*This is purely a practical post for those looking for answers to how the border crossings are between these countries as of December 2015. Situations change fast and I was not able to find updated information online before I went, but if you’re not looking for these answers then don’t bother reading on*
The information I found online about traveling from Aqaba in Jordan to anywhere in Egypt was confusing, but in short there seemed to be three options available:
Fast ferry from Aqaba (Jordan) to Taba(Egypt):
This was definitely the quickest and easiest option taking only an hour, but the problem was that as of Dec 2015 they were still not issuing Egyptian visas on arrival. A visa had to be gotten in advance from an embassy which would take time and cost more than the 25U$ visa in arrival. Also the Jordanian government had enforced a law saying that you had to buy a return ticket within one week of departing Jordan which cost a hundred us dollars, so this option was quickly ruled out.
Slow ferry from Aqaba (Jordan) to Nuweiba (Egypt):
This was an extremely chaotic and unreliable ferry which should have taken me one hour but ended up taking eight. However it was the cheapest and easiest costing around 60 euros where I could get the Egyptian visa on arrival. Also it saved me a night of accommodation and was great arriving in the morning when I had plenty of time for onwards travel. A taxi from Nuweiba down to Dahab (40mins) set me back 15 euros and the bus ticket from Dahab to Cairo (11hrs) costed 11 euros.
Eilat (Israel) to Taba (Egypt) overland crossing:
I went this route on my way back from Cairo to Israel, and found it to be the most comfortable of all three options. The only reason why I did not use this way to Egypt was that the Taba border did not issue visas or arrival as of December 2005. Due to the security situation in North Sinai the government does no longer allow foreigners to travel with the minibuses that cross this area. Instead I had to take a nine hour bus ride from Cairo down to Sharm El Sheikh which cost 11 euros and then another bus up to the border town of Taba which took three hours and cost 5 euros. Just like when traveling to Cairo, the police checkpoints along the way were many and made thoroughly, where they woke you up to look through all your stuff and your passport. In the middle of the night the desert was freezing cold, but I guess it was all for the good and our own safety.
Entering Israel from Jordan I had numerous rounds of questioning and the SIX HOURS of waiting in the immigration afterwards. The border towns of Aqaba(Jordan), Taba (Egypt) and Eilat (Israel) are just a five minute taxi ride apart, so once across the border station it was quick to get into town.
The last kilometers of driving from the Egypt side has beautiful blue water on one side and tall sandy mountains on the other
When I got to Aqaba, a tax free town in the South of Jordan I met up with my couchsurfing host Omar, who was a dive master instructor and was on his way out to do some diving. Knowing that the red sea is famous for having some of the World’s clearest waters I was quick to ask if I could come with and just a few minutes after we were on his friends boat on out way out to a dive site with a swim through grotto that few people went to. I was excited.
Going down the water my mask started filling up with a thick green liquid and at twenty meters dept my mask was almost full of it so I had to shoot to the surface. When I got up I saw that the color was actually red, but had just been looking green underwater because of the breaking of the light, making colors look different there. It was just a common nosebleed and I was bummed that it had ruined my first dive in the Red Sea.
For the second dive I was finished bleeding so I went down again to see that the visibility still was not as good as I had hoped, but this time it was not because of blood but because the wind and choppy weather in the surface had made conditions bad.
We still managed to see a couple of pinnacles with some impressing corals, lots of lionfish and a huge stonefish. At the end of the dive we got to a tank that had been sunk and was quite interesting to swim around and inspect.
What made our dive really good was that we also went with a German film crew and underwater magazine photographers who took some footage of me and our dive that I am very much looking forward to seeing. I was also happy that they wanted to take my contact details to inform me about their next diving trips that they welcomed me to join them for.
Wadi Rum is one of the two places in Jordan that every traveller must visit. It is also referred to as the valley of the moon and is a valley in the desert that is cut into sandstone.
I had booked a tour with Rumshines after reading that they would provide the most genuine Beduin experience, which was not far from the truth. The family picked us up from the towns visitors center and took us first to the Lawrence spring where we climbed up a hill to see a natural spring where freshwater water would come up from the mountain. From there we went further into the dessert to go sandboarding in the dunes, walk through tight mountain valleys and climb up to two natural sandstone arches.
When we reached our camp, which was the one furthest away from town we were served a Zarb, which is a traditional Jordanian ground cooked barbeque consisting of chicken, lamb and all kinds of vegetables. The rest of the evening was spent smoking Narghile waterpipe and drinking tea that they referred to as Beduin whisky.
When the sun had set we went to a nearby cave to watch the star sky. My original plan was to sleep there, but as it was ice cold we all stayed in the tents of the Beduin camp which was much more comfortable.
Getting from Amman to Wadi Musa was much easier than first expected. From the airport it was just a couple of dollars to the bus station, and then a few more dollars for a bus leaving ten minutes later and five hours after I had landed I was where I wanted to be for the night.
Wadi Musa is just a small town with nothing to see, except one of the Seven Wonders of the World, called Petra. It is well worth it’s status as most of it dates back to the first couple of centuries AD. Petra is an ancient Nabatean City hidden within the mountains, where most buildings are carved into the rocks just like caves.
Reaching the city from the main gate was not far, and the ticket was supposed to include a horse ride the first kilometers, which was not quite true as the stable guys insisted on good tips afterwards, just like the nearly 100usd entrance ticket (+12%, yes 12% bank card fee!) was not expensive enough.
The first part went through a narrow and colorful alley called the Siq, which led all the way to the main sight of the day- Al Khazna, also known as the Treasury. From there on I was in the middle of the city, where the sights like the theater, the royal tombs and the Monastery came right after each other. The trails through the city only takes a few hours to do, but as I was the first one to get in and the last one to get out I managed with a bit of curiosity and climbing skills to also see it all from the mountains above and to see lots of caves far away from everything else. I even met some Bedouins up there who did not speak English and invited me for some tea.