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.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Twenty Ninth Day – First day in Cairo

View from the Hotel Room

View from the Hotel Room

This is the view from my room in Le Meridien Hotel.  This is a five-star hotel.  The building and facility are very nice but the management and customer service is so bad.  I would never use this hotel again.

Today, I had some problem because I did not know the time change.  During the Ramadan and the feast after it, Egypt change the time one hour earlier so that they can eat one hour earlier.  Now, the Ramadan and the following feast is over, so Egypt came back to its normal time.  Everything could have been messed up.

Ramses II

Ramses II

In the morning I went to the Mit Rahina Museum which was the temple originally for the god of textile and craftsman.  He is also believed to created the universe because he is craftsgod.  There is a huge statue of Rameses II.  Ramses II is the most powerful Pharaoh and everywhere the archaeologists dig in Egypt, people say that they find the name of Ramses II.

First Stone Building in the world

First Stone Building in the world

This is the first stone building in the world.  And the first means no experience, so they also built some useless or unnecessary supporting wall for the columns.

First Pyramid

First Pyramid

This is the first pyramid in Egypt, and also in the world.

Pharaoh's Court

Pharaoh’s Court

This is the Pharaoh’s court.  The platform in the front is where Pharaoh sits, and the wall on both sides has the governors’ seats.  Pharaoh promoted, punished, or executed the governors in this place.

No Egyptian Cats but dogs

No Egyptian Cats but dogs

Egypt has image of cat more than pyramids to me.  But for three days in Egypt, I have not seen any cat yet but a lot of dogs – Taba, Sharm, Cairo, and Luxor.  It is really hot here in Egypt, and Luxor was 47C or 117F yesterday, that is why all the dogs are looking for shades.  It was probably National geographic, if my memory serves me right, that they examined the cat’s DNA and concluded that the all cats in the world are descendents of originally five female cats in Egypt.  And Genographic project also found by the same technology of comparing and examining DNA that all living human race in the whole world are descendents of one female, namely mitochondria Eve.

Titi Pyramid

Titi Pyramid Entrance

This is the Pyramid of Pharaoh Titi, the longest lived ruler in Egypt history, and the last Pharaoh of the first or ancient kingdom.

Longest Reigned Pharaoh with Humblest Tomb

Longest Reigned Pharaoh with Humblest Tomb

During his reign, the Pharaoh lost its power and got weaker, so his Pyramid is quite small and even inside is very humble.

Servant's Tomb is more Glorious

Servant’s Tomb is more Glorious

But one of his high officials who had the real power, made his tomb so glorious and bigger than the Titi.  The photograph was forbidden inside so I could not take any picture, but it was literally so beautiful and every picture or wall carving was very good in detail.

Traditional Carpet Making

Traditional Carpet Making

I was told that there are five industries that still survived in the traditional method.  Carpet making is one of them.

Papyrus Factory

Papyrus Factory

Then I went to a papyrus factory.  Papyrus was worshipped because of two things.  The first one is its flower is looks like a sun is emitting its power and light.  The second one is that its stem looks like pyramid.  The worker in the factory showed and explained me how to make Papyrus paper (actually the word paper itself came out of papyrus).

Chicken Chicken!

Chicken Chicken!

And I had lunch at a very nice restaurant where the chicken is specialised.  Not like in American or Canada, water is not free in Egypt.  I experienced that in Luxor hotel, Cairo restaurant, and even in a restaurant at Haifa, Israel.  Because of yesterday’s experience, I brought my own water bottle today – saving money!

Climbing a Pyramid

Climbing a Pyramid

Then I went to the great pyramids in Giza.  As I knew already, the pyramids surface is like a steps.  But I was told that they are originally very smooth but during the Islam reign, the rulers took the nice stones on the surface to build mosques.

Picking a Pyramid

Picking a Pyramid

On the top parts of the centre pyramid, you can see the original surface of the pyramids.

