Friday, September 2, 2011

The craziest day

During our six nights in Egypt, we decided to relax for the first few nights in Dahab on the Red Sea.  Because of the revolution in Egypt, the tourism industry has significantly slowed making it very inexpensive to stay in a hotel on the sea.  The place is known for the diving and snorkeling.  Matthew and I were excited to have a few days to sleep and relax there.  What we didn't realize was how crazy it would be to get there!

For me, this was the most stressful travel day of our entire trip so far.  Yes, even with all of our overnight trains and flights, and the experience of barely getting into Israel!  It took us from around 6:30am til 10pm to travel from Jordan to our destination in Egypt, with approximately 7 modes of transportation along the way.  Here's how our day went...

First, we took a taxi from the hotel in Jordan to the bus stop.  We boarded the bus for the few hour ride to Acaba, Jordan.  We stepped off the bus and had to find a taxi to take us to a ticket office to buy ferry tickets to Nuweiba, Egypt.  This was a humorous interaction, as most of the drivers we tried to talk with only spoke Arabic.  At one point, we were standing in the street surrounded by six men trying to help us when one who spoke English helped describe where we needed to go.  We climbed into the back of a taxi and quickly realized that our driver, though he knew he needed to take us to the ticket office, did not know where the ticket office was!  He proceeded to drive in circles and stop other taxis on the road to ask for directions.  We tried to talk with him but he spoke no English.  We ended up giving him the phone number for the ticket office so he could ask for directions.  He found his way there but after talking with the ticket agent we realized we had to get cash from an ATM for the tickets so the taxi driver drove us to the bank and back.  We bought the tickets, then the driver took us to the port to board the ferry.

The ferry was scheduled to leave at noon and was said to be a 2 hour ride.  We went through Passport Control and boarded the ferry.  Everyone on the ferry was speaking Arabic and I felt like the only woman on the ferry who wasn't covered from head to toe.  Thankfully, we found some seats in a cool section of the ferry and sat down to relax for our two hour ride.   There was an incredibly long line in the ferry for entry visas to Egypt.  We waited in our seats until the line died down to get our visas.  This was the craziest part of the day.  We sat for hours at the port waiting for the ferry to depart.  Once the visa line died down, we went and were told that they were keeping our passports and we had to go to the bank in Nuweiba to buy the visas, then go to the Passport Office to pick them up.  Let me tell you - it's not a good feeling to have to give someone your passport when you are traveling!

The ferry had still not departed at this point and what was worse was that many of the people on the ferry would suddenly start arguing and yelling in Arabic.  There were several fights that broke out right in front of our eyes.  We had no clue what they were fighting about or even what the announcements over the intercom meant because everything was in Arabic.  After a few hours, the ferry started moving and everyone cheered!  Relieved, we thought, "ok, now only 2 hours til we get there."  Wrong!  We were on that ferry for hours when we arrived in Nuweiba, well, at least the port of Nuweiba.  Fights had continued to break out at various times throughout those hours.  For some reason unknown to us (again, all the announcements were in Arabic) the ferry just circled and circled around the port for hours without letting us off.

Our 2 hour ride ended up taking about 7 hours total.  We were let off the ferry and after finding our bags, were loaded on a bus to then head to the bank to buy our visas.  We found five other foreign travelers and banded together to help one another through the process.  (It was the sweetest sound when I heard them speaking English!)  When we arrived at the bank to buy our visas, it was closed.  Thankfully, we just had to wait for them to send a worker to open it for us.  We bought the visas then headed to the passport office to be reunited with our precious passports!

All of the travelers we met were heading to vacation in Dahab too so we all took a shuttle together.  One of the girls was Canadian and of Indian origin as well, and is now living in Jordan.  She spoke Arabic which helped us navigate our way around.  It was really nice being in a group to get our visas and passports and ride the hour long journey to Dahab.  Once in Dahab, we said goodbye to our traveling companions and found a taxi to our hotel.  The taxi driver was reallly nice and stopped along the way to help us buy bread and fruit to tide us over til morning.

We arrived at our hotel around 10pm, weary from the day but thankful to have arrived safely.  

We had a fun few days of resting and relaxing and spent a day snorkeling.  We used the underwater camera to take some pics of the coral and fish.

Here are a few other pics of our time in Dahab:

(there are cats everywhere!) 

(it's very important to remember that when on the beach in Egypt 
you cannot bring your bicycle OR your camel!)

After, Dahab, we headed to Cairo for a few days.  We met an amazing family from America living in Cairo.  They knew Matthew’s family in the U.S. and remembered him from when he was younger.  They welcomed us into their home and we loved every minute of our time with them.  Matthew spent a day utilizing his architecture skills at the IDD office with Trevis who is an engineer.  IDD stands for “International Design and Development” and works on design projects in the Middle East region such as bridges, buildings, and water systems. Currently, they are designing a church in Jordan.  The interns at the office let us crash in an extra room in their apartment for the few nights we were there.  I spent the day attending a women’s Bible study with Rebecca and I was abundantly encouraged and blessed by my time with those incredible ladies!  I also met a woman whose 4 year old daughter is having some speech difficulties so I met with her and her daughter to give them some recommendations.  We were so sad that we had to leave Cairo because we enjoyed this family so much.

We had to see the pyramids since we were in Cairo, which proved to be another adventure!  We found a taxi to take us there and after traveling in the incorrect direction then pulling over to find someone who spoke English to tell the driver we wanted to go to the pyramids, we made our way there.  Matthew and I had been warned that they spot tourists and mercilessly try to sell souvenirs and camel rides.  Even though we had this in mind, we were shocked during the drive as we got closer to the pyramids when people kept jumping into our moving taxi to try to sell us these things!  One guy even jumped on the back of the taxi and just sat there!  Can you imagine riding in a taxi and someone trying to sell you something jumps on the car?  Although in the moment we were overwhelmed, looking back it was hilarious!  Here are some pics of the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx.

And now, onto Kenya for our Therapist Mission Trip…

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