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Published: December 14th 2015
We departed Sharm El Sheik at 0900 and took the East Delta bus to the Egyptian border crossing at Taba ($6) via Dahab and Nuweiba. I had initially planned to buy plane tickets to fly directly to Jordan, but the cost was so high and I heard to do the trip overland was scenic, 1/5 the cost, fairly easy and relatively safe.
We traveled through the Sinai peninsula north up through the mountains along the coast, past Mt. Sinai and other biblical locales. Our bus had several other tourists on it, including two Icelanders and a very loud and obnoxious native Greek NY'er Greg who we befriended along the way. Greg talked non stop about how great Israel was and how he couldn't wait to return after his horrific trip to Egypt where it seemed like he got ripped off at every turn. He spoke of Israel as the promised land and swore that he saw miracles of "biblical proportions" during his previous short stay, however we dared not ask him to expound on this topic.
We arrived at the border crossing at about 1330 after having went through approximately twelve military and police checkpoints wherein we
an official boarded the bus and looked at our passports and visas one by one. We cleared immigration in less than an hour later into Eliat, Israel. Once we crossed the Egyptian border into Israel immigration the difference was staggering. There were attractive and friendly customs agents, clean toilets complete with soap and toilet paper, no flys, and even the air smelled sweeter and fragrant; maybe Greg was right after all about Israel. The best comparison I could make would be the border crossing with the US and Mexico, but ten times more disparate.
We had our passports stamped in Israel, which is a topic of controversy throughout the world. If you have an Israeli stamp in your passport most Middle Eastern countries, and several other Muslim countries around the world, will deny you entry into their country. To avoid this many people have their visas stamped on a separate piece of paper that you can throw out once your trip is complete, erasing any evidence of an Israeli trip.
Greg offered to give us a ride partway through Israel in his rental car which he left at the border. For some reason he thought he could roadtrip
his way through the Middle East and drive across the Northern Sinai to Alexandria, an area listed by the state department as virtually a do not travel zone because of repeated attacks. Egyptian officials would not allow him to bring a rental across the border on his fool's errand, and he complained bitterly about it at length.
We were dropped off in downtown Eliat, a pristine bustling seaside city. The beaches were full of bikini clad women, dozens of divers, kiteboarders and all sorts of vacationers making it look more like Miami than some unknown Mid East coastal town. After having been in Egypt for the past week and a half Israel did look like the promised land to us as well.
After changing some of our Egyptian pounds into Israeli Shekels we hailed a cab and were transported to the Jordanian border to finish our afternoon 3 country traverse. We had to pay a $30 departure fee to exit Israel and then we were in Jordan. Thankfully there were a few cabs parked in the nearly empty lot waiting for people just like us, to transport into the Jordanian city of Aqaba ($20). Every Jordanian we met was extremely friendly, smiled and welcomed us to his country.
We got to Aqaba at 1600 and picked up our rental car for the next 5 days, a cute little Peugeot. Amazingly I was able to navigate Dennis nearby to the Amer hotel ($25), directly behind a large mosque. It seems as though where ever you stay in the Middle East it is situated somewhere within a block of a mosque. If you think that you'll have a relaxing vacation of sleeping in every morning, think again, the first call to prayer is at first light, which has been around 0430-0445. Needless to say we have been getting early starts thanks to what Dennis has coined "his jam."
We walked around the area near our hotel, got chicken Shwarma sandwiches for dinner (something resembling a Gyro) and hit a liquor store for some local Jordanian Philadelphia beer and a small bottle of Arak, the Jordanian Anise seed liquor that tastes like licorice which I hated but Dennis loved. We picked up some bakery goods, and were grabbed by the owner who lead us up a flight of stairs to show us off his bakery. Every time we encounter someone really friendly we always get a bit nervous wondering if we are being led off to our deaths and into the hands if ISIS or something. Of course the owner just proudly showed us his bakery and insisted we take pictures and take samples of his delicious treats. At the end I posed for a picture with him and his baker, and he sweetly snuck a kiss on my cheek.
We found a streetside coffee vendor making delicious Jordanian coffee, which is a cardamom spiced strong Turkish style coffee. As we were waiting we were approached by a group of Indians, who asked for "selfies" with us. Again we were suspicious wondering if these photos would end up on "ISIS Ebay" like we've been joking about. The Indians were just super friendly, and a bit drunk, and wanted to tell us how great we were. Tomorrow we head off to the Wadi Rum desert for a camel trek and camping trip.
Tomorrow we head off for some camping in the Jordanian desert of Wadi Rum.
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