June 4, 2009

Nuweiba to Cairo by Bus
Giza, Egypt

We said our heartfelt goodbyes to Nasser al-Din and started our travel day off with yet another Sinai Bedouin who tried to guilt us into paying him more than was fair for a trip into central Nuweiba (that he was already en route to without us).

Note: It's always important to exit the transport and secure your bags before paying anyone. If/when there are difficulties, simply go your way.

Turning our backs and walking away from the hollering man the family and I entered the East Delta Bus Company's terminal in a display of indifference that only comes from years of dealing with the same nonsense the world over.

Our East Delta Bus idling during the stop for lunch.

Arriving at 8:15 in the morning we discovered we'd have to wait with the very small gathering of others (that slowly came sauntering in) to be issued tickets.

Eventually a portly Arab fellow with sleep still crusting the corners of his eyes meandered into his dusty booth and took our 120 EGP (US$21.50) for a pair of tickets to Cairo. As usual, children don't pay on transport such as this (as they can be placed on a lap if they're short on seats).

The worn bus departed the station at 9:10 and slowly labored through greater Nuweiba for ten minutes before hitting the highway and speeding north to Taba.

Taba and the Tourist Tax

Regional map showing Taba and Nuweiba

We arrived at the East Delta Bus station in Taba at 10:30 a.m. and began idling and adding a few more passengers into the mix.

I'd placed my family in the front row of the bus (as I typically do), as there's more legroom, closer proximity to the front axle (less bouncing around), a better view, and no one attempting to recline their chair into your chest. This typically only gets weird with a baby when you think about head-on collisions and the lack of seatbelts, or when you've actually got seatbelts and want to keep your toddler fastened up.

As I never stow my backpack out of sight, my bag and our baby supply bag occupied the legroom of the empty seat next to me. Across the aisle Tatiana sat with Aidric, who was taking turns at sitting next to the window and dozing on her lap. We happily occupied these four seats for the duration of the trip to Cairo.

I was particularly apprehensive as we began pulling out of Taba. I'd researched in advance about the special tax levied on travelers here (previously: Jordan to Egypt: Ferry versus Overland Travel), and also read about the recent problems encountered by Wade and his pregnant fiancée on VagabondJourney.com (Sinai Border Exit Tax).

As a family of three, getting pinched by this would mean coughing up a good US$40 for nothing.

Egypt charges every foreigner passing into the Sinai Peninsula via Taba a special 75EGP ($13.30) tax, regardless the type of visa/permit they're traveling on.
(Image courtesy of VagabondJourney.com)

I held my breath as the bus slowed and came to a stop in front of the infamous sign Wade had photographed during his ordeal (the tax came as a surprise to the two).

Ultimately we were happily spared any additional expense, and the bus started back up about as quickly as it had stopped.

But the vehicle stopped again at a final checkpoint on Taba's city limits a few minutes later. It was boarded by Egyptian military officers who inspected our passports for their proper immigration stamps and released back to us without comment.

It was confirmed: The 75 EGP fee is only imposed if you've entered Taba from Israel.

Pharaoh's Island and Sinai Shanty Life

We proceeded south out of Taba (before hooking west), allowing for another glimpse of Pharaoh's Island.

Pharaoh's Island, as seen from our passing bus

In the 12th century, Crusaders defending the route between Cairo and Damascus controlled by the nearby city of Aqaba, now in Jordan, and built a citadel on the small island.

The structure was added onto the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on July 28th, 2003, due to its purported universal cultural value. Because of its location near Jordan and Israel, the island and its coral reefs have become a popular among tourists based in Taba, Eilat, and Aqaba.

And of course, one couldn't help but observe the shanties some folks are living in—many found opposite the multi-star megaresorts built along the sea:

Taba Shanty Homes

UNDER the Suez Canal

Just before 3:00 p.m. we approached the Suez Canal, which could only be identified as such by the massive cargo ships before us (that seemed to glide across the desolate desert dunes).

Cargo ship on the Suez Canal

More than anything I thought it was particularly interesting that we crossed under the canal—the only such crossing of this type along the waterway.

The Ahmed Hamdi Tunnel is an automobile tunnel under the Suez Canal. It has two lanes of traffic, one in each direction, and connects the Asian Sinai Peninsula to the town of Suez on the African mainland. It was originally constructed as a shield tunnel by the British government in 1983. Shortly after the tunnel was completed, leaks were discovered. In 1992, the Japanese government granted aid to a project aimed at rehabilitating the tunnel.

Where Are We? East Delta Bus Company's Cairo Terminal

It took quite a bit of satellite imagery searching to figure out just where the hell in Cairo East Delta Bus dumped us. It was certainly the last stop for the vehicle, which arrived at the station at 4:45 p.m.—some 7½ hours after our departure from Nuweiba.

The precise location of the Abbasiya Bus Terminal (also known as Abasseya or Abbassia or Abbassiiyya) is at 30.067504, 31.292541.

I've also added the location to wikimapia.org, which can be an excellent resource when searching an area for places of interest.

Comments:

Mexico

Wade | Vagabondjourney.com

September 22nd, 2010

Good travel wisdom shared here about caring for your bags. Keep them with you if at all possible.

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

September 22nd, 2010

I'll sacrifice personal space on transport for bag security (peace of mind) 10 times outta 10. But this is where traveling w/ a companion comes in handy, as you don't have to take your entire setup with you when leaving a bus (or whatever) temporarily to eat or use a bathroom.

Turkey

Kurt

October 10th, 2010

Hey Craig! Have found your site a few times for different advice I have needed with visa and passage through Syria. I have a question about the bag, lots of times I find buses make you check it below if its too big. I carry two bags with camera and laptop inside my backpack and just take them out every time so basically nothing too expensive in it. Cheers!

Peru

Craig | travelvice.com

October 10th, 2010

Howdy Kurt, thanks for the note.

You can't let those fellas push you around or guilt you into anything when it comes to your bags. It's your legroom, your money and ultimately your choice. If they don't like it, well, put your hand out for your cash back. You'll see the change in disposition.

I've never had to pay x2 the fare for my bag(s) to ride with me. Back in the day I did stow my kit below and carried the really important stuff in a smaller day-bag, but then ultimately decided that all the stuff in my pack is important, and worth the piece of mind (instead of getting a seat that let me watch the baggage compartment as they unloaded things at 4am on an overnight ride).

Travel safe & good luck.

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