Mixed Feelings About the Middle East

My Friends,
   After a protracted stay in Beirut, Lebanon I departed Wednesday evening for Egypt.  The flight was pleasant enough but I found the lack of alcohol served to be a bit bothersome.  I soldier’d on though and made it to Cairo.  Now, the gentleman whom I had attempted to arrange accommodation with on couchsurfing.com warned me about the cabbies waiting at Cairo airport and I thought I was ready; I was not.  These dudes were like locsts, completely blocking off the exit door from customs.  I had five mobbing me and not fucking off when I was saying, quite clearly, fuck off!
   Took the airport shuttle to a bus station but these ignorant, cab-driving motherfuckers were lying in wait there too.  I ended up relenting and taking a cab to the Pyramid site at Giza, but not before doing some serial haggling.  10 USD for a half hour ride aint too bad I should think.  Also, the cabbie tried to fuck me on the exchange right but I was on my guard against shenanigans, having looked into exchange prior to leaving.
   Getting dropped off at the pyramid site put me in no better position because there were opportunistic tour operators all over the place and little poor kids tugging at my shirt for money.  A little overwhelming, but fortunately my heart is hardened against the misery of children (Ive just seen so much of it at this point) so I was able to tell the kid “Imsh” which is like the Egyptian equivalent of “fuck off and die in a fire.”  However, Moustaffa would not be discouraged so easily.  He invited me for chai (“no money, my friend” -thats how they get you) and I ended up agreeing to a horse-ride to see the sunrise over the pyramids on Thursday morning.  However, since we were kicking it in his shop while we discussed this, I managed to score a free place to crash.  Add that to the fact that he also bought me breakfast and tea and it wasn’t too bad.  As for the horsey-ride itself, it was alright; didnt actually go into the walled compound where the pyramids and the Sphinx are, just rode through the desert but honestly they seemed more impressive in pics….just my opinion.  The highlight was I finally got to gallop a horse (something my gramma had never let me do on her horses when I was a kid).  The horse seemed to be responding more to prompts from the guide rather than my spurring and I found that my lazy fuck of a horse was in no mood to hold a gallop for more than ten seconds.
   Started making my way out of Cairo after the tour and got really mad at how little the locals knew about what directions to take to go where.  Honest to God, how the fuck do you not know the road to the next city when you live in the city?  It wasnt just one guy or anything, but every person I asked couldnt tell me fuck all.  Also, the city was disgustingly dirty and reeked of burning plastic, in that way not dissimilar from Kandahar City.  With all of the squalor and eyesores and numerous occasions of people trying to hustle me I was glad to get the fuck out of that shithole of a city.  The best thing that could happen to it would be a fire.

                                                     Hopefully they got them some of this
  
   Took the bus to Suez where I spent the night at the bus station after making conversation with the proprietors of the cafe at the station.  When they realized I was waiting for a bus til the following morning they offered me a shelf to crash on in their back room, figuring (correctly) that I would be inclined to spend more money there.  It was a pleasant evening, I drank chai and watched back to back episodes of Monday Night Raw.  I realized with some dismay that my #Cenation citizenship may interfere with my eligibility to play for #TeamBringIt.  😦 sadface 
   The next day I took a bus to Nuweiba, a city close to the border with Israel, not knowing that we were going on a 9 hour adventure through all of Sinai.  It was coo though; the scenery was beautiful but I see why it took Moses 40 years to get through that bitch; very rugged terrain.  Also, they were walking.
   Got off at Nuweiba and after asking a guy named Jima for directions from Nuweiba to Taba (border town with Israel) I set out thinking he had said “16 km away” when he had actually said “60 km away.”  Before long he came by in a truck and told me to crach at his place.  It was me him, his bro and two friends, and they ran a restaruant on one of the most beautiful pieces of land I have ever seen.  “Nuweiba Heights” he called it and it backed out onto the Arabian Gulf.  In the distance he pointed out Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, and the (almost) full moon mad it awesome-er.  We crushed some lentil soup, chai and bread and I had a deep sleep, though I woke up with bug-bites all over my face which was inconvenient as my looks (such as they are) are just about all I have.
   Took the bus to Taba and walked from there to the border.  Getting out of Egypt was easy enough but getting into Israel was another story.  Obviously, they had some reservations about my Lebanese entry stamps, and this little. beady-eyed girl working at customs gave me the third-degree about my profession (student, obv), my major, my future plans, my beard.  The suspicion about the beard (I guess it is intifada-esque) made me laugh because in Turkey I had been told it made me look Jewish.  I wanted to say I had been growing it “to blend in with you people” (where “you people” = errybody in the Middle East) but I just ‘splained it was a travelers beard.

                                                           Not one of “these” beards…
  
   Security was actually pretty laid-back compared to the initial round of questioning; they kinda just scanned my bag and had a look inside, but passport control had me go through an additional security questionnaire.  It was cool though, I love answering questions about myself.  After waiting an hour, they finally gave me a visa and let me in.  Took me a taxi to Eilat and crushed the best falafel of my life.  But since it was Saturday afternoon and I didnt really have to be in Tel Aviv til Monday morning (FYI Tel Aviv deadline is the reason I had been bussing and not hitching….going to Tel Aviv for Kazakhstan visa services) I figured “fuck it” (Note: I figure “fuck it” quite a bit.  Its kind of my main justifier for any given action) and walked to Jordan.  The border crossing was simple there but the fuckers made thrifty me take a cab to Aqaba when I wanted to walk.  Once there I headed to the Mountains East of the City and managed to catch the sunset over Sinai across the water.  Got crunked on Enjoyed some Egyptian wine I had picked up from the duty free and went to sleep secluded high above the city under a beautiful full moon. 
   Now I am back in Israel (the re-entry process was thankfully a shade more abbreviated) waiting for my overnight bus to Tel Aviv.  My passport is getting pretty full of stamps and visas and I am feeling pretty good about getting the fudge out of the Middle East.  Its been nice here and all, but too much drama, suspicion and hatred for each other.  Though I will say that when people have been hospitable and helped me out, they have really gone above and beyond.  The problem arises in places like Egypt where abject poverty and lack of government leave the people in such a destitute state that they can’t look beyond the next dollar and be the good altruistic people I know they are. 
   In regards to my Kazakh visa, hopefully it doesnt take too long as I am eager to get out as I mentioned, but should it be a few days of waiting I will simply check out one of those kibbutzes or perhaps one of the Palestinian settlements and see what those are all about.  The world is my oyster at this point and I got enough rope to auto-erotic asphyxiate hang myself with. 
Stay Thirsty

-Andre Guantanamo
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