Getting into Egypt (1.21.10 – 1.22.10) (THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE SPANNED TWO DAYS!)

To get into Egypt proved to be more troublesome than I could have realistically predicted. I got through Israeli immigration without a problem, and walked out of the building, into what is a limbo of sorts; officially, you have left Israel, but you have not officially entered Egypt. I walked into the Egyptian border control building, filled out my immigration form and went to get my entry stamp… which is where the fun begins (Elaine, you’re going to LOVE this). I presented my passport, and they told me that my visa had expired… and this is where I started to get angry. I had gotten my multiple entry visa at the Egyptian Embassy in London several months before, and once I received it back, I discovered that the visa expired on January 11th, 2010… five days after my scheduled date of arrival. My Aunt Elaine caught this, so, I called the embassy to ask them about it. The answer on the phone was inconclusive, so I went back to the embassy in person, where I was wholly reassured that as long as I enter Egypt the first time by the date of expiry, then I have 90 days (the duration of the visa) to enter and reenter the country. But no… this was NOT the case, and I got denied at the border. I got quite angry and did some yelling, and they said there wasn’t anything they could do about it, because that is not the way that they look at matters; if the visa has expired you can no longer re-enter the country. It can expire during your stay… but you’re no longer able to reenter the country at this point.
So here’s where it gets particularly messy. The Eilat/Taba border is a tricky one. It’s the only border into Egypt where you cannot get a visa for the whole of Egypt. You can get one for the Sinai region, but if you plan on going any further, then you need to already have a visa. So, they sent me back across the border to go to the Egyptian Embassy. I had to go through immigration again, which was a total delight… actually, it was far better than the last time. I had a sour look on my face and the woman asked what was wrong. I told her my predicament and she was speedy and pleasant. In the course of this mess, I made the acquaintance of a man named Alfred, who was having similar troubles to my own. He was such a character; he was in his 50’s, from the Netherlands, and had been traveling for the last 40 months. Every last possession he has was in his backpack- incredible!
Anyway, we teamed up, and had to get a taxi to the embassy. Luckily, they processed the visas then and there, so within about two and a half hours of being denied entrance into Egypt, we tried again, this time armed with valid visas, and were allowed entry.
But here comes the next issue. I had been aiming to take the 12:30PM bus to Cairo… which was the reason why I had gotten up so early and taken the 7AM bus from Jerusalem. But by this point, it was about 2PM, and I had missed my bus… which meant I would have to wait for the 5PM bus. This in itself was not a big deal… but the complications continued.
The bus departed and we drove for a few hours. Around 7:30PM, we stopped at a café for a rest stop. I went to the bathroom, had a cup of tea, boarded the bus and fell asleep, waiting for the bus to depart. I woke up around 9PM, to find that the bus was empty, and we hadn’t moved an inch… WHAT???
I mentioned the storms that had ravaged Jordan and Israel in previous entries. Well, they also affected Egypt, and they had caused some rocks to fall on a road, specifically the road that we needed to use to get to Cairo. Travel on this road during the day was permitted, but during the night it was deemed unsafe, so they close down a checkpoint, allowing none to pass. We were stuck… so they announced, “OK, we sleep here for the night, and start to move at 6 in the morning, when the sun rises.”
“Sleep where??”
“Here. On the bus.”
So. On the bus we slept; it was awful. We were in the middle of nowhere, and it was freezing. I got my luggage so that I could layer up, and even wearing 6 layers of shirts and jackets, tights, jeans, pajama pants, three layers of socks, shoes, a scarf and a hat, I was still freezing. I used my towel as a poor excuse for a blanket, and was still so cold that I awoke periodically throughout the night.
After what seemed like an eternity, 6AM came, and we departed our rest stop in the middle of nowhere… ten hours is one hell of a bathroom break. As soon as the bus started moving, temperatures started to rise, and I was able to get some rest. Around 9:30AM, we had arrived at the bus station and were finally in Cairo… it took long enough, right!? That’s how these things go sometimes, and I was glad to finally end up where I wanted to be.

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2 responses to “Getting into Egypt (1.21.10 – 1.22.10) (THIS SHOULD NOT HAVE SPANNED TWO DAYS!)

  1. Elaine Freundlich

    I don’t know what to say Elizabeth. I don’t know how the Egyptian embassy could have got it so wrong the first time; after all you did tell them when you were planning to travel. I’m pleased you finally got it all sorted out but what a bother! Russia probably will be a walk in the park by comparison!!

    • I know, I couldn’t believe what a mess it all turned out to be… and even moreso, I was annoyed at the extra cost that I had to shell out. I had to pay for two taxis to get to/from the Egyptian embassy in Eilat, and then for the visa itself, which cost in the order of another £20 for something I’d already paid for. I was sorely tempted to contact the Egyptian embassy to try and make them refund me the cost of one of the visas that I’d paid for, but on second thought, I decided it would more than likely be far more trouble that it was worth.
      I’m sure you’re right; Russia will be a breeze compared to this mess! (Touch wood) 🙂

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