Egypt I

Egypt – Synai

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Welcome to…

Once we had docked in Nuweiba, the fun started. Welcome to Egypt… or to Hell. Firstly the ferry called Queen Nefertiti was delayed about 3 hours and secondly when we finally had arrived to the harbor, for some reasons we needed to spend another 60 minutes inside the ferry.

When we finally drove off from the ferry, bureaucratic and complicated process started! Firstly we needed visas as we didn’t manage to get them in Jordan due to lack of time. Getting visas was quite easy as there was one very helpful official who took Charlie to proper office and Charlie managed to get visas in 15 minutes. In the meantime other guys were searching our van.

Visa cost for Polish = 15 USD/person

Once we had got visas, hard time came for Rusty. We knew from other travelers and bloggers that this border is demanding, but we never ever expected it would take that long…So ladies and gentlemen Egyptian car paperwork and bureaucracy took “only” 2 hours and 5 DAYS!

People who know the topic of travelling by car to Egypt by one car, they also know that Egyptian borders are not the easiest. Anyway firstly you need your carnet de passage – Every Automobile Club, which issues carnet has different rules – RAC in the UK demands 800% value of your car as permission for temporary import of your vehicle on Egyptian territory.

We didn’t want to leave such high deposit of 800% especially that we found out that some travelers managed to drive into Egypt without carnet de passage by using Egyptian temporary import documents. Unaware of hell connected with bureaucracy we decided to rely on luck.

When Charlie started dealing with the car paperwork, somehow one of officials signed our carnet and the whole long procedure started. We thought we were the luckiest people ever, but not that time unfortunately. The main boss noticed that our carnet is not valid for Egypt and we had to stay in Nuweiba Harbor till we found the best solution for Rusty and us. It took 5 days. Charlie and I could find some campsite or hotel nearby the harbor, but we couldn’t leave our Rusty alone. It was a very good decision as in the morning we noticed that the place we were looked like a cemetery of abandoned and destroyed vehicles (see photos)

Just short instruction called “how to beat bureaucracy without losing patience when you are in Nuweiba with your own car”:

1)      You need to have your passport (of course), carnet the passage and V5 (car ownership document in the UK)

2)      In Egypt you need to have at least one 2 kg extinguisher (We took two 1 kg extinguishers) – they never checked us, however many overlanders have problems with it.

3)      Our entry cost were between 150 – 180 USD

We paid: road tax, car insurance at Delta Insurance (which is anyway useless), number plate and many, many photo copies of our and their documents. (We paid less than usual as we were not 4×4)

4)      You need to use help of English speaking Ashraf (someone from the Tourism Police in an official uniform) as all documents are in Arabic and dealing with it by yourself is kind of impossible. Moreover, because of your Ashraf, coping with paperwork is less time consuming as all your stuff is done offhand without standing in a long queue. Our guy – Ibrahim was slow and he liked disappearing sometimes for longer, but in general he was very helpful and friendly.

The whole process of running around offices in Nuweiba is very oftensimilar, therefore if you are interested, you can read story of other overlanders, which we scanned from Overlanders’ Handbook by Chriss Scott.

During those 5 days we were thinking how we could enter Egypt with our car. We had some options, but each on involved lots of money.

Our options:

1)      Pay rest of the deposit (600%of Rusty’s value) to RAC in the UK

2)      Pay some money plus deposit and leave Egypt within 3 days with some guy who, was supposed to make sure that we seriously leave the country in that time.

3)       Pay some CRAZY amount of money (as a deposit and fixed price) to Customs and enjoy Egypt longer than 3 days

Option 2

We didn’t want to use first option as we, so we decided to deal with Egyptians. We were thinking about second option – but it was not really worth it. They wanted around 600 USD, plus around 500 USD as a deposit, plus we needed to pay for accommodation and food of guarding us guy. Moreover, Egyptian officials were telling us every 10 minutes different version of getting that 500 USD deposit back. Firstly, they told us that there would be a guy who was coming after us in a different car with our money. Secondly, that we would get money back from Egyptian Automobile Club in the Port Aswan, but then someone told us that there was no Auto Club in Aswan. Thirdly, that one of us would have to stay in Aswan Harbor with car and second would have to go back to Automobile Club in Cairo to get deposit back. It was TOO fishy, too complicated and we didn’t like those many options. It looked like we couldn’t trust them at all.