Labourers' Village

Labourers’ Village

This is the village and cemetery of the workers.  Traditionally we believed that the pyramids were built by the forced labour of the slaves.  Couple of years ago, I watched NHN documentary about this, and an archaeologist found this worker’s village, and he also found some writing, which is task manager’s journal.  It has the recordings such as the names of the worker, and how many days he worked, And in case he did not work, what was the reason.  Some of the reasons are he got hurt, he is in medication, and his son has wedding party, or he has his father’s funeral.  Which slave can drop t he daily labour and work to attend his son’s wedding?  Pyramids were built by the freemen, and it may work as the national project to boom the economy as America did – mass construction of roads, dams, and other infrastructure.

Sphynx

Sphinx

Who can skip this Sphinx in Egypt?

Horse Station

Horse Station

There are so many horses in Egypt and even they have horse stations in most tourist attractions.

When I came back to Hotel, the cardkey to my room did not work.  I tried, and other hotel staff tried, but it did not work.  So I went down to the reception and asked them.  A guy checked with computer and told me that I already checked out this morning.  What the heck!  I explained him that my reservation is until Sunday morning.  Then other guy checked the computer and told me that 3090 is not my room.  Well, I slept there until this morning, and I did not check out.  And third guy checked the computer and told me that my room is 3045.  I said to him in a little bit loud voice, “how can you change my room without telling me anything at all?”  Then I began to worry about my stuff.  Finally I went up to my original room and thankfully all my stuff was there.  Then I got the new cardkey, and reconfirmed my room.

I was so mad, and I wanted to complain to the manager.  So I went down to the reception with the reception guy who came up to the room with me.  He asked me to wait five minutes.  So I did.  After fifteen minutes, he came to me and the manager is busy, and he would call to my room if I go up and rest.  He also said it would take ten minutes.  Now, five hours passed, but no call.  It was very obvious that all the hotel staffs are trying their best to protect their manager from me.  Le Meridien Hotel in Giza Cairo – do not use this one because customer service is very bad.  Today I also saw an Arabic speaking guy was yelling in the reception, and a middle-aged lady also was very mad.

Pyramids and Moon

Pyramids and Moon

I also went to the night-light show of the pyramids.

I had some chance to talk with Egyptians about current Israel-Gaza situation.  In my assumption, Egyptians would support Gaza, so I usually began my conversation by blaming Israel about the cruelty.  But to my surprise, most of them did not like Hamas at all.  I cannot transcribe all the conversations and dialogues, so I will just summarise them.

  • Hamas is not even a (true) Muslim
  • Hamas should stop making rockets and tunnels and use that money on the Gazans.
  • Hamas is a branch of Muslim Brotherhood and we had bad experience with them in Egypt.
  • Hamas also killed many Palestinians in Gaza.
  • Hamas refused to form one government with the West Bank, this is same as riot or coup.
  • Hamas must dismiss themselves and Gaza must make one government with the West Bank.
  • Using violence is wrong and it is not Islamic.
  • Hamas must follow the example of West Bank which is the resistance without violence.
  • Gazans are dumb that is why they cannot say no to Hamas.  Egyptians did revolution three years ago, and we are walking toward true democracy.
  • Hamas should not fire rockets to Israeli civilians.  To military base is ok.  Killing unarmed people is not Islamic

And I also asked people if they identify themselves also as Africans because Egypt is in Africa.  Such as most Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese identify themselves as Asians at the same time with their identity of being Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese.  And all people whom I asked said “We are Egyptian.  We are not African at all.”

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Second Holy Land Trip – Twenty Seventh Day – Bus to Cairo

Today was very long day, spent most time in Buses.  I got up at five and checked out the Hostel in Eilat.  They packed me breakfast, which I ate for breakfast and also for lunch due to the huge amount of food.

Taba Egyptian Border

Taba Egyptian Border

Because the bus to the border runs from 8am, I had to get a cab.  Israeli exit border was OK, and everybody was in line, everything was in order.  I just paid big money for border passenger fee.  But as soon as I crossed over to the Egyptian border, it was total chaos.  There was no line at all, people were yelling and screaming.  Even the officers yelling at the people.  Sometimes people argued with loud yelling voice with the officers.  There was no line at all.  I have no other words but ‘total chaos.’  I spent about fifteen minutes at Israeli side, but I spent more than two hours in Egyptian side.  But I finally got the Sinai permit, with which I can stay only in Sinai peninsula.

