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Middle East 05


A fortnight in the Middle East, visiting Catherine in Cairo, and following on for a few days in Israel.


Egypt

The River Nile

Drinking beer on a felucca

another felucca

Road on the edge of the desert, near the fertile plain

Admiring the Saqqara funerary temple

Older design of pyramid, the Step Pyramid of Saqqara

Carvings inside a pyramid

Camel

Giza pyramids in the city

Pyramid and car

Typical view of pyramids

The old joke, "Taxi sir?"

Sphynx

Cairo from the citadel

Planes that bombed Israel, after its invasion of Sinai

Mohammed Ali mosque

Statues of ancient Pharoahs

Downtown, from floating restaurant


Egypt to Israel

You have to buy a ticket from Turgomen Garage (metro Orabi) to Taba. There are 3 busses a day, at 6.30am, 9.30am and 10.30pm, costing 55LE (except the night bus - 75LE). Busses are run by the East Delta Travel company. You need to buy a ticket at least a day in advance. Once you get to the bus station, someone should know which bus you take - it's not a big bus station. Actually, there are 2 bus stations near each other - it goes from the one with the ticket booths arranged in a semi-circle.

Once onboard, the bus takes about an hour to even leave Cairo, and stops at some other suburban bus stations. On leaving, it will be full. Note, that there were almost no women, only a couple and they travelled with their husbands.

Be warned, that the busses are somewhat unreliable. The one I took stopped for an hour by the side of the road, engine (and therefore a/c) off, before the driver got back on and we continued. Another traveller I met in a hostel said that on a return trip, the bus broke down 5 times!

Make sure you take food and plenty of water with you, though the bus will make a stop about 3/4 of the way to Taba, at a desert roadhouse, where there is a toilet and small cafe. It also stops at various army bases, to deliver water and newspapers to the soldiers!

On the approach to Taba, the bus will skirt the airport (which has next to no flights!) and then descend the mountain road. It will stop at the bottom and someone will check passports, then turn left along the coast road. Finally, it will stop at the "Taba Bus Station", a gravel area with a (closed) office, with bus times in the window. Get off here, as it will then return back down the coast to Nuweiba. People will try to get you into a taxi to take you to the border - don't bother, as it is literally a further 200m down the road.

At the border, you have to buy an exit stamp from the Egyptian border guards, of 2LE. I was lucky - they had change! - but they don't always if you arrive early in the day. You then walk to the next building, the air conditionned departure hall, where your bags are scanned, then there's a little food / drink / cigarette kiosk, and then the passport control desk, where you give the card with the departure stamp to the border guard. He then stamps your passport, and you are out of Egypt.

A few yards further on you get to a duty free shop, then the Israeli building, with cool water mist spray coming from the ceiling of the path shade outside. On entry, again your stuff is scanned, then you queue for immigration. Unlike arriving in Israel by air, here you shouldn't be delayed for more than 5 minutes of questions. They weren't even put off by me saying I didn't know where I was staying, that I'd find somewhere in the town (of Eilat)!

Once you leave the building you are in Israel proper. To change money, there is a bank in the Israeli departure side (where you have to pay a departure tax for leaving Israel, should you exit by this crossing). There are hourly busses to the town, but the last leaves at 18.20, but also taxis waiting, charging about 35NIS to go to town. Be warned, that Israel is more of a Western country, with corresponding prices - ie. shedloads more than Egypt, and marginally more expensive than the UK, for stuff like eating out.

There are plenty of hostels in Eilat, from the bus station uphill, the 2nd and 3rd streets on the right have plenty advertising dorm beds for $8, but may only have private rooms for between 100 and 150NIS (about 15). Ideally you should book in advance, or go to the bus station and buy a ticket to Jerusalem (I think they are hourly busses taking about 4 1/2 hrs and costing 65NIS) or Tel Aviv (more busses). The Jerusalem bus, number 444, runs alongside the Dead Sea, so you get to see that, and on leaving the area, you see a sign on the roadside pointing out "Sea Level". And even though this route goes through the West Bank, you see no sign of anything different - no towns, villages, mosques, differences in road signs or markings or anything.

On arrival in Jerusalem, you have you get your luggage scanned when you get off the bus, then once on the street outside the bus station (on Jaffa Rd) you can get a local bus (5.50NIS) to the Old City, or walk the 3km or so (as I did). I stayed in the Petra Hostel, right by Jaffa Gate, which was cheap but rather dirty. I think the term is "has character" - the building has probably been there for centuries. Be warned in the old city, that the hasslers are like those in the Cairo bazaar. Ignoring them seems to be the only way.


Israel

Resort town of Eilat. Note huge Jordanian flag, visible from Aqaba

The Dead Sea

Mount Zion

Mount of Olives

Via Dolerosa, supposedly the route of Jesus' last walk to the cross

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of two possible sites of Jesus' crucifiction and burial

The possible burial cave in the church

The other possible site - Golgotha, the Place of the Skull

The other possible tomb, the Garden Tomb

Inside the Garden Tomb

The Garden of Gethseneme

The Temple Mount, complete with mosque

The Western (or Wailing) Wall, holy for Jews

The port of Jaffa (as in oranges), now a suburb of Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv beachfront