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The Middle East Travelogue


Hi, my name is April. I am a 100% Chinese (should I say Asian or Sinaean?) born in Hongkong, and now I am staying in Taiwan. During the months of April and May, 1997, I went to the Middle East for a 30-day-trip. I first joined a 10-day packed tour from Taiwan to Egypt, then remained in Cairo alone for few days, and then went to Sinai, Israel, Jordan and en route, visited Singapore. Here's the travelogue, of which I have to acknowledge some friends who helped me lots in making this page. Many THANKS to Boaz Rottem, Jason Meek, Paul Kenneth Sharpe and his mom, and my dear brother BB Ng.

Expenses: packed tour - NT 51,000 ( US1 = NT28)+cash: US700+credit card NT20, 000 (mainly for shopping)

Exchange Rate (in April, 1997)
US$1 = Egyptian Pound (LE)3.3; = Israeli Shekel (NIS) 3.4; = Jordanian Dinar (JD) 0.7 = Singapore dollar (S$)1.5

Accommodations:
Place Where to stay Fee Remarks
Cairo Venus Hotel (Tel: 5750496)
38, Ramses Street
LE40/night
(2 pax)
private shower and toilet, noisy but convenient location
Amman Al-Harmin Hotel (Tel: 655890)
Hashmi Street, Opp Hashimia Square
JD8/night
(2 pax)
facing Roman Theatre, public toilet and shower but clean, convenient location
Petra Sunset Hotel (Tel: 03-2156579)
(near Movenpick Hotel)
JD15/night
(2 pax)
private shower and toilet, only 10 -min walk from Petra
Singapore YMCA (Tel: 3366000)
1 Orchard Road
S$25/night
(1 pax)
4-pax dormitory, shower and toilet in room, good location

Before the trip, I collected the information from the travel guide books, chatting with the guys on powwow(http://www.tribal.com/powwow/), and also on the internet. Below are some useful internet sites which contain information about Egypt, Israel and Jordan:
http://interoz.com/egypt/
http://www.tali.com/israel/tips.htm
http://www.infotour.co.il/
http://www.insite.co.il/tour/index.html
http://www.wtgonline.com/country/eg/gen.html
http://www.city.net/
http://www.solutions.net/rec-travel/
So when you think you're well-informed, let's start the journey NOW! ; )