Option 3

When we were trying to use option number three – we didn’t know whether we should have cried of laughed…Charlie called to the Customs in Cairo, told them that we were trying to come to Egypt by car (Mercedes van) without carnet. After a while they told us that we had to leave deposit worth of 450.000 Euros (!), a moment later Charlie added that Mercedes was old and rusty and it was not a limo! They dropped the price to 260.000 Euros (!). No money, no deal!

Option 1

Finally we had to use option number 1 and pay more deposit to RAC in the UK. At least we knew where our money was (It was the safest option). After we had got fax from RAC confirming that we paid rest of deposit for being on Egyptian land and also after they finally had believed that the fax is original, we were able to pick up the Egyptian number plates. The number plates were the last thing we needed to get; we thanked our Ibrahim (The Tourism Policeman) for his time and involvement and we gave him one of our oldish cell phones. (He looked very happy after he had received the gift). We said good bye to our new friends from Harbor and although it was late (2 AM) (yes, we have heard that in Egypt driving at nights is dangerous), we left Nuweiba. We were in hurry, we wanted to feel freedom again plus there was a thought, which appeared in our heads – the officials would change their minds and they would not let us out…

5 DAYS OF “HOLIDAY” IN THE HARBOR

I am not going to lie it was horrible, nevertheless some Egyptian were seriously very nice to us. Firstly everybody was laughing at us. No one could believe that “tourists” would sleep in their car. Every day situation between us and some local people were changing. They were getting a respect for us. For instance they were sharing food. Once they bought a nice pizza for us and second time an awesome fish. They were friendly and they liked talking with Charlie (mostly sign language, but still). Unfortunately, some Egyptians were not that nice. Very often, when I was going to a shop for something to drink I was coming back with drinks and at least 5 marriage proposals. Some men just didn’t care that I was telling I had a “husband”. In order to avoid some not necessary situations, most of those 5 days I spent in Rusty.

Regarding to drinks – on the fourth day of our stay in Nuweiba, the harbor was running out of drinking water. It was very, very hot and lack of water was a horrible nightmare. Only soft drinks and juices were available, however quenchthirst with very sweet beverages was hard. We were lucky that, on the fifth day we left that place – and trust me, after pure water was the best drink ever, never been sooo tasty!

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Sinai Peninsula – Sharm and Dahab

Sinai is a beautiful region of stunning desert and rich marine environments, wedged between Africa and Asia. It is called an intercontinental crossroads – prophets, nomads, exiles and conquerors have all left their footprints here. Due to unique location, Sinai has been a place of refuge, conflict and curiosity for thousand years.

 After 5 days spent at the border, being on the road again was like a real salvation. It was really hot and Ramadan just started, but we were really happy that we got out from the Nuweiba Harbor. We were driving mostly along the coast enjoying views of turquoise waters of the Red Sea. We noticed lots of campsites; however all of them looked abandoned. We realized that due to terrorist attacks, which were held in recent years, tourism in Sinai is rather limited. We were feeling like we were only people in that place till we drove into cities like Sharm el-Sheikh or Dahab. Sharm el-Sheikh is Sinai’s largest and most famous resort destination, no wonder that we founded similar to Las Vegas (It was a first place in Egypt, where we saw Sphinx and Pyramids 🙂 ). However, the amount of hotels, resorts, swimming pools, shopping malls, Western style food, were NOT the things we were looking for, therefore in Sharm we did only small shopping and we drove towards Dahab. In our opinion  Dahab is more like low-key resort town and constitutes a  perfect place for active tourists/travelers. We also discovered a beautiful lagoon nearby, which was a proper paradise for windsurfers (Blue-turquoise shallow water and wind).

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Ras Mohammed – Marine Paradise part I

VISA INFO!

I am going to write about as lots of us may find it useful. You don’t have to get a full visa if you are planning to stay only in Sinai between Sharm el-Sheikh and Taba. You can get 15 day stay, free of charge entry stamp at the Sharm main airport or in  Nuweiba port. Nevertheless if you plan to visit amazing marine national park – Ras Mohammed – you need to get full visa!

Ras Mohammed – around 30 km west of Sharm and definitely it’s a home to some spectacular coral reefs. It is said that it is the most beautiful and rich of various species of fishes of the Red Sea.

