the land of 1 million metal detectors
14.03.2007 - 15.03.2007 -2 °C
After a day in Cairo - pyramids, camels, coptic churches and coffee house - we took the overnight bus to Jeruselum.
Well, not exactly to Jeruselum, we took an overnight bus from Ciaro to Taba the bordertown of Egypt and Israel. We were randomly stopped in the middle of the night for a quick passport check, then the bus stopped and some people were changing buses... this is the moment when I wish I would have invested in those arabic lessons, because we were half asleep trying to ascertain whether we should be staying or switching buses. A kind archeologist that could speak arabic told us that we needed to change. So we got on the other bus and I was freaked out so I kept asking everybody, "Taba?" "Taba?" and pointing to the bus and everybody said yes... but I was still paranoid, so when another old man on was getting on and he said "No Taba"... I was freaked out and sure that we were on the wrong bus until everybody on the bus that I had asked - about 8 people - all simultaneously started yelling "Taba!" "Taba!" (if this isn't funny sorry... it was hillarious at the time)
We walked across the border (about 20 seperate checkpoints, but Israel is very American friendly so they sped us through the process). And since they have mandatory military service for men and women, and, I guess they don't want to put women into battle, they get stuck guarding the border... which was nice because most of them were decent looking - especially compared to Egyptian women. So a good welcome to Isreal.
Then we caught a bus from the border to Jeruselum. We should have known that something was amiss when our cab driver at the border told us that it was cold and rainy and Jeruselum and it might even snow. Hard to believe when we wer standing in 70 degree weather on the banks of the Red Sea.
The drive to Jeruselum was absolutely beautiful! Rugged dessert mountains that terrain on the left, the the blue sea on the right and sun shining overhead. It was beautiful that is, until we got to the city limits and literally, it dropped 25 degrees and rain fell from thick black clouds.
But we prayed for clear skies and the clouds broke for the afternoon allowing us to expore the old city and go to the wailing wall. As we were placing our prayers (written on a piece of paper) in the wall - as is the custom - it started to rain again.
So we headed to the Holocaust Museum, which is probably the best museum I have ever visited. Obviously the topic was powerful, but the use of multimedia, the architecture and interior design layout were perfect for that space. An incredible - if depressing - venue, that should be visited by every person that visits the city... And I would especially recommend this to the President of Iran Adminijad.
After the museum we hit the covered market for some sandle shopping and Karoline scored some sweet leather flops after a fair amount of bargaining.
Then we hit Zion square for a drink - very hard to come by in egypt, so it had been a few days... which is far too long (all of you Manhattanites know that a few days without a drink is uacceptable). We hit the Irish Pub... Karoline's choice, of course. And some dinner....
Now there's something you must know about Jeruselum, you have to walk through a metal detector to go anywhere... seriously, bar - metal detector, restaraunt - metal detector, wailing wall - metal detector (which by the way, in case you were wondering, is not in violation of the sabath or kosher laws), bus station - 5 metal detectors.
So, at dinner, we had to get scanned by a bouncer at the door. Mind you, this was not a club, no, it was a small italian restaraunt that holds maybe 20 people tops, but it had a bouncer with a metal detector. At the end of the meal we had an additional 4 sheckle 'security charge'! Incredible!
All that being said, be thankful for the ease of travel in the US.
Our hostel had no heat so it was about 12 degrees when we got back and the reception guy had left for the night so we had to steal blankets to stay warm in our prison cell.
I woke up and our worst fear had come true, not only did it not stop raining it was raining harder and the temperature had dropped to right around freezing. But we had not walked the via de la rosa (the last walk of Christ to the cross) and we knew we had to do it no matter the weather... and we left our bad weather gear in ciaro.
Note to Self: if you have a bunch of really warm waterproof gear with you for climbing Mt. Kilimanjo, you should not leave it in istanbul if you are going to jeruselum when it's cold and wet.
We layered up with about 20 t-shirts and took off to the start of the path... it was freezing, so we stopped and bargained with a vendor for a pair of cotton sweatshirts.
Then we took off to find the begining of the via de la rosa - not an easy feat, the streets of the old city are not easy to navigate. There are 14 stations of the cross culminating with the tomb of christ.... and they are very hard to find even with our guide book we missed a few. We had to fight our way through the packs of elderly foreign tourists, we couldn't feel our hands and feet, and by the time we finished at the church of the seplecur, it was a full on flakes-the-size-of-a-quarter snow storm... IN JERUSELUM! IN MARCH! So it was indeed the via de la rosa, which translates to "the way of sorrow" for us. But I suppose it could have been worse... I guess we could have been stripped, wearing a throny crown and carrying a cross.
In all seriousness, it was incredibly sobering to follow those steps. Even if they were not exactly historically correct, it was powerful to stand on the same geographical spot as Christ.
After the snow we wanted to hit the beach, so we packed up as fast as we could and headed for Dahab a beach resort on the Siani peninsula.
After another bus and another border crossing, we haggled with taxis for about an hour until we got a private car for the 2 hour ride for $22.50 US each. We didn't realize it at the time, but we were also required to have a 'security officer' ride with us. Apparently every 'important national' that hires a ride for an extended period needs a gun-toting security officer.
In Dahab now... all I can say is that we have a super cheap room with a view of the sea. Cheap eats and cheap drinks and good sun.