MIDDLE EAST - part III
Around the entire Gulf of Aqaba, across the Sinai and downstream the Nile to Upper Egypt
> Journeying 5 months across the Middle East where part III
covered Saudi Arabia's northern gulf region as well as parts of Jordan, Israel and Egypt <
This is leg three on a longer journey across the Middle East. We start this leg in Duba in Saudi Arabia just few hundred kilometers south of where the Gulf of Aqaba bursts into the Read Ocean. The entire Gulf of Aqaba is a region of astonishing natural beauty. The Saudi part from Duba to Haql is extremely off-the-beaten-track and reveals many astonishing treasures. Jordan’s Bay of Aqaba and Israel’s Bay of Eilat offer great diving, and Eilat is backed by breathtaking mountains and fabulous back-country trekking paths. The entire Sinai Peninsula is rural and forbidding, giving access to Bedouin heartland, Biblical sights and amazing climbing opportunities. Most people perhaps only pick one country and thus only visit the Gulf partially. Instead, during this journey, we decide to see it all and design a route that would orbit the entire Gulf of Aqaba.
In Egypt, we stop for quite some expanded time in the Sinai. Wedged between Africa and Asia, the peninsula is a region of stark beauty, where prophets, nomads, exiles and conquers all have left their footprints. We stop for nearly a week in Dahab to spend time exploring the offshore reefs in the Read Ocean. The coastline is barren, but offshore the reefs are a true nirvana for diving freaks. Afterwards, we cross the Sinai along a rural inland route from Dahab to Suez via the Wadi Nasb Pass, the mountains of Gebel Musa and Gebel Katarina, Ain al-Furtega, Tamad, Nakhl and the Mitla Pass. One of the highlights is living with a powerful Bedouin family for three days in the heart of Sinai’s high mountain region, before we the local chief is convinced that it is a clever idea to allow us to climb Egypt’s highest mountain at 2.624m in his “backyard”. The trail it is taxing, but with a rugged and adventurous bent.
Finally, we travel upstream the Nile from Cairo to the Nile Valley around Luxor. The entire route covers magnificent World Heritage Sites and a thousand tourist clichés, but the grandeur and beauty of this ancient land is evident. Magnificent monuments are everywhere, but when traveling on the extreme cheap the real highlight perhaps is the Egyptian people. Wandering around the many markets, living in cheap hostels and moving on by rusty buses involves sipping a lot of shai while discussing politics, cuisine, love and ancient history.