Wild hyenas in Harar, Ethiopia

After a 10-hour drive that day, we enter Harar in the dark (once again) looking for a suitable place to stay. This seems to be more difficult that initially expected. The girls, Nele and Val, suggest after having checked several hotels, to simply book a room to use its bathroom but to camp outside on the parking – to the astonishment of the hotel employees.

Harar is located on the far East-side of Ethiopia, close to Somalia. A Muslim community, it is considered the fourth holiest city for Islam and its high doors were closed to non-Muslim people until the 19th century. Counting no less than 90 mosques, we walk through the streets of the old city with stone houses or white-washed walls, before reaching the colorful market. With its picturesque scenes of daily life, women selling out of small stands and lots of children running around, we start to understand why the French poet Arthur Rimbaud chased this place to settle down at the end of his life.

Harar is famous in the overlanders’ community for the Hyena man Yussuf Pepe. Every evening, he feeds 15-20 wild hyenas in front of his house, just outside of the walled city of Harar. We visit Yussuf in his fields that afternoon to make an appointment for the coming evening, we want to see what it’s like. Arriving at night under the dark African sky, we distinguish Yussuf’ shadow, he’s getting ready and he looks as if he’s in some sort of trance. He sits down under a tree and start calling the hyenas by their names. One by one you see them emerging from the dark. No more than 10 meters away from us are about 12 hyenas. As time is passing by, more and more hyenas arrive to be fed by Yussuf or one of the visitors that joined him. Bjorn said he wouldn’t feed the hyenas, but he is in fact the first to hold the stick with some meat! Kneeling down, being at eye level with these powerful animals is scary at the beginning but most of all exciting. Putting the stick in your mouth to feed them is even better; the hyena has to come within 30 cm from your face to grab the meat off the stick. Getting up scares them away immediately, even though at no time we feel unsafe. They’re slightly bigger than a domestic dog but shy as a little cat. A great experience to cherish forever!

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Out of Lalibela on our way to Kombolcha, we meet other overlanders heading in the opposite direction – or so we think. We can’t help but stop the car to meet up with them, we have not seen many other overlanders for a while and it is always nice to meet travelers. Bjorn and Nele from Belgium, a lovely couple, are on their way to Addis, so actually we all go in the same direction! We all speak each others language (Barry speaks Dutch, Val French, Bjorn and Nele Dutch and French) but the first 5 minutes of our chaotic conversation are a mix of languages without knowing who speaks what! That issue will sort itself out very quickly: the girls speak French with each other, the boys Dutch and we all switch to English otherwise. On top of this Bjorn and Nele are a little stressed; their front axle broke in the Danakil Depression (not a place where you want your car to brake down) and now they are not confident with their Land Rover after the repair. The brakes squeak a lot and when going uphill the engine overheats . We offer to drive behind them as their support vehicle in case something would go wrong. Nele is a bit relieved and Bjorn doesn’t mind either.

We arrive in Addis in a rainy late afternoon, finding the camping in that chaotic city turns out to be difficult, although each car has its own GPS. Addis doesn’t offer much activities nor attraction to us, so within 3 days with Bjorn and Nele we arrange our Kenyan visa, go shopping for spare parts at Toyota Parts Center, buy 2 new tires  and along the way struggle to find a working ATM machine (yes, it can be more difficult than one might think, even in a capital!). We stay at Wim’s Holland House but the rain does not make the camping very pleasant, so as soon as we are sorted with “stuff to do” in the main city, we hit the road again, happy to go away from the busy town.

Lalibela, Ethiopia

Lalibela doesn’t disappoint us… We’re not found of touristic visits, but this site has much more to offer than just old stones.

Bet Medhane Alem is the largest monolithic rock-hewn church in the world, the vast interior with its 36 large pillars creates a cathedral-like austerity. Being the first church we visit with Memekia, it is breathtaking and difficult to imagine how such a building could have been constructed in the dark Middle Age time. Fortunately King Lalibela had the help of the angels, according to the tradition…

Memekia is the first guide we hire and he comes as a nice surprise: he is knowledgable, friendly and speaks very good English. He takes us through the churches during a complete afternoon and the following morning. Many tunnels and stairs connect the several churches creating a feeling of walking in a labyrinth. Memekia shares with us his knowledge about each of the churches that he studied at the university in Addis Ababa.

