Day Ten: Israel

We drove to the Israel border on a coach full of Russians, two Italian- Romanians,two Italians and a French-Moroccan family with two impossibly well behaved knee high children. Us Europeans teamed up and were delivered approximately one tenth of the information that the Russian-speakers recieved. Being in the language minority was definitely a unique experience.

At the border, after queuing for an age, we queued some more, then did some queuing. We made it through eventually, with only the minor incident of Alan's passport being temporarily confiscated.

We continued to drive, until we were suddenly unloaded at the Dead Sea. We sat around blearily whilst other tourists set to work covering themselves in mud they had just bought from a shop. This Dead Sea beach was long and white, with showers and seating and shops. From the people in it, the water appeaered less buoyant than we had seen in Jordan; we could see pipes pumping in fresh waste water from the showers, and there was a whole section signposted for no swimming, with the implication that they were polluting that specific bit. All in all, I think we preferred our off the beaten track, clamboring down a cliffside, Jordanian experience.

Back on the coach, our English-speaking guide arrived. He was friendly and knowledgable, if less talkative than the Russian one. He also had some weird affliction of the skin that caused random patches on his arms and then head to bleed unprovoked. He seemed fine, though.

We stopped at a high place to see all of Jerusalem before visiting the Wailing Wall (pro tip: you don't turn your back on it, evem whilst walking away). We spied on some praying Jewish people for a while, before moving on.

We followed a Jesus-related trail of locations, conveniently sequenced for the maximum touristic experience, in both Jerusalem and Bethlehem. These included the slab on which Jesus was lain after crucifixion, his tomb, and the patch of mud on which he was born. I may have become even more skeptical about certain aspects of Christianity as a result of this tour. What was far more interesting and inspiring were our walks through the streets, seeing markets and people, and such a crossover of cultures and religions side by side. At one point our guide mentioned how tolerant and accepting the people of Bethlehem are. When cultures coexist it seems understanding is crucial; disputes spring from ignorance and an inability to empathise with beliefs and people that are not your own.

Despite having not yet been provided with a promised lunch by 4pm (the Russians were becoming cranky) we entertained ourselves at a horrendously tacky souvenir shop, where our fellow tourists spent a small fortune on bizarre crap. Finally we were ushered into a restaurant and consumed a mediocre buffet that didn't sit right with anyone. Falafel off the street is probably a much better bet in future.

And thus we returned. After, of course, losing a number of Russians in the duty free at the border crossing for far longer than was polite. We got back to Dahab around midnight and a few of us checked out the pizza shop opposite the hotel. The guy had to go buy most of his ingredients fresh as he was about to pack up shop and visit his parents in Cairo for a month. But he as glad of the custom, and showed us how he makes Egyptian style pizza - superior to Italian in my opinion. Not to mention vastly cheaper. Sweet pizza was on the menu and I enjoyed a peanut one with sugar and milk. Curious.

I woke up in the early hours of the morning with a gecko on me.

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