Monday, May 3, 2010

Eilat and Perta

This past weekend I finally went on a trip that I have been planning since before I moved to Israel. I finally got to go to Petra in Jordan.

The only way to do it from Israel is to go on an organized tourist tour from Eilat, unless of course you know someone in Jordan, which I do not. It’s not the cheapest thing in the world but I was set on seeing Petra, and since you never know when Israeli relations with the countries surrounding it might go sour, I wanted to do it while I still knew I could. Although I am not sure how many Israelis actually go there, everyone that I saw going from Israel to Jordan was a foreign tourist.

So the trip is an all day affair: you meet the tour people at the hotel at about 7am and don't get back to the hotel until about 8pm. The morning is a complete waste of time; we were at the border a little after 7am and did not get on the tour bus on the Jordanian side until 10am. Fist we waited for 1 hour for the border to open, apparently this is done to beat the rush of tourists coming in exactly at opening time, which is 8am. However this strategy only works when there are no aggressive, rude, entitled Russians pushing their way in front of everyone. In the end it did not meter, and they were the last to get their passports, which made me feel really really good :)

Once the border opens there is a mad rush for Israeli customs, once you go though that you wait around some more, for everyone in the group to go get their stamp so that everyone goes together. Then there is a bit of walking through no-man's land (I guess there is a space between the 2 sides, I have never gone from country to country by foot/car, I have always flown, so this was an interesting experience for me) and you enter the Jordanian customs. There, the way it works is really strange; your group's tour guide collects everyone's passports, and he submits them to customs, which means that they never actually check that the passport you give them is actually yours. I don’t think they ever even looked at the picture. Anyway, we waited for about 1 hour for them to finish whatever they were doing, but eventually we got our passports back and were able to finally move on.

We drove though Aqaba; it’s the Jordanian city on the Red sea, basically right next to Eilat, in Israel. And then drove for about 2 hours though Jordan to Petra. From what I saw, the country is much poorer than Israel; however there was a lot of development and construction in Aqaba which was very very nice to see.

Petra was huge, amazing, and totally worth the money. You can see picks and specific commentary on Facebook:

Afterwards we were fed some yummy food and drove back to the border, where yet again we wasted about 1.5 hours total, on both sides, waiting for customs to do their thing. Israel disappointed me on the way back, whereas in the morning they seemed to be much more organized than Jordan, in the evening it was complete chaos.

We spent one day in Eilat over the weekend, it was extremely relaxing which was very much needed. I don’t know how but it was actually chilly and rainy in Eilat the whole day we were there. How it’s possible that it rained in May, in the middle of the desert, practically in Africa (Eilat is right on the border with Egypt, which is in Africa) is beyond me. It actually did not bother me since all I wanted to do was sit around read and relax. Had it been sunny Dima would have made me go swimming and snorkeling which I really had no interest in doing. So the rain turned out to be a great thing.