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DATE BRIEF ITERNERY REMARK
4/5/97 (Singapore Airlines)Taipei-->Singapore-->Dubai-->Cairo  
4/6/97 Le Meridien Hotel-->Egyptian Museum-->papyrus paper outlet -->Pyramids of Giza, include Khufu/Cheops(in Greek), Khafre/ Chephren, Menkaure/ Mycerinus-->sphinx-->perfume oil outlet-->dinner on Nile's ship + see Comet Hale-Bopp -->hotel Camel ride in Giza, Belly dance aboard
4/7/97 Citadel +Mohammed-Ali Mosque-->Ramesses II status in Memphis + outdoor museum(include 'alabaster sphinx')-->lunch at semi-outdoor restaurant--> Step Pyramid in Saqqara and the Djoser Pyramid-->carpet factory-->Mena Hotel Oberoi Hotel for photo-->Khan-el-Khalili-->train to Aswan (overnight) 14-hour train from Cairo to Aswan
4/8/97 embark for 5-day-4-night Nile River Cruise --> take falucca in Nile--> mausoleum of Aga-Khan --> Isis Temple and Hathor Temple on Philae Island -->High Dam + Lake Nasser-->Aswan's local market (overnight in Aswan) no Nile crocodile ;P
4/9/97 sunrise in desert-->Abu-Simbel (Nefertari Temple and Ramesses II Temple)-->mirage in desert-->Kom Ombo Temple (Horus + Sebek) -->cocktail party aboard (overnight in Edfu) fee for Abu-Simbel by bus is US80
4/10/97 Horus Temple at Edfu--> we don't go Esna :- ( just free time on ship -->gallibiya party at night aboard (overnight in Luxor) horse carriage to Temple
4/11/97 Colossi of Memnon, West Bank-->El-Bahri(3 temples include Mentuhotep I, Hatshepsut and Thutmose III)-->Valley of Kings (3 tombs include Tomb of Thutmosis III, Tomb of Ramesses VI and Tomb of Ramesses IX)--> Luxor local market (overnight in Luxor) don't go to see Valley of Queens : - ((
4/12/97 Luxor Temple-->Karnak Temple--> Luxor Museum-->plane back to Cairo (overnight in Le Meridien Hotel, Cairo) President Suite in hotel ;-)
4/13/97 President Sadat Memorial Place-->stay alone in Cairo-->settle down in Venus Hotel-->revisit Egyptian Museum-->Khan-el-Khalili-->Cairo Tower-->Opera Complex-->hotel try shisha in Khalili (not bad ;P)
4/14/97 train to Alexandria-->Graeco-Roman museum--> Amiptheatre-->Royal Jewelry Museum-->Qaitbay Fort-->Abu el-Abbas el-Mursi Mosque --> Garden Palace, Helnan Palatine Hotel-->bus back to Cairo nice Mediterranean seashore!
4/15/97 Railway Museum in Cairo-->downtown Cairo-->Islamic Arts Museum--> Cairo general post office--> Shopping Mall-->hotel  
4/16/97 metro (out Mari Girgis Station) to Copt, Old Cairo-->Coptic Museum-->Babylon Fort-->St. George church-->St. Mary's church-->St. Sergius Church-->metro back to downtown Cairo-->Tahrir Square free admission for churches
4/17/97 bus trip to Sinai (from 10 am to 12 midnight) a hard day! :-((
4/18/97 St. Catherine Monastery-->Mt Sinai-->Duhab, Red Sea (overnight) 
4/19/97 Taba border-->Eilat, Israel-->Tel-Aviv (stay in friend's home) 
4/20/97 Jaffa/Yaffo old city  
4/21/97 downtown Tel-Aviv-->Dizenoff Road + shopping-->Passover dinner with friend's family-->Jaffa/Yaffo at night  
4/22/97 Opera Tower + shopping  
4/23/97 Ussishkin Street for shopping-->Jerusalem--> West Jerusalem (old walled city)--> Zion Gate-->Western Wall -->Windmill  
4/24/97 Shalom Tower Observatory-->flea bazaar nearby-->En Gendi, Dead Sea  
4/25/97 Galilee-->Tiberias-->Capernum-->Haifa-->Tel-Aviv  
4/26/97 Jerusalem-->Jaffa Road-->Jaffa Gate-->Jewish, Amenian, Muslim, Christian Quarters-->Bet Shean Border-->Amman, Jordan  
4/27/97 Roman Theatre in Amman-->Dead Sea in Jordan-->Madaba-->Mt. Nebo-->Greek Orthodox Church of St. George-->Amman  
4/28/97 Petra  
4/29/97 Petra + Wadi Mousa  
4/30/97 Aqaba-->ferry to Nuweiba-->bus to Cairo  
5/1/97 Cairo Airport-->Dubai-->Singapore  
5/2/97 Singapore Changi Airport-->Orchard Road-->Marina Bay-->Raffle's Hotel-->Merlion Park-->Clarke Quay  
5/3/97 National Museum-->Arts Museum-->Sentosa-->World Trade Centre-->Little India (Serangoon Road) 
5/4/97 Singapore-->Taiwan  

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Travel Tips:

  1. Bring more $$ :cash, credit card (Visa is more popular) or traveller's cheque (American Express or Citibank are ok). Exchange money with government-owned banks because they have slightly better rates. Credit cards are popular in Israel, but in Egypt and Jordan, only big hotels and shops (i.e expensive places) accept them. Cash advance by credit card is easy in Israel, as there are many ATM (automatic teller machine), but in Egypt and Jordan, only big cities have such a service. In Amman, you can go to the British Bank, in Petra go to the Housing Bank.

  2. Have a flexible schedule: when I was in Cairo, the locals told me from Cairo to Sinai was a 5-hour trip, but I spent total 14 hours!! though our bus was repaired on the road which took 3 hours ; (( Also, planes are always delayed in Egypt. And remember, not much transport from Friday to Saturday.

  3. Be in a good physical condition: you have to wake up at 3 am to go to Abu-Simbel, or start climbing Mt. Sinai at 2 am, To save money and time I always ate one proper meal per day.

  4. Avoid eating raw foods, like salad, raw meat, etc in Egypt and Jordan. I once ate the salad at the 5-star Sheraton Hotel in Luxor, still felt uncomfortable afterwards.

  5. Always drink lots liquid, even you're not thirsty. Only drink sealed bottles of mineral water (about LE2 for 1-litre). You can also try the lemonade or sugar cane juice, they're delicious and cheap. (LE0.5 per glass)

  6. ISIC (International Student Identity Card) is useful in Egypt, as most museums, temples, or train service have discounts. (mostly 50% off).

  7. It's safe to travel in Egypt or Jordan alone, because the muslims seldom rob, murder or rape tourists, they just CHEAT. So be smart! In Israel, don't go to those border places, or places of public disturbances as they're dangerous. Consult local travel agents if you have doubt.

