13 — 15 August — Dahab
☥This is where the interesting things start. We cross the border from Israel into Egypt and hail a Peugeot 504 shared-taxi to Dahab. The station wagon is full, mostly with backpackers and travelers. I am a tad nervous, being my first time in the Arab world. An experienced traveler in the front seat, a chap with unkempt, light brown, shoulder-length hair and a brown front tooth, picks up on my vibe.
"Don't worry," he says while pretending to take a hit of an imaginary joint with his hand. He does this several times.
I can't fathom that marijuana would be available in Egypt— memories of the movie Midnight Express add further paranoia to my current predicament. I ignore him and stare out the window to the windy road ahead. The asphalt is haphazardly laid on the sand, the sides are uneven and jagged with occasional bits of asphalt falling off. Though it is a two-lane road, there is no paint dividing the sides. Arabic signs are posted occasionally. I find them quite amusing because they look just like traffic signs back home, yet I have no idea what these say.
On our right the desolate Sinai desert speeds by, contrasted on the left by the Red Sea with its brilliant array of aqua colors. Occasionally cars are parked on the side of the road with motivated people and their diving gear.
Eventually we reach the Masbat area of Dahab. We unload our gear and find a cheap room on the main dirt road drag, the so-called Lighthouse Road, which runs parallel to sea shore. It is a perfect location. A shop next door sells rugs and ice-cold Coke in bottles with the Coke logo written in Arabic. The novelty of it all does not wear off.
I suddenly really like this place. It feels quite safe here, and the people are friendly. Scores of beach-side cabanas sit next to the sea, each trying to lure patrons by playing music and serving middle eastern and international cuisine. Many shops sell things like papyrus painting, camel hair rugs, colorful fabric handbags, aluminum doumbek drums, mother-of-pearl inlaid backgammon boards, colored glass shisha water pipes and flavored tabacco.
There are many Israelis and international backpackers vacationing here, many sporting hippy fashions. Scuba diving shops line the main drag and I decide that I will go scuba diving for my first time. I am happy I have come here.
Wednesday, Dec 4, 1996 — Cairo
We take the bus to Eilot and cross the border to Taba, Egypt. We catch a minibus to Cairo and arrive at night. We wander down Talaat Harb Street and find the conveniently-located Hotel Minerva. At around $10/night it’s a steal.
Thursday, Dec 6, 1996 — Cairo
We tour the Saladin Citadel and around Islamic Cairo.
Saturday, Dec 7 — Cairo
Pyramids of Giza
Sunday, Dec 8 — Marsa Matruh
We take the bus from Cairo, stop in Alexandra and tour the ancient Roman theater and then catch the local, non-A/C bus to Marsa Matruh. There are some military guys on the bus and the fellow next to me is dressed in full miltiary fatigues and studying complex math above any level I ever took.
Tuesday, Dec 10, 1996 — Siwa
In the morning we take a nice walk along the aqua Medeterranean. Being winter, the seaside resort town is abondoned. We take a shared-van from Marsa Matruh to Siwa.
Saturday, Dec 14, 1996 — Train
We board Egyptian National Railways special train 926, car 10, seat 12, and depart from the Sidi Gaber railway station, Alexandria, at 7:00pm. 14E£ one way, student. We arrive to Ramses Station, Cairo at 9:30pm and transfer to the all-night train to Aswan.
Sunday, Dec 15, 1996 — Aswan
Monday, Dec 16 — Abu Simbel
We take a tour of Abu Simbel
Tuesday, Dec 17 — Hurghada
We attempt to ride a feluca but are stuck on the boat for hours in the exhaust of a large river boat. We give up and catch the bus to Hurghada.
Wednesday, Dec 18 — Dahab
We take the high-speed ferry to the Sinai and take a bus to Dahab. I relax in Dahab for some days. I see many travelers and even meet some people that have come up from Africa. It all seemes so mystical to me that people have traveled up from Africa.
Monday, Dec 23 — Exit Egypt
I catch a minibus to Taba and cross into Eilat, Israel. I am thankful.