Egyptogramophology

The first thing we see when our ferry drops us in Nuweiba after having spent some weeks in Jordan (LIEN), it’s a pyramid, yes the pointy thing. But not the one that is on the postcards, here it’s a construction out of rusted metal with dirty windows. We had read before that Egypt is amongst the cheapest countries in the world, and poverty choked us while walking through the houses in Nuweiba, which are usually one half broken and the other half not finished. Egypt that we will discover seems very different from Cleopatra’s one.

"Dromadaire dans son environnement naturel." "Camel in his natural environment."

From the big rock pyramid to the small rusted metal pyramid. What happened?

After having peeled all the bushes of the neighbourhood in -10,000 (more or less hé), the hunters-gatherers started to think that it wouldn’t be so much of a bad idea to settle down for a little while. So they invented agriculture followed by writing, to start many empires and to change Pharaoh often, to get invaded by the Persians, the Ottomans and co, and to build some pyramids, like the well known Gizah ones in -2,500. We will let you read the history of Ancient Egypt for those who want to know more in detail.

The control of the Ottoman Empire ends in 1914 and the country falls under a British Protectorate, until Nasser forces King Farouk during the 1952 revolutions to leave the power. Nasser has been a great actor of this time dreaming of a bigger unity of Arabic states (Pan-Arabism) and the motor of a strong liberalisation wave for Egypt. Very authoritarian, which is something that has often been reproached to him, he managed to implement many reforms concerning among others education, the status of women, social care, or nationalisation of big companies like the Suez channel. At the end of his term, which happens to be his death as well (yeah man, you shouldn’t overstress like that), the economic situation in Egypt is critical and the country is far from being out of poverty, but it became in the meantime the Arabic countries’ cultural hub and a significant actor worldwide. Someone told us that “the books were written is Egypt, printed in Lebanon and read in Irak”!

"Il y a beaucoup de vieux et beaux bâtiments au Caire que l'on trouve au hasard." "There are many old and nice buildings in Cairo you step randomly upon."

This era is followed by a Sadat’s decade , who’s main (and only?) achievement is a peace treaty with Israel and the taking back of Sinai territories. He is assassinated by an extremist. Mubarak takes over in 1981 and remains in power until the recent Arab Spring revolutions of 2011.

All these years, many different extremist groups made their way in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood being a major one. Since 1980, attacks against tourists and officials are relatively common and Mubarak struggles containing on one side the feeling of terror spreading across the country and the huge population growth, who like many populations, would love to work and eat a little bit.

2011 Egyptians cannot take it any more, and the revolution explodes. The constant state of war, the lack of freedom and justice, the abuses of police forces, corruption and the excessive price of goods of first necessity like bread are all factors that led to this revolution. Demonstrators invade the cities yelling “bread, liberty, social justice” and ask for Mubarak’s retreat. This one ends up leaving the country because the protests became too important, and the Muslim Brotherhood establish their control of the country through Mohamed Morsi who puts into strategic positions a good amount of the crew. But well, he will not stay long on his throne, ’cause Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has prepared a nice cute coup d’état, zoum zoum, like this, happening in July 2013. The Muslim Brotherhood, declared terrorist organization by many governments, is a powerful foe for Sisi who kills or puts into jail hundreds of them during the demonstrations.

"Barrage anti-terroristes/anti-manifestants au centre-ville du Caire." "Downtown road block for terrorism and manifestation control."

It is at this time that un tour deux singes comes in to rock the place and solve the conflict, like we are used to. Our article has to be read like if we were in July 2015 because things change quickly in Egypt. When we were crossing the country, the Egyptian government was in the middle of a war against the Muslim Brotherhood and all their supporters. For example a friend of our hosts in Cairo, in student exchange, has been thrown out of the country while she was writing her thesis about the Muslim Brotherhood and had met some of them. Egypt is traditionally a very militarized country, and nowadays, army is even more in shape than usual. Freedom of speech is not far from non existent.

And we arrive in the middle of all this with our beautiful ideals, that solving problems by killing people is never a solution, that media cannot be censored no matter the finality, and more of this young European blabla. From the discussions we had, especially in Cairo, it seems that reality is not that simple. The demonstrations and the different attacks created at the times of the revolution a real feeling of terror for the Egyptians, especially the average people living in Cairo. The seizure of the state by the army truly has calmed down the situation and improved the general tensed climate, even if it was by enchaining (literally and figuratively) all journalists and bloggers, and killing many Muslim Brothers.