  8. Departure tax and visa charge: In Taba, Egypt, the re-enter visa costs LE13.75, the departure tax is LE2. The departure tax in Israel is NIS54. In Jordan, different visa charges for different nationalities, ranges from free to JD30. Mainland China is JD8, Taiwan passport and Hongkong CI are JD2, but holding Hongkong BNO(British Nationalities Overseas), I was treated as the Brit, which charged JD23!! (Geez, I am 100% Chinese!!) The departure tax depends on the transportation, by air is JD10, by sea JD6, by road JD4.

  9. Being a tourist to buy things in Egypt, you must bargain. Most prices will be marked up much higher, so you should bargain MORE than 50% off. It's better to have a male friend when bargaining, because Arabians don't like to bargain with women.

  10. Egyptians always like to ask for 'baksheesh' (i.e. tips). They will try to help you in all means, even if you don't need help. To go to W.C. (toilet), you have to pay tips of at least LE0.5. In those tourist places, if someone wants to offer you help or sell you something you aren't interested in, just keep smiling and shake your head or say 'nay' (i.e NO), or simply keep silent, but don't be angry or annoyed.

  11. In Egypt and Jordan, men show more respects to married women or women wearing the veils. They will give seats to women, especially who are carrying kids. To protect myself, I used a scarf to cover my hair and wore a wedding ring, so as to avoid harassment.

  12. Taking a taxi in Egypt and Jordan can be a tough task. First of all, ask the big hotel or tourist office for the usual charge of the trip, then prepare enough tender money (i.e no need for change). Deal the price with the taxi drivers, as they seldom charge according to the meters. Clearly state what you require: places you want stop (if you plan to go several places in the same ride), or whether they need to wait for you while you are taking photos, etc. Always pay them after finishing the whole trip, and sometimes (or usually) they will ask for more, then you just pay them the exact amount and leave the car instantly.

  13. Remember to bring more films, as they're expensive in the Middle East, especially the tourist places. If you bring the video recorder, you have to register the series number at Custom Department. You have to pay a fee for taking photos or video in most museums and temples in Egypt (usually camera is LE5, video recorder is LE20). For those monuments with paints on them, you're not permitted to use FLASH, or your negative will be confiscated. (of course, the almighty $$ can solve almost every problem here ;P)

Cheating Experience in Egypt ~

  1. When our packed tour was in Luxor, the hawker chased after us to sell stone statues. After bargaining, my friend bought 3 of them for LE2, but when he checked the statues later, the sizes of them were smaller than he was shown before!

  2. After settling down in the Venus hotel, I walked to the Egyptian museum (just 15-min walk). While I was on my way, a local guy asked me where to go, so I said 'museum'. Then he told me it was closed now and would be open again at 15.00. I was not sure if the museum had siesta time. He then invited me to go into his papyrus outlet at the basement and offered me tea, asked me if I had anything to EXCHANGE for the picture. Actually I wasn't really interested in that, because my brother bought lots of them last year when he travelled to Egypt. But as I was inside his shop in the basement, just a single girl, I didn't want to offend him...he was so eager for the exchange that he even searched my bag! He liked my sunglasses, the walkman and the camera, however, all these were necessities in my trip. At last he took my chocolate and pushed me hard to buy pictures... they all were not painted on real papyrus! However, being afraid of my personal safety, I just chose a black-colour-background picture with pharaoh Tutankhamon and his wife. He asked for LE50, I should ask for only LE10, but I just had US$10-banknote left... finally I bought it with US$10, while later my friend told me it's only valued LE5! And I also found out that the open time of Egyptian museum was from 8am to 5pm, no siesta break.

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Travel in Egypt~

After the 10-day packed tour, I stayed alone in Cairo, and called up my powwow friend, Mohammed Wahed, who is living in Cairo. We went shopping in Khan-el-Khalili where I bought some perfume bottles, silverware, wooden box decorated with mother of pearl. Then we went to the local 'coffee shop' to taste the shisha. There's a coffee shop at the left side alley of Khan-el-Khalili called El-Fishawi, it's the gathering place for Cairo intellectuals(as the guide book says). One shisha was about LE3, and tasted like hashish. After that, we went to Cairo Tower to view the beautiful night scenery of downtown. It was 187 m high, with the rotation restaurant at the top floor. But as the admission fee was LE18 (no discount for student) and the menu price of the restaurant was as high as the Tower, we just took some photos outside, save some bucks ;P

I took metro (i.e subway) to travel around in Cairo, only LE 0.5 per trip. I went to Ramses Station, At-Tahrir Square (just next to the Hilton Hotel, nearby was the bus station to Sinai), Islamic Arts Museum, etc. Don't miss visiting Copt in Old Cairo area. Just leave at Mari Girgis station, and visit the Coptic Museum (LE18 for adult), which has the collections from the ancient christian period. Also see the Babylon Fort, St. Mary's church, St. George church, St. Barbara's church, etc. St. Sergius church is the place for the holy family stayed after they had escaped to Egypt. All these churches have free admission. I spent a whole morning there, and it still was not enough time!

