Sinai Nineteen Ninety Nine
Sinai Nineteen Ninety Nine

Backpacker Beach Vacation - July 1999

In July/August it is around 36°C here during the day which is very pleasant. At midnight it is still around 30°C. Another story from Aiman: An Egyptian man was bathing and felt an itch while standing. Five hours later he was dead. He stepped on the perfectly camouflaged stone fish. Thus you better wear beach shoes in water here.
On Israeli man in his forties told me that he was often in Sinai before it was returned to Egypt in 1979. It was sex, drugs and rock'nroll and not this tourist infrastructure we got today, which he does not like. He told me to look for Tarabien which was much more like that.
Here in the mountains which are around 1000 meter high it is in the high 20°C in July/August.
Hein told that although you have the two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic, in Israel Arabia not only told everywhere - it rather depended where you goto school. And nobody puts much afford into it. English is more important and used as company language often.
The lemon juice was very delicious : Press a fresh lemon add milk and sugar and shake
The owner of the Hotel was an Egyptian who : studied in Germany "Germanistik" and returned in 1982 to Sinai to run the Hotel. He told me that back in the 70th one had to serve for seven years in the army. Now they realized how much it costs and you only have for go for one year. People who can not read and write will have to stay three years and learn it as well as get education and when they leave they get five hectare desert to cultivate it.
GPS Locations:
Tarabien
N29°02.766 E 34°845
Valley
N29°01.486 E 34°34.768
Colored Canyon One
N29°08.833 E 34°35.388
Colored Canyon Two
N29°02.284 E 34°35.710
Oasis-Futa
N29°02.911 E 34°33.480

We had some loose plans do skate from Jerusalem to Sharm el Sheik in December when it is cooler. But people loost interest and I decided to try it on my own. As I love heat I decided to go end July - begin August, the hottest pseason of the year. I got a real sheep last minute flight for 325 DEM two ways.

Sharm el Sheikh - Tuesday, 1999-07-27

5°C 498 km

The Aero Loyd flight YP 2210 arrived on time at 12:00h in Sharm el Sheikh. I get some Egyptian Pounds (Ghali=LE, 1.81 LE per DEM) at the bank counter first, and then pay the 30.25 LE for the All-Egypt visa-stamps at the bank. Passport check is extremely quick, they just stamp the visa into the passport and do not even check the identity as I remember. I am wondering where my baggage arrives as the display at the baggage belt does not show my flight. I learn quickly that it is never updated and all baggage arrives at the one and only belt. Since I have no room reservation and I want to go to Nuweiba I decide to go to Sharm el Sheik City first. I get taxi for 40 LE witch is expensive I thought. Oh I forgot this is an Arabic country and you have to negotiate prices. When you talk about Sharm el Sheikh in a tourist sense you mean all the hotels along the cost. Sharm el Sheikh city is mostly for local Arab people and only a few tourist orientated stores. You find dusty streets and people resting in the dirt on carpets. It has a smith, electronic supply store, hardware stores and a Videothek e.t.c.. There are no hotels here. And it is the hottest spot of the Sinai I had 40°C. There are two bus stations - one for Suez Gulf Cost (Cairo) which is close and one for the Aqaba Gulf cost which is a little further away. Don't pay more then 5 to 10 LE for the last. Taxi driver try playing stupid tricks on you, like taking you to the 1st one and ask for more money for the last one also you made clear where you wanted to go. They told me it is is 25 LE to Nuweiba but on the bus they charged 15 LE (7.5 to Dahab and 7.5 to Nuweiba). The road is, s far as I could see, in relatively good condition with some interruptions but I would not like to skate here. We encounter a car any 1 to 3 min. One of the strange things is that they always plays Sylvester Stalone like movies, which could be rated in murders per minute. My neighbour, a European looking man in the 40th with a younger Arabic wife spook excellent German and tells me that Egyptians like this kind of movie. I found later that they really always play this kind of movies. At the intersection before Dahab to St. Katherine monastery and Nuweiba we reach the first check point. White dressed soldiers check passport and visa. We reach Dahab minutes later. When I reached Nuweiba at 20:10 h it was sunset and getting dark, and finding an good Hotel gets rather difficult. I checked in at the Helena Hotel. The $55 I paid are rather expensive but it is very nice. I meet Alfi and Aiman at biggest restaurant Dr Shesh Kabab. (GPS Coord N 29° 01.981 E 34° 39.979)

Nuweiba - Wedensday, 1999-07-28

There is Nuweiba Port which is that harbour and the Suq(Market) for local Arabs and Nuweiba City which is more a tourist place. Nuweiba is a small village and has a very relaxed atmosphere. I enjoyed it from the first moment. The center consist of around 40 shops and restaurants. I often sit with Alfi or Aiman talking.

