Scotsabroad's Weblog

April 20, 2009

Wilderness of the Wanderings

Filed under: Holidays,Mercedes — scotsabroad @ 8:34 pm

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We have just returned from a long road-trip across the Sinai. We drove 720 km across the desert after going through the tunnel at Suez and parked up (7 hours later) at Taba for a week. The car was magnificent, handling sand and steep mountain roads with aplomb, but our electric windows packed in when we arrived at Taba and on the return journey we had to use the old Mercedes’ ac to try and stay cool. This made the engine overheat and we watched anxiously as the temperature gauge climbed. Just before the Suez check point coming home we had to put coolant in the radiator. However, the catch for the bonnet had snapped off the day previously so I spent a good while trying to open the bonnet with some wire, whilst some rather unhelpful check-point guards ordered me to move the car and loads of  flies bit me in the fierce heat.

The drive was an experience through a baking wilderness of jagged rocks, drifting sand and awesome desolation. For large stretches of the drive we seemed to be the only vehicle on the road.  Then lorries would appear before us in clouds of dust and sand, their chassis bent from years of hauling far too heavy loads, seemingly veering on to our side of the road. Road works seemed to start and stop whimsically and drivers often had to guess the route. Not a cone in sight. At one point we almost hit a donkey. Brilliant. Who needs a four-wheel drive? Shona and the boys might say otherwise.

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Taba, dubbed  ‘The Red Sea Riveria’,  was tame in comparison but it was interesting to be able to see the lights of  four countries from our hotel: Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Our week consisted of swimming, skateboarding, sunbathing and snorkeling. The water was teeming with fish, octopus and coral. The hotel teeming with British, French and German visitors.

On the second last day we ventured out and drove to Gezirat Faraoun (Pharaoh’s Island). We had read about the Crusader Fort built on the island and how expensive it was to try and get a boat across. It was built in 1115 to enforce taxes on Arab merchants and to protect pilgrims travelling between Jerusalem and St. Catherine’s Monastery. Most Egyptians call it Salah al-Din’s Island because he captured it from the Franj. T.E. Lawrence also visited the castle and used it often as a base –  but to name check him with Salah al-Din is probably an insult to the great Islamic warrior. We drove down on to the beach and tried to hitch a ride on a tourist boat. Bizarrely this boat was not intending to visit the fort, only sail around the island. We eventually found out that there was a regular ferry boat to the island. For 100 LE we joined a group of Egyptian tourists on the ferry, surrendering our passports to the police back on the beach and parking the car in the shade. We had a great couple of hours climbing all over the fort.

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There were some anxious moments as the boys climbed along the ramparts as nothing was secure or fenced in. I think a few liberties have been taken with the reconstruction of the fort but it was still impressive and interesting to visit. I liked the Carrier Pigeon coops ( even Napoleon failed to see the beauty of this form of communication when he tried to conquer Egypt 700 years later) and just the stark location of the fort.

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2 Comments »

  1. What a wonderful description of your holiday! You have had some great experiences. Love the photos of Lucas and Cairo – and Shona. The boys must be real water babies now.
    And to top it off you certainly found the ‘history’ you wished for.

    Comment by stlukechurch — April 20, 2009 @ 9:24 pm | Reply

  2. Wow! What a holiday. What an experience for you all.
    Talking cars…my car got a major seagull poo poo wash yesteday….i think its due to nearby framlands recently turned over soil and worms. Zillions of seagulls flying about. Yuk! x

    Comment by Shari — April 21, 2009 @ 12:06 pm | Reply


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