Anxious and confused, frustrated but intrigued, grateful but embarrassed. Welcome to our Nuweiba – Aqaba ferry experience. Nearly the only way to get from Egypt to Jordan without flying. Had to be paid in $US, Dahab is by far the most common tourist stop before the ferry, yet none of Dahab’s 4 banks would even consider the ludicrous idea of changing Egyptian pounds to dollars.
Go to Nuweiba, my friend, in Nuweiba dollars grow on trees, they will change in banks, the port, on the ferry, dollars fall out of donkey’s arses along the road….
Off the bus in Nuweiba, asking around, change money at the ticket office – no, in the port? the ferry? Doesn’t matter, can’t get in without a ticket. Are there any donkeys nearby? Never mind…..
Two banks, one on each side of the street.
Bank # 1: The teller is utterly shocked, giving us a look as though we just asked for an emergency sperm donation. Did they know anywhere else that did change money? Frightened confusion, a rigid head shake. Please, please make it stop.
I could just hear him talking about it with his buddies that night over tea and sheesha: “You’ll never believe what this tourist asked for today, something called ‘dollars’! Ever heard of them? No? Me neither. Probably drugs, or maybe just another one of the things Americans put in their rectums.
Bank#2: “Of course, how much?”
How? How are these things possible? Would I not have been the millionth person to try this? I don’t know. I just don’t know anymore.
Port entrance: Ticket? No – points at the ticket office. We trudge over. The ticket office is closed. Wait, you’re pretty white, go over there. A guard orders the hovering Egyptians away from the employee entrance and lets us in. Just as we join the small queue of foreign tourists the ticket window snaps shut – closed until 2pm we are told. It is now 12:30. We sit down to discuss our next move. 30 seconds later Laynni gets up to talk to one of the other tourists. As they talk the window pops open. Tickets back on sale. Whatever.
Port entrace. I walk through my 100th Egyptian metal detector with my belt, change, etc. For the 100th time it beeps. For the 100th time, no one cares.
Waiting area to take a bus to the ferry itself: We are ushered outside past the mob of waiting Egyptians (and possibly Saudis, Kuwaitis, Jordanians, etc.). Now safely on the bus waiting to go. Suddenly pushing and shoving erupts at the building’s steel gate, a couple Egyptians break through, more guards come running, more squeeze through, batons are put to work, rising and falling viciously, heads and faces beaten, the gates themselves start to buckle, more reinforcements, finally they are forced shut. One last straggler makes it through, stoically absorbing repeated blows. He manages to offer up is passport and ticket even as he receives multiple slaps from the guard holding him. It checks out, the beating stops. He wipes the blood from his nose, starts running to the ferry keeping pace with the bus, face split in a gleeful grin.
The ferry: A long line of Egyptians snakes back along the side of the ship. The bus’ foreign (meaning Western) passengers are once again beckoned past the queue. A Canadian girl stops to take a picture of the scene, angry guards leap into action, she smiles cluelessly and and rushes to catch up with her group.
Luggage is stowed, passports are taken, tickets are checked. After an hour and a half in the luxurious first-class lounge we pull into Aqaba, Jordan. The guy who also served the drinks and sandwiches authoritatively calls us all together, informs us it’s time to go, shows us the way (it is down), briefs us on Jordanian Customs Procedure.
Tell people you don’t have your passport. Ask many people, someone will have. Visa? No problem, someone will give you. After passport? Before, after, whenever.
He was right.