I am moving to the City Village Beach Hotel. They have the face to ask 60 L.E. for a lousy room with a stinking bath and otherwise rather dirty with ventilator only. Since I have no alternative and they where full booked with a bus from Cairo and I was to stupid to try harder I had to accepted this. I walk along the beach and through the water, which is about half an meter deep, and very clear. It is very impressive when fishes swim between your legs. Then suddenly a five inch large craft is digging in panic in the ground one step away from me when I approached. I go to restaurant and meet Aiman and his wife and son Kariem which came from Kairo today. Alfi tells me that he will not be in tomorrow, because he has an assignment as tour guide for a tour to St. Katherine. I ask if I could join and he calls the organizor. I got on for USD 20 which turned out to be 67 LE.

St. Kathrin - Thursday, 1999-07-29

A meet Alfi at 6:30 in the morning at the restaurant. We get picked up and carried to the Hilton Hotel where we were supposed to pick up a group. The group is not ready so and we drivers and Alfi go to the Nuweiba Port to had some tea at the Suq. The Suq is open 24h a day I was told. We returned and get on the tour-bus with an Israeli group which make were on weekend trip at the Hilton. The group seemed rather bored. The travel guide tells the St. Katrine story and the Israeli tour guide translates it to Hebrew. Many of the older Israelis can not speak English. Most immigrated from somewhere and speak there mother language and Hebrew I learned. They closed the curtains and played one of that stupid movies instead enjoying the landscape. St. Katherine itself seemed much of a tourist nap to me. At least this day it was very crowded and you see the buildings and get some explanations. They where to lazy to clime mount Sinai. I guess you just have to be there once. The where three police check points on the 110km to St. Katherine which let us pass without checking. Later I got a light diarrhea later from that tea at the suq. In fact Tarabien was around five minutes to walk along the beach from where I stayed. I moved to Tarabien.

Tarabien - Friday, 1999-07-30

arabien is like Dahab the hangout of young Israelis, although smaller and more pleasant. Most of the Arabic staff speak some Hebrew. Because Israelis are rather good in dealing, this a reasonable place. The most expensive hotel is the Prince Home which you can stay for around 40 LE in a extremely nice and clean room with air-conditioning and shared bath. For a room for three some payed 60 LE. In Tarabien you really can relax - no one is pulling you aggressively into the stores. You can also eat sMondial. They prepared the beach carpets and pillows and sun-screens made of palm leafs. Also this is more western style it is not a restaurant in the usual commercial sense. You can just sit there all day and rest, take a sun bath and watch the sea and the Saudi Arabic mountains at the other side of the Gulf of Aqaba with out any one bothering you. You make a lot of fiends to. They have something very delicious called Shakel which is some hot milk with cocos bananas and comes in a glass. There are also huts for up to 5 LE per day with ventilator. I also board some beach shoes for 20 LE at Blue Bird and the guy shows me their rooms. Nice clean rooms for 15 LE without and 35 with bath but without air-condition but not as good as Prince Home. I meet a Beduin called Muhamed owner of the Tarabien Camel Basar. He appeared to be kind of crazy but funny. Two Israeli guys are sitting with him. He said he was thinking how he could turn some money out of us in a funny way. So he organize a barbecue in the mountains for 25 LE each. Two swiss vegetarian girls joint. The rise of the full moon at 20:39 h is very impressive. First a small light appears over the Saudi Arabian mountains. With in one minute or so more and more of the disk appears until it is rozen above the mountains. You can also see the lights of the Saudi Arabian city Haql if you look to the far left. We go for the barbecue into the mountains with a jeep (GPS Coord N 29° 04.024 E 34°039.22E) which is just 4 km away. The plain mountains and a area with no vegetarian and blouders illuminate with moon light are very impressive. The two Israelis Hein and Amy (?) the two vegetarian swiss girls Dominic, Marta, Muhamed and a Arabic guy joint us. The chicken is grilled on a fire. Even one of the vegetarian swiss girls found it delicious. The two claimed that they have married earlier this this year but told me that this story was just to keep the guys away. Everything seems to be all fake with the swiss girls!

Still in Tarabien - Saturday, 1999-08-01

I meet Paul and Monic from London, Great Britain in the evening. They came from Dahab. Paul's Visa credit card got stolen and a view garments. They went to police. Later he saw someone in his t-shirt and socks wandering around. Police got him. He was one of the guys working at a camp who earned five LE a day and had over 1000 LE and an handy and lots of clothes with him. Police said he would get 15 year in prison. Paul and Monic wanted to go to Jordan with the ferry next day and I ask if I could join.

