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26/3/2007 Aqaba (Jordan) - Eilat (Israel) - Nuweiba (Egypt) 95 km 1000 t.a.g.

In the morning we have a stuffing breakfast of two large falafels. There is no better food for a long day on the road. We buy a ticket for the Friday morning bus to Amman and fight hard against the wind to the Jordan/Israel border crossing 8 km north of town. Both sides are heavily protected; it feels like visiting a high security prison. The Jordan departure is fast and fluent. On the Israeli side we are greeted by female border guards that push our bikes through x-ray machines. At the passport control we have to wait for two hours because the Pakistani visa in my passport is suspicious. We wait together with two students from Leipzig who have been to language school in Sana (Yemen). I use the time for a chain service. The grinding sand was getting on my nerves since our ride through the desert.

Eilat is a totally different world for us. Hotels line the beach front. The streets are crammed with people (male and female) and drivers are much more aggressive than on the other side. Here, there are shopping malls, bars and the Club Med. The beach is packed with beach bums and divers are tenting here. It feels like Southern California. 43 minutes later we are on the crossing to Egypt. The Israeli officer wonders: is cycling into Egypt legal? It is and with 10 Euros less in our pockets we walk to the Egyptian border post. A visa for 14 days and the Sinai is issued on the spot and 30 minutes later we are on our way to Nuweiba.

Red Sea

It´s 3 p.m. when we leave Taba and 70 km lie ahead of us. But the northerly wind is kind and pushes us over steep hills and large alluvial fans. The interior is totally barren and the traffic on the coastal road is light. What a striking contrast it is to the hectic live on the other side of the border. Since the bombing 2006 in Dahab many tourists went somewhere else. Most hotels are empty or are ruins in various stages of completion. Only a few beaches are untouched like the one in this picture.

In the last light of the day we arrive in Nuweiba and find a quiet bungalow in a nice resort on the beach. For dinner we stroll into town which was planned in better times. The whole infrastructure is two to three times too big. Dr. Shishkebab becomes our favorite restaurant, with good food (vegetarian dishes as well) and a relaxed atmosphere.

3/27/2007 Nuweiba 16 km 0 t.a.g.

Our legs are tired. So we spend the day reading and snorkling on the coral reef.

3/28/2007 Nuweiba – Saint Catharine´s Monastry - Mount Sinai

We have an early start in a Peugeot 504 taxi to Saint Catharine´s Monastery. The road up to the monastry has some of the most amazing desert scenery we´ve ever seen. But we didn´t have enough time for the 240 km return trip by bike. Many cliffs along the way looked good for climbing/bouldering, but the sandstone is fairly soft.

Sinai desert

Saint Catharine’s Monastery is the oldest monastery of Christianity. Pilgrims have been coming to this holy place since 400 AD. It was founded by Justinian in 525 at the place where Moses saw the burning bush. Due to the isolated location and the protection of Mohammed it is one of the few monasteries that never were destroyed. Because of many day tourists from Sharm el Sheik and Dahab the opening hours are restricted to 9 – 12 a.m. We are surprised to see many pilgrims from Eastern Europe (Poland, Ukraine, Russia), the collection of relics and the vast library. The scripts and books survived really well thanks to the dry air.

Saint Catharine´s Monastery

Belltower in Saint Catharine´s Monastery

Behind the monastery the trail to Mount Sinai (2285 m) starts. After many switchbacks and with plenty of small shops selling drinks we walk to the summit, where Moses according to the Old Testament received the 10 Commandments. On the summit are an orthodox chapel and a mosque. We enjoy the silence and the fantastic view almost alone. We are happy to be here during the day and not during the night with hundreds of sunrise pilgrims. The nights up here are fairly cold in March. We walk down 3750 steps, laid by a monk. From here the vulnarable location of the monastry can be truly appreciated.

Chapel on Mount Sinai

3/29/2007 Nuweiba - Aqaba

We take the slow ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba.

Nuweiba Port

3/30/2007 Aqaba - Amman - Madaba 40 km 300 t.a.g.

We take a modern bus from Aqaba to Amman. 340 km are just 5,50 JD (6,- Euro). The last stage to Madaba is pretty relaxed, despite the endless rows of cars out of Jordan´s capital. We cycle the first 5 km on the emergency lane, but no one seem to care.

After one week in the desert we enjoy the green fields around here. On the side of the road many weekenders play football or gather around a barbecue. In Madaba we have a last dinner of falafel sandwiches and we move into a new room in the Mariam Hotel, the best one during this trip.

On Saturday morning we fly back to Germany with Royal Jordanian. When we arrive in Frankfurt the sun is shining and trees are blooming. What an unforgettable trip!

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