We had been advised to take the fast ferry from Nuweiba, Egypt to Aqaba, Jordan. The problem was it didn't run on Saturdays, the intended day of our departure from Dahab.
Dahab's seductive nature had us already behind schedule, meaning that we were losing some precious time in Jordan. Spending the night in the small beach town of Nuweiba would not only peel us off Dahab's giant lounge pillows, it would give us the opportunity to see another part of Egypt and get us to within 10 minutes of the passenger ferry terminal.
The minibus had us in Nuweiba in just over an hour. We couldn't believe the difference, it was like a forgotten ghost town!
The landscape was similar to Dahab with rocky, dramatic mountains jutting into the turquoise Gulf of Aqaba. It was a nice change having a sandy beach to lie on, even if it was somewhat dirty and neglected. We stayed at a pretty basic hotel situated in front of a private beach that was virtually empty, the perfect setting for a day of fun in the sun. We spent our time in Nuweiba reading on the beach, swimming in the warm salty waters and eating calamari pizza with our feet buried in the sand. There really isn't much else to do in the catatonic hippy town.
The small town has tried hard to emulate Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab with little success. Walking down the 'main strip' we couldn't help but feel like we were on the movie set for a cheesy horror film. Every second building was either permanently closed or in rubble. It is a grubby strip with mud-dried roads and litter scattered everywhere. Beachfront restaurants were empty and tourist stores displayed sun-faded postcards from five years ago. Even the touts and sellers couldn't be bothered. It was such a strange and eerie environment.
We were sitting on an empty beach in an empty town in the heart of the Middle East... it was a weird moment. Across the water on the horizon are the identical shimmering pink mountains of Saudi Arabia and less than 100 km's to the north are the international borders with Israel and Jordan. We couldn't help but think that the Mid-East really isn't the big, bad, scary place that the media makes it out to be.
We reflected on our unbelievable three weeks in Egypt. Riding camels and horses at the Great Pyramids of Giza , tomb exploring in Luxor's Valley of the Kings, epic diving and snorkeling in Dahab, late night hiking to the summit of the biblical Mount Sinai, and fresh seafood dinners followed by green apple shisha and frosty Stella beer.
It was another one of those moments where we felt truly fortunate to be on such a wonderful adventure!
Egypt is a unique country with arguably the richest history in the world. It never rains and the skies are always clear and blue, making it the most ideal place for water sports and fun in the sun. Although the Egyptian men can be overwhelming at times and the country is bursting with tourism, its rugged desert landscapes, ancient tombs and magical relics make Egypt an unforgettable place.
After a typical breakfast of pita bread, packaged cream cheese, a greasy omelet and instant Nescafe coffee, we jumped into our 'taxi'. Our overpriced transport had us sitting in the back of a beat up pickup truck on top of rusty fuel tanks and our heavy backpacks. As we sped down the surprisingly modern motorway we looked back at the town dwarfed by dusty sandstone mountains and our surroundings. We felt very far away from home.
The ferry was supposed to take an hour and a half and we needed to be at the terminal two hours early because it was an international border crossing. We had experienced an international border crossing by sea once before on this trip, from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Montevideo, Uruguay. We hoped this crossing would run as efficient and smoothly. Wishful thinking!
The whole process was disorganized and primitive. It started with us having to buy tickets with US currency from an unmarked ticket office that was randomly located in a derelict building in the middle of what appeared to be an unintentional garbage dump. We then backtracked to the main entrance and had to ask around to find out where to enter. We were guided to a walkway that had a makeshift fence of used oil drums and loose metal. It was very unprofessional and decrepit port.
Our next hurdle was Customs and Immigration. We walked into the large, tobacco-stained room and noticed the wooden-paneled booths at the end. In front of each of these Customs booths was a long line of unimpressed people, almost entirely Egyptian men with the occasional confused backpacker and the odd irritated five-star traveler with far too many pieces of luggage.
Nicole was told to go right ahead and bypass the slow moving line, after all, she is a woman and we were in a Muslim country. Cameron toughed it out with two Polish travelers who liked to talk. Eventually, after about an hour, we both cleared Customs and met the dreadful waiting area.
Of course the slow ferry arrived first. There were hundreds of Middle Eastern men pushing and shoving trying to get ahead of the line. It was disorganized chaos at its finest. A uniformed agent started shouting at the top of his lungs. The thin man was intimidating and single handedly had the attention of over two hundred bad-mannered men. It was hilarious!
We noticed the same testosterone driven behavior in India and Nepal, where women have little respect and men dominate. We realized that their barbaric and rude behavior was because there were no women present to keep the men inline. Imagine a hot room filled with 300 bored and agitated men without any women… not good!
Fast forward a few hours.
The fast ferry was supposed to leave at 2:00 pm, then 3:30pm, then 4:00pm and finally there was movement shortly after 5:00pm. It was a long day, having arrived at the terminal at 11:00am and amplified by the lack of food and unforgiving wooden benches. At 5:15 we were on a dilapidated transfer bus that transported us through the ugly port to the waiting ferry. The ferry was actually quite nice. The modern boat was similar to the fast ferries that we took in Greece while island hopping from Athens to Mykonos to Santorini.
After seven hours we were on the ferry and headed to Aqaba Jordan. We heard so many wonderful stories about Jordan and were excited about the adventures that awaited us!
November 1st, 2009