It's worthwhile spending at least 1 day in Alexandria (the locals call it Alex). I took a 2-hour train trip from Cairo to Alex(LE46 for adult) to visit my other powwow friends, Mohamed Mousa and his wife, Emen. They're very kind and hospitable. I liked this place as it's more pleasant than the noisy Cairo. We went to visit Roman Amphitheatre, Abu el-Abbas el-Mursi, Graeco-Roman Museum (LE18), Royal Jewelry Museum (LE20), Citadel of Qaitbay, etc. Citadel was constructed in 15th century, on the original place of famous Pharos Lighthouse (one of the seven ancient wonders, which was built in 3rd century, BC by Ptolemy). Nowadays no trace of the lighthouse is left, only the nice Mediterranean sea remains unchanged. The Mohamed couple even invited me to their home, it's not really big, but it's cozy. They left me a nice impression of Alex! : -))

BUT a horrible thing happened when I took the bus from Alex back to Cairo. It was already 10pm, and I was tired and sleepy. I was arranged to sit in the first row, and there was an old gentleman sitting next to me. He was very polite at first, telling me he's some kind of professor or manager (I really forgot, as I was so sleepy at that time!!). We chatted for a while and then I really felt sleepy and closed my eyes. Suddenly I felt his hand was moving too close to me, almost touching my thigh. I was surprised to meet such an old PERVERT, but as I was travelling alone, I didn't know who I could ask for help. Therefore, I just put my bag between us so that he couldn't touch me anymore, but he spoiled my sleep already *pissed off* More funny was that before he left the bus, he told me to find him again as he lived near Giza pyramids, he could be my guide...well, I think he's kinda SICK! ;-<

The last day I stayed in Cairo was the Sacrifice Day, i.e to celebrate the occasion when Abraham devoted his son Isaac to God. Every household killed a sheep, one third given to their friends, one third to the poor, and the left one third for their own use. When I took the elevator, or walked on the street, there were blood spots everywhere, just like those murder scenarios ;-p

I took bus to St. Catherine Monastery, Sinai at At-Tahrir Square. The trip was supposed to be 9 hours, but as the bus needed repairing on the road (which was not uncommon), I got into the bus at 10am and finally arrived in Sinai at midnight! A HORRIBLE incident happened: when we were in the bus, the service boy gave us each a lunch box which included some biscuits, bread, snacks and a can of soda. So we ate. Then when we left the bus, we were asked for LE15 for the lunch box. Besides those local Egyptian passengers (they didn't take the box, they ate their own prepared lunch), all foreigners (a German couple, 2 Polish girls and me) didn't pay. We argued that they never told us we have to pay for lunch box, and we assumed that it's included in the bus ticket price...etc. Finally, 2 Polish girls and I agreed to pay LE10 for 3 lunches. The service boy was angry and ready to cry, because he said if we didn't pay him LE15 for each lunch, he had to pay the amount by himself as the price was set up by the bus company. We girls just decided to leave, but suddenly he grabbed a piece of my luggage and I was scared. Luckily the 2 polish girls helped me, kept arguing with the boy, and finally the Egyptian passengers paid the rest amount for us. Afterwards, the Polish girls told me that they were angry for the German couple because they didn't pay, nor helped me, but just ran away. Well, sometimes it's hard to count on others, especially in your time of need.

As it's already midnight when we arrived in Sinai, all restaurants and hotels were closed. We 3 girls were lucky enough to find a restaurant owned by Ramedan, who was really kind. He let us put our luggage into his room, cooking some spaghetti and hot tea for us. He even lent me his jacket and scarf as I didn't bring enough clothes, what a nice guy! After a short rest, we started climbing Mt. Sinai. As we didn't know the way, we just wandered around the monastery for almost an hour, and finally at 2.00am, some tours started the trip. We followed them and started climbing from monastery (1545 m above sea level) to the 2250-m Sinai summit. After an hour, I felt so tiresd, cold, drizzy that I thought I might be buried with the Ten Commandments (I'm not kidding!!). Actually on the way there were lots Bedouins and camels waiting to serve you, but it's more satisfying to walk on one's foot! After 3 hours of walking, we eventually reached the mountain summit, while lots other people had already slept here, waiting for the sunrise. I didn't have my sleeping bag, so I just sat on the rock, feeling almost frozen and very weary. Luckily I found there's a hut nearby, and I got inside and had some hot tea. In less than an hour, the sun came out and we just kept taking pictures... after 30 minutes, we took another 3 hours to climb down the mountain. Well, I think it's worthwhile climbing only ONCE!

