Spring Break 2010 on the Red Sea

Trip Start Jan 22, 2010
Trip End May 29, 2010

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Flag of Egypt  , Red Sea and Sinai,
Sunday, April 11, 2010

  Spring Break 2010- my first spring break actually doing something fun, adventurous and exciting. After returning from Alexandria on Saturday night and staying up until 2am to pack, I woke up Sunday (Easter Sunday!) ready for an 8-hour bus ride to Dahab. Garrett, Haley, and I, set off for the bus station in a cab at 7am in the morning. We got on the bus and began our journey…the bus was pretty nice and big (even had a bathroom, but that was a disgusting experience). Dahab is a coastal area in Egypt in the Sinai Peninsula located right on the Red Sea. It was an easy drive minus the innumerable checkpoints where Egyptian police stopped us to check all the passengers passports, IDs, etc. We weren't even leaving the flipping country! The sad part is they looked at ours only once, but checked the Egyptian IDs at every single stop- Americans and foreigners are sadly treated so much better than nativeEgyptians. We had left at 8am in the morning and arrived in Dahab at 4pm- as soon as we descended from the bus there was an onslaught of men waiting to offer a taxi to anyone coming off the bus. I mean there were like 10 of them- we managed to pull one guy out and haggle with him for a good price to take us to our hotel, called Penguin Village (pretty eclectic).        We arrived, checked in, and were shown to our very simple room. It was for three people, it had a double bed and a single bed, a bathroom, and that was about it. No blankets, just sheets on the bed, and I didn’t have a pillow. There was no toilet paper or towels and the shower consisted of a single shower head-no curtain, no stall, and no nothing. It was a challenge for me that’s for sure, but that’s what you get for 9 Euros per night. We decided to go up to the restaurant attached to our hotel- it was literally on the Red Sea, and there was an open aired roof with an unbelievable view!! I fell in love with the view and could have sat there all day every day. While sitting n the roof on huge orange and white pillows, we looked behind us and saw a cat lying on the ground with three tiny tiny tiny kittens lying beside her. I have never seen such a small kitten in my life! They were only born the week before- the smallest black one was my favorite, the runt, if you will. Unlike all the stray cats in Cairo these cats looked well kept, fed, and washed. I instantly became more fascinated with the kittens than I did with the Red Sea sitting behind me, and I took an unnatural amount of pictures of them. I don’t even like cats! But their cuteness totally sucked me in. We finished our coffee and decided to roam around the main street of Dahab for a bit, and look for a place to eat dinner.

I. Was. In. love. It was quiet, quaint, not too many people, with the feel of a boardwalk on the Red Sea. There were so many tiny shops and the restaurants were all lined up on the edge of the sea with comfortable couches, pillows, candles, and pure ambience. The annoying, and occasionally funny part was that at every single store and restaurant there was a man standing outside trying to persuade tourists to come into their shop. Every single one of them tried to persuade us with some flirting, etc, until we decided we would only eat in the first restaurant where no one invited us inside. We ended up eating at an Indian, Chinese, and Thai place, up on the second floor balcony outside with a beautiful view. It was heavenly. The power went out a couple times, but apparently this is common (I was the only one surprised by it), so there were long periods where we literally ate by candlelight. We finished and went back to the hotel and basically went right to sleep- I slept on top of my sheet, and used my sweatshirt as my pillow- not too bad.

         The next morning, I woke up to the most gorgeous view and we met some friends of ours in the program who had stayed in Dahab the night before and were leaving that day to hike/ camp along the beach on their way to Nuweiba. It was fun to see them for breakfast, and we helped them with some last minute essentials before seeing them off on their way. Afterwards we walked through the town again, before stopping at a little restaurant to get a snack and relax. I will never get tired of sitting by this sea on a hot sunny afternoon. We did some actual shopping on the way back to the hotel and worked hard all afternoon planning on our next move. We didn’t exactly have a plan for the rest of spring break- we literally didn’t know where we would be staying the next night- which was exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. We laid out on the roof of the restaurant back at Penguin Village watching the sunset and resting after such a crazy exhausting day (yeah we really didn’t do anything). Haley went inside to nap, and Garrett and I ordered some drinks and a Sheesha to relax with in the early evening. We ended up also ordering dinner at the Penguin restaurant- it was delicious, and we went for another nightly walk down the main street. Egyptian ice cream was involved for our dessert and I was a very happy person. For some reason, doing nothing all day is exhausting and we ended up returning to the hotel to get some sleep. My sweatshirts proved to be a pretty valuable pillow and I was grateful for them.

