Travel from Sharm to Cairo to Amman

Trip Start May 24, 2009
Trip End Jul 20, 2009

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Monday, June 1, 2009

So since our last entry we have been back to Cairo and are now in Amman, Jordan.

After my last entry Cory and I walked with our packs in the brutal Egyptian sun to the Old Market in Sharm El Sheikh.  We made it, probably a pound or two lighter, in about 20 minutes.  One of our inside jokes has become, "Taxi Dahab".  Many taxi drivers in Sharm asked us if we go to Dahab, which is another resort town up the coast, maybe 150 or 200 km.  So just out of curiosity, when we were asked, I asked him how much.  He had to think about it for a while, I think he was a bit taken aback that somebody might actually consider going to Dahab in his taxi, but he said 200 EGP.  That was pretty cheap I thought considering the distance, and I'm sure we could have gotten him down 50 to 100 EGP if we wanted.  In any case our mission was to get something to eat, so we found a place that didn't have too much seafood (Cory is a seafood hater) and had a whole roast chicken, some rice, and some type of hummus-esque dish with pita bread.  It was probably one of the better meals in Egypt.

We then went back to the gate to the old town to find a taxi to the bus station for our trip back to Cairo.  We ended up running into our Dahab taxi guy, and had to inform him that, unfortunately, we were going to Cairo.  In any case we got the drivers into quite the bidding war for us.  We had the first guy from 30 EGP down to 15 EGP, but he was making us mad so we abandoned him for his competitors.  They went down to 15 rather quickly, but then we decided we wanted 10 EGP, which was pretty easy to do.  They were all mad and insisting we go with this one driver, but we opted for a different one, since they were being a bit too forceful for our tastes.  About 20 minutes later, we arrived at the bus station, which was adjacent to the one we had arrived at.  It ended up these busses were a bit seedier, but were 10 EGP less (50 EGP) and some were even cheaper than that.  We took the 8:00 pm bus, which would get us into Cairo around 2 or 3 in the morning. 

The trip back on the bus was much less eventful.  We went through all of the police/military checkpoints much more easily, and were never even questioned for our passports by the police/military (compared to the 4 or more times on the way down).  We made two stops along the way, one of which Cory and I got out at, it was right along the Suez Canal.  Unfortunately neither of us thought to ask where in Cairo we were getting dropped off.  We (incorrectly) assumed that we were to be taken to the bus station we had left from, which was very nice and air conditioned.  Our intent was to stay there for a couple of hours in the comfort before leaving for the airport.  Ends up we were dropped off on some random street.  So it was time to hail a taxi for the airport.

We hailed a couple of taxis to try to negotiate a good rate.  I think we ended up paying 30 EGP, which was pretty cheap, though for how easy it was we probably could have gotten it cheaper.  He took us to the airport, though we had no idea which terminal we were flying out of, and he didn't speak good enough English to figure it out with us.  So we opted for Terminal 2.  Turns out we needed Terminal 1.  No worries though, there is a shuttle bus between the terminals for free. 

So we got to Terminal 1, found a bench, and slept for a few hours.  It was FREEZING in the airport, so for anyone that may go to the Cairo airport, please bring a jacket!  We got up around 8 and messed around for an hour or so until we went through the security, check-in, and passport control.  We then got on our Royal Jordanian flight, which only took about an hour, plus or minus.  The flight was really nice and comfortable, and they did serve a small sandwhich, OJ, and water. 

Upon our arrival in Amman we had to exchange some USD for Jordanian Dinar, since there were no ATM's before customs.  We needed the money to get our visas, which cost 10 JD.  For reference, 1.4 USD = 1 JD.  1 USD = .7 JD approximately.  So we then got our bags, went through customs and needed to find a taxi.  Since the airport is about 50 km from Amman, it was more expensive than what we were used to paying.  We ended up negotiating with a private car (kind of sketchy) for 17 JD, which was much less than the 30 JD he was originally asking.  The official (yellow) taxis were quoting us 19.50 and didn't seem willing to compromise.  The thing about this guy we ended up with is he was making us like run from the police so he didn't get in trouble, and he was in a MAJOR hurry to get out of the airport.  Thus far our experiences leaving the airport have left us a bit sketched out, but we obviously have survived (knock on wood). 

So we arrived in Amman about 30 minutes later.  The city has a bit less than 2 million people, and it isn't much of a looker, to say the least.  We got to our hostel, which is pretty nice (we are paying like 8 JD per night per person, including breakfast).  We checked in and then decided to head out after a bit of the Tyra Banks Show (Beyonce was on) which was on Dubai 1 satellite.  So we set off on a journey to the 2 things to do in Amman, see the Citadel and the Roman Ampitheatre. 

