods Palace there is another planet altogether. Part of the Sheraton Moriah chain of hotels and resorts in Israel, Herods is in a class by itself. It is not only magnificent, it is utterly stupendous.

General Manager Mickey Schneider
is the real lord of the domain  at Herods

The minute you step into the friendly comfortable lobby, you are made aware of ancient history. Named after a king of Israel 2,000 years ago, the hotel treats you in a most royal manner. Even before they check you in, the gorgeous desk clerks welcome you with an original song and dance (with music piped in).

You realize that the travel agent didn’t send you to just another hotel. Oh no. You’ve actually entered some potentate’s private preserve. Not to worry. This is the Middle East, and the universal rule of the desert dictates the warmest hospitality toward wayfarers.

Tim Boxer is greeted in the royal manner
by the sheikh’s wife and concubines
(just like at home in Queens, NY)

As befits such a palace, the amenities are bountiful. At mealtime, the buffet tables literally overflow with all manner of sustenance. The food was absolutely delicious. In the evening, the Salome Lounge beckoned with entertainment and dancing.

Our room was most delightful. Every evening Nina and I stood on the balcony, watching the red sun sink into the Red Sea. To our left we gazed at Aqaba, the sister city located next door in Jordan. Straight ahead we watched ocean liners, oil tankers and luxury yachts sail into the harbor. To the right is Egypt.

Receptionists welcome guests
with song and dance

The royal family, in an impressive parade, makes a solemn appearance to personally greet new visitors such as you to the palace and see to their comfort. Sheikh Mouabi seats himself on a throne facing the entrance, the better to welcome his guests. His queen is at his side, and arrayed around his feet are a bevy of beautiful concubines. Bowls of fruit and nuts are on display, along with gratifying beverages, all for your pleasure.

At dinnertime the sheikh’s troupe of 12, dressed much like the royal family of two millennia past, march around the restaurants and lobbies saying hello and shalom to everyone in sight. They’re the spirits of the palace.

View from the balcony: palace
gardens and Sea of Eilat

Of course, you know there’s a power behind this sheikh, even though he may be lording over all his visitors. The brains behind his royal highness is actually a former Israeli paratrooper named Mickey Schneider.

Mickey was born in Haifa where his father was a member of the Palmach, the crack company of commandos that fought in the War of Independence. Mickey took his turn in serving in the army, as all Israelis do. He made 50 jumps as a parachutist and still shudders at the thought.

View of Herods Palace

“If somebody says he likes to jump, he’s crazy,” the no-nonsense general manager says.

Herods opened in March 1999 as the first theme hotel in the country. Mickey spent two weeks at the Dolphin Hotel (another Sheraton property) in Disneyworld to see how things are run before taking the helm of Herods.

Actually, Herods Palace is only one hotel in a complex of four mighty structures built at a cost of $200 million. Next door is Herods Vitalis, a superb heath and lifestyle resort. Adjoining the building is Herods Cardo, a promenade souk offering outstanding merchandise. And still being built across the street is Herods Forum, which will be the Sheraton Convention Center.

Nina Boxer and son David find hospitality
everywhere at Herods Palace.

When the entire complex is completed, this will be a city within the city. Even though you may want to spend your business days at the convention center and relax in the evenings in the sheikh’s company, there is a lot to see and do in Eilat. The registration clerks, when they’re not singing and welcoming new guests, can be very helpful in pointing out other attractions in the vicinity.


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