So, like we saw, it’s quite a bazar now in Egypt.

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Lack of tourism and security reinforcement

On the way from Nuweiba to Dahab, “the hippie Mecca of Egypt”, incredible diving spot which made the city very touristic, we are racing with a camel who found himself on the middle of the road, before stopping with emotion at our first Egyptian check-point. It will not be the only time that we will be stopped. After a paper control in order to check that we are not mean terrorists (yep, ISIS is in Sinai), and the Red Sea opens again in front of our eyes. Surprise here, the touristic centre we were expecting is almost empty of tourists! So empty that we manage to get, without really trying to negotiate, a room for such a cheap price that we wonder if the owner is not losing money hosting us. Since the Arab Spring, Egypt that accounts on a fair amount of its budget on the Suez canal and tourists has seen its country deserted leaving the Pharaohs really happy and chilled in their pyramids. The huge boats operating Nile cruises are all stopped on the side of the river. Tourists got afraid and chose more calm places like Greenland, despite police and army doing their best to secure most areas. All along the country our travelling style allowed us to have the most interesting relations with the “bulice” as they call them there. Egypt is really afraid for its own image that anything could happen to a tourist, therefore policemen, probably only wanting the best for our safety, defend us from camping and make us sleep at the bulice office, or forbid us to hitchhike and pay us the train or bus ticket. We were also looking suspect when hitchhiking so doing only their duty, they stopped us at every check-point. And sometimes just to be real cowboys they drove crazy after us in their big armoured car to forbid our driver to drop us anywhere before reaching Suez (out of Sinai and therefore more secure). Actually it is quite simple: there are the place for tourists, a bit lame but it’s allowed to be here. And all that’s in between two tourists sites is, not theoretically but in practice, “forbidden” for the traveller. Egypt with our travelling style is difficult and tiresome, especially in our relation with the bulice.

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Aggressivity, tension and hospitality

But tiresome as well in our relation with the restaurant or diving centre hawkers only pooping out of their siesta (LIEN) to jump on to our necks, offering the most marvellous deals or tours with half-starved horses. Because we are “not allowed” to stay out of touristic areas, we have mostly monetary exchanges with the locals. Negotiation, talent that neither Rémi nor Arthur is blessed with, is a normal thing here. But the sellers don’t really play the game: when we have negotiated to bread price the first day, it will have changed every day after when we come back, sometimes doubling. Prices seem to be very random and each time one wants to buy something, it has to come prepared. Several days in a row in Aswan, several times a day, we cross the Nile on a small ferry, and every time we have to get angry because we know the official price, and we would like to pay this price. (Getting angry is by the way a very good technique to get what you want in all Egyptians exchanges!) And Egyptians, like Jordanians, will always try in random ways to extract some money out the tourist; for example when we go sleep on the beach in Nuweiba on our first night, locals try to make us pay until they understand we will not, and then become so nice and let us do what we wish.

"Les bateaux à Aswan qui font la traversée du Nil, entre la ville et les villages Nubiens. A droite sur l'image, le "Love Baot"." "The boats in Aswan crossing the Nile, between the city and the Nubian villages. On the right in the picture, the "Love Baot"."

The tension of the Ramadan end because people are tired adds a lot of aggressivity between people and in our relation with vendors. In Cairo we will see more than one time a day fights and conflicts, which of course attract the entire neighbourhood. Here, one likes to jump into other people’s affairs. Egyptian seem as well not to have the same conception of sleep as we have. They can sleep anywhere and it is very normal to wake up somebody any time and for any reason. For example when sleeping at the police station after forbiding us to camp, they were waking us up every hour to ask us questions like “but actually how do you finance your trip?”.

And at the same time hidden in between all these tough aspects of Egypt, we still have found this hospitality and kindness of people. While the European conception of hitchhiking is unknown here, cars stop quickly and we soon hop from the one to the other. Well, after they still didn’t get our point and drop us at the bus station, but the intention is good! When we look for Sharm el-Sheikh’s public beach in order to spend the night there, the first answer we get is “no no not possible”. Five minutes and a light negotiation later, here we are facing the sea, people from the surroundings bringing us more food than our stomachs can absorb, and even two beers each from the pub next door.

