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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

Israel Flag ISRAEL

COUNTRY FACTS Pop: 6,352,117 Area: 20,770 sq km Gov't: Parliamentary Democracy Religion: Jewish 76.5%, Muslim 15.9% View Map

March 4. DEAD SEA - EILAT (ISRAEL)  Rob had checked into every possible way for us to get from the Dead Sea to Aqaba but the only direct option was to hire a car to drive us down for about $90.  A JETT bus came by the Dead Sea enroute to Aqaba but it didn't stop.  So, the most cost effective option was to take a "shuttle" back to Amman (already an whopping $25) and then catch the JETT bus that would drive right back by the Marriott Dead Sea on its way to Aqaba.  Welcome to the efficiency of Jordanian tourism...

On our last morning at the Marriott we woke up early and went out to the beach to do some floating before the construction goons arrived.  It worked out nicely.  It was quiet and peaceful.  Just as we were showering off we heard the tractors come out.  We spent the rest of the morning at the pool and taking one last dip into the indoor salt pool and hot tub.  We got cleaned up in time for breakfast before heading to the gift shop to do a little shopping and then packing up our bags. A different driver took us back to Amman and this one didn't say a word.  We drove to Amman in silence and we dropped off in front of the Marriott Hotel.  They put us in another cab which charged us another 1JD to go a few kilometers further to the bus station.  

The JETT bus was a tad nicer than the bus we had taken up from Petra.  We had seats on the top level in the second row.  But, the seats were just as cramped as our bus from Petra and of course everyone wanted to put their seats back and blow smoke in your face.  The ventilation was pretty bad and my eyes were stinging towards the end of our four hour ride.  But, they did have an Egyptian movie with English subtitles to keep us entertained and an attendant brought people drinks.  The movie was sort of interesting because it challenged some of the social norms that I thought applied to most Arab countries, or at least to Egypt and Jordan.   It was about a 27 years old Egyptian man who was divorced and had a daughter.  He was quite a ladies man and spent many a night partying it up in Hurghada and having one night stands until he fell for a good girl.  They dated for many months and she never gave into him.  She truly fell for him and it seemed he had fallen for her since he had given up his wild ways.  But, in the end, he couldn't take it and confessed that if they kept dating he was sure to cheat on her so he had to break it off.  Naturally she was devastated but went off to get her life back together.  Meanwhile he realizes that being a ladies man isn't so great and maybe he did really love her.  He swears off women and starts to devote himself to his daughter.  Then it really hits him that he wants to marry her so he goes to see at work and proposes.  She rejects him and he is devastated.  He makes one final desperate attempt to win her over by getting his boss to allow him to use one of the advertising company's billboards to repeat his proposal.  At this point her friends, who never really liked him, have come around to feel sorry for him and cooperate to help him win the girl back.  Her friend takes her past the billboard on their way home and, of course, she is overwhelmed and can't possibly refuse him.  The story ends when they get married.  

My guidebook told me that Egyptian couples date for a couple of years before getting married but the mother of the woman in the movie was after her to get married after they had only been dating for six months.  Also, the young woman never wore traditional clothing or kept her head covered.  Of course movies rarely depict reality but then isn't western society, specifically the US, often judged by our movie exports, as though they represent our true morals?  If I were to judge Egypt based on that movie it would be quite different from the country that I experienced.  Then again, the guidebook also said that men and women who don't know each don't sit next to each other on buses but I observed the man in front of us move to sit next to a single woman across the aisle.  He asked her permission first but by the end of the bus ride he was giving her cigarettes and lighting them up for her? Were they are racy pair or just a younger generation breaking out of traditional norms?  Who knows, but it is always interesting to observe the people around you in comparison to the "cultural rules" you have read about and see if they really hold water.

It was dark when we reached Aqaba but we had no trouble finding a taxi to the border.  They found us.  Departing Jordan was a breeze but Israel took us through a really thorough baggage check.  Like before, they x-rayed the bags and did a hand check but this time they went through everything and even wanted to open the bath salts I had in my bag because they were too dense.  But, while we had been waiting for our turn at security harassment a very nice Israeli guard had recommended a hotel for us and the guard at the exit called a cab for us.  Unfortunately, it was Thursday which was the start of the weekend in Israel so the $25/night hotel the guard had told us about was now $75, even though the hotel was empty.  We could have stayed in Aqaba but it seemed smart to get as far as we could so we had a better chance of getting to St. Catherine's the next morning.  Anyway, it gave us a chance to check out Eilat.  But, as the man at the Americana Hotel we stayed at told us, Eilat is not like the rest of Israel.  Indeed, Eilat was like a small Las Vegas without the gambling (they went to the Hilton in Taba, Egypt for that) and there was entertainment for all ages.  All of the action was on the waterfront where there were a few amusement park rides for the kids and a slough of vendors selling all sorts of knickknacks on one end of the promenade, and nice bars and cafes in front of the posh hotels at the other end of the promenade.  There was plenty of shopping malls, steak houses, fast food restaurants, and hotels of all categories.  And, of course there were "professional" women for the big bad boys.  It all had a very artificial air to it but that is exactly what it was, the Truman Show of entertainment towns. And, now we were paying $75/night for a dumpy motel room.  Thinking back to our stay at the Marriott was absolutely painful.  Israel is not where I would come for a vacation.  We spent so much on the hotel we settled for McDonald's for dinner. 


GREECE Athens Jan 27-Feb 4

EGYPT Cairo Feb 4 Feb 5 Feb 6 Feb 7 Aswan Feb 8 Feb 9 Feb 10 Luxor Feb 11 Feb 12 Feb 13 Feb 14 Feb 15 Nuweiba Feb 16-17

JORDAN Petra Feb 18 Feb 19 Feb 20 Feb 21 Amman Feb 22 Feb 23-24 Feb 25 Feb 26 Feb 27 Feb 28 Feb 29-Mar 1 Dead Sea Mar 2 Mar 3

ISRAEL Eilat Mar 4

EGYPT Cairo Mar 5 Mar 6 Mar 7 Mar 8

GREECE Athens Mar 9 Santorini Mar 10 Mar 11 Mar 12-13 Crete Mar 14 Mar 15-16 Mar 17-21 Athens Mar 22