I was actually able to get out of town this weekend. As I might have mentioned, the key to maintaining your sanity in Jerusalem is to get out early and often! And this weekend, we made it to Taba, just across the border in Egypt.
If the name Taba sounds familiar to you, it is because that is the resort terrorists blew up a couple years ago. We stayed at the Hilton Nelson Village, which is next to what was blown up but was not damaged in the attack. Security there is pretty tight now, and they have basically erected a small mountain around the back side of the resport and no cars are allowed near the front side. So we felt perfectly safe.
I have to say that crossing the border there is a bit different than our experience crossing into Jordan at the Allenby Crossing. While Jordan and Egypt both have peace treaties with Israel, Jordan does not officially recognize the crossing at the West Bank as a border with Israel. So you go through the Israeli side, which is very efficient and straight forward, then you drive through a long DMZ before hitting the Jordanian side. That side you could basically drive right past, but hey, since you decided to stop, let's have tea while we stamp your passport.
At Taba, the border gates are right next to each other. There is a space of about one car-length between the gates, basically so you can have your car checked by the side you are crossing into. The border guards chat with each other easily, and interestingly enough, in English as a common language, wandering back and forth across the line. And the Egyptian side is more organized than the Jordanian side at Taba, though as a diplomat you still get escorted through (often, but not always, guided to the head of any lines) and you have the feeling tea could be offered at any moment (have I mentioned how much I just love Arab hospitality? And I can't tell you how many times I heard "Diplomat from America? I LOVE America!" As "the consul" (vice consul actually) I got really good treatment because they know consuls give visas!).
Anyway, back to Nelson Village. The resort is right on the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea. Now this is why I had to mention that my dad rocks. The water immediately in front of the resort is full of coral reefs. A while back, my dad got me a snorkle and mask because I had said it was something I was interested in doing. I had never had a chance to give it a test run until this weekend. It fit great and according to a friend who went with us (who snorkles a lot and is a certified scuba diver) it is a really good quality mask (Thanks Dad!!). It was awesome, and made snorkling an amazing experience! The fish we got to see were incredible. The colors were stunning! I can't wait to go back and do it again. I may even get an underwater digital camer to take some shots.
I did take some pictures of the hotel and of the fish coming right to the edge of the water.
A word to the wise though. Always use sunscreen...you lose track of how long you have been in the water watching the fish and can get a really nasty sunburn that hurts like h*ll. Don't ask how I know that.
This is the view from our hotel room.
These are the fish that come right up to the edge.
Even the camel thought it was hot!