After leaving Palestine, I have decided to go to Egypt, to travel there and clear my head for a while.
I need to get a visa, which I could have done in Tel-Aviv, but after thinking a lot about it, I realize I’m not sure I would be able to handle it at this point; I am so tired of the endless conversations that I am bound to have with people there and I am not in an adequate emotional state to deal with them with tact. It is a bit foolish of me to imagine I could avoid the unavoidable, but for now, I instead decide to go down to Eilat, near the Egyptian border, and do my visa there.
Eilat seems kind of unreal to me after the past few months. It is a very relaxed town, paradise of capitalism with billboards everywhere and fancy, expensive resorts. It is nice, but it feels soulless to me. Also, the fact that none of my friends will ever be able to set foot in this place (even with an permit to visit Israel, Palestinians cannot enter Eilat) makes me feel uncomfortable. However, I meet a super nice fellow traveller from Canada, with whom I share deep, philosophical conversations, the type of talks that always make me feel better.
The people working in the hostel are cool too, although every single person there tries to convince me not to go to Egypt. But I know better than to listen to scared people before going somewhere (yes, this is among others clearly a reference to Palestine), so I make my way to the Egyptian consulate. Things don’t turn out so well since the first day, I arrive ten minutes after it closes, and the second day, I am told that the system is down and that if I want a visa, I have to wait for one more week in Eilat. Well that is not an option for me at this particular moment, and having to spend that much more time here is an idea that drives me crazy. So I decide that I will go to Egypt with the free “Sinai visa” that I can get at the border and figure out how to get the full one once I’m there.
Crossing the border is pretty smooth.
On the other side, a taxi is waiting for me. It was sent by the camp where I’m about to stay a few days, that a guy from Eilat recommended to me. On the way, we drive by hundreds of hotels and resorts, and so many of them are empty or half built. The lack of tourists can almost be felt in the air I breathe, which is sad. South Sinai is a safe region – the kidnapping and all the other horrible things that are happening are in North Sinai. However, the fear is real and it’s driving people away.
The place where I arrive to seems far away from any of these problems. The people working and living there, mostly Bedouin people but also some Soudanese, welcome me very warmly. It is very remote – no wifi here – and it seems ideal for me to relax for a few days.
The only thing that doesn’t go exactly as planned is that the place is full of…. Israeli people. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against the fact that they’re Israelis – I have however come to Egypt and left that place in order to get away from all of that. Here, I end up having the same conversations all over again. That is NOT what I was looking for! Sure, I could lie and hide the fact that I have been in Palestine for four months – but I refuse to do that. So, every single time, it’s the same story: “Have you been to Israel? Oh, where were you? What?!” And the conversation begins.
However, I still have a very pleasant stay, and the bad feelings that first invade me because of this weird situation end up being a good reminder: Before being Israeli, Palestinian, Swiss or Chinese, we are all human. I make new friends and we have a great time, enjoying the beach and playing music.
On the second day, I wake up at 4 am, and I can’t go back to sleep. I decide to go for a walk on the beach with the dogs, while watching the sun rise on the Red Sea. There is this special atmosphere from that time of the day, when everybody else is still sleeping, that is magical. Everything is so quiet. It’s beautiful.
After a few days, I move on to Dahab, a “backpackers paradise” that is a bit less remote than the camp. I like the chill vibe and the cool people of this place, so I decide to stay for a while. I am figuring out what to do next.
Meanwhile, I visit Mount Sinai, where Moses is supposed to have received the Ten Commandments. We climb it during the night, so we can watch the sunrise from the top, before going back down to visit St-Catherine’s Monastery, which is said to be the oldest in the world.
What a beautiful region of the world.