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Conservatism and other worlds

We have been talking a bit about Ramadan in our article about Jordan, and like there, we have been invited several times as well in Egypt during Iftar, sometimes on the sidewalk between the cars of Cairo, with Bedouins in the middle of the Sinai desert, or with the checkpoint policemen. It’s the tradition: during Ramadan everybody, especially the traveller, must be able to eat at nightfall. This religious tradition is not the only sign of a strong conservatism in Egypt which is in clear opposition with the others tourists and the expat world. While during Nasser’s era society was much more liberal, it is now trying to take distance from Western influence to get back to values closer to Islam. Most women wear the veil, and an impressive percentage are totally covered (niqab). Bars are by law not allowed to serve alcohol to Egyptian citizens during Ramadan, no matter if they are Muslims or not which forces Christian Egyptians to follow the rule. The beers our nice beach hosts offered us in Sharm el-Sheikh seem therefore to touch the boundary of law. But these “tourist parks” are exceptions just like the rich hotel rooftops which are full of expat. Sharm el-Sheikh city, a giant Ruskovland, is a big hamster wheel for Russians and British coming to buy plastic souvenirs and admire fake whirling dervish. And here Egyptian law has no real enforcement, like Dahab we talked about earlier.

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From time to time we must as well undergo sexist notice while travelling with our female friend Marie, or a classic preacher trying to convince us to read the Quran, either persuaded that you will become a better person if you do so, or afraid for you when the bells of your death will ring and you didn’t convert.

We mentioned as well the poverty that shocked us in Nueiba but something else surprised us: it is this huge Mosque, new and clean, shiny and neat, all surrounded by houses falling apart and poverty.

Mess and noise.

While travelling here, there is something that is impossible to miss and that seems to be in the very heart of Egyptian culture: the mess. This is really Egypt’s picture for us, people everywhere at any time, honking cars, noise, camels on the road, goats in the middle of Cairo’s soukh, and thousands of others crazy things, Cairo being the peak of it. In Cairo, when you don’t know what to do simply walk around because it is a real life theatre. So impressive that after half an hour your brain is done with all this turmoil! We had the whole lot with Ramadan’s end when everybody is nervous and tired, and stop to sleep during the night. So people get into conflicts all day long, or sleep EVERYWHERE in the most random places.

"Le Caire est une ville très agréable pour les piétons, et la circulation y est très bien régulée comme vous pouvez le voir." "Cairo is a very nice city for pedestrians and car circulation is very well organised as you can see."

Cairo is considered as the most noisy city in the world, and from our experience it is true! Here you better convince yourself that honks are pretty bird songs, even though you manage to get used to it (a little bit). Shisha bars all around the city are often packed and the chaos there is very organized. Waiter come every five minute to check if your coal is still burning well, and one of them is spending his entire evening only preparing shishas in an industrial way. One drinks tea, one discusses politics, one tries to stop the waiter to tell him a joke. And of course, only men or (female) foreigners.

Crossing a street in Cairo is a sport, an art. Cross the first line, then stop just so two buses can drive right in front and back of you, three steps forward, the car avoids you, forward again. Those who are good or born in Cairo develop some kind of sixth sense and manage to calculate instinctively the way to walk in order to, without changing pace, go through all this cars driving at different speeds! We tried as well but it was not always a success. And in between all these cars there is a very special specie, the on-bicycle-bread-deliverer. It is someone on a bicycle zigzagging through the cars (which is already an exploit), but at the same time carrying on his head a 3-meters long wooden mesh holding a bread pyramid. It allows the bread to cool down and for the delivery man not to burn himself on the way from the bakery to the place he has to bring it.

"J'ai jamais vu quelqu'un distribuer autant de pains à la fois." "Who wants sooooome breaaaad???"

This is our article about Egypt, article written with quite some hindsight as we were there more than seven months ago!

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Musafir is setting sail

Ahoy Sailors !

