It's not part of Israel. But the last few days of our trip took us to the Sinai Peninsula, the wedge-shaped piece of Egypt just south of Israel, to dive (or snorkel, in my case) in the Red Sea.
The border crossing between Taba, Egypt and Eilat, Israel is a small, dusty area with a few tiny buildings. We stood in line behind a group of students with bulky backpacks who planned to travel by foot to Mount Sinai. Finally, we reached the Israeli customs agent, who stamped our passports without comment and waved us through. Our car was given a cursory search and we crossed over into Egypt.
Once there, we discovered that the Egyptians have the happiest government officers on the face of the planet. Everyone wearing a uniform on the Egyptian side was all smiles. Sure, they went through our suitcases, undoing the morning's careful packing, but they were pleasant as could be about the whole thing. We were issued a temporary Egyptian license plate and sent on our way.
Our eventual destination was the resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh, about halfway down the peninsula on the western shore of the Red Sea. The drive took several hours; we passed several interesting sights such as the island castle at the top of the page. As the daylight faded, my friend and I amused ourselves by figuring out how to read Arabic numbers thanks to all the kilometer markers by the side of the highway. We passed a couple checkpoints along the way; both were manned by grinning Egyptian policemen who waved us through with a hearty "Salaam."
Sharm El-Sheikh seems to exist solely to cater to rich tourists. The beach is a great place to gaze at the Red Sea, which contrasts beautifully with the reddish shoreline. Of course, the main attraction is beneath the surface; the variety of fish and coral is truly staggering. I stayed out in the water for hours, marvelling at the sealife and giving myself a nice sunburn in the process.
The trip back was more interesting to look at, since it was light out. The highway runs along the shoreline, and there are lots of lagoons with coral reefs and extremely blue water. Whoever named it the Red Sea was seriously colorblind. We passed a small group of Bedouin at one point, on their way who knows where.
As we neared Taba, we had a nasty omen: about a mile and a half south of the border crossing, not another soul in sight, a bird fell out of the sky, splattering blood all over our hood and windshield, and landed about ten feet to our right. To this day we're not sure what happened.
When we reached Taba, we burst out laughing at the above sign. Luckily, none of the customs agents on either side of the border seemed inclined to ask about the fresh blood on our car. Maybe that sort of thing happens all the time!
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