After arriving back at the Monastery (Friday morning), we were not lucky enough to see the interior of it, because its open time was Monday to Thursday, 08.00 to 12.00, so we just went back to Ramenden's restaurant, chatting with him. He was kind enough to arrange the transport for us (as on Fridays, not much transportation here). Finally I got into a minibus with 2 French girls, and went to Dahab in Red Sea (LE25). You may also choose to go Nuweiba, Sharm El-Sheikh, or Ras Mohammed to enjoy the Red Sea but Dahab is the cheapest. El-Salam Camp(located at the right hand side of beach) costs only LE5 per night. It's really a nice place to relax.

Impression of Egypt ~

The concept of TIME for Egyptians should be quite different from ours, maybe it's because of their 8,000 years' history?? ;-p. Their 1-minute may be 30 mins for us, their 1 hour may be half a day, if they ask you to wait for few hours, you better plan to stay overnight. eg. In Cairo, I was told that the bus trip to Sinai was 5-hour, but it turned out to be 14-hour (though I had waited 3 hours for bus repairing); In Luxor, we bought the cartouche (the silver plate with your name in hieroglyph), the owner told us just to wait 30-min, but at last we waited for more than 2 hours. In Nuweiba when I was waiting for the x-ray to check luggage in Custom Department, I asked the officials how long I would have to wait, they told me just 15 mins. After 30 mins, I asked again, and they still told me 15 mins...at the end I waited for 2 hours, just for turning the machine on! However, I think they're quite efficient this time (hehe...)

Bargaining can be an art or hell in Egypt. I ever had to bargain for the mineral water once! Usually the shop owner will invite you into his shop, then offer you tea, and they like chatting lots before bargaining. Later they will tell you that as you're their friend (they always do!), they will offer you some discounts. However, you MUST still bargain much lower. The key point is never show your interest at the goods, or you won't get a good price. Better to have a male friend discussing the price with Arabian guys, as they don't like discussinos with women!

The food in Egypt is quite ok, especially the meat kebab (chicken, meat and lamb, no pork as muslim country). They also have lots appetizers (mezzi as they called) made of bean, eggplants, yogurt, etc, which are delicious. I was told once: if a girl doesn't know 101 ways to cook bean and eggplant, they're not ready to marry.

Egypt is famous not only for their historical monuments, but also its horrible traffic. Every day except holidays, from 6am to 10pm, you can hear the horn sound from the busy roads. Donkeys and horse-carriages use the same road with all other vehicles, everyone crosses street by their own ways. You can hardly find any nice cars on the road, most are old and dirty, and they seldom have air-conditioning. The terrible traffic here reminded me of the chaotic traffic of Taiwan! ; (

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Travel in Israel ~

After relaxing one night in Dahab, Red Sea, I shared a taxi with 4 other guys (each LE25) the next morning to go to Taba border point. It's about 2 hours, then I encountered one of the strictest border points in the world in Israel. Most staff there were girls (as in Israel, both males and females have to do military service, so I guess this less-physical demanding work is mostly done by girls). After the border point I was in Eilat, one of the beach resort area in Israel. Being in Israel, I could feel the total difference between the Arabian countries and Israel. Israel was more advanced, compared to its adjacent countries. Transportation in Israel was convenient, from the border point there's the bus no. 16, every half hour which goes to the downtown of Eilat, where you could find the Egged Bus terminals, and from there, you could go to other main cities in Israel.
No. 15 Taba Terminal
No. 16 Arava Terminal
No. 394 Eilat to Tel-Aviv
No. 444 Eilat to Jerusalem via Dead Sea, Arava
No. 991 Eilat to Haifa
No. 998 Kiryat Shmona via Bet Shean Tiberias
But as I was so worried, I just took a taxi from the border to downtown (NIS20) instead of a bus. The interesting thing was that I didn't have Israeli shekels, and it was Saturday, the bank was closed, so I went to a hotel in Eilat (Prince Hotel, I think) to ask cashier to change some shekels. She told me that as I was not the hotel guest, she couldn't help me. So I found a hotel guest in lobby to help me to exchange money for me, then I was told as that guest was an Israeli, not a tourist, she couldn't change the US dollar either! When I was almost worried to death, I tried to ask another hotel guest if he's willing to change US20 for me personally, thanks god, finally I got NIS 70. The staff told me the bus trip from Eilat to Tel-Aviv would not be more than NIS45,so I just used NIS 20 for the taxi. But when I was in Eilat bus terminals, I was told the fee was NIS54! So I didn't have enough cash...luckily I asked the guy behind me to lend (actually give ;->)me NIS4 and I could buy the ticket at last.