Sherut to Sharm

Sherut to Sharm

Because I need to get the Egyptian Visa, I had to go to Sharm International Airport.  But anyway there was no direct bus to Cairo even though I had the visa.  The Egyptian Consulate General in Eilat opens at 9:30am, then I waste a day.  But if I get the visa at Sharm International Airport, I just waste couple of hours.  Thanks to the chaos in Egyptian border, I spent more than two hours and the bus to Sharm already gone.  The next bus is at 11am.  And I got a Sherut to Sharm, which turned out to be better eventually.

Mountain Area on the way to Sharm near Red Sea

Mountain Area on the way to Sharm near Red Sea

The sherut driver drove as if there is no centre line.  I did not see the Mount Sinai but passed around that.  When I saw the mighty mountains, I thought it is not strange even if a guy tells me that God came upon any of those mountains.

Sharm International Airport

Sharm International Airport

I went to the Sharm International Airport, but the immigration officer refused to give me the visa, but said that I have to apply through any Egyptian Travel agency.  The Sherut driver helped me to get the visa by introducing me a travel agent.  And he waited for me and gave me ride to the bus station for $10.  The other taxi drivers called $25.  While we were waiting for the agent, he said that Jewish Torah and Christian Bible were hand written, but Coran literally fell from the heaven.  And he said “Fucking Hamas,” which is the expression that I heard the most from the Egyptians today.

One thing I notice is that Russian sign everywhere.  And the Sherut driver confirmed me that Russians are the most tourists in Egypt.

Business Class Bus to Cairo

Business Class Bus to Cairo

I rode the Go Bus to Cairo.  When I bought the ticket at the booth, the guy asked me if I want Business class or economic class.  The price was almost double, but I was curious about the business class of the bus, so I paid 160 Egyptian Pound (L.E).  Well, the bus has its own flight attendant, I would say the crew.  And it has large legroom, and it also provides meal, not to mention bottomless coffee or tea.

Egyptian Checkpoint

Egyptian Checkpoint

McCormick Group experienced the Israeli Checkpoints and we complained a lot.  I have to say, that was nothing.  Actually, there was no checkpoint inside Israeli territory or West Bank.  The checkpoints are on the border of them.  We experienced the checkpoint when we went into West Bank and came back to Israel.  But in Egypt, there were dozens of checkpoints, probably every twenty minutes.  It was the same from Taba to Sharm, and from Sharm to Cairo.  And even the Egyptians have tanks and armoured military vehicles at the checkpoints.  Some places, they placed machine guns on top of the hills.

Nothing to See on the way to Cairo

Nothing to See on the way to Cairo

The scene on the way to Cairo was mostly boring.  That was just nothing but dry sands.  This experience is good for just once.

The bus finally arrived at Cairo.  And a taxi driver approached me, so I asked how much it would be to Le Meridien Hotel in Giza Pyramids Cairo.  He said 100 L.E, so I got on.  Then I found that it is not a taxi.  The car does not have windshield wipers, engine was knocking.  He turned the music as loud as it hurts my ears.  And all the cars in Cairo ignore the lanes, and drive crazy dizzy.  Right after he began to drive, he said I have to pay 150 L.E – 100 for going and 50 for him to come back to the bus station.  A month ago, I would pay just saying, “Oh really?”  But now, I am trained by the Palestinians:

Je: No, you said 100.
He: OK, then 125.
Je: No, you didn’t say anything about that. You said 100. Don’t LIE.
He: OK, 100.

And when we arrived at the hotel, he said I must tip him 50 because 100 is for the car, and 50 is for him.  And I repeated the above conversation.

Le Meridien Hotel, Giza Pyramids Cairo

Le Meridien Hotel, Giza Pyramids Cairo

Le Meridien Hotel is nice hotel, but I am not happy with it for couple of reasons.  First, they advertise Free Wi-Fi, but I have to pay for the Wi-Fi if I want to use in the room.  It is only free at the lobby.  Second, Hotels in Israel, the online price includes everything, but this hotel includes nothing.  For example, Gloria Hotel says $110.  Then I pay $110.  Eilat Hostel says $30.  Then I actually pay $30.  But here, they say online $78.60 but when I pay, they charge me $99.  Third, it is too far from downtown Cairo.  I didn’t know it is this far.

Well, today, I trod the African soil for the first time.

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