Crossing back to Israel- Crossing Border Israel to Egypt, Part 2 of 3
Chaya and I were now in a predicament — a Catch-22 on the global chessboard of travel:
We were refused entry to Egypt — we could not move forward.
We were required to recross into Israel to get an Egyptian visa with Iraqi and Syrian visas in our passport — there was a possibility that we would be denied moving backwards.
Or king was stuck in a stalemate.
It was known to both Chaya and I that we had entered in a No-Man’s-Land that we could be stuck in for a long time. We walked back to Israel in silence: there was no need for speaking.
Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
in Egypt- May, 2009
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I explained what had happened to the first Israeli immigration guard who inspected our passports. For the second time in a week, we were recrossing a port of entry without an Egyptian visa in our passports (Travelers burned at Aqaba ferry port). This is often confusing territory for border guards to handle — we were seemingly coming from a country with no documented evidence of having been there — but this smart Israeli understood clearly.
He just laughed at us and sent us on to the immigration officials. We walked up to the desk and pleaded our case.
“We were in Eilat this morning and then tried to cross into Egypt, but were denied because we do not have visas. So we just need to go to the consulate in Eilat, get visas, and then return to Egypt. We will only be back in Israel for an hour.”
The lady behind the counter was rather plump and did not give us the same impression of Israel that we had when we entered the first time. But she snickered at our misfortune in a friendly sort of way. She said that this would not be a problem . . . then she opened our passports and saw The Visas.
“What country is this from?”
. . . And so it started all over again.
We explained our travels in Iraq and Syria as we did the first time, but on this occasion my journeys to Morocco took on a new emphasis. We explained everything away and added with a sense of urgency that we really needed to get to Cairo to catch our flight. For all it was worth, I pointed at Chaya’s beluga belly.
The border official wore a cockeyed look on her face which could not be taken as a promising sign.
“You are going to have to take a seat. I really hope this all works out for you.”
She then took our passports into a separate room, and we sat down and waited.
. . . and we waited . . .
. . . stuck in a No Man’s Land of our own creation . . .
After an hour of waiting with our heads down, I knew that I had to do something. I saw two Israeli immigration officials move out to the outdoor seaside patio that was just outside of the immigration hall. I followed them. They were two women on their lunch break. They sat down and removed apples and little plastic trays of food from brown paper bags. I looked out to sea. We eventually made eye contact, I took this as an opportunity to plead our case.
The girls listened, and then replied with big smiles, “Don’t worry, Israel is good.”
I felt hopeful again, and returned to the immigration hall to wait with Chaya.
As the girls’ lunch break came to a close, they walked by us and into an office.
Within moments one of them reappeared with our passports.
“You are free,” she said.
We ran through the rest of the scant customs proceedings and returned to Israel.
After failing to hitch a quick ride back to Eilat, we flagged down a taxi. We had no more Israeli money on us, and I only had a wad of 8 US dollars in my pocket. I offered them straight away to the driver — he took them. There was no time for negotiation. He dropped us off at the cross road that lead to the Egyptian consulate, eight dollars obviously not being enough fare to drive us one kilometer farther.
We walked up the hill that was suppose to lead us to a “big Egyptian flag,” as the taxi driver put it. On the walk we met up with a couple of travelers in New Age stovepipe hats and handmade clothes topped off with nice looking vests. They also carried hobo-like walking sticks.
They ahoyed us and we stopped for a chat. They were from Austria and Switzerland and were going to Egypt as well, but had been turned away from the consulate for not having passport photos.
Our Cairo clock was ticking, and I was glad that we were prepared — I usually always have a mound of extra passport photos with me. I continued walking up the hill with the travelers. Chaya remained behind on the sidewalk: she did not have any passport photos remaining.
Our clock continued to tick — it was well passed noon — we needed to get our visas before the consulate closed, get back to the border, cross, and get all the way to Cairo.
“Do you think we are going to make it?” Chaya asked as we walked towards a photoshop that could print out square renditions of her mug.
“No,” I answered with an attempt at coolness, “but we may as well try. At worst, if we can’t get the visas, we will take a bus to Tel Aviv and fly to Cairo.”
We did still have half a day and a night to make a go at this, and there was no reason not to run this road out to its bitter end.
We got the photos, some Israeli money, and returned to the hill that lead to the consulate. We saw the big Egyptian flag and entered the building that bequeathed it. The old time dressed travelers that we met earlier were still waiting for their visas. Chaya and I filled out the paperwork, paid $15 each, and shoved our passports through a steel grate and into the hands of a mysterious man in a dark room.
We sat at a table that was full of people waiting for their visas. I asked how long they had been waiting for, and they all just shrugged. I took this as a sign that they had been here for a long time.
I took out some bread and cheese to make myself some lunch. I noticed the New Aged kids eyeballing my food. I offered them some. They accepted.
They asked if we were hitchhiking. I said sometimes.
“Did you make your vests yourself,” I then asked them as a man with a keen interests in this sort of apparel.
“No, a clothes maker made them,” one of the New Age travelers answered with a sense of exasperation and more than a slight hint at pretension.
They have their little tribe, they have their identity, I did not mean to violate its bounds with my friendliness. The dorkiest people on the planet are usually the same ones who think they are real cool. I stopped talking to the New Agey kids.
But before I could make a point of my disinterest in them, my stamped and visaed passport was in my hand.
Chaya and I made a run for the border. Another taxi, another $10 gone. I gave the driver 100 sheckles, he gave me back 50 and pretended to forget about giving me the remainder of my change. I reminded him. He feigned surprise at his “error” and dropped another 10 sheckles into my outstretched palm. We ran through the security check and onto the money exchange.
I dropped all of my remaining sheckles onto the desk and the money changer gobbled them all up.
“All in Egyptian money,” I ordered.
She coughed back up the ten sheckle coin that the taxi driver tried to short change me out of with a laugh.
“It is counterfeit,” the money change lady said smiling.
“F’ck, how do you know?”
“It spins when you do this,” she said, and then gave me a demonstration in which the coin was laid flat on the desk before us and then spun in circles. “Real ones don’t spin.” She showed me.
The phrase “being Jewed” suddenly took on a more direct meaning.
Though we could not worry about these trifles, and I pocketed the counterfeit coin as a souvenir.
We crossed out of Israel and walked on to Egypt.
The old border guard greeted us as if we were old friends, and offered us entry into his country.
“You have visa now?” he rhetorically asked with a smile.
We confirmed his question proudly.
We had our visas — they worked — and on their strength we crossed into Egypt on a smooth road without any potholes.
“4:30, next bus to Cairo,” we were told as we passed easily through immigration.
We thought our road to Cairo was now paved with gold. We did not then know what sort of mishaps we were yet to befall.
Read about the full journey crossing the border from Israel to Egypt
Part 1- Egypt Denies Travelers at Border
Part 2- Crossing back to Israel
Part 3- Egyptian Visas vs. Sinai Travel Permits
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Crossing back to Israel- On to Egypt, Part 2 of 3