It was surprisingly quiet at this large border. The buildings were made for handling large numbers of people, but since Egypt has had some security troubles nobody wants to go anymore. What else we didn’t expect was that the trouble started already at the Egyptian side. Again, entering the country was easy, but now that we were leaving we had to remove everything from our car and put it through the x-ray scanner. Were they scared we were taking something valuable away from their country? After removing every little bit from our car and putting it one by one through the x-ray scanner in a little office next to the road, we were starting to get annoyed already. Especially when they started arguing about our pocket knives. It was obvious they wanted them for personal reasons because they didn’t care anything about the large machete we had. For some reason it came clear very fast, that they weren’t getting anything from us. We had dealt with Africans before.
After entertaining the bored border officials some more we were finally able to leave Egypt and start the hardest border crossing on the Israeli side. Luckily it was also the last. Driving closer to the entry gate of Israel, gates close, barricades appear from the tarmac and the security official start asking questions like your life matters on it. After it being clear we weren’t an immediate threat, we were allowed to drive our car further into the parking lot for complete investigation. We thought the last check in Egypt was thorough, but now every little dust particle had to be checked and removed. Before we knew it a team of 10 people were pulling the stuff from our car and dumping it in plastic bags and containers. Few minutes later I was helping another official pushing our mattress through the x-ray machine. It all happened so fast that I was completely oblivious to what I was doing. When it occurred to me that I was pushing our mattress through a little x-ray scanner I just started laughing. The situation was so stupid. The officials around couldn’t keep away a smile either, but you could see everyone had to keep a serious face.
Then it was time for the immigration. We were told to sit on a bench next to an office where we needed to carry out an interview. An hour passed by before my name was called, even though there was hardly anybody. The questions were simple like the name of my father and grandparents, until they confronted me why we had missed an entry stamp for Mali in our passports. I was sure we had one, I just needed to find it between the other 40 pages of stamps. Every time I wanted to find it in my passport they just pulled it away again, it started to be really intimidating and annoying. They were trying to push me mentally, but having dealt with Nigerian police I didn’t care. What were they going to do, send us back to have another holiday in Egypt? Eventually I was allowed to sit outside on the bench again. Different people were being dealt with in the meantime, but 6 hours later Jasmin was called into the office and had her interview as well. Luckily it wasn’t as intense as mine and we received our passports back. We could finally go! But where were our car keys? Where was all our stuff? Our car documents had vanished too.
To make things worse, when we asked someone about all our stuff and car keys she was completely unknown about the situation because a shift change had occurred in the meantime. We were so relieved it didn’t take long to find the right people showing our belongings. We had to push all our belongings on little carts through the long customs building to arrive at our car 200 meters further. Then we had to find our car keys. It appeared somebody else at the last gate had our keys. Slowly everything came back to us and late in the evening we left the border 9 hours later, hungry and tired.
During the 9 hours at the border, we were told it was holiday in Israel for another 3 days. We didn’t think much of it, until we actually drove away from the border. Caravans, campervans and people camping everywhere! It was like being back in civilization but worse, because everyone was doing what we always do. We eventually found a spot between two large caravans with loud generators, ate dinner and fell asleep straight away. What a day.
Now that we were finally in Israel, we could make a plan about the ferry to Greece. We contacted the agent at Salamis shipping and we were told to be able to leave this week or three weeks later. This was kind of a dilemma as the options were too short or too long. After doing the math, we decided to book the early one, as we didn’t plan seeing much in Israel anyway.
We hadn’t seen a proper supermarket in a while and so we expected to be able to stock up in Israel, but it being a public holiday, that wasn’t possible. All the stores were closed, so we basically lived off the food of fuel stations and what we had left for emergencies.
Our visit to the Dead Sea started off being very confusing. The normal place, Ein gedi, where everyone used to go and swim in the sea, was completely closed off. We asked a local person and it appeared this place had been closed a little while back. The Dead Sea has been becoming smaller and smaller, so the shoreline is receding very fast. The only possibility was at a large resort city, Ein bokek, where the water had been dammed to prevent further recession of the water.
We camped next to a dry river bed along the Dead Sea shore, but as the whole area is in a large depression it stayed more than 35 C the whole night. It was impossible to sleep with this heat. The next day we were exhausted, but we visited the Masada fort anyway. It’s an ancient fortification on top of an isolated rock plateau, situated next to the Dead Sea. As we were exhausted from a night without sleep and the extreme heat, we were being struck hard by the exposure of the sun. It was so hot. Our water bottle from the fridge had become completely warm in ten minutes. Thankfully there was a gondola to the top and back, nevertheless we were completely drained of energy by the time we had returned.
Just before we wanted to lay our heads on our pillows we started hearing fireworks. We didn’t think much of it, until cars started racing away with screaming tires. People were shouting so we looked out from our balcony to see the road had been blocked and people were literally running for their lives. In whole Africa this was the only time we really felt unsafe. We walked downstairs to ask about what’s going on. The manager explained there was a military raid going on a few houses down the road and that we shouldn’t go outside right now. Bullets were flying around and our car was parked on the road. Now it became clear why some stranger on the road told us not to walk that direction in the afternoon. It all took only one hour, but we didn’t leave the building until the next day. We left Jerusalem straight away.
See http://www.salamisshipping.com/ for more info. We paid about 1800 euros for two people and a car. 3 days 2 nights. More details about our experience in the next blog!