Sunday, August 27, 2006

"Oh...but why go to the Middle East....now?", my aunt asked.

...and the answer was simple. Because I have always wanted to go to see the Sphynx, the Pyramids and Petra and to put my feet in the Dead Sea. Those of you who followed my travels to Peru will know that I have a fascination for ancient civilizations and as far as I'm concerned, Egypt and its ancient past is at the top of my list of places to visit.

However, I fully understood and appreciated my aunt's concern as I had told her of my plans while there was a war raging on in the region between the Israelis and the Hezbollah. Southern Lebanon, which is a Hezbollah stronghold, was essentially under seige by the Israelis and the war showed no signs of abating though diplomats were hard at work to try and negotiate a peaceful end. Although Lebanon does not border either Egypt or Jordan, Israel does share its border with both countries.

Coincidentally, on the very day after I returned from Peru in August 2006, British and American government authorities announced that they had an uncovered yet another a terrorist plot to blow up more planes travelling between the US and the UK. Airports in both countries were initially on high alert and security was tightened to the point where laptops, liquids of any sort and even prescription medication were no longer allowed to be brought on planes in hand baggage. Pretty much everything had to be packed into the check-in luggage. Eventually, the restrictions were relaxed as it quickly became obvious that restricting items such as prescription medicine was not going to be a viable option.

Anyway, back to my trip to Egypt and Jordan. Although parts of the Middle East have been in turmoil for as long as I can remember and after 9/11, it's become more unlikely that there will be peace anytime soon in those areas, there are parts that are "safe". I was in the UAE (Dubai, Oman and two other emirates) in 2003 and in the course of my travels, I did not ever feel that my life was in any sort of danger. I think the same will be true in Egypt and Jordan and so I am going now but nonetheless, I hope that it will be a safe journey there and back.

As with my trek to Peru, I am once again signing up with GAP Adventures. The only difference is that this time, I won't be going on a "Comfort" class tour (i.e., with comfortable hotels, motorcoaches, porters to carry luggage etc.) With the exception of the comfortable hotels, I really did not take much advantage of the other aspects of the Peru "Comfort" class tour so I'm thinking that "dropping" a notch on the luxury scale will work just fine for me.

Since I had gotten all the basic travel gear for my trek to Peru, there wasn't much that I needed to do in terms of buying stuff for this trip. I did, however, need a few items - specifically a lightweight sleeping bag for the nights on the felucca and in the Bedouin camp and I was contemplating a headlamp for the night trek up Mt. Sinai. I also wanted to get some long sleeved shirts as both countries observe a very conservative dress code - especially in areas outside Cairo and Amman.

I asked my friends Bob and Linda if they would once again accompany me to REI to check out sleeping bags, headlamps, etc. They had both gone with me on my first trip to REI to get equipped for Peru and with a few exceptions, everything that they had recommended that I get, worked out really well for me so it made sense to have them come along again this time around.

I'm once again restricted to 22lbs of luggage so it will again be a challenge to pack in everything that I need.

As usual, I came back from REI with more items than I had planned to purchase but....the trip is still months away so I can always return anything if I change my mind down the road.

The good news about this trip is that there won't be a need for any vacinnations or bug repellent (Yay!!!) though I might have to stock up on sunscreen!

Next on my to-do list is to do the background reading. With two countries to read up on, I'll be busy for some time!!