No we still don’t have any new articles, we are now in Ikhwezi Lokusa a permaculture farm around East London still in South Africa, where we spent three really nice weeks. We are soon leaving in direction of Swaziland leaving the country before the end of our visa. We got late again on our articles’ writing and the one about Egypt is still not finished, but to cheer you up you can have a look at the pictures of Sudan that we just uploaded.

While in Kenya we spent one month at Musafir in order to participate to this beautiful project and mainly to start our initiation to pirate life. Musafir is the project to build a huge old school wooden boat, to go on an adventure with it and to promote simple an sustainable life in harmony with the environment.

The boat is now almost finished and the musafiris started a crowdfunding campaign in order to cover the last expenses before setting sail at the end of march if everything goes well. Please have a look at the donation campaign.

Kisses.

Armi and Rétur.

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Flash news – Update: arrival in Cape Town

Hello my sweet ducklings.

As you all know (since you follow our blog with more avidity than Facebook or the Times), we arrived in Cape Town at the beginning of December with the ambitious goal of finding a flat and a job, to settle for a while, and to make a solid network of cute and nice friends. Well, it didn’t work at all.

First arrival in the Mother City, we had time to drop our stuff before going for some volunteering at the Vortex festival, and we even managed to make a bit of money by offering our help. After this break in a cool micro-society of non-stop music and good fun, back to the city.

Going from problem to problem, our « Cape Town Master Plan » (as written on our piece of paper) is still far from being accomplished. Just to give examples: Capetownians who promise us to host us and just turn down on us like that, a flat of a French friend where we could stay during one month until the agency says « no it’s not possible for you to stay here, it’s a matter of principle » – ooh beautiful principles that you have there mister Real Estate.

So we abandoned this too difficult city after an ENORMOUS CHRISTMAS with a gargantuan dinner and the afternoon of the 25th spent on the beach before joining the Learning Man, a completely different festival as compared to Vortex. The goal is in the name : learning. It’s a small village that was set up during these eight days, without hierarchy and where each one is free to learn and to teach through workshops, formal or spontaneous exchanges, and where all the generations were mixed with an incredible tolerance. There we also experimented the Community Exchange System an alternative to our money, since there was no money in circulation on the festival but only this system that was used.

learningman

But we had left our bicycles and some other stuff in the city, monstrous entity… And right when we got home the phone ringed : a restaurant needs Arthur to work in two hours. So Arthur has spent the week working, while at the same time we finished the last preparations, in particular selling our beautiful bikes.

Arthur was not far from going to Brazil hitching on a sailing boat, but it ended up not happening. The two mates will then hit the road back together and go to an permaculture farm for some volunteering.

Doing this we should be settled for a bit, might be nice to write one or two articles, right guys?

Megalokisses

Rémur und Arthi

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Flash news – Blog breakdown

Hey little potatoes,

Back on the blog after a long time of inactivity, to actually say that we will not take care of it for a few more weeks!

We suffered very severe attacks of beautiful beaches against which we could do nothing, and still if it was the only problem… We had to fight against an interstellar conspiracy to keep us away from Internet (Rémi thinks it’s the aliens, but Arthur is more on the side of the giant cookies). In order to add some spices to our communication, the computer’s keyboard stopped working properly. Without the , the , the , and the spacebar, the communication looked more or less like this: Helloweaeemiadathuadwehaeaeyiceblog. Not very convenient. Since yesterday we are the happy owners of a big external keyboard, making the laptop a bit less portable.

We are now on the island of Zanzibar that we will leave to reach quickly South Africa where we plan to arrive beginning of December for a music festival, to offer a little bit of our muscles for the preparation and a little bit of our legs for the dance. It’s also why, with the intense few thousands of kilometers still to do in two weeks we will not be able to take care of the blog. Once we will find a home in Cape town, we will start to get back to our articles. Egypt Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania/Zanzibar, the way to South Africa, and probably something about our arrival in Cape Town.

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But we can quickly give you an overview of our last weeks!

We left Ethiopia at the end of the rainy season to find a small France at family’s friends in Nairobi. Arthur healed is furoncle like a big boy. The wine and cheese that we were missing so much probably helped by far more than the doctor’s antibiotics. It’s what the French governement says: a glass of red wine and three diary products a day, which we didn’t have for a long time so we had to compensate. Next we went for a week to help the Musafir project, a group of big children who decided that they will build a huge wooden boat to travel the world. And we left the place only four weeks later. The paradise beach’s trap, the good atmosphere and a nice party with Mungo’s Hifi at the backpacker next door.