My bus was at 5pm, so I had more than an hour left. I ate my lunch in a restaurant and paid with credit card. Though I knew the submarine observatory was famous, I didn't have any cash to go (I forgot that I could use ATM to cash advance ;<)so I just waited in the terminals, seeing the hippies playing here and the armed soldiers walking around...and finally it was 5pm, I was ready to get on the bus, but then I was told it's already 6pm!! (Oh, my God!!) I never realized there's an hour difference in time between Egypt and Israel! (Is it because of the summer and winter time? I don't know )I was quite worried, as I had no cash to buy another ticket, and there were so many people here in the bus stop. Finally the driver was kind enough to let me sit in the first row. The 5-hour bus trip stopped twice on the way, to let people eat things. As I didn't have cash, and my biscuit was in the luggage which was now in the bus cabinet, I had nothing to eat but just drank water. Eventually I met my friend Assaf in Tel-Aviv at 11pm. What a long long day!

I really like Israel, as in different places you can see different scenes: In Tel-Aviv, you can see all specially designed buildings, like the wave shape of the bus stop, or the step shape of the commercial building, but in the nearby old city Jaffa/Yofo, you can find the houses and roads made of rock brick. In Jerusalem, although all buildings are built by the white limestone/dolomite rock (most are from Judean mountains, the most famous ones are from Hebron), you can still recognise the 3 religions' constructions: Jewish synagogue, Muslim mosque and Christian church. In the old walled city of Jerusalem, you can always see the traditional Jewish men, wearing the black robe, black hat with the long beard, walking thru those muslims who are wearing light colour gallibiya, white hat, and with all tourists coming from the all over the world with colorful clothing walking together, it's really an interesting picture. In North of Israel, i.e Galilee and Tiberias, you can see the green farmland and the lake, reminding you of all the miracles performed by Jesus Christ, it's really nice to visit. Even you're not a religious person, you can try the local delicious fish!

Jerusalem was the capital of Israel, though it's not recognized by most countries, the parliament (the Knesset) and the government office were located here. Not matter what, it's the Holy City. To visit the Western Wall/Wailing Wall, males had to cover their heads, there were the paper hats prepared for the tourists. You could write down your wish on a paper, and place it in the gaps between the rocks, like what the locals did. Now they also provide an internet service, you can send your wish via email (http://join.virtual.co.il/) and the people in Jerusalem will print it out for you, and stick it into the Western Wall's rock, they even guarantee the confidentiality of your secret. ;-) Well, I think I better send a wish hoping for the peace and harmony back again in the Holy City!

When travelling in Jerusalem, I went into the old city via the Zion gate. Near the car park, there were some shops which sold the coloured picture books of Israel, for just NIS30, while in other places it's NIS39-45, and they had almost all different language versions. The ceramic souvenirs were also priced reasonably cheap here, but they only accepted cash. I also bought the nice-looking Jerusalem glowing candle. From the Jaffa Gate into the old city, there's a stationary shop near the Tower of David, which was operated by the christians, and here I bought the Dead Sea mud (brand name was Eden), for NIS18.

I also visited Capernaum, Sea of Galilee, Tiberias and Haifa, which were in the northern part. While in the central part of Israel, I spent most of my time in Tel-Aviv, which was a big city and business centre, and most foreign embassies were here, too. It's located along the coastal area, and Jaffa old city was nearby, where the miracle of Jonah happened: he sailed from the port here, and was swallowed by a big fish. After 3 days and nights he was still alive. Nowadays Jaffa is the hub for the artists, and there're lots galleries, art museums, etc. I also went to Shalom Tower Observatory in downtown Tel-Aviv, which was the highest building in Israel, and saw the bird view of Israel. And there're some colourful mosaics at the ground floor of Shalom Tower, which are about the history of Israel and it's worthy for a look too!

When I stayed in Israel, it was the time of Passover/Pessah which was to memorize Moses who led the Israeli slaves from Egypt, went thru the Red Sea and Sinai desert and finally reached the promised land (the land of milk and honey). The Pessah lasted for a week, and it's time for family reunion. On the day before Pessah, the family members gathered together to enjoy the meal, and before dining, they recited the history of the Pessah. For the meal, they ate roast sheep, matzah and the bitter herbs, and most dishes were cooked in simple way, like boiling in water, etc. They seasoned with salt water when serving so as to add some taste. During this week, they ate matzah which tasted like cracker (quite nice).

