Breakfast in our hotel was like being in the Twilight Zone. We were the only customers in the entire breakfast room, and the décor was a little outdated and had lots of teal and gold in it. They had soft music playing, but after a while we realized it was actually only one song: the theme from Love Story. But instead of just repeating the same version over and over, there were a dozen different versions that played in tireless rotation. There was original Love Story, saxophone Love Story, salsa Love Story, piano Love Story, Spanish guitar Love Story, New Age Love Story, etc. Finally it drove us so crazy that we just had to leave. We were due to be at the ferry station, anyway.
Two words sum up the entire ferry experience between
At last we made it onto the ferry and settled into our seats for the one-hour ride. We met an acquaintance from BYU who, with his family, was also trying to get to
In between the stresses of figuring out where to go and what to do, in the process of which we handed over our passports to an Egyptian official so that he could expedite the entry process, we had a few minutes to relax in our seats and enjoy the ride and the view. We could see the mountains of
As the ferry docked, they sequestered all the foreigners into one cabin room. To our surprise, before they would let us out of the room and onto the shore, the officials demanded our passports! Of course, when we explained that we had already handed them over to another official, who was now conveniently nowhere to be found, confusion resulted. It took Jeremy yelling in Egyptian Arabic to finally get them to let us through.
We emerged out of the ferry into a mass of people and a sea of even more confusion. There were buses pulling up everywhere, and people were piling onto them. We had no idea what to do, so we followed the family we had met on the ferry. However, an official separated us and again demanded to see our passports. With growing exasperation, we explained, once again, that an official had taken them from us on the ferry. He looked suspicious, but let us get on the same bus as the other family. It pulled up to an even more crowded area of the ferry dock and let us off, with no direction as to what we were supposed to do at that point.
I’ll pause here and mention again the absolute chaos this place was in. It was as if no ferry had ever arrived at the port before, and even if one had, there had certainly been no foreigners on it. There were no signs, not even in Arabic, just a dozen concrete buildings holding various, unlabeled offices. In actuality, a ferry arrives at that dock at least twice a day, carrying tons of travelers from
By a combination of following the other family and asking various officials dozens of times, we managed to buy our visas. The visa official, however, needed our passports, which situation we again explained. He grudgingly gave the visa paper stamp to us separately, and we wandered from building to building before being told to wait at a specific concrete office. I cannot remember how many times we were asked for our passports in the process. I was beginning to think that they were already for sale on the black market, since every single worker seemed surprised that someone had taken them on the ferry. Finally, some dude showed up with a bunch of American passports, and we all gave a huge sigh of relief, but not before Jeremy had resorted to yelling, in Arabic, “THERE IS NO ORDER HERE!!!!!”
But there was still customs to go through, and we weaved our way through Jordanians and Egyptians toting cumbersome, metal carts piled high with suitcases, boxes, crates, and bicycles, as if they were fleeing the country forever with all of their possessions, and the possessions of all their extended family. The customs officials noticed the souvenir Damascus steel knife Sarah had in her suitcase, and started to make a fuss about it, despite the fact that it wasn’t sharpened at all. Jeremy again came to the rescue and finally convinced them that it was safe to take into the country by repeatedly and exaggeratingly attempting to slash his hand with it (it didn’t even come close to breaking the skin). This was a hilarious sight, and they laughed and let her through with it after all.
Now we had at last reached the bus that would take us to
I will spare you some of the details of our bus ride. Suffice it to say that they were some of the lowest hours of my life in recent memory. About 2 minutes into the ride, the driver put in a tape of unpleasant music. At first, I thought it was just a few introductory songs, but after two hours of nasal, atonal singing, it became apparent that was not the case. Sneakily, we turned off the speakers above our seats to dim the sound a bit, but the driver caught on and cranked the volume up even louder.
A little before the halfway point of the trip, the bus pulled into a rest stop, our only break for the whole bus ride. I was grateful for the rest stop and rushed in to use the bathroom. In the
With my mood even more dampened, enlightened albeit a little by the discovery of some fake but delicious Oreos (called Borios) for sale at a nearby kiosk, we boarded the bus again. By this time, I was terrified of drinking anything for fear of what the next bathroom would look like. For the next several hours we had to deal with people sneaking cigarettes even though smoking was forbidden on the bus. Jeremy went back once or twice and tried to find the offenders, chastising them and reminding them of the no-smoking policy. But wafts of reeking cigarette smoke kept creeping up to the front of the bus and choking us. I was at a breaking point. Over Jeremy’s objections, I marched to the back of the moving bus and demanded to know who was smoking. An older man meekly raised his hand and I berated him as best I could in Arabic for making me sick with the smoke. Then I softened and asked them to please not smoke because it made me sick, and if nothing else, to do it for God (you can say stuff like that in Arabic). Trembling with anger and nervousness at having confronted half a bus-full of Egyptian men, I returned to my seat triumphant.
Sadly, my triumph didn’t last too much longer before we smelled smoke once again, and I settled down into a resigned, strangled pessimism.
Anyway, we did eventually arrive in