We took the road for a small trip to Zanzibar that expanded a little bit (What? Again?).

See you in few weeks then?

Kisses and penguins,

Arthur, Rémi and their new keyboard.

PS: For the cool people who are been following us has been now one year that we are travelling … Craaazy. Our next article might as well be a small review on this past year.

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Jordanie 2/2 – Lost in the landscapes

Hey hey, all good? Here is our second article about Jordan in the continuity of the first one. Still at the first person telling, mix of our personnalities, we tried as good as we could to integrate our thoughts and feelings of the country in the story of our journey.

Since we are in Dana, the valley is teasing us. We decide to walk a loop and come back some days later to the village where we left the useless equipment. After shopping is done we start to walk down the valley. It is a bit too much for me, I don’t know where I’m supposed to lay my eyes on. Every hundred meters is different from the one before, between red and flat stones, pebbles sleeping in the dried river, sand or rocky blades coming out of the mountain flank. Rare thing in Jordan, we don’t see anybody for more than several hours until we reach the Bedouin tents just before the desert. What were their tents made out before UNHCR handled over tarps or before they gathered some pieces of fabric here and there? And why did people come and settle here??

"Tente bédouine en bas de la vallée." "Bedouin tent down the valley."

At nightfall our camp was all set up, and after advice from a guide living here, far from the snakes prowling around the trees. We climb the hill to spend the evening with the guide and his family. Under the desert stars these neo-Bedouins laid some carpets and, apologizing for only having leftovers, bring us their food and a chemical drink that I cautiously avoid to drink. While Marie, despite of being “officially” my girlfriend tonight, gets hit on by the stodgy guide, I have to undergo series of funny videos on a Youtube connected cell phone. “Do you have music instruments?” “Oh my grandpa has one, but we don’t need anymore, we have the phones”. Bedouins too have the right to Internet in the desert, but it still hurts my ears a little to hear the same ringtones as my old university buddies and to see that these young fellows listen to the same shitty music we have on our dear French radios. I have to admit that I had another image of Bedouins, I surely was a bit naive. We will not let ourselves convince by our Bedouin friend who tries to decide that the “better for us” is to rent a 4WD to carry our equipment while affirming, sure of himself, “this is the program”. We are now used to these kind of conversations. Marie neither has not let herself charmed so we walk back to sleep under the open sky, just outside of our tent that we yet had pitched.

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We continue our loop trekking up the Wadi Ghuweir. Yesterday’s guide, far from him any idea of selling his company and the famous 4WD to bring us back to Dana, warned us that the entry was blocked by a huge rock (impassable for us incapable Europeans). But well, I am 1/64th Guatemalan so I manage to climb it. Again my brains gets a slap, it is too much for me. It is my first canyon, a real one, with water and narrow corridors, white rocks like waves, palm trees almost falling on you, and all and more. It is so much of a paradise that we decide to spend the night somewhere in between. Marie allows herself a bikini under the sun, rare luxe in these regions. But she is quickly interrupted by one of the guide’s brother and his friends. He comes to offer her his heart and wants to spend the night with us. I have to get upset so he leaves and we move our campsite a bit up in case they decide to come back. The place is incredible, it is full of life, and after having spend days in the desert and fought against the Dead Sea, I really fell like I am in heaven, the fresh and clean water always close to us. We play with our huge dancing shadows against the rock created by the fire, and I dive into these cartoon images.

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Next morning we shall leave with regret our beloved canyon because food supplies start to be limited. But before we bath one or two times. The more we walk up, the rarest the water, the river disappears under the rocks to reappear some fifty meters further, and finally slips in again forever. While we exit the valley I wonder if I will ever come back and how it will look like. The first signs of civilization emerge in the form of plastic bottles and shisha aluminum foil, taking its apogee when we meet a hunter while finishing our last crumbles. Now no choice, we have to go back to civilization not to starve.

