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To Amman by plane

I do not leave the same way I came....

By boat, I arrived to Nweiba 27 days ago; a Bedouin named Farraj took me Southward, to the city of Gold.
Today I leave the city heading to Sharm Al Sheikh - also southbound, but this time, it's to board a plane. The cab driver is Egyptian, I do not know his name.

I was supposed to leave two days ago, but "the fast boat Maritime is not running anymore" said the unfriendly man behind the counter at the Nuweiba port. Great! I hopped back on the bike, wrapped my arms around Apollo and headed back home to Assala, with a smile on my face. "اجت منهم مش مني" but knowing I have to be back sooner or later, I booked a flight for the next day. The next morning, while brushing my teeth before heading out the door, I got a call: "The flight to Amman has been cancelled, not enough people to operate a plane." Toothpaste dripped down my chin. I did not smile, I laughed out loud, "You'd think I'm not meant to leave this place!"

The universe gifted me with two extra days guilt-free, I spent them in leisure, watching the moon rise and wane. Last night, it rose above a sea that looked completely still, casting a thick beam on a glass surface. Aphrodite's waves of the past two days had subsided, so she stood calmly at the seashore, washing her feet with the foam, squatting down to pee in the Sea, washing her vagina with salt water.

Today .... I stop by Mashraba to say goodbye to the boys, for the third time. But like the boy who cried wolf, we don't take the farewell too seriously, thinking we'll be rolling together later in the evening.

The Taxi driver arrives exactly on time. He shakes my hand with crusty fingers; he smiles revealing a bad set of teeth. He carries my backpack and places it gently in the trunk, asking me "where are you from?" He is originally from Cairo, but has been in Dahab for 20 years.

"How is the situation like in Jordan" he asks. I begin telling him about how our King has changed the Government, but he interrupts me "But do the people want the government to change or the King." Long pause. "The people are asking for reform," I say, "teachers are on strike because they want the right to form a Union, some tribes and political figures are calling for changing Jordan to a constitutional monarchy."

My mind drifts back .... I think of the debates I used to have with my previous boss in San Francisco, he was a proponent of constitutional monarchies, but I was against. "What are the options we have" I would tell him "it's either the brotherhood or the tribes." He'd call me an anti-democratic royalist. "People would beat each other up for a few years, but then they will settle down and have a true democracy." he would say. But I was not convinced, "Democracy per se, does not work in the Middle East, it does not work ... look at Iraq, look at Hamas ... this is our democracy." I had little faith in the people then, I preferred a benevolent dictatorship, but now ....

The taxi driver interrupts my thoughts. "Are people as oppressed in your country as they are here?" he asks. "We face similar problems," I say, "corruption, stealing, and an unjust distribution of wealth, but at least our citizens are treated with more respect- to some degree." He tells me about the tyranny of the police, and adds:

"The police are now on strike, they want a raise in pay... They don't have a drop of decency- they have been abusing us for all these years, and now want to reap the harvest. The people who started the revolution are the same people the police were beating up and throwing in jails. They're polite now, the police. Before, when we passed through the check points to Sharm, they'd ask for a carton of cigarettes, a 100 pounds, sandwiche, whatever ... like bandits. True, they did not get paid well enough and need to make a living, but we need to make a living too."

The driver takes an alternate road to Sharm, he drives through Wadi Gnai between the mountains in a narrow winding road. It's more scenic and shorter in distance. "We'll take the Jadeed road to Sharm, because this way we avoid the main checkpoint" he says. "The Bedouins are now in control of the Sinai. They are squatted next to the police with their weapons and drugs. No military presence is allowed in the Sinai, this is a problem. The armed forces are good, they are kind to the people, but the Bedouins here are like mafias. They say they are at the checkpoints to protect the Southern Sinai from the Bedouins of Al-Areesh, but that' nonsense. There are no Arayesh here. They just want to take control of Sinai and get the Egyptians out. They do not want any Egyptian to drive a taxi, they give us a hard time at the crossings before letting us pass. But I believe that God is great, and that things will turn to the better."

We pass through the Wadi Gnei check point, which is entirely manned by Sinai police. I think of my trip up to Mt Moses two weeks back, and the Bedouins squatting at the crossing to St. Catherine's. I think of my first blog in the Sinai, talking about the Bedouins of the South and those of al-Areesh. There are many versions to the truth, but the 'truth' seems less interesting than the here-say of the people. I wonder to myself: since there is no government or official police, and since the Bedouins are at the borders and they control the hasheeh, why has it been so dry in the city, you'd think everyone would be getting high!

The Taxi driver and I continue our drive to Sharm in silence. I arrive and board the plane for a 50 minute air-trip. We're served juice and a muffin upon boarding, with hardly any time to clear it before landing. Thankfully, the Arabic culture of 'feeding' has surpassed the Western hunger for capital and starving people to death in the airline industry.

This journey to the Sinai has ended, but the stories continue to pour....



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