The long-awaited Ilan and Asaf Ramon International Airport is now fully open for business in Timna, 11 miles (18 kilometers) outside the Red Sea resort city of Eilat.

Spread across 1,250 acres in the Negev Desert, the airport is a game-changer for local and international tourism to Israel, Jordan and Egypt’s Sinai Desert.

Overview of the Ramon International Airport in southern Israel. Photo: courtesy

This new southern gateway to Israel is expected to host 2 million passengers per year, with a future expansion doubling that capacity. It handles domestic flights from Tel Aviv and Haifa as well as flights from Europe that previously used Eilat’s Ovda Airport.

Commissioned by the Israel Airport Authority (IAA), Ramon Airport officially opened in January but daily international flights have been received only since April 2.

The building’s minimalist futuristic design was overseen by Amir Mann-Ami Shinar Architects and Planners in partnership with Moshe Zur Architects working with more than 45 consulting firms.

Glass curtain walls and patios introduce the surrounding desert views into the building and serve as light wells allowing natural light into the terminal without need for skylights.

Looking out the window of the Ramon International Airport at the Negev scenery. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Project Design Manager Amir Mann said that the mushroom-like rock formations in neighboring Timna National Park inspired the geometry of the self-shaded 45,000 square-meter Passenger Terminal Building.

“Just as the rocks are shaped by the natural movements of wind and water, the terminal’s opaque volume was carved by the ‘natural movements’ of passenger traffic at the entrances and exits, at the divisions between arrivals and departures, and between the check-in and boarding-gate halls.”

Inside the passenger terminal at Ramon International Airport in southern Israel. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

All the sand and rock excavated at the site was used as filler for the runways, airplane hardstands and roads. Soil collected during digging was used to cover the ground upon completion of construction, while local plant seeds were harvested at the site, incubated in greenhouses during the years of construction, and returned to their original location as the airport’s landscape.

Originally expected to open in early 2018, the Ilan and Asaf Ramon International Airport will now replace both Ovda and J. Hozman Eilat Airport in downtown Eilat. A shuttle, and eventually a railway, link passengers from Ramon Airport to the city.