Bet Giyorgis (St. George) is definitely the most majestic of all churches in Lalibela. It is excavated below ground level in a sunken courtyard enclosed by precipitous walls. Close to 15 meters in height, the church is carved in the shape of a symmetrical cruciform tower. Arriving early morning, we have the chance to see this majestic site without the shadow of any tourist disturbing the religious atmosphere, the priest who guards the church explains to us the various religious components of that unique place.

The churches of Lalibela were built in the 12th century and are carved out of the rocks from top to bottom making them almost invisible in the general landscape. Lalibela is absolutely the most worthy site in Ethiopia to visit.

Ethiopia – the market in Axum with Elsa and Natnael

The drive from Debark to Axum is only 250km so at 3 in the afternoon we are jumping in the car to drive off into the mountains. Only 250km in the mountain on very rough roads, making us realize that we might not complete this before dark. The first 100km are amazing through the mountains with majestic trees and many small villages where children run up to the car smiling and yelling ‘yuyuyuyuyuuyuyu’ until one of them catches your look and he/she completely lights up. The look in their eyes and smile on their faces are worth a million dollars! In 1 hour we have only covered 20km so if the road does improve we will have to sleep somewhere along the way. We find a spot away from villages under a large tree just before the rain starts. Our main concern is privacy since whenever we stop at daytime on the road the car is immediately surrounded by 10 people or more.

The following morning, after a peaceful night without any disturbance, we take off to drive the next 150km to Axum. 75km before Axum we see black at the horizon. Is this really what I think it is we say to each other? YES, it is tarmac, really nice tarmac! With some small interruptions we drive to Axum on a clean new road.

Axum is going to be our base for a few days because we found a luxurious hotel for Ethiopian standards: running hot water, electricity and a clean bed (no flees). Luckily the price is Ethiopian and only 7 euros per night which is cheaper than many campings we have stayed. Saturday is market day in Axum so that is where we go to get a sense of local life in the Tigrai region. On the market a few fresh vegetables are sold, you mainly see different types of wheat such as teff, used to make injera (the local sour pancake), cotton and plastic shoes or second hand clothing. After spending an hour, we sit down to just look around and immediately kids are surrounding us. We cannot help but to take pictures and this is how we meet Natnael.

After taking some pictures we show them to the children and Natnael, a 13 year-old boy, asks us where we are from. As he speaks good English, he can actually translate for us. We spend the afternoon with him while he shows us around the market. In the middle of many children is Elsa, a very sweat 8 year old girl that does not speak English yet but with her pure look draws our attention.  We also show her picture on the camera which triggers a big and beautiful smile on her face. She grabs Vals’ hand and never lets go for the rest of the afternoon, smiling at Val when people react to them holding hands in the market. Together with Natnael and Elsa we stroll over the market going from stand to stand. Natnael sometimes explains to us what the different wheats are for or the spices that are sold on the market. Barry explains to Natnael that we never see raw cotton in Europe, only the finished sweater or pants that we wear. It does not take long for Natnael to grab our camera and to start taking pictures while we talk with some of the children. A few pointers here and there from Barry and Natnael quickly takes nice pictures without any help.

Unintentionally we end up spending the whole day on the market with Elsa and Natnael and walk them home to make sure that they are safe. Elsa’s mum was caught by surprise when we showed up with her daughter but gives us a warm welcome. Elsa is proud to show us her house before saying goodbye. We have met with Natnael every day since and will surely visit Elsa again later this week. They are 2 wonderful kids.

Ethiopia – Simien Mountains

We arrive in Debark a bit too late to buy the entry tickets for the park and to arrange the scout so ended up sleeping in town at the Simien Park Hotel. As it turns out to be not the cleanest place in town we sleep in the car. Toilets but no shower; if you like a bucket of water it can be provided. As if we would take a bush shower in the parking area in front of all the other guests?! No need to mention we were out of there at first light going to the ticket office for the Simien Mountains.

Despite our efforts for not taking a scout we are gently but firmly explained that the armed scout is mandatory for our own safety and that he knows the road (there is only one road in the Simien Mountains). Shortly after, the scout Toso jumps in the back of the car with his loaded or not loaded historic old gun. We drive through the market of Debark into the mountains leading to the park gate where our tickets and the presence of a scout are checked. Within 10km after the gate we start to see the famous Gelada baboons. It is a small group of about 20 animals all busy feeding themselves on the grasses of the plains. We are driving to one of the last camps in the park (Chennek) which takes us through most of the park by road going up and down the many mountains. Simien Mountains are one of Africa’s largest range with several peaks topping 4,000 meters. The views are spectacular from the road but only once you get out of the car you can see that part of the road leads you along cliffs that are at least a few hundred meters high. Arriving at Chennek camp, 3,614 meters high, not only you can feel the altitude but also the temperature drop: you are literally in the clouds that will bring rain in the late afternoon/evening.

