Sunday, January 31, 2010

Letters from Egypt: My Sinai Adventure

It has taken me awhile to post this, but since it is such a great story (at least telling it in person always generates some laughter) I decided to locate the email I wrote for friends and family. This happened back in November, and all I can say is when you’re traveling to the Sinai – make sure you have extra sets of spare tires because you will not find a tire shop for hundreds of kilometers!

Written November 12, 2009
As some of you might know and others have no clue, I have been in the Sinai for work the past week. I went to Sharm el-Sheikh which is a huge resort town on the Red Sea. However, the real story is as follows and don’t worry, I’ll tell some of you in person when I see you.
 Picture I took while walking around Dahab
I want to start by saying I have some pretty great stories under my belt, but I might argue that this one tops the cake. Nancy and I decide to leave Sharm and pass through a more chill area on the Red Sea called Dahab. We have dinner Bedouin style and then decide – hey, let’s go to Israel for a couple of hours, have a beer and come back to Cairo. I mean, it’s an adventure, right? Little did we know what kind of adventure it would turn out to be.

We get to passport control, but they won’t let us cross saying that Nancy can’t leave via her Egyptian passport as she’s a threat to national security. However, they were so kind to hold us at the border (the Egyptians, we never met Israelis) for two hours. Finally, we head out. We decided we would go eat in Taba Heights, only to realize we were on the road back to Cairo. No problem, we’ll just go home, right? WRONG!

Nancy pulls over to let me drive and as I’m driving she says, “Why do you keep jerking the car?” I knew something was about to happen. Next thing you know, in the middle of a nowhere mountain pass around midnight in Bedouin country, the tire goes out. I pull over and we begin to try to flag down cars. A bus finally stops and while we WERE okay, he begins to tell us he wouldn’t have stopped if it hadn’t been two females and it was too dangerous for us to be out alone.

We drive to the next “town” (really a village). We stop to get the tire fixed, but the guy saw an opportunity to try to take advantage of two stranded females and we declined his generousity *cough cough*. Then we take a wrong turn and go to another check point (the Sinai is high security) where the guard tells us we’re going the wrong way. We turn around only to get another flat. I decide to walk back to the check point while Nancy stays in the car with the doors locked (someone had to stay with the car at all times). It was freezing and by now, I’m worried Bedouins will come out of nowhere. I walk for about 35 minutes until I finally see the check point. It’s now about 3 am. Next thing you know, I began hearing dogs.

Then as I’m saying “omg omg omg,” that turns into “OMG OMG OMG OMG” and I’m surrounded by a pack of wild dogs. I began screaming for help and just as three started coming at me, the guards from the check point finally came to my rescue. I walk in with a mascara stained face as the wind and cold air made my eyes water (probably also the near-death experience of being eaten by a pack of wild dogs), where they offered me regular tap water – which if I thought my stomach was already screwed by something the Ritz Carlton fed me, my world would’ve been over if I drank that. Two men, one army in camouflage and one Bedouin-type walk me back. We’d phoned emergency and after an hour and a half, they finally sent two policemen… ON FOOT! WHY WHY WHY didn’t they bring the car?

The same guy that wanted to screw us over before was apparently the only guy in town with a tow truck. He wanted to charge us 100LE for each km he towed us – which the US equivalent would be about $20, but when you live in Egypt, you should consider each LE equaling $1. So that’s like $100 per mile – so we decided to drive on the flat 2 km to the next city – where we remained until 7 am for the tire to get fixed.

So we head out again, only going 50 km an hour (about 25 miles). 30 kilometers later, another flat. We pull over and then some not so nice policemen finally come after about an hour and tell us to move. Where, Mr. Officer, would you like for us to move? They just tell us to drive and laugh at us. other truckers stop to help us. They air up the other flat that had gone kaput just enough to help us get to the pull off point. We wait.

At this point, we’re so tired that we have to sleep. We’ve phoned someone in Cairo to bring us two new tires, but we’re a) 200 km from Cairo, b) nothing in Cairo opens before 10 am and c) are now stuck in Bedouin country with nothing for miles. We sleep, but I wake up every few minutes to make sure no one is near our car. We’re so dizzy and dazed from lack of food, water and sleep.

Finally our friend arrives from Cairo at about 2 pm. He takes our screwed tires and the new tires back to the previous town to get the centers put in and comes back. Needless to say, we finally made it back to Cairo at around 8 pm last night looking and smelling like Bedouins. We went straight to our favorite restaurant and ate like starving Ethiopians. It took me forever to scrub all the dirt, grease and oil off of me and I immediately passed out after that.

The story is better in person, but I will just say that if you’re thinking of driving the Sinai, you will want to be prepared. The one thing I can say is that I always had phone reception, which is something that in the US, you don’t always have (ie my adventures traveling between Arizona and Mississippi). I’ve never been so thankful to be back in Cairo before in my life. I almost cried when we finally arrived. I was even happy about the traffic because that meant that if something else happened, we’d have help in less than a minute – unlike over 15 hrs of grueling Sinai.

Here’s a YouTube Video of exactly where we ended up for the majority of our “layover.” Click here for the video of "4 Flats, 2 Females and the Sinai"


  1. Sweet goodness. You were not exactly lucky I guess.