My journey through Israel and Egypt


2 weeks of travellling on a shoestring

This is my “report” about the trip I made in the spring of 1998 (march 15 until April 5th 1998) in Israel an Egypt after staying 6 months in a Kibbutz in Israel. I hope you enjoy it.

Some parts may consist of strong and/or offending language (for some people). Please keep in mind that it’s not my goal to offend any people, religion or (religious) event what so ever.

Most of the “sarcastic” comments on Biblical events are based on the fact that you can call me a religious person, but that I’m not a firm believer in what the different world churches (Roman-Catholic/Muslim/Judaism etc.) are teaching/preaching.

This “report” is based on a letter I wrote to my younger Sister Maartje about this trip and who was in Italy at that moment for a job-training exchange program.

ISRAEL

Jerusalem

On Sunday morning the 15th of march me and 2 other volunteers (a Dutch girl and a American Boy who didn’t know where Canada is)left the kibbutz for the train station and the train for Tel Aviv.
In Tel Aviv we took the train to Jerusalem. When we arrived in Jerusalem, the first thing we did was to go to our hostel which was situated in the Old City, and was called Tobasco-hostel.

After all formalities of checking in to the hostel where finished, we started walking around the Old City. We started in the Church of Holy Sepulchre (= the place where He [The-Weirdo-With-The-Beard] hanged on the cross and was buried for 3 days {while licking his wounds) before He started wondering around again until His Ascension to heaven.).

Afterwards we went to look at the wailing-wall (of course we couldn’t resist the temptation of wailing ourselves) and the Temple Mount. Also we walked the Old City-walls. To close of the day we went to the Mountain of Olives and 1 of the 3 Gardens of Getsemane (where He was kissed by Judas) which are situated on that Mountain (what is the “real” Garden of Getsemane is not known). On the mountain we enjoyed the view on the Old City. This was the end of the first of 3 days Jerusalem.

On our 2nd day (Monday 16 march 1998) we went to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity (please guess once what happened there and who played a leading role there).
Personally I found the Nativity church/Bethlehem not as impressive as my first time in the Sepulchre church (a reason for this might be the in current days Bethlehem is an obscure little place on the West Bank which (off course) can’t be compared to Jerusalem, but certainly it was nice to walk around in Bethlehem. The 3 of us also have taken part in a Procession (in the Nativity church) organised/lead by Franciscan-monks who have such a Procession once every day. When we where back in Jerusalem we had lunch the 2 other volunteers left me to go back to the Kibbutz because they wanted to be back in the Kibbutz in time for “Monday, laundry day”.

After we said our goodbye’s at Jaffa-gate I went to visit the Citadel/City of David which is situated at Jaffa-Gate just inside the Old City. Afterwards I went to the Sheep’s-gate to walk the Via Delarosa (The Way of the Cross for that Weirdo-with-the-cross which that Weirdo supposedly walked so many years ago at Easter Friday č it’s supposedly, because it’s not certain that He walked that particular route. The only thing in Jerusalem that’s pretty historically accurate is the site of His crucifixion) and finally I arrived (again) at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre so that in 1 day I visited the place’s of His birth and death (he did it in 33 years and did it in 1 day).

Tiberias/Golan Heights

My 3rd day was intended to be about travelling to Tiberias and do some cycling around Lake Tiberias (a.s.a Lake Kinneret, the lowest fresh water lake in the world) [info for non-believers: Lake Tiberias is the place where He lived for some time, where He rounded up his disciples, where He is believed to yelled out his Sermon on the Mount, and where He did a trick with 3 fishes and 2 loafs of bread to feed 5000 peoples, also he did here His walking-on-water-trick].

But this day didn’t crack up to be as planned. What happened? It was snowing in Jerusalem!!!!!!!! At 6 o’clock that morning I was walking through an empty and white Old City, which is an weird experience on its one (not just because it was an empty Old City [which in day time is very busy], but mostly because it was covered in snow), but when the bells of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Redeemer started ringing it became really freaky. It sent sparks down my spine (in a good way). To make it really weird is, while I was walking in a snow covered Jerusalem [which is such an important city for so many (religious and non-religious) people] with it’s Church bells ringing I had to think about a small place in the mountains of Switzerland called Saas Almagell where my family and me went on skiing-holidays for many years. To recap: its very impressive to walk through a empty Old City Jerusalem. But when its snowing upon that Old City and that city is covered in snow that makes it more impressive. Certainly when the damned church bells start ringing it’s and experience I will NEVER Forget!!!!!!!!!

With my stupid head I didn’t make any pictures, because I wanted to catch the early bus. On reflection I had plenty of time, because due to the snow bus-services where a mess. I arrived at Jerusalem’s central bus-station at 6.45, with cold and wet feet, I had to wait until 11 o’clock until I could catch the bus to Tiberias. When I arrived in Tiberias at 2 o’clock it was raining there and that’s not really motivating weather to go cycling for a few hours. So instead I walked through Tiberias and arranged my excursion to the Golan-Heights for the next day.

