The Sinai Crossing

Friday, Feb. 26 reported by Gordon Govier
Today was supposed to be our Exodus day but it got off to a bad start when we learned that Ben was in acute gastro-intestinal distress and would not be able to travel with us. Michael helped us contact the hotel's doctor. Finally we piled onto the bus, optimistic that Ben and Pat would be able to catch up with us in a couple of days. But then, as we neared the Nile River Bridge, another delay, a flat tire.

So then it was back off the bus and watch Gary Lindberg (who runs a truck shop back in Madison) and our driver Ahmed try to change the tire. They were making very slow progress until our police escort flagged down another truck driver who had the right skills and tools to get the flat tire off and the spare on.

When we finally got back on the road we made good time through Cairo, since it was Friday. The roads this day were quiet, quite different from the rest of the week.

After an hour or so we pulled in at the Sinai Rest House near Suez. While we got another chance to sharpen our bargaining skills at the tourist shops (We were summoned off the bus to cries of "lookee lookee"), Ahmed took the bus off to get our flat fixed.

These various delays put us several hours behind schedule, so that when we finally crossed under the Suez canal through the tunnel, we had to maintain our eastward course. We had hoped to drop south for a ways to see some of the traditional sites connected to the Exodus.

Our next rest stop was at the desert town of Nakhl in central Sinai. The security squad there escorted us out of town with sirens blaring. Finally we left the Sinai plateau, traversed "the colored canyon" and emerged at Nuweiba. There we said good-bye to Michael and Ahmed, thanked them for a wonderful time in Egypt, and boarded the fast ferry to Aqaba.

The trip on the 40-foot catamaran hydroplane took a little over an hour. At Aqaba, our new guide David Samaan shepherded us through customs. The sun was starting to set as we drove out of Aqaba and headed up the valley. David told us that without the hassle of customs, one would be able to drive through four countries within an hour from Aqaba: Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Two hours later we pulled in to Wadi Moussa, ancient Petra. We checked in at the Petra Forum Rest Hotel, built into the side of a rocky hill. It reminded me of the Flintstones' hometown, Bedrock. We retired early, tomorrow was going to be an exciting day, but strenuous.