Part 3: Levantine Times

Cheers from Cairo! It has been a while since yours truly last checked in, mainly because the internet sucked so badly I had trouble uploading anything bigger than a PDF. Edu and me met up with Sophie and these three musketeers together had a blast in Tel Aviv before renting a car and exploring the Golan Heights, Palestina and the Dead Sea region. The whole experience was augmented significantly by Dr. Vogel, a retired platoon commander who was gracious enough to lend us the keys to his apartment on the sea of Galilee and his daughters apartment in Tel Aviv.

While Sophie and Edu got up at 4:30 to see the ruins of Masada, I decided to go to the oldest tower in the world, an 8 meter high construct with stairs and everything in Jericho that is close to 10,000 years old. I was excited, to say the least, but my excitement was diminished when I arrived only to find the archaeological site fenced off with some faded tape dating back to the late eighties, just like the Volvo wreck that decorated the entrance. A bunch of tumbleweeds blew past the bored group of lost Chinese tourist who made their way when I got in. They goggled at the peacock at the entrance (I did not ask why they kept a peacock there) before they entered their dusty tour bus, leaving me with a security guard who warned me not to stray from the path before continuing his nap. So you basically stroll through an acre of dunes, past the unintelligible faded signs until you stumble upon the base of a tower which, since its excavation decades ago, has partly reverted to its old sand covered state. Edu and Sophie, in the meantime, managed to take the wrong road and drive up a hill into a army base. By the time they were escorted out again and made up for the detour they were so late they barely had time to climb the hill and see the ruins.

Interesting point is the difference between Israel and Palestine. As a tourist the border doesn’t really exist, but a few kilometers can mean a world of difference. Both sides are very friendly and hospitable, but at the same time very paranoid of each other.

After a couple of days in beautiful Jerusalem we made our way to Jordan. For future travelers who are trying to avoid stamps: Israel doesn’t stamp passports anymore, they give separate slips of paper. Jordan does so too, if you ask for it (at least at the Eilat border crossing they did). Even though you will get stamped when leaving the country, it doesn’t matter since your point of entry will be obfuscated. After lightening the mood with immigration by playing a couple of songs, we got moderately ripped off by the taxi drivers, before boarding a local minibus from Aqaba to Petra (Aqaba, even though the city of Alladin is based on it, is a shithole I wholeheartedly advise skipping). Sophie and me met two French girls who had been invited to spend the night by two Bedouins, whom we promptly joined. They looked like they came straight of out Pirates of the Caribbean, eyeliner and red scarves included, driving us through the desert in their 4WD (they upgraded from camels about a decade back) while chanting along to loud Arabic music and drinking local moonshine. The Bedouins love music, making tea on campfires and asking endless riddles (What is yours but is mostly used by others? If you know the answer, make an account and post it in the comment section. Might be nice to have something else than Nigerian spam there).

After some chilling on the coast Sophie went back to Tel Aviv and Edu and me took the night boat to Egypt. We had great fun getting ushered through the visa process by the captain who was very nice to us but hell to the group of rich Chinese girls who looked like they were about to cry while they tried to keep up with two suitcases a piece. After obtaining the visa we shared a taxi to Dahab, a former Bedouin town on the Red Sea that has been turned into a hippie/diver town reminiscent of Pokhara in Nepal. Colourful building, cheap bars, very relaxed hostels and amazing undersea life draw backpackers and hippies from all over the world to get drunk, make music and go dive. All this is hidden behind multiple layers of checkpoints since the Sinai desert is still rather unstable and prone to terrorist attacks (though this seems to be confined to the north lately).

Three days in paradise later we hitchhiked to St. Catherine, which is the ancient monastery at the foot of mount Sinai where Moses purportedly received the ten commandments. Dodging the tourist buses, we got high with some more Bedouins in the desert (actually meeting the cousin of one of our Petra friends), before boarding the long bus to Cairo. So there you have it! Now we have time to prepare for the Nile river down south and getting out visa for Sudan. See you all next time!



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