Hannah and Je together

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirty First Day – Back to Israel

So, I got on the bus at Cairo to Dahab.  And all my plan and schedule was with enough buffer, I thought.

Typical Muslim Lady

Typical Muslim Lady

I took a picture of Muslim lady who literally covers top to toe.  If I include her glasses in her covering, she covered almost all of herself.  It is not difficult to find such lady in Egypt, which is one of the most open country in Arab world.

Daewoo Bus

Daewoo Bus

This is the bus, and it is made by DAEWOO.  How many decades ago that company disappeared?

Even though I had more than enough buffer in my schedule going back, there was two big problems.  The first is from Egypt.  Even though McCormick travel group complained a lot about Israeli checkpoint, we need to admit that there is no checkpoint inside Israel territory or inside Palestine territory.  But in Egypt, there are so many checkpoints within Egyptian territory.  From Cairo to Dahab, dozens.  And from Dahab to Taba, also dozens.  I think I crossed almost 40 or 50 checkpoints from Cairo to Taba.  Half of them just stopped the bus, and check easily.  The other half checked the IDs and passports of all the passengers in the bus.  This delayed more than three hours than the schedule.  I thought I would be in Taba around 10am, but I was there at 2:30pm.

The other problem was at Israel border.  I understand the situation of war, but they checked me and many other passengers so badly.  They asked me tons of questions.

Officer: Why do you have soaps?
Je: Because I wash everyday.
Officer: What is this?
Je: It says shampoo.
Officer: Why do you have shampoos?
Je: You don’t know what the shampoo is for?
Officer: Why do you have music CD?
Je: Because I listen to music.

Then they opened my bag and suitcase, and checked every single item, even my unwashed underwear.  I warned them but they touched.  So I advised them to wash their hands before eat anything.  The Israeli border took slightly more than two hours for me.  But I met a guy from Texas who spent four hours.  This guy is actually quite annoying, and he made some racism joke to a Singapore American.

Israel side of the border

Israel side of the border

Israel side of the border is better in many ways.  First, people line up.  Yes, the exactly same people who made chaos in Egyptian side line up.  And there are many convenient facilities including water fountain (which is very precious in this hot weather), restroom, money exchange, and so on.

Anyway when I went to the central bus station in Eilat, it was about 5:10pm.  And the last bus to Jerusalem already left long time ago.  But I could not stay in Eilat.  If I depart Eilat tomorrow morning, I would be in Bethlehem in the afternoon around 3 or 4pm.  So I got on the bus to Tel Aviv.

SunCity Hotel, Tel Aviv

SunCity Hotel, Tel Aviv

When I was in Egypt, it was almost impossible to find a free WIFI.  Even the most expensive hotel in Luxor does not provide free WIFI.  The bad hotel in Cairo has free WIFI in the lobby (not in the room), but it is only ten minutes.  But in Israel it is much easier to find free WIFI.  And I realise even the inter-city bus (EGGED bus) has free WIFI!

I hit Tel Aviv at midnight.  And I went to a nearby hotel – SunCity hotel.  And the very first thing at the check-in was their instruction what to do when I hear siren because they have sirens and alarms minimum twice everyday anytime.  SunCity hotel is good one with nice staff who tries to help me as much as possible.  But the facility itself is quite old.  But I prefer this one rather than Le Meridien Hotel in Cairo where they have shiny facility with bad employees.

Monday, 4 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Thirtieth Day – Second Day in Cairo

I began today by visiting the Old Cairo, especially Christian area.

Brand New Roman Tower

Brand New Roman Tower

This is Roman Tower which is about 1500 years old, if my memory serves me right.  After seeing all the greatness and glories of three or four thousand years old Egypt, anything less than 2,000 years is brand new to me.

Hanging Church in Cairo

Hanging Church in Cairo

This is so-called hanging church which is built upon the two Roman pillars.  There are many relics and painting of St. Mark.  As Catholic regard St. Peter as their founding father, Copts regard St. Mark as their founding father.