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Here we are on this empty asphalt road except from a black sedan that very gently drops us in Shobak at nightfall. At iftar, Ramadan’s fast breaking, it is pointless to hitchhike, no car is passing by because everybody is supposed to eat at this time, so we do the same. Just next to the main road there is a big tent made out of these colored fabric I have often seen in this country. Under it some tables and chairs as well as plate of chicken, rice and dates. During Ramadan nobody can be excluded of eating, so people organize themselves so that even the poorest can have a meal. Once again I am surprised by this solidarity and generosity, and tonight added to the needy and the people passing by there will be three Frenchies eating with pleasure. I wonder how it is possible to hate and love at the same time a culture, it will be important to only keep the good sides.

As we head back to Dana, it is already night but very quickly someone stops to take us. To my surprise it is a luxurious car, a first one here. The nice and young guy brings us all the way to Dana despite he is not going there. He talks about his thirty camels that he does not really use for anything, just because he like camels. It is his collection, like stamps actually just a bit bigger. Incredible.

The next day it is time to say good-bye to our little hotel guy, Mohammed (a very rare name in the area), because we leave for Petra.

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Since we arrived in Jordan, and even before, I heard about Petra a countless amount of times, incredible site, world heritage unmissable i tutti quanti, so that I almost want not to go just by plain contrariness. All over Jordan we are offered taxis to Petra like if there was only this. Of course we don’t go to Petra by taxi but hitchhiking, until one of our drivers decides without really asking us that we will come to his place to eat and sleep. It is a bit of a classic trick I have the feeling, where everybody knows better than you what is good for you and it starts to irritate me. How many times will I hear in these Arab countries we crossed the famous “this is better for you”? We arrange to sneak out to get a last lift to Wadi Musa laying right next the archaeological site. Jordan is a Bedouin country so no worries to camp, but still now there is some challenge as we are in the most touristic place of the country. In roughly two seconds a guy managing a small snack comes to us and pays us a tea followed by a meal. Thousands of phone calls later and 500 “yes-yes-no worries-my-cousin-is-arriving-to-pick-you-up-ah-no-actually-it-will-not-be-my-cousin-but-my-friend”, we are sitting in his brother house who has a good ex-prisoner’s face. Jordanians, besides being the nicest and hospitable people in the world, are sometimes a bit pushy and oppressing. Here it is the opposite: take a seat, have a tea, I’ll do my business and I come back every half-hour to see if you don’t need anything. Everybody a bit in his world, each of us laying on the floor sofa, we sink one by one into our dreams.

Petra the pink, Petra the gorgeous, Petra the unmissable, Petra the super mega expensive. Too much for our budget. Jordanians explain us that entry fee is that expensive because many tourists only come to Jordan to see Petra and otherwise stay in Israel, so some don’t even spend a peseta in the country. The site is huuge and luckily for us, poor people, is not fenced. The three of us try the different canyons to get in, we unclimb, we jump, until at the corner of one of them we get a glimpse of a small carved image that amazes us and comes confirm that we did not do all this walking for nothing.

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As good VIP, we arrive from behind and I quickly go to loose myself in the pink rock houses. They told me unmissable, and I have to admit it is true. Especially in these times! The daily several thousands of tourists have been scared since the start of the Syrian war and it is low season: we are around fifty in this vast place. Having Petra for ourselves is not bad, we thank all the people scared by their TV’s, despite Jordan maybe being the safest country in the Middle East. Proud as a French rooster I leave in the end of the day the beautiful Petra through the main gate with a mocking wink to the tourism police.

Another funny thing is that all the hawkers, organizing camel or donkeys tours, are dressed as Jack Sparrow. Yeah yeah, like in the movie. Don’t ask why…

Jordan’s second “must” is Wadi Rum, the Rum valley. I mean, I think this is the right translation, I have to check. Not easy to reach hitchhiking but I decide not to talk bad about tourists anymore because it is some of them who stop and bring us there. We walk a bit further from the last village until the spring right where the desert starts. Boh, and what a desert. Red, thin sand, a corridor spreading to the infinite surrounded by hills and bare mountains. Arrived at the spring we put camp under the only available tree.

