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. This leg obits the entire Gulf of Aqaba and takes us into Upper Egypt. Most travelers perhaps only pick one country and thus only visit the Gulf partially, but during our journey we decide to see it all. Thus, we start this leg in Duba in the Northern part of Saudi Arabia, just a 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. There are no guidebooks or travel reports from the Saudi coast line at the time we visit it, so we travel along the complete Saudi coast line with only a satellite map and visit ship and plane wrecks, mountain gorges, and wild coastal landscapes with a sense of being pioneers and first visitors.
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 due to the Great Syrian-African Rift. We do lots of diving in both Jordan and Israel, and in Israel we hike across the Eilat Mountains visting the Arava Valley, Wadi Eteq, Mount Yoash, Red Canyon, Black Canyon etc., while also doing parts of the Israeli National Trail.
Next, we move on the the Sinai mountains in Egypt. The entire Sinai Peninsula is rural and forbidding, giving access to Bedouin heartland, Biblical sights and amazing climbing opportunities. Wedged between Africa and Asia, the peninsula is a region of stark beauty, where prophets, nomads, exiles and conquers all have left their footprints. Actually, in Egypt, we stop for quite some expanded time in the Sinai. We stay for nearly a week in Dahab to dive and explore the offshore reefs in the Read Ocean. The coastline is barren, but offshore the reefs, including the Blue Hole, 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 manage to convince the local chief 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. We finish our 5 month Middle East journey in Marsa Alam to do some more diving in the Red Ocean.
If you simply love the Sahara region check out our journeys to The Sudan and other parts of North Africa, which also offers excellent mountain climbing opportunities in the High Atlas. If you are keen on diving in the Read Ocean do see the Red Sea part of The Sudan journey or the Djibouti part of the African Horn journey.