Trip to Suez - Sunday 1999-08-01 and Monday 1999-08-02

For 5 LE each we get a taxi to Nuweiba Port which is 10km apart. You get the tickets not at the gate but in a small white building behind the suq directions south. They charge 33 USD! Yes and you can only pay in USD not in Egyptian pounds. Even a British man yelling a quarter of an hour could not help it. There are three banks there but only one, the bank of Cairo, sells US-Dollar. I got off the trip and tried to get a taxi to Taba to go to Suez instead. We agreed for 40 LE for me as single passenger. He wanted to wait for his brother and after some time I had enough. Finely 4 other guys joined the taxi. On the way he meet his brother with a service taxi with 7 people on-board. But I was not willing to pay 40 LE for that service. When you go north you come along Pharaoh's Island and old castle. Around ten km before Taba you can turn left to Suez or go to Taba. Taba consists of the Hilton Hotel and a Taba Village Resort which costs 9 USD entry fee. The bus and taxi station is around 1 km from the border. Busses to Cairo go at 7:30 h and 14:00h. To Suez the fee is 20 LE I found out later. I get a Service taxi for the luxury price (I found later) of 70 LE for 280 km to Suez. We depart at 15:06 h. The first part goes through mountains also the street is flat, followed by a flat part of soil desert and at 15:58 h we reach El Thamad a Beduin settlement with a lot of collapsed buildings and one where they live in (Photo 2). At 16:44 we reach Nakhl (Photo 3) the other Beduin settlement which has a gas station and some stores and a cafe. It is pretty cold there compared to south Sinai, only around 30°C and you almost need you winter closes. Foreigners are not allowed to go of the main road and travel along the smaller one as sings tell and there is plenty of police and military, basicly at every larger intersection. The last part is really a sand desert as we all know it and it was kind of a sand storm. We go through the Suez Channel at 18:36 and reach Suez at 19:19 h which bring travel time to 4:13 h. Suez itself was very dirty beside the nice parts at the river. There is really nothing to see there. I resides in the Read Sea Hotel another expensive one for USD 61. I got some really good cake in a wester like bakery for 1 LE a piece and had dinner at the Hotels restaurant and went to bed.

Return to Tarabien - Tuesday, 1999-08-03

In the morning I checked out the hotel and I decided to return to Tarabien. At the Bank of Alexandria, I try to get money on my credit card bit the machine is broken so I change some Money. I get a taxi to the bus station. The driver is overwhelmed to receive 5 LE for an 15 minute ride. I found out that the bus to Taba would go at 15:00 and costs 20 LE. There are also service taxies and some guy picked me up and it would be 35 LE but he would say 25 to the driver. 25 LE is indeed the regular price for a service taxi. There was a young guy from Slovakia who really bargained hard for 20 LE. He worked in some Kibuz in Israel and just picked up his girlfriend which arrived in Cairo. We also wanted to go as it took some time to fill the bus. Finally after 2.5 hours of waiting we agreed to go with seven people at 11:00h and paying 35 LE. I was surprise that he went on to Daheb and still got me for 35 LE to Tarabien. I checked in the Blue Bird Hotel. They offer a room with ventilator and shared bath for 15 LE and with bathroom 35 LE. I got for 25 LE a room with bathroom. The water that cones out of the tap is salty, but is is no sea water, it just comes out 3 meters down.

Colored Canyon - Thursday, 1999-08-05

Hassan wake me up at 8:30 h and told me that he organized a trip to the Colored Canyon as I indicated earlier that I would joint for 50 LE. We start at 9:00 h with a Jeep (1982) off-road most of the time doing 15 - 20 km/h. At valley V... we continued on road till Oasis Ain Furtaga. Then there is a fenced off-road track to the Colored Canyon where all the cars join. You can hardly do it with a regular car. We went by car to the top an started on hour long climb through the xcanyon while the Jeep drives to the other side. We, Hassan, a French family of 4 and a Israeli girl declined 60 m and continued the walk trough the canyon. One Israeli girl had only beech shoes on, which was not suitable for such a climb. After an hour hiking through the canyon we reach the plateau on the other side. The walk was really nice but the colors where not impressive. There where all kinds of large expensive off-road cars, even a Hummer and a Unimog front travel agencies which charge much more then we did.

Eilat - Israel Sunday 1999-08-08 and Monday 1999-08-09

I went back to Eilat.

Greetings from Egypt
Andreas

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