Impression of Israel ~

Compared with the neibouring Arabian countries, Israel was more advanced. I asked my Israeli friend Amir why, he told me: "because in Israel we don't have natural resources, we don't have many historical monuments, we only have our brains." It seemed quite true to me, especially since the Jewish are well-known for their ways of doing business! When I bought clothes in Israel, the shop owners always introduced some accessories or other things to match my clothes, so my advise is: you MUST have strong will or you'll be broke from shopping in Israel ;-P

Some restaurants in Israel provide 'kosher', which is the meal for the traditional Jewish. They don't eat shell food or pork, and the milk products and meat products are eaten separately(at least 6 hours), as it's the rule mentioned in the old testament, they even use separate utensils!

Israel has some advanced services, like in the gas station, you don't have to pay by cash or credit card, you just use the company name to apply from the gas station, then you will be installed a device in the car engine which will record the charge, and your bank account will be debited. Israeli stamps are like stickers, so you don't have to find anyone's saliva to stick them anymore ;->. Also they use the most advanced Artificial Intelligent software to read the handwriting address, therefore, sorting mailings is no longer by hand.

Israel is a religion-freedom country, and each religion has different holidays: Muslim is Friday, Jewish is Friday evening (sunset) to Saturday evening, Christian is Sunday. Most bank opens from Monday to Friday morning, some may have services in the afternoon. ATM's are common in Israel, and most shops accept credit cards, even some hawkers. Clothes custom is not a problem in Israel, as shorts, miniskirt or low cut are OK, just have to pay attention when you go to the religious places. Most Israeli are really fashionable, even those male and female soldiers (males for 3 years, females for 2 years), will have kewl sunglasses with them.

Only told Israeli people to obey the customs of passover, He also asked them to put a sign on the door, because He was going to execute the first born children and the first born animals in Egypt. Even nowadays, you can find the decorated bar on the door side for the memory of this event.

After traveling in Israel, you can go to Jordan via 3 border points: Bet Shean in the northern part, Allenby Bridge in the middle part, or Eilat in the southern part. And there were also 2 border points to go to Egypt: the north part of Sinai, Rafah or the south part of Sinai, Taba. Each border point has different opening time, so better phone before you go. You can get the Jordanian visa at the border point, though the Israel side will tell you it's not allowed. I went to Jordan via the Bet Shean point, and after finishing all the customs procedure in Israel, there was a sign asking you to wait for the bus to the Jordan border post. The bus fee was NIS4, but actually it's only few minutes to walk over there, so better save your money and your time! After finishing the customs procedure on the Jordanian side, I found that I was dumped: there's no public transport here, and after trying 15 minutes of hitchhiking, I decided to give up, as most cars here were fully occupied by people or goods. Finally I took the taxi from here to Amman, for about 1.5 to 2 hours trip, and I bargained it for US35. ;-( My suggestion is to visit Jordan from the Allenby Bridge border post, which is near Jerusalem, as it's closest border point to Amman, and the transportation is the best here, too.

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Travel in Jordan ~

Besides Jerash and Kerak, you can also visit Madaba in the northern part of Jordan. From Amman, there's a public bus to go there, but I took a taxi which charged me US50 for the 5-hour trip, including the driver waiting time (and I was cheated by the taxi driver *pissed off *) I went to the Dead sea first, and then to Mt. Nebo, where Moses viewed the Land of Milk and Honey -Canaan here. Nowadays, there's a unique-designed cross situated here to commemorate him. Besides, there're lots of churches worth visiting, and I saw many colourful mosaics, especially the one in Greek Orthodox church of St. George, which was an ancient map about the locations of Jerusalem, Dead Sea, Mt. Sinai, Mediterranean sea, etc, it's great!

I took JETT from Amman to Petra, spending 2 days in Petra ( admission fee for 1-day JD20, 2-day JD25, 3-day JD30). Petra was the ancient crusade's capital, it's called Red City by locals and was more popular because of the film 'Indiana Jones: Last Crusade'. When I saw the pink treasury and the grand monastery, they're really amazing!! The famous souvenirs in Petra were the colourful sand jars, which were made of the colouful rocks/sand in Petra. It's cheaper to buy them with hawkers in the Petra than in shops, but always remember to BARGAIN!

Lastly I went to Aqaba, which was the only port of Jordan, it's a nice resort place for the Red Sea too. If you have time, you should go Wadi Rum, which is the shooting location of the famous film 'Lawrence of Arabia'. I just stopped at Aqaba for a morning, then went to Nuweiba, and then to Cairo to take my return plane to Singapore.

