Sharm Can Wait: Remembering The Sinai Terrorists Acts

It was time for me to leave Egypt. I contemplated my options. While it’s easy to extend a passport visa, getting an extension on the motorcycle temporary import would prove to be difficult, time consuming and taxing. I had two more days before Doc needed to be in Jordan, my next destination. I could ride a few hours to the Southern tip of Sinai or I could cross the peninsula toward the Gulf of Aqaba and the now quiet town of Nuweiba, The south Sinai destinations of Sharm el-Sheikh or Dahab. Israel would be a good option with the possibility of crossing the border at Taba, but an exit stamp of Taba would be a red flag to Syrian officials who refuse entry to anyone with an Israeli stamp in their passport. And yet while the Israelis are sensitive to this and might honor a request to refrain from stamping visitor passports, an exit stamp from Taba could mean only one thing — entrance into Israel. I would try another strategy after Jordan to make my way into Jerusalem, but for now I must go to Jordan.

Sharm just south of here is according to the Lonely Planet “Egypt’s version of Vegas”. And while the lure of Ras Mohammed National (marine) Park on the Red Sea, arguably one of the best diving locations in the world, and the endless pounding of house music with Eastern European prostitutes providing window dressing, Sharm would be a feast for my eyes. But it’s time to ride — not party. So I crossed mountains of red and yellow while Beduins grazed livestock and military bases warned against taking pictures until the turquoise blue waters of the Gulf of Aqaba unfolded before me. And resting on the shore the tiny hamlet of Aqaba which at one time was party town for vacationing Israelis and is the port for ferry boats to Aqaba in Jordan.

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Winding my way through the desert and mountains of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.

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Wandering nomadic Beduin in Sinai — he on a camel me on Doc — wanderers.

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I could head to beaches of Sharm or cross into Israel at Taba – sites of tourist-targeted terrorist acts in 2004 & 2005 – but I’m heading to Jordan. These places must wait.

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The typical Egyptian police check points — oh I’ll miss the tea and the conversation.

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The Gulf of Aqaba and Nuweiba. From here to the right is Saudi Arabia, to the left is Jordan and out of the picture the far left Israel.

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Welcome to Nuweiba – I guess!

In July 2005, just a few weeks after I left on my journey, while I was riding through the great mountains of the Pacific Northwest I remember reading the news of the terrorist attack in Egypt where Islamic extremists set off a series of bombs in Sharm el-Sheikh that more than 100 dead and more than 200 more injured. The bombs were set in the early hours of the morning of 23 July 2005 – the date which about fifty years earlier the Egyptian monarchy was overthrown by Gamal Abdel Nasser. And just nine months earlier on 6 October 2004 a truck bomb set off in front of the Hilton Hotel in Taba, less than 150 miles from here at the Israel border killed more than 30 people and injuring a 100. This date was also not coincidental. October 6th represents the anniversary of Egypt’s 1973 “Yom Kippur” war with Israel.

These bombings all but destroyed the tourism industry for two of the hottest resorts in Egypt frequented by Israelis and also sucked the life out of the dozens of other locations on Sinai, including Nuweiba. Like the massacre at Luxor — huge blows to Egypt’s $6.6 billion tourism industry. After reading about the Sharm bombings back in July 2005 while still getting my feet wet on this WorldRider journey, I felt comfortable and happy in my decision to ride the western route through Africa.

Funny how things change, now nearly 3 years later and I’m less than 100 miles from the sites of these cruel acts of terrorism where innocent people were killed — just for being on vacation.

I stopped by the port first where the police told me that I needed a ticket to enter the port and that I could buy tickets for tomorrow’s ferry starting at 9pm at the ticket office just a couple blocks away. After checking in to a local hotel on the beach I later returned to the ferry ticket office where I was told by a very rude and angry old man that I could not buy tickets for the ferry until the morning, yet the line of people at his window seemed contrary. I pleaded and suggested it would be easier to do so now. It was not possible the stubborn man insisted.

I prepared myself for another round of Egypt’s now legendary bureaucracy and hoped my experience in these endeavors would prove valuable and therefore make it easier for me to flee to Jordan.

Let’s see.

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