What a hot time these past few days have been. It’s been interesting though. So I wanted to leave Aswan. I was told that there were several buses heading north, so in the morning, I got up early and headed to the station. Nope. Nothing until 3:30pm. Damnit…I went to the train station. The guy told me that there would be a train at 9:30AM and I just had to wait an hour – and that I could buy a ticket on the train. No worries. I went to a cafe and had 4 coffees (really strong Turkish coffees) which was funny because the waiter got freaked out after I ordered my 3rd and was in disbelief after I ordered the 4th. But coffee doesn’t really affect me, so I can just keep drinking it. After a while, I headed back to the train station and tried to buy a ticket at the counter, but he said I could only take the train at 4:30. “Bullshit!” I thought, and I just went and took a seat on the train without a ticket. I sat next to some 15 year old kids who seemed really uncomfortable with me being on the train (foreigners aren’t allowed on it for security, I suppose – and the bullet hole in the window beside me wasn’t comforting…) but after the conductor sold me the ticket (less than 40 cents US for a 6 hour train ride), they lightened up and we tried to communicate through a guy who spoke English. They liked listening to my mp3 player and making jokes. The train ride itself was miserable because it was so long and there was no AC and I had no clue where I was going or how long it would take. I just knew a name of a city from some guy who knew where I was going. It was complicated because I had to get off the train and take a bus to my final destination. I finally arrived, had a chat with the local police officer who told me stuff I already knew and then took a microbus to the bus station. Once there, another police officer escorted me to the counter. It was at least 106°F outside and there wasn’t a bus for two hours. I tried to put up my hammock, but it was so hot that the plastic kept melting and slipping. Everyone just stared at me and I almost created an international incident by stepping on their (dirty and leaf covered) prayer mat with my shoes.
“Sir! That is prayer mat! That is prayer mat!” the guy yelled.
I stepped off quickly and looked up, “Sorry, I didn’t know,” I said apologetically. I didn’t. You never would have known. Some dirty mat in the middle of a desert bus station.
“Where you from?” he asked.
“America,” I replied.
“Ohhhh, America,” he said to everyone at the bus station. They all shook their heads as if to say, “That makes sense. Those fucking Americans. If they aren’t bombing Muslims, they are stepping on our prayer mats.”
I sat there for a while in the heat, paid too much for some water and eventually (thank Allah), the bus finally arrived. When I got on, there wasn’t a seat for me so I had to stand, but it was air conditioned. There was also some Intrepid tour group on the bus which consisted of Australians, Americans and Canadians my age who seemed to be endlessly fascinated with the fact that I was traveling alone and had been gone for so long. We chatted and joked around and I eventually arrived to Hurgada. Once there, I went to my hotel, chatted with the owners (who swore they weren’t making a commission on the ferry ticket to Sinai that they wanted to sell me, but eventually admitted it – which is no big deal, it’s just sad how people continually lie to you in these countries). I checked my email and met a Columbian guy with whom I chatted and had dinner.
The next day, I got up early, headed to the ferry, paid for my ticket and was on my way to Sinai. The ride was 2 hours more or less, but everyone I met on the bus and the Columbian guy, Oscar, was on the boat, so I had people to chat with. When we arrived, I headed with Oscar to find a place to stay and we found a youth hostel for $8 bucks each a night for a dorm bed, which is a lot, but it had AC. We then headed out on the town to check out Sinai. Sinai is the tourist and resort mecca of Egypt. There are resorts and hotels and rich Egyptian and European tourists everywhere. The place is beautiful though, and you can spend hours just walking around and admiring the desert along the Red Sea, and the coral and crystal clear deep blue water just off the shore. I didn’t do that much that day except walk around and admire the girls in their bikin—I mean the mountains and stuff. But the next day, Oscar and I took a snorkeling tour to Tiran Island which was pretty awesome – and stunningly beautiful. The coral wasn’t as good as the coral in Australia at the Great Barrier Reef, but the beaches were incredible. Like the stuff you see in the movies – white sand beaches half in the light blue water (creating that crazy mixed effect between sand and water). You could see 20 feet down in the water. When we got back, I bought some antibiotics for Chris, a Danish guy who was sick back in the hostel and couldn’t leave the room and we took them back to him. After a shower and a nap, we headed back into town and chatted. Oscar has a PhD in Psychology and works for a university in Barcelona, Spain. As you can imagine, we had some interesting conversations over sheesha as I stared in awe at the girls walking by. And today I head up to Dahab and then tomorrow to Israel. I’ll meet up with Zach and do some traveling to Jerusalem.
So something interesting about Egypt that I didn’t notice. I say that this place is incredible and interesting, which it is – but it is also annoying. I didn’t notice it, but there is always someone bothering you or a police man escorting you. You can never get a moment’s peace (unless you pay to go sleep at a sand dune…). Seeing as I have put up with it for the past year as I travel through Asia, I kind of adapted and just think of it as normal – but it has been driving everyone else I’ve met crazy. They aren’t used to it and so they can’t tune it out. But because they all complain, I’ve started to notice it (like someone pointing out an annoying sound that you didn’t notice but after that it starts getting on your nerves) and it’s getting worse here in Sinai. You can’t really blame them or do anything about it (it’s not nearly as bad as India), but just be warned if you come here and expect the magical place I’ve described. It’s here – you just have to look beyond the annoying touts. But even so, I’m not sure I like Sinai as a place to learn more about Egypt. Sinai is a vacation destination. There are beautiful beaches to relax on, nice restaurants, beautiful people, tons of activities (hiking, diving, snorkeling, parasailing, etc…) and lots of other stuff to spend lots of money on. We walked all around the resorts and they are stunning – and about $200 bucks a night. You can spend lots of money here if you want, or you can pay 18 cents a meal like I do from the street vendors and take microbuses for 20 cents around town instead of 5 dollar taxis. You can find free beaches and what not, but the problem is that then you are in the middle of nowhere and you have no shade. If you want shade and access to facilities, you have to pay some restaurant to use “their” beach and then buy their expensive drinks. You can’t really do anything yourself here since it’s more expensive to hire a car and what not, so you have to take tours. Seeing as I don’t have much money, that is really difficult for me. But if I were to come here on a vacation with my family, it would be a much nicer place. If I were prepared to spend several thousand dollars on a vacation, I would gladly come here and hang out.
So my time in Egypt is just about coming to an end. I’ll be in Israel soon, hanging out with my friend Zach and then I head for Greece. I have really enjoyed Egypt, but like I said, if you come here, get ready to be overcharged and put up with thousands of touts asking you the same damned things over and over and over and over. It helps when you think that they are just trying to get by and make a buck like everyone else, I think. Seeing the home of the world’s oldest continuous civilization was well worth it though. I think Egypt is a great place – but if you come, come when it’s cooler…