     The next morning we woke up in time to have breakfast, pack and check out before we took the 10am bus from Dahab to Nuweiba where there is a ferry leaving for Jordan- our next destination- as decided the night before. We stopped and got some snacks, ate breakfast and hopped on the minibus with 6 other people (a minibus is kind of like a large SUV/ van style as opposed to a 'bus’) it was about a 2 hour drive to Nuweiba and we arrived at about 12:30pm. We said goodbye to the fascinating travelers we met on the bus who were headed to Israel (I wanna go!!), and found the place to buy tickets for the ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba, Jordan. The ticket said the ferry left at 3pm and we should be there 2hours in advance because of crowds and immigration/customs procedures. We walked over and entered the most run down ferry station and upon stepping inside we were faced with the stares of about 200 Middle Eastern men- not one women in sight, just the men and their stares- which I could have done without. Luckily the three of us girls had met two other men, one from Britain and one from Texas who were on our same ferry so we walked through the throng of men with them until we found n empty-ish spot in the back of the station to sit down. Thank God we had brought our own food for this trip- we were smart about that. We had bread, peanut butter, granola, chips, pears, cheese, etc. so we could have a nice little lunch on the dirty benches in the damp and dirty ferry station- good times. Eventually it became 2pm and we still had NO idea what was going on- we managed to get our passports stamped, and were left to sit around again, wondering which room we should wait in. We went back and forth between theses large rooms as we were unsure where the ferry was going to be waiting and where we would enter from (by ‘we’ I mean us girls, our two male friends and the small group of other foreigners-Europeans, Canadians, etc.). Haley and I stepped outside for some air and to find out exactly where the ferry or even where the water was located. We stopped to talk to a police officer in broken Arabic (we were SO proud of ourselves) and found out the ferry would actually be leaving at 4pm. Goodness gracious. We relayed the message to our foreign friends and waited some more.

        At around 4pm the guard came into the station towards the area where we were waiting and spoke Arabic basically asking us to round everyone up and go outside(we were the only ones who understood him- heck YEAH). We went outside, and were very confused as the officer told us to get on this decrepit old bus – it did not look functional at all. We were standing there talking to him in somewhat Arabic and there was a long line of Europeans behind us waiting for us to translate and tell them what to do. We didn’t exactly want to be responsible for the fate of the European travelers but apparently we were supposed to get on this bus even though it made no sense to anyone. We got on, and the bus drove us to the waiting ferry and we finally found where all the women were- I guess they were waiting in another area, which would have been nice to know. After much pushing, crowding, etc (no such thing as organization in Africa) we entered the ferry and settled down in the first seats we saw. Though we were the first ones on, it took a good hour to load the hundreds of Middle Eastern men that were waiting at the station with us, so we sat on the ferry and didn’t actually start moving until 6pm. We sat and talked with our fellow foreigners- I really like Dewi (Welch for David), as he was a big jolly middle-aged British man just traveling around by himself. Emory, the other guy from Texas sat and talked with Garrett for most of the ride and Haley and I sat and talked, did crosswords, talked, etc. Supposedly we were on the ‘fast ferry’, which is only one hour between Nuweiba and Aqaba- well after two hours we arrived in Aqaba, Jordan (I don’t even want to know what the ‘slow ferry’ is like).

        We waited until most of the crowd had gotten off before we got up, went over to the guy on the ferry showed our passport, which he immediately took from all of us. I guess we were supposed to get a card for our Jordanian visas on the ferry (we missed that announcement which was ironically in English) and the man took all of our passports saying we would get them back at the Immigration office. I don’t like when someone takes my passport and I don’t know If I’ll be getting it back, so we all panicked slightly as we stood outside the ferry without our passport or visa and NO idea what was going on. We finally got on another bus, which drove us to the Immigration office at the ferry station (about 5 minutes away) We walked in and sat down…and waited some more. By this time is was about 9pm and we did some money exchange (400 Egyptian pounds= 48 Jordanian Dinars= outrageous!) then Haley and I waltzed on into the Immigration office where a man was sitting stamping a bunch of passports- we spoke in our partial Arabic (this usually endears Arabic people to us, they’re definitely more receptive when you speak their language) and he said he would do our passports as soon as possible and make sure they were in our hands. After more waiting, it was about 10pm; we thankfully and finally got our Passports back complete with a Jordanian visa!

        Next was customs, and when we finally reached the other side and were officially in Jordan we were once again greeted with the onslaught of taxi drivers throwing us offers all over the place. We found one who agreed to take five of us to the Moon Beach Hotel (us three girls, Dewi, and Emory), which was recommended by Lonely Planet guide to the Middle East (our savior on this trip). So it was a four-person cab, but I sat on Haley’s lap and all was good, until the police stopped us and gave the driver a warning for having 5 passengers. We were definitely not in Egypt anymore, where we have piled 7 of us in one cab and no one cares one iota. The three of us got a double room, and Dewi and Emory shared a room down the hall. It was now about 11pm, and we decided to go out and get some dinner- why not? We walked to a Chinese Seafood place on the Red Sea (recommended by Lonely Planet again!); we were the only people there because not many people eat dinner at 11pm at night. We finished this then walked by the sea on our way back to the hotel.  

          Jordan is everything Egypt isn’t- clean, no trash, normal traffic rules, etc. It was extremely weird to see actual garbage men working and picking up trash, and a car actually stopped for us at a stop walk!!!! Across the sea you could clearly see a huge lit up city and I had no idea what it was for the longest time until someone said it was ISRAEL!!! SO cool-I literally could have swum across, and it looked so gorgeous at night. The city was called Eilat and is directly across from Aqaba. We finally reached our hotel (we had a great view of Eilat from our hotel room too!) and crashed into bed- we needed sleep because the next morning we were scheduled for a bus ride to…PETRA!!! More adventures coming soon J

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