Home of the Holy Family

Home of the Holy Family

This is the place where they believe that the Holy Family lived and hid themselves from the threat of Herod the Great.  Egyptians are very proud that they hosted the Holy Family with hospitality.

Salah Al-Din Citadel

Salah Al-Din Citadel

Then I went to Salah Al-Din Citadel.  He is well-known to the Christians too because he defeated the Crusaders.

Mosque in the Citadel

Mosque in the Citadel

This is the mosque inside the citadel.  I was told that (all) mosques have plain bottom and floor with beautiful ceiling so that they can make the people focus on their prayer.

Cairo Overview

Cairo Overview

The citadel gives a good view of Cairo.

Egyptian Cats.

Egyptian Cats.

Then I went to the oldest market in Cairo.  And look what I found!  Eventually I found Egyptian cats!  All the Egyptians told me that they have tons of cats, but I have not seen almost any.  Now in this old market, I saw several cats.

Ceiling of the Oldest Market in Cairo

Ceiling of the Oldest Market in Cairo

This is the remaining column and ceiling of the oldest market.

Revolutionary Plaza

Revolutionary Plaza

Then I went to the famous Egyptian Museum.  And right in front of it, there is a big plaza where the Egyptians began and completed their revolution.

Cairo Security

Cairo Security

McCormick Group always complained the soldiers on the streets with rifles.  How about this?

Cairo Security

Cairo Security

In Egypt, you can see not only rifles and soldiers, but also tanks and armoured military vehicles a lot.  I mean, A LOT.  They are everywhere.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

There are so many cool things inside the Egyptian Museum, but photographs are entirely forbidden inside the museum.  I could not take any.

Cairo on Fire

Cairo on Fire

One thing you can see everywhere in Cairo is the mountains of trashes where on the streets, roads, and highways.  And the smoke does not mean Cairo was under attack, but people were burning the trashes.  It is bad for the environment, and for their health too.

I went back to the hotel and rested a bit.  And when I was checking out, I had a trouble with the hotel.  I’ve never used the phone in the room and they charged me for the phone use.  Eventually I did not pay anything, but I had so bad memory about Le Meridien Hotel in Giza Cairo.  I will write another blog about the experiences in this hotel.

Nile Dinner Cruise

Nile Dinner Cruise

Then I went to the Nile Dinner Cruise.  The food was OK.  And they also charged me 15 L.E which is about $2.  Isn’t it supposed to play live music in those Cruise Dinner?  Two singers were singing but with the Karaoke machine.

I found that 80% of the people in the cruise were in a wedding reception.  It was very loud with the dancing new couple.  And actually after cruise, there was another wedding was going on in the harbour.  So I saw one wedding reception, and four weddings in Egypt.  Wow.  Is it wedding season in Egypt now?

Belly Dancer

Belly Dancer

After a while, a fat belly dancer came out and danced.  I’ve never seen such an abundant belly dancer in my entire life.  I thought the Muslim women would hate this kind of things, but actually almost all ladies (covering top to toe) were taking video of the belly dancer dancing.

Spinning Skirt Dancer

Spinning Skirt Dancer

Then a guy wearing double skirts did spin-dancing for more than ten minutes.  He spun without resting for ten minutes and he was not dizzy.  Amazing.

Bus to Dahab

Bus to Dahab

Then I went to the East Delta Bus station to go back to Israel overnight.  But I found that there is no direct bus from Cairo to Taba.  In most undeveloped countries, internet information is always out of date.  I was told from the ticketing guy that they used to have direct bus to Taba, but after they got terror on that bus (where Korean tourists were killed), the government shutdown the line.  But the websites still says the bus runs from Cairo to Taba.

They say that the bus would arrive at Dahab at 7.  From Dahab to Taba takes little more than two hours.  So let me say I will be at Taba at 10.  Crossing the border would take 30 minutes.  So I will be in Eilat around 11.  From Eilat to Jerusalem takes five hours.  And I will be in Jerusalem at 4pm.  To Bethlehem less than an hour.  So I may be in the hosting house hopefully 6pm or at least 9 or 10pm tomorrow.

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