Friday, March 4, 2011

Parting the Red Sea

After our whirlwind trip to Dubai and Jordan, we were ready for a little R&R.  Some sun, some sand, some scuba and, most importantly, some Starwood points.  Le Meridian Dahab, here we come!

But first, we had to get there.  Honestly, it would have been faster to walk across with Moses.

Especially if we could have gone by camel.
So, in case you're wondering what traveling from Wadi Rum, Jordan, to Dahab, Egypt by ferry is like, here's a brief (or not so brief, sorry) timetable of our day:

5:30 AM
Our alarm goes off in our freezing cold Beduin tent.  Outside it is totally dark and the sand is covered with frost.
5:45 AM
Look for our Beduin guide.  Like any teenager, he is still sleeping and he mumbles, “5 more minutes.”
6:00 AM
After a quick Turkish coffee, we pile into his pickup truck, drive through the desert, and pull up at the bus stop for our local bus to Aqaba.  Of the dozen or so fully veiled women walking towards the bus stop, he points to one and says, “that’s my sister.”  How does he know?
7:00 AM
Local bus arrives.  The women sit in the back, the men up front.  Dave and I sit in the middle-ish.  Every time someone gets on or off the bus, the bus driver moves everyone around to keep the gender separation in effect.  A small boy tells me I have to sit in the back, I ignore him like the immoral western woman I am.
8:30 AM
Arrival in Aqaba.  We negotiate for a taxi to the port.  The taxi driver (who lived in Jersey City for 8 years in the 90s but left because it was too dangerous) tells us the ferry ticket office in the port closed; now it’s in town.  We don’t believe him and he says, “OK, well you’ll get to the port and you’ll see, and then you’ll have to take an extra taxi.” We relent and go to the ticket office in town.  It appears legitimate.
8:45 AM
We arrive at the port.  The ticket office there is obviously open and has never been closed.  Thankfully, they confirm that our ticket is real.  We spend some time going to various windows to do things like pay a departure tax. 
9:00 AM
Dave buys and eats a small falafel type sandwich from a vendor.  I think this is a bad idea before a day of travel and questionable bathrooms.  We sit and wait.  And wait.
11:30 AM
The ferry is supposed to depart at noon and buses to take everyone to the dock begin to pull up.  A man rounds up all the white people waiting around and brings us into the tourist office where we are required to fill out a tourism satisfaction survey about our time in Aqaba.
12:00 PM
Tourists are ushered onto a bus to the port.  We jam ourselves in amongst all the local peoples who got the seats because they didn’t have to fill out a survey.  We board the ferry, nervously leaving our luggage in a giant pile.
1:30 PM
The ferry finally leaves, only 1 ½ hours late.  We stand in the on-board lines for Jordanian immigration and then Egyptian immigration.  They take our passports and tell us we can pick them up in the office in the port when we arrive, after we buy our visas.  We freak out but hand them over.  We get a tiny slip of paper with some Arabic on it; apparently this to claim our passports.  We are really hungry.  We share the only food we have - some Woolworth's dried mango and a bag of chips we got on our flight to Dubai.  God I miss that Woolworth's dried mango.
3:00 PM
We arrive at the port of Nuweiba.  We collect our luggage and make our way through the port to buy our visa.  Of course the official Egyptian visa office is located in a random shady looking money changer office.  We each receive a sticker which we bring to yet another office where, thank god, our passports are safely waiting.  The sticker goes in the passport, we hand over the receipt, and we are free to go. 
4:00 PM
We’ve found some other travelers to share a car to Dahab – an American and three Chileans.  We make our way through the mayhem of the port (and it is MAYHEM, we’re trying to, for instance, put our luggage on the x-ray machines while Egyptian men are shoving past us and loading piles of boxes and crates and pipes and who knows what else) and Dave begins a brutal negotiation for the car ride.  Finally he agrees on a price with the stipulation that the car will leave right away.
4:30 PM
The car has not left yet.  The driver is nowhere to be found.
4:45 PM
A group of Japanese haggle with our driver for a ride.  We tell them what we are paying and they say, “too much” and walk away.  We feel like suckers.
5:00 PM
Three Korean girls pile in the trunk and we are off!
7:00 PM
Arrival in Dahab.  Our driver doesn’t know where anyone’s hotel is and we aimlessly drive around the small town and eventually some other guy gets in the car to help navigate.
7:15 PM
Drop off Korean girls at their hotel.
7:30 PM
Drop off American and two Chileans at their hotel.
8:00 PM
Eventually find the third Chilean’s hotel.  Realize that we drove past it immediately upon entering Dahab.
8:30 PM
Finally arrive at Le Meridian Dahab (after only two stops at hotels that were obviously not ours), only an hour and a half after reaching Dahab, and 15 hours since we had woken up that morning!!!

1 comment:

  1. see? even a lousy , frustrating day makes a great story!


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