So what happened to us – Well, before we got to marine paradise, a sort of dramatic to us thing had happened.  Around 10 km before Ras Mohammed we noticed a massive check point. It was inside border crossing between Sinai and rest of the Egypt. They started checking our documents and told us at the beginning that we had to wait more than an hour as they needed to phone somewhere and properly inspect  our and Rusty  papers. We asked them whether they could be faster than an hour as it was getting dark and we didn’t know where the nearest camping or something like that was. Border officials verified our paperwork shorter than it was expected (30 min), but it was already dark. They also informed us that marine park and campsite is about 10 km from the check point.

It was very hard to see something in that darkness, so we barely noticed the National Park sign. We turned and we saw a small shanty which looked like main gate office/ reception. Of course no one was there, but the gate was open so we drove in. The only light we were able to see was our car’s light. THEN we saw a big barrel and…Suddenly a guy with a massive gun jumped in front of Rusty. He was furious and he was pointing his rifle once at the Rusty engine, once at the windscreen…We were seriously scared –We didn’t understand each other  – he was shouting something in Arabic, while we were shouting only “Tourists, tourists” of course in English. He couldn’t really see us as van’ light was blinding him, but on the other hand if we had turned the light down, he would have started shooting….I was so scared that I decided to get off with my hands up, Charlie did the same and we noticed that the guy was actually a soldier. We also noticed other were guys coming towards us.  They were soldiers as well (but dressed up in casual clothes). They were trying to calm his colleague down. They were nicer to us and they told us that despite the fact it was late, we still could join the campsite. However, here was a problem – they took our passports. We wanted to leave them our passport copies, but they said they were army and we didn’t have reason to worry. We didn’t want to argue with army and we gave them our passorts… They showed us the way to the campsite and we left. When we arrived to the place, a friendly gentleman – Gamea (the owner) greeted us nicely and offered us cup of tea. We joined the table on the beach, where group of French engineers/architects was already sitting and enjoying their time. Within an hour Mr. Gamea came back to us with our passports (We told him what had happened before we reached the campsite and he decided to help us). Moreover, campsite had a proper bathroom and to us it was a real luxury as after a whole week we were able to take a proper shower.

Ras Monammed was amazing and beautiful. We were planning to stay only 2 days as we wanted to relax after long stay at Nuweiba Port. However our two days turned into almost a week.  Campsite for us was for free as we were sleeping in the car. Moreover, there were almost no people – and we had feeling that the beach nearby the campsite belonged only to us – at least for a whileJ

Second reason why we needed to stay and rest longer, was that I got dehydrated. I was feeling very weak and dizzy, but even thou it was really hot, being on beach and swimming were refreshing and I was getting better. Furthermore, twice we had a chance to eat dinner prepared by a campsite/local chef. It was simple food, but absolutely fresh and delicious (Mostly fishes, but we were very impressed by a mixture of potatoes, onion and tomatoes – yummy!). The owner of this camping site was amazing – first dinner he offered to was for free and second – half price. Although, we had this incident with marine army at the beginning, we seriously enjoyed our time in Ras Mohammed – nice company, amazing food, calm and stunning underwater world compensated us first not the best week on Egyptian land.

We definitely recommend to everybody Ras Mohammed Campsite:

Elras Camping,  South Sinai

Gamea Abo Nweaga –

Tel: +2 01005093743; Tel: +2 01008837607

email: campinginrasmmed@gmail.com

www.elrascamping.com

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Ras Mohammed – Underwater Paradise part II

In this post you will see photos of underwater world of the Red Sea:) Plus link to our short video:) ENJOY:D

PHOTOS 🙂

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Towards African mainland

We decided to leave stunning Ras Mohammed and Sinai Peninsula and  go towards Cairo and Giza. To get to African mainland we used the  Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel, which is an automobile tunnel under the Suez Canal. It is 1.63 km long and has an outside diameter of 11.6 m

When we finally got on the other side Charlie wanted to see that famous view of a huge ship crossing the Suez Canal. Unfortunately, there was no visible ship on the horizon, but we discovered interesting playground for kids nearby, which you can see in the photos below:D

We also were very happy as we discovered than diesel is cheap, cheaper than water. We estimated that we paid only 0,15 USD/liter !!!

GOING THROUGH THE TUNNEL UNDER SUEZ CANAL

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