My tour-day through the Golan-Heights also consisted of loads of snow. Rain, fog, low hanging clouds, seeing shit due to the weather etc. But still it was a very nice day, and I didn’t wanted to miss it.
All that snow and rain made it a special day, which not much people/tourists have had. We (= the tour-group and me) started at the place (Tabgha) where He fucked around with those fishes and loafs of bread. After this we went to Capernaum where He lived (supposedly in the house of Sint Peter and his mother) when he was in this area. In this city he supposedly stupefied his apostles with his stories and in this town are some remains of an old Roman city.

After Capernaum we went to Katzarin (the first place in the Golan) to visit a museum about the Golan and a small coffee-break. On our way to Katzarin we passed the place where The Big Story Teller (supposedly) served his Sermon on the Mount (also this place is not certain the be the right place). When we where finished with our coffee-break we went to the Syrian/Israeli border to look at the ruins of Kuneitra which is just at the Syrian side of the Border in the demilitarised zone. But due to the fog/low hanging clouds be couldn’t see shit of Kuneitra. AL we could see of Syria was further down the road towards our next destination (lunch in a kibbutz) when the clouds broke. What we could see where Syrian pastures.
Our next stop was a Israeli kibbutz for lunch, because the tour organisation was of the opinion that its a good experience for us tourists to look around/have lunch in a real Israeli kibbutz. For me it was a really nice experience, which I didn’t had already in the last 6 months before that tour.

After lunch we went further through the Golan to visit Banias (a waterfall and old Jewish shrines from the Jewish tribal times) and Metulla and the Israeli/Lebanon-bordercrossing (“the good fence”). So at the end of the day I stood about 5 meters of Lebanon. After our visit to this border we returned to Tiberias and the Golan tour was at an end. All in all it was a nice and interesting day.

Jerusalem (again)

This was the Friday of my Israel trip, so it was essential that I returned to Jerusalem. This was so because of the Sabbath and because of the fact that my bus to Cairo left the next day (Saturday).
After a bit of a lye in and having my laundry done I catched the bus back to Jerusalem where I arrived safely. After sunset (=the start of the Sabbath) I went to the wailing wall (“Eastern wall”) to look at the praying/singing/dancing (orthodox) Jews.

Bus Jerusalem-Cairo

It was a very long day in the bus (12 hours) and I saw loads of desert (the Sinai). The nicest part about the trip was passing the Suez-canal (on a ferry) and, in the middle of the canal, leaving 1 continent (Asia) and entering another (Africa). This is if the Suez-Canal is the border between Asia and Africa.

EGYPT

I was in Egypt only 4 months after a terrorist attack in Luxor on the Hatsepshut temple where a number of tourists where killed.

Cairo

In the busy city of Cairo (15 million inhabitants almost the same number as Holland) I stayed 4 days en loads of things. Amongst others I went to the Egyptian museum where (amongst others) the stuff from Tutchacamon’s tumb is shown.
Off course I went to the pyramids in Gizeh and went inside 2 off them (the pyramid of Cheops and Chephren). What struck me most is, is how close Cairo is to the pyramids. I always imagined the pyramids to be standing in them middle of the desert, but that’s not the case. In fact only 2 sides op the pyramids are facing the desert, the other 2 sides are facing Cairo and Cairo is only about 50-100 metres from the pyramids.
Furthermore I spent a day in what’s called Coptic Cairo where the Christian (Coptic) minority of Egypt lives. Also I wandered a day through Old Cairo with it’s nice open sewers and unpaved roads. In this part of Cairo a big number of the poor Egyptians are living and where different kinds of livestock (chickens and goats mostly) are wandering around freely. Also in this part of town is the Cairo citadel which I also visited.

What was a bit of a put off for me in Cairo was how busy it was there (but what do you expect in a city of 15 million inhabitants) and the numbers of persons who try to sell you allot of different kinds of shit, mostly papyrus.

A “highlight” (besides visiting the sights) for me was buying an illegal ISIC-card (International Student Card which gives you al sorts of discounts) in a papyrus-shop in a small ally in downtown Cairo.
This was my visit to Cairo and my next stop on my Egypt trip was Luxor for Luxor & Karnak temples and the Valley of the Kings.

Luxor

The temple in Luxor is the smallest of the 2 temples (Luxor/Karnak) but certainly not the ugly one.
Placed on the borders of the Nile you find here beautiful hieroglyphs/drawings (some still with the original paint on it). A “nice” thing about Luxor temple is, that in the good old days at the entrance of the temple there stood 2 obelisks. At the present day there is only one. As you might ask “Did the other one fall over or something?”, but no. What happened is, that some years ago the Egyptian government gave the “missing” one to the French (under the pretext: ”We have enough of those pointed basterds so who gives a fuck if we give one away”) as a t5hank you for there help in excavating old treasures. The French government put the obelisk they received ion the Place de la Concorde in Paris, which is (obviously a big coincident) the same place where Louis XV was beheaded during the French Revolution..

