Getting to Egypt

28 Oct

We had wanted to take the fast ferry across the Dead Sea from Aqaba to Nuweiba we had seen advertised and talked about on the internet. This service, unfortunately, had been terminated. Our only option was to take the overnight ferry, leaving just after midnight, in a few hours. There was no choice.

We purchased the tickets at a ticket office from a nice Jordanian man who had lived in South Carolina for some time. He inexplicably gave us a discount (55 dollars off!!) on tickets that had a set price by the government (two governments) and then called his friend who was a taxi driver to pick us up from our hotel at 11 pm and take us to the ferry. His friend wasn’t as nice and tried to get as much money as possible out of us for the ride. We ended up paying way more for the taxi than we needed to, but in the end we still came out ahead thanks to the discount. Sometimes it helps not having a computer tracking every human action. It certainly helped us get a discount, though it would create some nervous moments later.

We were told multiple times at the ticket office that we could purchase a cabin in the boat when we arrived for 10 USD. This would make our journey way more comfortable and allow us to get some sleep. We arrived at the boat and asked about the rooms. We were laughed at. “Not this boat,” they cackled. We would have to sleep on the benches or the floors.

That was the least of our concerns, however, because we were receiving conflicting advice from every person we talked to about receiving an exit stamp in our passport, so we could board the ferry to Egypt. We finally found the building where we were supposed to get this stamp and discovered madness inside. The lines at the windows where the customs officials were were outrageously long and people were often sliding ahead in front of us. Eventually, some Egyptian man told Eric to go to the front of the line. So, he walked right up to the window and I joined him. We got our stamps and no one seemed to mind we had jumped to the front of the line. We got to the ferry and they let us on to search for an uncomfortable place to sleep for the overnight trip.

The term overnight boat also turned out to be a misnomer. The boat seemed to crawl as slowly as possible and still arrived well before daybreak. The overnight part mostly referred to the time it took to complete the circuit through the bureaucratic nightmare that was customs at Nuweiba Port. The ferry pulled into port at a little before 3:30 am. We got off the boat at 5 am. We passed out of the port gates at 6 am. The sun was far from up when we pulled into port but it was in the sky by the time we cleared customs.

While we were transiting across the Dead Sea there were many announcements. All of them were in Arabic. We we tried to disembark the boat the customs officials berated us for not getting an Egyptian stamp in our passport. We asked where we were supposed to get the stamp. They repeated louder, “Where is your stamp!” Our passports were collected, and they walked off with them. We were told we could collect them at the customs office. We weren’t told where it was. All the signs in the port were in Arabic. We were without our passports and had no idea where to go. We started to wish there were computers tracking our passports and telling us where to go. Being strangers in a strange land isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Luckily we were born in an English-speaking country and have almost never had to experience this.

We eventually found the building by following around another person who had had his passport collected. He didn’t speak English, but he did speak Arabic. It seemed as if he had to ask everyone in the port where to go, but he eventually found the customs office and so did we. It probably took another 45 minutes to take care of everything we needed to, but at least during those 45 minutes, we could see our passports. It made us feel better.

When we got our stamped passports back in our hands we joined the baggage inspection line. Here, our white skin color also allowed us to bypass a line others had to wait in. We were waved to the front, dropped our bags on the x-ray machine conveyor belt, and picked them up on the other side, taking one minute to complete a task that rightfully should have taken us thirty. Again, no one seemed to mind.

We cleared customs with our passports in hand. It was a hectic process, but we made it, and even managed to sneak in about an hour and a half of sleep. Flying into Egypt would have certainly been an easier experience, but we don’t have the kind of money or time to afford easy. We take what we can get. At the end of the day, still holding our passports and having arrived in Egypt successfully, we have to chalk that up as a win.

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