You can take JETT (the tourist bus) to go Petra from Amman, JD5.5 for a 4.5-hour trip, the trip to Aqaba needs 6 hours, but only charges JD4. In Petra, there's the minibus to Aqaba or Wadi Rum, but only available at 6-7am, the 2-hour trip costs JD3. In Aqaba, there's the ferry to Nuweiba, Egypt. You can choose the faster one (JD21, 45 mins trip) or the slower one (JD15, 3 hours trip). Ask the taxi driver and he will bring you to buy the cheaper ticket from the local office, instead of buying the ferry fare at the pier. You can also buy the bus ticket from Nuweiba to Cairo here, for only JD7 (US$10), which is cheaper than buying it in Nuweiba, as it costs LE40 (US$12)! I was told buying the ferry ticket in Nuweiba to Aqaba was also more expensive too!

Impression of Jordan ~

The food in Jordan is the most delicious, I think. When I stayed at al-Harmin hotel in Amman, which was just facing the Roman Theatre, there's a roast chicken fast food shop nearby. I ordered the half chicken with rice for JD2, and the owner gave me the soup, salad, french fries and bread for FREE. I was told before that the Jordanians were more hospitable, I thought it's somehow true. Besides, I tried the local bread, which was the chopped onion and meat in peta bread, really delicious and cheap. Moreover, since Amman was located at the highland, the weather was cool in morning and evening, I bought the mint tea from the street boy, who carried the big hot pot and would pour the tea for you, it's nice and cheap too!

Compared to the Egyptians, most Jordanians are helpful and kind, even if you are just window shopping, you're welcome too, as they seldom push you hard to buy things. And they're helpful, you may not required to pay tips! As the government emphasizes tourist industry, if you have any complaints, you can report to the police or the tourist ministry. But of course, not every Jordanian is nice. I was cheated by the taxi driver in Amman, as we agreed for the JD35 for the trip to Madaba at first, but finally he required me to pay JD50!!So for any complaints about taxi driver, you should jot down his license number and report it to the police office, but it usually takes 3 days to handle your case! Many other tourists told me they had the similar cheating experience, so take extra care when dealing with the taxi drivers!

Arabian people were quite interested in me when seeing me as a single Chinese female traveller who could speak english, as most oriental tourists here were from Japan. I was greeted warmly, and when I was asked where from, I told them 'Chinese, Hongkong, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee' as Jacky Chan's film was shown in Egypt when I was in there. But they were more familiar with Bruce Lee! :-P

In the Middle East, they greet friends by kissing on both cheeks, but the local guys won't do so to the local girls, as they're more conservative. But tourists seem to be another way to find girls for the local males :->...so female travelers have to take extra care, if you are not really interested in having Middle East lovers. Arabian people, alike Africans, use their heads to carry the heavy things, like a big luggage or a big basket of bread, and they start training when they're kids.

Arabs, same as our Chinese, also like drinking tea, though their way is not the same as ours. In Jordan, I was shown the method: used the tea herbs from Sri Lanka, added tap water and sugar, crushed sesame seed, thyme, etc to the boiling pot, using the dirty pot might keep the traditional flavour ;-P while Egyptians didn't add sugar till they drank. I found out that the same brand name of the teabag (lipton), in Middle East the flavour was stronger than what I found in Hongkong/ Taiwan, and I had bought one box back, because I like the stronger flavour! ;-))

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Travelogue in Singapore~

Singapore's Changi Airport is well equipped, you can even take shower here for only S$5.15. Besides , it provides free local telephone call inside the airport, but after you go out from the immigration gate, you have to pay for the phone call. There're 2 kinds of phones, coin phone and card phone. Local phone charge is S$0.1 for 3 minutes, and if you don't have the phone card, you can use credit card, but the minimum charge is S$1.0 (can dial IDD). I used my credit card to dial 3 local calls, which charged me S$3.0, that meant 30 times of the usual price! :-<

From the airport, besides using the taxi, you can take the airbus to the main hotels. Adult fee is S$5. Moreover, you can use the local bus, it is charged according to the distance length. Take No. 16 to the Orchard Road, only S$1.1 (S$1.4 for air-con bus). There, you can change MRT to all main tourist places. The fee of MRT ranges from S$0.6 to S$1.6.

To go to Setosa, you can go there by many different ways, e.g, from the Orchard Road there's the tour bus, the fee is S$7.0, including the admission fee of S$5.0, or you can go to World Trade Centre, take the cable car to Sentosa, which charge S$6.5, excluding the admission fee, but you can go to Mt. Faber to get a bird eye view of Singapore's scenery.

Travel in Singapore is really convenient, most local guys can speak english, cantonese, mandarin, etc, so communication is no problem. The transport is also well organised. In the airport, you will find the useful tourist information, both in english and chinese. At the famous Raffle's Hotels, there's a tourist office on the second floor, don't forget to visit the classic decorated toilet next to it! And the third floor is the museum of the hotel, where you can find out many celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, George Bush, etc have once stayed in this 19th century-built beautiful hotel.

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