We went way the wrong way to the Citadel and walked up the longest/steepest hill ever, it was like San Fran times 10!  We finally found our way (it took us about 30 minutes instead of the 10 the hostel said it should take).  The problem was, we couldn't find our way in.  Eventually we found an old shopkeeper who directed us up some stairs between houses (I was very surprised he spoke English).  As things turned out, we went in the unofficial way, and therefore avoided the Tourist Police Checkpoint and ticket takers, so it was free for us!  The ruins were pretty neat, and included houses, a mosque, an old church, and other things.  It all dated back to between the 1st and 8th centuries AD.  I have quite a few pictures.  We also got some good pictures of the Ampitheatre from up there.  We spent about 45 minutes up there before heading down to the Ampitheatre, which was ok.  We opted to not pay the 1 JD to get in, as it seemed all we would get would be more exercise climbing up the stairs there.  We still got some good pictures, in addition to the ones from the Citadel way up on the hillside. 

After the ampitheatre we headed home, which was only about a 15 minute walk, but also included some steep hills.  Our plan was to go eat dinner, but we both quickly passed out while watching "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days."  About 3 hours later we finally got up, made it to the lobby to ask about a good place for dinner.  They sent us to "Jerusalem Restaurant" where they didn't give us much choice (despite the lengthy menu).  We could have chicken or lamb with rice.  We both opted for chicken, and were both served lamb, what luck, not...  So we asked to be switched to chicken, which he did.  The food was pretty bad, in my opinion.  The rice was yellow and tasted like something I've had before (I didn't like it then either).  But we ate it up, as we were both pretty hungry.  The meal, with a cola each, cost us 10 JD total.  Not too bad, though we found some places while we were walking that are half the price, and look much more along our tastes.  We will be trying those in the coming days.

Once we made it back, we had missed the hot water period (hot showers are available from 7 - 9 in the morning and evening only), so we will not shower until tomorrow morning.  So we watched "Showtime" with Robert Deniro and Eddy Murphy.  It wasn't too bad.  Cory has been asleep for a while, about halfway through the movie, then I came down here to do email and blog. 

Tomorrow our plan is to go to the Red Sea.  The hostel does tours that cost 15 Dinar and go to the Red Sea, but the public bus is only like 1 JD, so we are opting to save money.  Interestingly enough, the hostel will also take you to Damascus (Syria) for 20 JD, and a number of other places.  I am hoping that maybe we will also get to go to Petra while we are here.  We leave on Wednesday morning, very early for Dubai.  The other interesting thing is all the signs for the Iraq Border.  Apparently it isn't so far away, you can take a taxi for about 100 JD.  Needless to say, Cory and I have opted to not visit Iraq.

Final Recap on Egypt

Food - 80%.  Most of the food was actually decent, if you could figure out was it was.  The shawermas were always a good bet, and anything that you could see being made, so that you could just point.  It was almost always cheap.  My only real big complaint was that it was very bland, and it often required hot sauce and pepper.  Try the khousouri (sp?).

People - 88%.  The people were almost without exception very kind.  Many of them were of course trying to make money off of you, but did it in a very kind (though also VERY persistent) way.  They didn't seem to hate Americans, at least not to our face.  Those that weren't trying to push you into buying something were extremely hospitable, probably more so than any other culture I've experienced.

Culture - 95%.  The culture is so old, and the Ancient Egyptian stuff is all very cool.  Some things were pretty crazy though, like the really terrible jobs the women have, the women only coaches on the subway, and the segregated coffee shops.  Still, all in all it was pretty awesome.

Expense - 98%.  It may be the cheapest place I have ever been.  I mean Cory and I would walk with our heavy packs for a mile or more just to save 10 EGP (less than $2), but it was ridiculous how cheap things were. 

Language Barrier - 35%.  It was pretty tough getting along in English, not as bad as my trip to Hungary, but I would definitely brush up on some Arabic.  You might also get your hotel or hostel to write things in Arabic for you to show your cab drivers where you need to go.  I have picked up a couple of words, phrases, and the numbers. 

Fun Factor - 80%.  We didn't really sample any of the nightlife or anything, but it was fun to see the antiquities, and Sham El Sheikh would be a ton of fun if we had more money and more time.

Overall - 85%.  I really enjoyed Egypt, but that being said, I don't think I would go back for quite a long time.  I don't know what would really draw me back, perhaps the resorts at Sharm (I hear they are building a Bellagio), or to see some of the more ancient Egyptian stuff in Luxor or Aswan.
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