After catching our breath we realize that the car is parked in the middle of a large group of baboons. They are everywhere around us and soon we find ourselves photographing these beautiful baboons that can only be seen in Ethiopia. Besides photographing them it is really interesting to just watch the behavior and social interaction within the group. Very quickly you start to see the different characters of the animals and their role within the group. It made me, Barry, feel totally in my element. Just being in between and so close to these animals is special. These baboons are sometimes so close, sometimes less than 2 meters away that it is really different from other parks where you are supposed to stay in your car for your safety. When you see the males yawning and showing their teeth, you wonder how safe you really are. But at the same time they show no aggression towards us. The ‘smarter’ ones that do not want to be photographed simply turn their back to you and do not even walk away. Just minding their own business and continue eating the grass.

From one second to the next a small fight breaks out in the group and stops as quickly as it started making it very difficult to photograph. At the end of the afternoon the group slowly makes their way to the cliffs where they descend to find safe sleeping grounds for the night leaving us just enough time to make dinner before the rain starts. The night is cold but luckily we can sleep in the car.

Toso wakes us up early in the morning because the Geladas are back and the sun is up providing some warmth before it hides again behind the clouds around 10. The baboons are grooming each other in the morning sun while the youngsters are playing in a pool of water nearby. They chase each other around the plains and hide with their mothers when the chase turns almost into a small fight. The Simien Mountains are breathtaking and spending a few weeks to enjoy the scenery, the animals or hiking is worth it.

Ethiopia: yuyuyuyuyu

The border crossing with Ethiopia is special and something to remember and not like any other border crossing we have seen in the past few months of traveling. You go from hut to hut and meet people without any uniform or looking close to an official. You get a few stamps, carnet de passage is signed and that’s it. The Bradt Travel Guide describes it as a dusty one-horse outpost which is more or less what it is like.

After the border crossing we drive into the beautiful mountains up to 2,000 meters high and see the temperature drop to as low as 16 degrees and have to pull out our sweaters. The roads are very nice to drive on but are clearly not made for cars despite being of perfect tarmac. The roads are for cattle, donkeys, kids and everybody else that needs to go from one village to the next. The speed of driving drops allowing you to enjoy the scenery. In the first village that we pass we are met by kids running up to the car screaming ‘yuyuyuyuyuyuyuyuyuyu’ and waving to us with a big smile on their face. This continues until we reach Gonder where make a stop at the bank to change money since the bank at the border was closed between 12 and 15:00. With some cash in the pocket we drive some 65km to Tim&Kim Village in Gorgora at Lake Tana to spend a few days. Every morning we wake up by the side of the lake in which we take a bath sharing it with a hippo and the fish eagles. It is very nice to stay and relax in this community based project run by a young Dutch couple.

The other side of Sudan

When we approach Sudan, still being in Egypt, we cannot help but think about what it will be like when we get there. All we know about Sudan is what we have seen in the news about Darfur area and that is not very good to say the least. On other travelers’ websites we also read that Sudanese people steal your heart in a second and show you a very different side of the country. People we meet on the way are wondering if we should go there and if it will be safe to travel. Not strange to see their reactions since all they have seen from Sudan is what is shown on television or printed in the newspapers and magazines. What will Sudan be like for us?

Finally in Sudan we ourselves are taken by surprise and see a different side of the country. After leaving Wadi Halfa we head into the Nubian desert to find a Deffufa in Kerma. A Deffufa is a mud-brick building, 3500 years old, and used for funeral ceremonies at the time of the Kushite Kingdom. The building itself is almost completely in ruins but it is the occasion for us to meet a very nice family that shows us the site via their back-garden. The father introduces us to his wives and many children. English was not spoken but it did not matter to the conversation. Somehow we were made very welcome and were even offered to spend the night at their house. We have these encounters in almost all villages that we go through in the Nubian and Bayuda desert.

Another village, Abri, made of typical mud houses surrounded by a large enclosure, gives Barry the opportunity to meet children swimming in the Nile. They are looking innocent and as just local kids that are having a great time in the river but an older man passing by tells him after a while that these kids are actually coming from the Darfur area escaping the tragedy that is taking place there.

At the end of the day that is again hot and dusty, we find a spot for wild camping with a tree that provides us with some shade. There appears to be nobody in the area so we park the car to set up camp. Before we can get the chairs out to have a cold drink we are surrounded by 8 people, some goats and camels. Where did they come from? Once again we do not speak a common language but can share a drink with them and have a chat using our hands and sign language. The kids run off with a bottle of water and we all carry on with our day.

The day after we reach the Meroe Pyramids where we want to spend the night but are caught by a weather spectacle: a sandstorm. At first sight it looks like it is raining in the distance but then it becomes clearer as soon as the brown clouds of sand swallow us and we are left with nothing but to park the car and wait for the worst to pass. It slowly clears up so that we can drive again. We decide to make it to Khartoum that day because we have no real other option. Doors and windows closed do not matter, we find dust everywhere. Arriving late in Khartoum we set up our tent at the Blue Nile Sailing Club. The sandstorm has passed, we can relax again.

After a few days in Khartoum we drive east towards Ethiopia. We can really do with some milder weather. The temperature during the day in Sudan easily reaches 45 degrees and higher with peaks of 53 in the car. It is hot, dusty and not many showers available. The closer we get to Ethiopia the lower the temperature gets and finally drops below 40 degrees. It almost feels a little cold.

The eastern side of the country gives a different landscape compared to the North where we come from. It is less dusty and darker more fertile soil with a lot of cattle, camels in large groups and agriculture everywhere. The mud houses slowly disappear and huts start to show up telling you that you are getting closer to ‘real’ Africa. Besides the different style in houses you can also sense that the people are different here. Besides their skin color being darker, they come across as less open/more cautious towards foreigners.

Based on our short and limited experience in Sudan we can say that it is not a united country. We have seen only very little of this vast country, the largest in Africa, but we can already sense that regions within the country have strong identities and are very different from each other, Khartoum being a world on its own, apart from the rest. The people in Sudan can take you by surprise and really show you another side than the one you see in the news.

Ferry crossing to Sudan

In Aswan we meet 4 Dutch guys from Dustroads (Tom, Bram, Michel and Dirk) who are traveling the same route but twice as fast as we do. Together we go to the ticket office for the ferry and do a trip through town to arrange all the necessary paperwork. On Sunday we drive with 3 cars to the port to meet up with Baraka who helps us with all the steps needed before we can actually load the cars on the barge. Just before loading we have a closer look at the barge and find many new 15cm long steel nails lying all over. A quick cleanup and we carefully drive the cars onto the ferry. Saying goodbye to the car feels strange but the Sudanese captain promised to look after them and to arrive in Wadi Halfa as soon as possible, maybe even on the same day as we will. Once back in town we enjoy the swimming pool one more time and do some last minute shopping before saying goodbye to Egypt.

On Monday morning we all jump in the taxi and meet again with Baraka in the port of Aswan and go through immigration. He told us the day before that the spot below the rescue boat on deck is a good spot as it provides you shade all day. He is right, it is a nice location since we end up watching the loading of the ferry for 8 long hours before departing around 7PM! Many Sudanese passengers bring back electric cooking devices to Sudan. We see everything getting loaded from where we sit the whole day: complete tea sets, fridges, furniture, etc. The night is rough: cold and long without any comfort besides the sleeping mat that Bram shared with us. Thanks Bram.

We wake up around 5:30 with about 50 Muslims praying on deck in between all the luggage and some people still sleeping just before passing by the magnificent site of Abu Simbel on our right.

We arrive in Wadi Halfa around midday after spending 25 hours sitting on a steel deck – stretching our legs feels great. Magdi Boshara, an honest and straightforward Sudanese fixer, meets us on the boat in the restaurant to start the immigration process. We fight our way out of the ferry and get into a shuttle that takes us to customs. We get word that the barge with our vehicles might arrive in the next 2 hours and are asked if we want to take the cars today or tomorrow. Today of course, since that allows us to finish all the steps needed today to get into Sudan and sleep in our own beds! 5 Hours later Magdi has arranged all the paperwork while we collect the cars and drive into Sudan. Last thing we need to do, the next day, is the Alien registration since this cannot happen today anymore. We drive through Wadi Halfa and set up camp on the outskirts of town in the desert. Michel, from the Dustroads team, gets the veggies out and fixes us all a nice dinner under the stars in Sudan. We meet with Magdi in town the next day to do the Alien Registration and get the photo permit.

Practical information regarding the ferry crossing from Egypt into Sudan

On Saturday – Bureaucracy in Aswan

  1. Go to the Nile River Valley Transportation Office – Mr Salha to buy passenger tickets
  2. Go to Traffic court in Aswan to get a paper stating that you have no fines in Egypt outstanding
  3. Go to Traffic Police and give the court paper and Egyptian license plates and get another paper to give to customs at the port when boarding the ferry
  4. Drive back to the Nile River Valley Transportation Office to buy the actual passenger tickets (156 pounds for second class with meal included)

All this took us about 3 hours

On Sunday – Loading car on the barge

  1. At 09:00 you are at the port (15km out of town) to load the car on the barge
  2. You meet with Baraka, fixer from the ferry company (picture in slideshow), who will take you through the next steps at the port to get your car on the ferry (no fee charged by him)
  3. You register your passport details at the entry of the port and then wait for 3 hours (20 pounds)
  4. Once you are inside the gates you do a custom check of the car (10 minutes)
  5. Drive to main building on the right to purchase the vehicle ticket (2,012 pounds)
  6. You go to the customs building on the left to stamp the carnet de passage (car out of Egypt) (25 pounds for the carnet)
  7. Drive car to the barge and loading is done
  8. Taxi back to town (20 pounds)

Step 3 to 8 are supported by Baraka. (prices mentioned are in Egyptian pounds per person). All steps this day took us 5 hours.

On Monday – Boarding passenger ferry

  1. At 09:30 taxi to port – 10:00 arrival
  2. Check passenger tickets at the entry of the port
  3. Scan of luggage
  4. In customs building obtaining passport stamps and pay small exit tax
  5. Go to the ferry to claim your spot on deck if you do not have a 1st class cabin
  6. Wait for 8 hours and watch the loading of the ferry from deck

On the Sudanese side Magdi (nubatia51@yahoo.com / +249 121 730 885) helps to arrange everything for a fixed fee of US25:

  1. Immigration
  2. Carnet de Passage (US15)
  3. Travel Permit
  4. Alien Registration (US45 per person)
  5. Photo Permit (US10 per person)

Personal note: Be patient in Sudan with the bureaucracy which is long and difficult. The country is not adapted to tourism (which gives its charm after all), the procedures for entry and exit are nowhere indicated and have to be done in different offices/buildings, in different locations. However, if you miss one of the steps you will be illegal in the country which will cause problems so pay attention.

Cairo to Aswan, Egypt

Getting into Cairo in its famous crazy traffic isn’t too bad if you know where you’re going. In our case, Salma camping, close to the Pyramids of Giza, is well indicated on the GPS. We get there without getting lost once! Shortly after we finished setting up the tent, we see someone with a “smoke gun” walking over the bar and restaurant area. At first we have no real idea what is going on until he tells us it is for the mosquitos. 5 minutes later we are under full attack – thanks for not smoking out the mosquitos on the campsite! We run for the bar to have a cold beer.

The following day, we are picked up by Khaled, who will be our driver for the coming 3 days to visit the embassies. Our first stop is the Dutch embassy and in 3 minutes the letters of recommendation for the Sudanese and Ethiopian embassies are handed over to Barry. Our second embassy is the French one which takes us 2,5 hours and we do not obtain any letter. Some words from Barry on the French embassy in Cairo: the embassy is the place in Cairo for French people to waste time, receive rude treatment, feel right at home (dealing with useless bureaucracy and people that think they own the world), not mentioning the attitude of the guy we had to deal with – who in France gave him the job? God bless the Dutch – what wonderful people at the Dutch embassy!!! The French could learn a lot from them.

Off to the Sudanese embassy that luckily knows that the French embassy does not issue a letter of recommendation and therefore accepts the visa request without the letter. 24 hours later we can pick it up and run to the Ethiopian embassy to request the last visa we need to arrange in Cairo. Lovely Jasmine tells us to come back the next day at 13:00 and they will be ready.

So, we head off to the Giza Pyramids in the morning after packing the car. Khaled is right on time as usual. We enter the site and immediately see the majestic 3 Pyramids on the hill with the Sphinx in front of it. The Pyramids make you feel small when walking around them. How did they build these giant structures 4,500 years ago? After being stalked for about 4 hours and 25 minutes we decide that the camel riders should bother other tourists and tell them politely to f*ck off! Enough is enough. We smoke Camel and do not ride Camel. No we also do not want a horse ride and yes we do know the price. I am guessing less than half of what you are offering me. Please leave us alone with the Pyramids, have some respect for your ancient ancestors.

To recover from the busy and hectic Cairo (officially 18 million but in reality approx. 25 million inhabitants) we drive into the Western desert of Egypt. This detour only adds a few more kilometers (± 1,300 km) to our journey but that is the price you sometimes need to pay to have peace and quietness. First we go through the Black Desert, a land of sand dunes covered with a thin layer of black gravel from eroded mountains in the area. After the Black Desert, we drive into the White Desert which looks like nothing else on earth and according to the local bedouins looks like a moonscape. Is that true or is it the 53 degree Celsius that makes you think so? Did the bedouins ever go to the moon to check or is it simply correct? The picture will tell you. Driving on the unique road in the desert, we are frequently stopped at checkpoints, sometime only 5 km apart. Systematically the same questions are asked: You speak arabic? Where do you come from? “Hum… Previous Oasis”. Where do you go? “Hum… Next Oasis”. In any case, the magic answer is always “Hollanda”. For some reason they seem to like that and let you go without further questions. Answering France always meant showing our passports. So if the reports from these many checkpoints are actually going somewhere, they must be looking for a French woman that went missing between the checkpoints. The landscape passing by is beautiful even though it is very hot. You go from oasis to oasis: so green and so much water allowing agriculture to exist. Water is all you need to create life in the desert, which at first sight has nothing to offer but its emptiness and peace.

We now wait in Aswan for our ferry to Wadi Halfa, Sudan that departs next Monday. The campsite that we planned to stay in, Adam’s Home, seems to be closed so we took a hotel in town with a swimming pool on the roof (Hathor Hotel) for not too much money. Swimming under the stars, with a view on the Nile in busy Aswan! Magdi (our fixer) waits for us in Wadi Halfa to walk us through the process when entering Sudan next week.

Entering Egypt – finally in Africa!

We arrive in the port of Aqaba around 09:30 in the morning to arrange the ticket for the ferry to Nuweiba in Egypt and the paperwork for leaving Jordan. In the middle of the port is an information booth where we get all the steps explained by a very friendly, English speaking, Egyptian.

The nasty surprise this morning is that the ticket for the car has almost doubled from 100 USD to 140 Euro. The total cost for the ferry is now 268 Euro, an expensive crossing of borders. The positive surprise is that the ferry is in good condition and that it is a smooth process. 99% of the passengers are locals and we do not see any other overlander. We are on the ferry and on our way to Egypt / Africa!

We arrive in Nuweiba and get ready for the entering process on the Egyptian side which in many blogs has been described as a pure nightmare. It almost reminds us of the fishing market in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). People running with luggage everywhere, officials with and without uniform, chaos in 40˚ C.

The tourist police already met us at the boat so we do not follow any orders until we see him again. Amed, the tourist police officer, escorts us through all different offices and handles the paperwork for us. All we need to do is stick with him and pay here and there. We get a new Egyptian driving license and 2 new license plates that are mounted on the car for 20 pounds. The last escort by Amed is through the gate of the port. Overall it took us about 2 hours and without a doubt we could not have managed this without his help.

Practical information for other overlanders:

  1. After leaving the ferry you will have to drive over a ramp to check the bottom of the car; drive slowly as directions given here are not the best
  2. After parking your car for inspection, go and get money from the ATM that accepts mastercard and maestro (Bank of Cairo)l; we needed about 1,200 Egyptian pounds in total
  3. Somebody will come and check the engine number and chassis number (safe to have this done), you will receive paperwork
  4. Wait for the tourist police to help you through the rest of the process (wearing a white uniform)
  5. Do not give your passport or other papers to anybody else even if they tell you they are from customs
  6. Consider a “Christmas donation” for the tourist police officer at the end of all the paperwork
  7. After leaving the port head for Sawa Camp (about 15km north of Nuweiba) N29 10,977 E34 43,244
  8. We paid the following at the border crossing (in Egyptian Pounds):
  • Total customs: 540
  • Car insurance: 520
  • License plates: 20
  • Christmas donation: up to you

Sinai is known as a place for relaxing with high temperatures during the day and reasonable warm nights. Luckily there is a breeze to make you feel comfortable. Sawa camp is a little heaven on earth, a Bedouin camp on a sandy beach facing the Red Sea. Only 50 meters off shore is a coral reef and colorful fish making it a nice snorkeling location. From here you can pay a visit to St Katherine Monastery or climb mount Sinai at night to see the sunrise.

We will head for Cairo where we will arrange the visas for Sudan and Ethiopia. Stay on the road or tracks as there seem to be land mines in the western part of Sinai.