When we originally planned our travels to the Middle Eastern region, we had intended to base ourselves in Egypt, but also make trips across the border to Israel and Jordan. To my disappointment, we ended up not going due to safety concerns.
Egypt and Israel, within their own borders, are generally safe to visit. However, after consulting with various locals we met throughout our stay in Egypt, it became clear that very few people cross the Egyptian-Israeli border, so nobody could give us a first-hand account of the current border conditions.
We couldn’t fly to Israel from Egypt. The flights were ridiculously expensive. We had monitored them daily for weeks, and they hadn’t budged. So, we would have had to take at LEAST 3 different bus trips in a row.
From our home base, Hurghada, we would have had to take a bus from Hurghada to Cairo; another bus from Cairo to Sharm el Sheikh; and a third bus from Sharm el Sheikh to Taba border crossing. There, we would have needed to get off the bus, walk across the border into Israel (which would have been an adventure, but seemed like a total crap shoot, safety-wise), and then once on the other side of the border in Eilat find another bus into Tel Aviv.
Normally, there is a ferry running between Hurghada and Sharm-el Sheikh, which would have saved us time; however, the ferry wasn’t running since there are so few tourists in the region currently.
If we had met someone who had been able to give us instructions on how to accomplish this safely and without hassle, we absolutely would have made it happen. But it just seemed like something that didn’t happen too often. People who live in Egypt just don’t visit Israel; and Israeli people just don’t visit Egypt.
Plus, to add insult to injury, we’d heard from others visiting Israel from other Arab countries that, if any Arab descent was suspected of those entering the country, those travelers are held for questioning for hours on end. One fellow traveler we met in Luxor (of Indian descent) said that he was held at the border crossing between Israel and Jordan for 5 hours of interrogation. They even looked through his cell phone and asked him about the people in the photos!
I didn’t want to put Chris through that potential onslaught.
I had also read that, if they go through your bag and find any Arabic script, that discovery also becomes instant cause for suspicion. We had been practicing our Arabic script in a small notebook I had, so I definitely didn’t want to risk getting questions about that!
Israel was one of the places I was most looking forward to visiting. C’est la vie. One day, we’ll make the less politically charged journey from the USA to Israel.
Photo credit: By James Emery from Douglasville, United States (Israeli flag flapping_0514c) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons