DAY 110, KM 4899, Dahab, Sinai, Egypt
Sunday 2 December 2007 28 °C
As we left Aqaba, we were both excited to make a small detour through Israel. We'd heard horror stories about security and we were imagining the exciting change from turbans and mustaches to yamakas and beards. With the strange, shocking history of the country, we were looking forward to taking a glimpse at the people that made it all happen. As we came up on the border, which looked like a fortress, with barded wire, cameras, and watch towers, we were properly impressed. The inside was like an airport, strewn with pictures of Clinton and we had to unload everything, take our bikes apart, and then stuff everything through an ex-ray machine. Highly suspect was our camp stove and we thought that they were about to confiscate it. After convincing the guard that we weren't there to blow up anything up, they let us free. As it has become a habit, Wim waved and started yelling goodbyes as we left, much to the confusion of everyone there. As we left, it was a big shock...
Everyone was white and pastey like us! A little piece of Europe in the middle of the Arab world. As we rode through the super modern streets, strewn with chain stores, clean bathrooms, and fast food joints, we became confused and worried. Nobody was honking or hanging out of car windows to welcome us. It was all so clean and cold. Like home. We then realized that we didn't want to go home yet. As we entered Egypt, just one hour later, we were greeted enthusiastically by the guards who made sure that we were married and planning to have children soon.
The Red Sea Coast of the Sinai is a dream. Warm weather, cheap food, cozy restaurants and hotels on the sea, friendly people and world famous diving. Just the tourists are missing. Riding down the coast was like riding through a gigantic ghost town. Very eerie. Huge, hollywood style resorts... but no one to be seen. Aparently a bomb a few years ago scared off all of the Isrealis. Now the Egyption government tries to make tourists feel safe by setting up police checkpoints every few kilometers so that they can check all foriegners passports.
In one of those lonely towns we found a campsite. That night, we stayed there and Wim asked a young guy named Siad if he could plug in the charger at the restaurant. It was no problem until the next morning when it was gone. No one knew anything, so we figured that we'd just file a police report and continue on, no big deal. Obviously, this struck fear into the hearts of everyone there. "Manager coming... five minute please please please" they said as everyone rushed around in a panic. (5 minutes Egyptian = 2 hours Western) After quite a wait, the manager showed up. In trying to keep us from going to the police, he kindly offered that Siad pay us for a new charger. How very kind... we were just a bit confused about the situation because the manager was yelling in Arabic, and Siad was now sitting in a corner full of doom and self pity. After inquiring further, we found out that our charger was worth Siads full month wage. But the very kind manager kept telling us," That's not your problem!" Anyway, we agreed to just leave without stealing Siad's wage, or filing with the police, and everyone was so happy that they began showering us with gifts and smiles. We felt really bad.
Foreigners are not allowed to travel independantly in some areas of Egyps, because Egyptians are supposedly dangerous. If the police catch you at one of the many checkpoints, they stick you into a van, with armed soldiers who point their guns at the villagers, and they race you to "safe" tourist sites for a heavy fee. This scares the tourists because of the insane driving, and it also scares the villagers who are having guns pointed at them. So, we ended up having to take a bus from the southern part of the Sinia to Luxor, where we will begin our tour of the Oases!