Karnak

The biggest of 2 temples in Luxor. It’s a magnificent place (the size of about 5 soccer fields) and I spent a few hours here. Due to the fact of the terrorist “Tourist-slaughter-feast-‘97” it was very quiet here (also in Luxor-temple, but because that’s a smaller temple it’s not that noticeable as here)..

I asked a guard how busy it normally was there, ands he said that depending of the time of day and season there could be up to 1000 tourists there at any moment.
At the moment that I asked (at noon in normally the busy season) there where about 20 tourists there (maximum).
Later that day (actually at night) I enjoyed a sound and light there about the history of the temple-complex and a bit about the history of Egypt.. It was very nice.

Valley of the Kings/Thebe/West bank of the Nile

This day I spent travelling in a taxi on the west bank of the Nile to visit the Valley of the Kings (where loads of faro’s are buried) and visit some of the commemorative temples. In the valley I went to the tombs of the Faro’s Ramses I, VI and IX.
Furthermore I visited the commemorative temples of Faro’s Hatshepsut (also known as Deir el-Bahri) [Hatshepsut was the only female Faro Egypt ever had and this was the site of the terrorist attack in November 1997], Ramses II (or Rammeseum) [Ramses II or Ramses The Great was the predecessor of Faro Tutanchamun] and Ramses III (or Medinet Habu).
It was all very beautiful but my modest (non important) opinion the Medinet Habu-temple was the most beautiful I visited, but strangely enough not the most visited by tourists (the same goes for the Rammeseum-temple).

Beforehand I decided for myself that I would be biking al day, but when I left my Hostel at 8 o’clock in the morning it was already 28 degrees Celsius, so I changed plans and decided to take a taxi instead for only 35 Egyptian pounds (about 13 euro’s) for the whole day (try and find 1 taxi in a western country to drive you around al day for just 13 euro’s it would be impossible, and what helped was that the bike I was riding broke down beyond repair).

After all these temples and graves (on both sides of the Nile) it was time for me to go further south into Egypt and take a train to Aswan to be able to visit the Abu Simbel Temple even further south from Aswan.

Aswan

The train journey to Aswan went well and the rest of my first (and almost even my last one) I spent wandering about in Aswan and buying a airline-ticket to Abu Simbel. Normally there are buses to Abu Simbel, but due to the terrorist attack the Egyptian police didn’t give police protection for the bus convoy to the temple because there aren’t enough tourists. But most tourists aren’t coming to Aswan/Abu Simbel because the police isn’t giving protection to the bus convoy.... So a nice self imposing circle. As I wanted to see the temple (I heard great stories about it) I bought the plane-ticket.

The temple of Abu Simbel

Flying there was very nice (50 minutes back and forth so 25 minutes per leg), so I had just time to empty a little carton of orange juice between take off and landing. The expensive plane ticket (about 90 euro’s) was worth the cost because Abu Simbel was the most beautiful thing I saw in Egypt.

Abu Simbel is a temple which Ramses II (“Ramses the Great”) had build in his honour to impress the Nubic inhabitants who lived in that area (about 50 kilometres from the Egyptian/Sudan border). He didn’t fail to just impress the Nubians! Besides the temple in his honour Ramses had a (smaller) temple build in his wife Nefertiti’s honour. Normally that would mean that on the face of the temple the most (4 out of 6) of the statues there would be of Nefertiti.

But that’s not the case. While he loved his wife very much, there was 1 person who he loved more, himself!!!!! So most (4 out of 6) of the statues are statues of him. Both temples where very beautiful on the inside and outside, so the expensive ticket was worth the expenditure!

After enjoying Aswan/Abu Simbel it was time for me to go, by bus, to Suez and the end of the Suez-Canal (for a stopover for 1 night) and Dahab the Amsterdam of the Sinai.

Bus trip Aswan-Dahab

It was a veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyyy long bus journey of in total 20 hours. The first leg was the longest (14 hours) and went from Aswan in the south of Egypt to Suez at the end (or beginning) of the Suez-canal at the Golf of Suez (part of the Red Sea).

I spent a short night (5 hours) in Suez and went further by bus onwards to Dahab (6 hours). In Dahab I spent two wonderful days sitting on my ass and have me waited on hand and foot.
Unfortunately only 2 days because I had to go back to my kibbutz to be able to catch my plane back home to Holland.

This concludes my trip in Israel and Egypt. I hope you enjoyed reading my report about it.!

put on my page on: 25 june 2002 15.45 hours

last edited: 16 februayr 2008 20.30 hours

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