The voyage began in a midst, a void time-space miraculously inhabited by armed guards, taxi drivers and few tourists. In juxtaposition to the Red Sea: Eilat, the Southernmost part of Israel, the Holy Land, going into Egypt, into the Sinai Penninsula. The strange political threshold, my other American companion as the only familiar factor I knew.
My passport was stamped, handled, examined, scanned, judged, questioned by many hands, eyes and computers until I finally regained existence in a materialized country, out of the virtual teleport. But I didn’t know whether it was part of Africa or the Middle East-and it had been Egypt’s, then Israel’s, and now Egypt’s. No one who lives there calls themselves Egyptians, but Bedouins, how interesting, not knowing really where I was or what part of the world I was in, even if I saw it represented on a map in a legitimately published book earlier that day.
Egypt-or Sinai-or Bedouin Land-wherever I was. Approached by four mysterious men, dressed in full-length pressed button up robe suits to guard themselves from the intense sun beaming heat as they competed for our attention to ride their taxis. This form of communication meant haggle, haggle, your price is too high! No, Happy Hour! Special Price just for YOU! Made a deal still unsure of the real currency exchange but scrambled into the designated vehicle with that feeling of being cheated in my stomach.
Off we went, pull into yet another checkpoint, more guards to examine us, as we’re not even twenty yards away…
What country? America. America?! Disapproving facial expression with raised eyebrows from the armed roadway authority figure, prejudiced against us for our nationality yet handling the essential documents that were our only real tickets out of his land.
Fee handed to him, passed through, in this rumbling stick shift van, strange driver I’d never trust, static-infested Arabic radio music sometimes made way into our bubble of civilization, this car, an engineered and manufactured modern product, traveling against seemingly uncivilized territories.
Up we zoomed, gear shift down, loop we went, gear shift up, desert sun was setting but there still was a clearly defined contrast of the ruby or terra cotta earth of sharp hills and rocks against the striking blue splashes of the Red Sea of to the left of our visual consciousness. Driver tried to exchange our Israeli shekels for Egyptian pounds, aggressively holding the wad of cash back over his shoulder. Obviously a horrible deal, a rip off, haggle time, no escape from him. We didn’t know where we were, even less sure of where we were going, even that he tried to argue with us and take us to a different place! Just knew that we were in an internal combustion engine, a trap yet a shelter from whatever is out there.
Ragged rocky mountains’ abyss soon bypassed villages on the right, huts made of collected metal sheets and tents made of weathered tarps held up and down by rocks. A single camel per village or villa, tied by a shoddy rope, moving its mouth in a circular motion but otherwise still and bored out of its mind, tired of its lifestyle of storing its own personal water in this desert, this salt water territory.
The salty sea to the left, lots of resorts, some Marriots or Hiltons, I familiarized myself with before-seen corporate logos for pseudo comfort. But many resorts were unfinished. Many were half built, just lonesome frames or foundations, almost civilization based wide-open caves of giant windows, where doors had never been put up.
A camel, the sea, the rocks, the hills, the villas, the resorts, the abandoned resort or the half finished resort, barely any traffic, barely any people out in the open. I didn’t believe our driver was obeying the traffic laws, but how should I have known, all of the signs were in metric or Arabic, and I was just so not adapted as a secluded wanderer in a car in the Sinai Peninsula.
Finally arrived at our campground destination as the sun set, having whirled and twirled in any way imaginable. Stepped outside of the unforgettable white van on to the ruby and terra cotta clustered or sandy earth, where I finally dictated my own movement the first time in this land, no guards, no border patrol, no cab drivers.
Camp was a simple resort of huts and carpets in between two other abandoned hut camps, same structure, yet eerily unkempt. Sun disappeared downward over the red, dry hills of Saudi Arabia across the water, which could have possibly supplied the oil of a recently finished eccentric automobile journey.