At the start of
any trip, there is always a sense of anticipation and
in some cases hesitation. This particular trip was no
different but there was a bit more hesitation because
I was going to the Middle East. Like most overseas trips,
this one started at the airport. After traveling for
many years, one thing I've noticed is that once you've
seen one airport, you've seen them all. A lot of airports
try to garnish themselves with duty free shops and café
style restaurants. To me, duty free means don't buy.
Why add more stuff to your pack when there is zero room?
You are not trying out for a fireman position in your
city. I believe it's a plot for us to spend money when
airlines request you to arrive two to three hours before
your flight. Give yourself plenty of time but never
My trip called for a simple eight hour
layover in London. I prefer eight hours rather than
say three or four. With such little time between flights,
you are grounded and forced to submit yourself to wandering
aimlessly about the airport. Eight hours allow for a
short trip into London. Being as I have never been to
London, the layover was welcome. What can you do with
eight hours in London? The simplest plan is to experience
the underground and walk part of the city. London most
definitely has its charm. The women are glamorous and
beautiful, while its other residents are friendly and
willing to help. A much longer stay in London is in
There is one word all travelers hate
to hear, delay. Thanks to British Airways, I was forced
to face this word. Spending 20 plus hours at Hewthrow
airport is like spending 20 hours in the basement of
your sleazy uncle Henry's house. Not fun.
After a long night and a day full of
restless sleep and combating hunger pains, I arrived
in Tel Aviv. Good old British Airways had another surprise
for me. It seems they put me on a plane without my baggage.
Being a photographer, my baggage doesn't consist of
a lot of clothes since I have to make room for my cameras.
Most of the time I carry my cameras with me in my carry-on,
but this time I packed four cameras. There just wasn't
enough room in my carry-on for all of them. I can give
a shit about my clothes but my cameras would max out
a credit card or two if I needed to replace them. Day
one passes and no baggage. Right away I discovered having
one set of clothes in a hot climate tends to stain your
body with a wonderful scent. Don't get me wrong I don't
have an odor problem, but it's close to 100 degrees,
even Cinderella will stink. My need to shower four times
a day from the heat also forced me to wash my clothes
four times a day. There is a very third feeling you
get when you shampoo your body and T-shirt at the same
time. Let's just say the novelty got old really quick.
I could bash British Airways with more words but moving
on, after four days my baggage arrived without harm.
Tel Aviv stands for beautiful and lively.
I have never been to a city with so many drop dead stunning
women. They greet you with a smile and a wiggle of attitude.
I don't know the statistics but to me the women outnumber
the men 5 to 1. Let me remind you again that these women
are stunning. Imagine yourself drinking an ice cold
beer along an endless strip of beaches camped with clubs,
bars, hotels and sun worshippers. With every blink of
an eye, a beautiful woman appears with an incredible
over all tan. But with every positive there is a negative.
The residents of Tel Aviv are rude. There is no concept
of a line. When you are waiting to use an ATM, old ladies
push you off to the side and think nothing of it. In
this city you wait for everything. Before entering any
store there is always a line because of metal detectors
and police officers screening customers as they come
in. Men, women and children do not hesitate to push
you aside in order to enter before you do. You look
at them with shock but they won't lose any sleep over
their rudeness. It's a very pushy society.
Tel Aviv also has no culture. If you
ask five people how to get to the Tel Aviv Museum, you
will get six different answers, but ask five people
how to get to the nearest Diesel Jeans store and you
get the same answer from every one. They will also detail
their new ad campaign for you. Fashion is what comes
first here. It took awhile but I did finally understand
Diesel's ad campaign.
During the day, there is so much to
see in Tel Aviv but after seeing the entire city, you
are left with two options. Go shopping with the girls
or drink beer with guys and have shouting or hugging
matches. They all love to shop and talk loud. I have
a shopping shelf life of about two hours at a time and
as far as talking loud, I think of myself as a lover
not a fighter, hehehe.
Jaffa is about 10 to 15 minutes north
of Tel Aviv and is a complete contradiction to Tel Aviv.
An old medieval castle like fortress encloses old Jaffa.
Inside this stone fortress are resident housing, shops
and plenty of nice restaurants. I imagine walking into
old Jaffa is very much like walking into King Arthur's
castle. With all its charm, Jaffa is filled with religious
tension. Israelis, Aerobics and Christians all live
without much harmony. Everyone looks at one another
with question marks, making Jaffa a paradise with much
No one likes to be intruded upon and
in Old Jerusalem that is how I felt, like an intruder.
Religious beliefs are very strong here. I could not
help but feel as though I did not belong. I tried to
take as few photos as possible. Their beliefs are much
stronger than my will was willing to capture. Old Jerusalem
is a lot like Jaffa, full of tension. With so many different
people living together, something could snap at anytime.
We all know about the terrors that have occurred in
the past. The center of Jerusalem is like night and
day from Old Jerusalem. Young students dressed in the
latest fashion trends line the streets. There is a hill
like street in the center of Jerusalem lined with trendy
shops and tables full of young people chatting on their
cell phones and drinking coffee and beer. It was a nice
escape from the beliefs of old Jerusalem.
Next I headed to the Dead Sea. My drive
to the Dead Sea was a lot like a roller coaster ride.
The drive is around four to five hours from Tel Aviv
depending on the traffic. The drive itself isn't very
interesting, much like driving across Nevada with a
much prettier ending. The up part of my drive occurred
at an exit when all of a sudden traffic came to a complete
stop. Everyone stepped out of his or her cars to see
what was happening while I stayed in my car to enjoy
the air conditioning. Not five minutes had gone by when
everyone made a mad dash for their cars. Then an Israeli
police officer slams the hood of my car and stares at
me a look that says "I am going to kill you".
