Last year we visited the middle east for a period, these are my sentiments on a portion of the trip.
For the past week we had been traipsing around the southern half of Jordan. Snorkeling in the Dead Sea, climbing up the red stones of Petra, and quenching our thirst with sweet Bedouin tea. It all sounds like a great, exotic time, but the Middle East is an exhausting country. It’s hot, as a female I had to be conscious of my outfits, and everything is dusty, sandy, and hot. While we’re very happy to have visited, we were pretty ready to leave.
Our last night was spent in a traditional tent in Wadi Rum. I have never seen more stars than I did that night and I’d say it was a highlight of the trip. We climbed into our Bedouin host’s SUV in the morning and we were on our way down the open highways to the Wadi Araba crossing. On the way we were pulled over and our driver ran into some issues with his registration. He argued for a good long while with the police, and finally got out of the car and paid the fine.
About 30 minutes later we arrived at the Wadia Araba border and paid our tab for our desert stay. We were a few dinar short, which was ok with our host. But that meant we had zero dinar left – which seemed perfect at the time since we had no intention of returning to Jordan in the near future.
We picked up our packs and hoofed it to the first step of the multi-step process to cross the sad, dusty Wadi Araba border. We could see Israel in the distance. Beautiful, air conditioned Israel.
And midway through the process we discovered that we owed 10 JD per person to leave the country. Cash only. No problem, we thought, surely there’s an ATM. Surely.
Clearly we’d learned nothing from our week in Jordan. We started looking around for an ATM. We asked a few guards. Nothing.
We started coming up with crazy ideas, like buying a doodad from the duty free shop (which took credit cards, which is a relevant point in a moment) and then returning it for cash. No dice. We started reasoning with two of the guards. We asked them why they don’t take credit cards at an international border crossing and they said because there’s no internet out there. Except the duty free shop took credit cards. I made the mistake of talking to them at all – they clearly were not going to listen to no woman. Eventually Caleb told me that it’s probably better if I just stay quiet.
The reason we were so insistent on finding a solution at the border was because the closest town, Aqaba, was an overpriced, unpleasant 10 minute taxi ride both ways. That doesn’t sound bad, but wait until my post about the Jordanian taxi mafia and you’ll understand.
We finally resigned ourselves to the taxi option, the only way to get to town. But first we were going to execute a last ditch effort and dig through our bags for money. Any kind of money. Euros, shekels, something at all. And lo, behold, a 20 Euro note emerged from a tiny pocket in my carry-on. I flashbacked to me taking this note from Caleb before I ventured out in Vienna for a walk. Goodness I am glad I didn’t spend that on coffee and sachertorte. Hallelujah!
We proudly took our 20 Euros to the currency exchange man, which obviously we also visited earlier in our roundabout search for an ATM. He understood our plight, and gave us a few extra dinar for our Euros as 20 Euros is about 15 JD and we needed 20 JD.
We were soon slugging our way over the 100 meters of No Man’s Land between these two sandy nations. It is an unpaved, barren bit of land, because Middle Eastern countries naturally need some buffer space. We easily went through our return process to Israel, working our way through the series of clean, air-conditioned buildings. Caleb’s passport proved to be interesting to them, as it always does – but soon enough we were waiting for a taxi on the other side to get to our hotel for in Eilat.
That was my hot, sweaty lesson to always research exit taxes before leaving a country. Usually I do, but I slipped up this time. Never again!