Typed up: at Petra Gate Hotel in Wadi Mousa
Posted from: Petra Gate Hotel in Wadi Mousa
On Sunday December 21, we woke up in Nuweiba, Egypt. After a good breakfast at our hotel, we took a cab to the bus station which seemed completely empty. There was one man sitting in his bus in the back, and he told us that the bus to Taba would come soon. He offered us some tea which we drank from the one cup he had. The bus did indeed come soon, and we were motioned to just get on with our bags. There was plenty of space for them as well as us. The ticket man collected LE 15 from each of us, because we didn't have change to pay him what we knew was the correct fare of LE 12. Then he came by again to ask if we were going to the border. That was LE 5 extra. So we paid the extra, because I thought maybe it's some kind of tourist fee or something. In fact it's just a very expensive bus ride of about 300 meters from the bus stop to the border.
Walking into the border station, a police officer sold us 2 LE 2 stamps, which we would need later. We did some security check, and they looked at our passports. A short bathroom break later we walked out of the building and were promptly turned around because we hadn't collected an exit stamp. Nobody was in the booth for doing that, and nobody stopped us, so we had just walked through. But we turned around, and filled out the little form and used our LE 2 stamp. Then we were allowed to continue on towards Israel.
Israeli security has a reputation for being severe and taking a long time. For us it went pretty smoothly. We were in a small group of 5 backpackers who'd all come off the same bus. At the entrance we set down our bags, handed in our passports, and were told to wait. One of the group was called aside for a long interview, while the rest of us chatted, enjoying the morning air and the view out over the sea towards Saudi Arabia. The one interview (which did take about 20 minutes) must have been good, because nobody else was interviewed and we all went in to send our luggage through the machines etc. It all took a bit longer and seemed more thorough than at the airport, but nothing was complicated or stressful. Everybody spoke good English. Then there was another step for passports, and we were in.
One of the other backpackers, John, and the two of us had originally planned to take the bus. However, the wait was an hour and a half so we decided to take a taxi instead. We negotiated the price of 60 shekels, only to discover at the border with Jordan that the meter had read only 42. But the taxi was clean and comfortable. Our driver obeyed traffic regulations. There were all the little things to see that at home we take for granted but you wouldn't ever see in Egypt. Like people jogging. And of course it was all clean, and construction projects were finished, and on and on. We were also struck by the women at passport control. We hadn't seen women in any kind of security role in Egypt. Morad had even laughed when I asked what the word for female soldier is. There is no such word because there are no such soldiers.
To leave Israel we had to pay 88.5 shekels each, payable in several currencies including the Egyptian pounds that we had. This also seemed like the last opportunity to get some Jordanian money. We took the opportunity of using an Israeli toilet (with paper, the flushing works, the taps run, etc.) before walking into the no-man's-land between there and Jordan. Getting into Jordan was very easy. I don't think we paid anything to get into the country. At the other side of the border we once again split a cab, paying JD 7 each to get to downtown Aqaba.
Aqaba felt in between Egypt and Israel. It's clean, but not super clean. And traffic follows traffic laws, but they still split lanes if there's no other traffic around. It was more expensive than Egypt, but not really expensive. The three of us ate lunch at a decent Indian restaurant. Then John set off to find cheap transportation to Petra, while we wandered to the hotel next door and got a room there.