With police sirens blocking any other noises and drivers
screaming at the top of their lungs, the officer demands
that I leave. Later I discovered all the mayhem was
caused by an Aerobics resident who threw a rock at an
Israeli officer and cussed him out. I imagine he was
shot to death a few yards from my car. All a part of
life in the Middle East.
Right before you get to the Dead Sea,
a wonderful picture perfect ocean view fills every inch
of your windshield. The water is clear blue and is the
perfect escape from city life. This is where King David
came to get away from being a king. The salt water in
the sea cleanses every inch of your body. I must have
floated in the sea for an hour. I felt cleansed for
the next three days. One thing to remember when visiting
the Dead Sea is that this is one of the best places
on earth for skin care. It all sounds nice until you
meet some of the visitors here. A lot of people have
funky skin problems here. As I was swimming in the hotel
pool, I came across a beautiful woman. We talked for
a few minutes and I noticed she would not expose the
left side of her face. Well, she wasn't just there for
the calm atmosphere. She had some funk on her skin.
Today, not many people come to the Dead Sea anymore
because of past terror actions and its closeness to
Jordan. If you are in that neck of the woods, don't
hesitate to go there, it's worth it. I also visited
Masado, which is about 20 minutes from the Dead Sea.
It's a mountain top city where the Israelis fled from
the Romans way back when. There is a lot more history
about Masado but I don't have much knowledge about it.
After the Dead Sea, I took a flight
from Tel Aviv to Cairo, Egypt. I was pretty nervous
going to Cairo by myself. At the airport in Tel Aviv,
I was met with a lot of resistance. It took close to
two hours before the Israelis would let me get on my
plane. They had to hold the flight in order for me to
catch it. I had to answer the same ten questions to
ten different Israeli officers. It bordered on harassment;
I must have flashed my passport more times than I did
my fake ID in high school. Later I discovered the reason
for my treatment. It seems that Asians are seen as a
form of cheap labor in Israel. Ten to fifteen years
ago cheap labor was welcomed with open arms and huge
populations of Asians came seeking work in the land
of the Hebrews. After a while, Asians were able to perform
the same jobs as the Israelis. Today, Israel's economy
has fallen on hard times much like most of the world.
The Asians are now taking a lot of the valued jobs because
they can do the same work for half the cost. The Israelis
despise them for it and many Asians like myself, are
seen as job takers, even if you are just visiting. If
you're Asian, don't count on a warm welcome at any passport
I arrived in Cairo at about four in
the morning and being as I was pretty nervous to begin
with, arriving that early in the morning didn't help.
The first person I made contact with at the airport
greeted me the same way as Sala greeted Indiana Jones
in Raiders of the Lost Ark. "My friend, welcome
to Cairo", he said. That warm welcoming smile eased
my tension. The residents in Cairo are friendly and
very curious. At any moment someone will strike a conversation
with you which can last for hours. I felt safe walking
the streets of Cairo but you want to keep your wits
about you. There are three things you want to be weary
of when in Cairo. The first thing is to be weary of
cheap travelers. Everything is cheap in Cairo. Every
US dollar is equal to about six or seven Egyptian pounds.
For ten Egyptian pounds you can buy a pack of smokes,
two bottles of water and a pack of chips. I came across
a few travelers who wouldn't tip or would start a fuse
over paying an extra two or three pounds. Three pounds
comes out to about ten cents. I wanted to kick those
people. The second thing is that shopkeepers and vendors
are very aggressive. They can sell ice to the Eskimos.
Bargain as much as you can and never hesitate to walk
off. Finally, do not swim in the Nile River. I met a
few people who went for a dip and ended up close to
their death bed.
When in Cairo, you should see make time
to see Giza and everything else. Also make time for
a cab ride during rush hour. Rush hour lasts from about
9 to 11 p.m. and if you think the Romans are crazy drivers,
the Egyptians make them look like go-cart drivers. At
first you'll be scared shitless but after a while you'll
notice the science of their driving. I didn't see a
single accident or a fight while I was there. Throughout
the day you will also hear periodic chanting ringing
in the air. It sounds like it's from a loud speaker
but it's actually thousands of Muslims praying at the
same time. It's spooky but very griping to hear. By
far, Egypt was the best place I visited.
From Cairo, I took a bus to Taba, which
is a border town next to Israel. The drive gave me a
clear understanding of what being in bum fucked Egypt
means. I was in the middle of nowhere. The bus stopped
just once during the entire five hour ride, stopping
only at a rest stop with a single stall bathroom. I
looked ten times worse than the train station bathroom
in Trainspotting. I've been kicking myself for not spending
anytime in Taba. Looking out the window from the bus,
Taba looked like heaven on earth with sandy beaches
as far as the eye can see and not a single person in
sight. At the passport checkpoint, I was faced with
another long wait. This time it took less than two hours,
but I wasn't tired or anything. I'd love to spend five
hours on a bus and then an extra two waiting.
After crossing the border, I was in
Elat, Israel. The women were stunning and the water
was blue and warm. There is nothing to do in Elat but
swim with the fishes, eat great seafood and watch sunbathers.
Elat is the perfect recipe for relaxing.
Like all trips, they must all come to
an end. I hope you enjoy my observations. If you were
hoping to get ideas on where to stay and a list of things
to do, I'm sorry. I started my trip having little idea
where I was to stay and had no idea what I was going
to do. I turned out fine for me. Go have your own trip
and don't settle for someone else's leftovers.