An Epic Journey: Egypt to Jordan

Posted on May 5, 2015

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There’s always something that makes me nervous when I am arriving in a country I’ve never been to and all I have is a phone number for someone called ‘Ali’ who, I have been told, will organise a trip to the desert when I arrive. To be fair, it actually gives me a little thrill, I love an adventure. My boyfriend and I are here for a wedding and are planning to get a bit of sightseeing in first. The bride has organised this so all should be fine…

Coming from a diving trip in Egypt, we have a bit of an epic trip to get to Aqaba. Epic for a number of reasons. Firstly, I didn’t do my research properly. And when I say research, I mean look at a map. For some unfathomable reason I though Soma Bay and Nuweiba were a short taxi ride from each other, not on different peninsulas of the Red Sea. Oops. Engineering the trip slightly all we needed to do was fly from Hurgada to Sharm El Sheikh – a short hop – and then take a taxi for 2 hours to Nuweiba. It may have added a 3 hours to the trip but it was doable. Or should have been.

Firstly, my boyfriend left his passport in the hotel. So we tipped the driver to go back, at speed, and then get us to the airport in time. Easy. 

Taxis were easy to find when we got to Sharm, we opted for the more expensive service within the airport (assuming taxis would be cheaper outside, we didn’t want to waste time negotiating process for the sake of £20). Boom, easy. 

Until we got to a road block. Here we were detained for no apparent treason other than the soldiers parading of power. On a tight deadline, that 30mins was not what we needed, but we were eventually show through with the other tourist cars that had since been detained. Five roadblocks later – at which the driver decided to show either my boyfriends passport (he’s Dutch), or tell the soldiers that we were French. They don’t like the English apparently.

IMG_0691Getting to Nuweiba 10 minutes before the boat was leaving we were so proud of ourselves. There was a vast line of locals waiting to get into the port. All looked good. At the ticket office however they just shook their heads, mentioned something about an inspection and told us to go and drink tea for an hour. Popping back after an hour, we were told the same thing. On the way back to the cafe we met a Doctor, seemingly wanting to practise his English he offered to help. Lovely chap who we finally ate with taking some freshly grilled fish, bread and salad from a roadside grill – amazing. All of a sudden the queue started going back down. The doctor and my boyfriend ran over to get tickets, but the office was shut. Reopening 3 hours later. 

Knowing that this would mean sacrificing our night in the desert we looked at other options. It was only 70km by road, and a jaunt into Israel meaning two border crossings. Oh, and the British Foreign office strongly advised travelling on this part of the Sinai Peninsula. Or we could have tried to get a boat to Saudi Arabia, direct across the Red Sea, and travel from there. You can see what we had to weigh up…

So we hopped in a taxi, driving through what seemed to be ghost town after ghost town, or perhaps Kibutz is a better way of putting it. Where Israelis used to come and holiday, dozens and dozens of places had been left empty. Hotels half built. Roads not maintained. It was a far cry from the other side of the Red Sea.

After several more road blocks, and lies about where we were from, we got to the border of Egypt. Overweight, moustached men (I’m still not sure I’ve ever seen an Egyptian woman) greeted us with grunts or smiles, and ushered us through a dirty empty building that was the border. Walking across the road we were greeted by young, laughing, beautiful Israelis. Air-conditioned efficiency at it’s best. The contrast of cultures in just a few feet was incredible. 

Passports not stamped – I guess they’d got used to people asking to prevent travels in the Middle East – we paid our dues and hopped in a taxi to cross Eilat to the Jordanian border. We had an hour and a half before the border closed, plenty of time. And besides, there would be great places to stay in Eilat if we didn’t make it. 

Except that this weekend was passover and every piece of land was covered in cars and tents. And traffic was bad. A 20min ride would take up to an hour.   Argh. Again. In fact it was fine and we were deposited at an equally efficient exit border with large signposts to Jordan. It was now 7pm. We’d been travelling almost 12 hours and we were both tired, and probably a little bit smelly. 

IMG_0695The Jordanian border was not quite like the Israeli birder, but the contracts was a lot less than that with Egypt. Slight delays were caused purely by the call to prayer, and after yet another border fee, we were moved swiftly though.

Lo and behold, as we walked through, there was a sign… ‘Lippe and Jodie’: Ali had come through after several text messages, our taxi was awaiting. 

 

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