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Two hundred meters up on the rocks we find the spring’s source where I sit and admire the desert which distances are hard to estimate. And then little by little I see dots in the far growing and growing. These are not people, these are not cars. Camels! I run down the rocks (taking care of my safety as promised mummy) and arrive just in time to talk with a Bedouin who came to check on his beasts. Those live in semi-freedom and come about once a week to the spring to drink, the rest of the time hanging around the desert looking for drugs. Euh no food. When time comes where camels would like to go further to find food, the owner clog them so they cannot go too far. I imagine quite well Momo taking out his new Samsung to call Ahmed when he his camels “oh Habibi I saw your camels, they are on the way to the trough”. Under the moonshine in the middle of our conversations we see big specters walking swaying to the water trough. All night different camel processions will come with cuUuUute babies. After not having filled their hump but just their belly, because it is a legend that it is their water tank, the specters’ caravan fades again in the sand. A magic moment, we really arrived at the right time.

"On observe des chameaux qui viennent à toute heure du jour ou de la nuit s'abreuver, avant de repartir pour une bonne semaine." "We observe camels that come night and day to drink, before going back for another week."

Moving during day time is a mission only hyper trained secret agent elite camels can fulfill but still we try to cross to the other side. I would have sworn that the mountain over there was only ten minutes away. Walking in the desert is actually quite spiritual. One feels so small, crushed by the heat and the immensity, every step not really making you go forward, so I empty my soul and let myself getting absorbed by the sand.

"Marie dans le sable." "Marie in the sand."

Our final stage is Aqaba that we reach thanks to two technicians passing in Wadi Rum to check the cell-phone antennas. It seems like an evidence for them to invite us for dinner at the driver’s home. Our host goes carefully hide his wife so that we, foreign men, cannot see her. While Marie was invited several times to talk with our different hosts’ wifes, we as men, have only had very few interactions with the other gender. They then take us to the southern beach so we can spend the night there, I don’t say no to the offer. It is incredible that it is possible in Jordan to squat, camp or sleep wherever, people don’t care or better, are happy about it. There is wind but I start to be an expert in all-weather-proof shelters. Three days long we will squat this beach where men can, Ô folie, swim topless without risking a general panic attack in the crowd. Our friend keeping the neighbor little shop takes us for snorkeling trips. Even in the water it is not us that choose what we see and how long. “So we are going to see this coral, and then this coral, this is better for you”. Too bad because if the Red Sea corals are astonishing, we have the feeling to overlook everything, our guide leading the tempo. And of course, Marie who is a woman, thus weak, must not drop our guide’s arm because he decided that she cannot swim well. I’m really perplex. How can people be so nice, and at the same time not leave freedom to others and reduce the women’s condition like this?

"En route pour le Wadi Rum." "On the way to Wadi Rum."

Two kilometers further a big marina for rich Thomascookians has been build. Another universe, other rules. When I arrived in Jordan, I thought it was a country where alcohol was flowing in torrents which surprised me a lot. Actually I think that people where drinking the country’s reserve before the month of Ramadan when it becomes almost impossible to get some. But this marina is not Jordan, it is ghetto for rich and there the shop does not have restriction on alcohol selling.

Before taking the ferry we spend the night on the city center beach, overcrowded during Ramadan. Everybody lives at night in this month. But nobody comes to wake up the three Frenchies installed there to sleep. We wake up with the first sunbeams to take the ferry to Egypt, the rest is another story!

Kiss from Arthurémi. And from Marie as well, though we did not ask.

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Jordan 1/2 – Fish in the desert

Hey pieces of ham and vegetarians sausages. Two month and a half only after we left Jordan, it is with outrecuidance and oronymie that we offer you the first part of our Jordanian adventures. We decided to change a little our writing style and to juggle with the personal pronouns, mixing our points of view into one character.

Until I’m dropped at the Israeli-Jordanian border, everything was fine. From there it became a huge party of mistakes, of offices and queues, of border policemen slightly stupid that stamp my passport despite that I asked forty times to have the stamp on a separate paper. At the exit it is the fair of taxis all over the place, the famous “border effect”. I manage to find a truck going slowly through the small villages until Amman. BOUF, it’s a shock! Turkey surprised me on quite a few aspects but remained in comparison very European, we were far from this pile of donkeys and mess, some roads having a bigger proportion of holes than asphalt. On each side people spread their sun-bleached plastic gadgets, their shiny chocolate bars and their dusty but magnificent vegetables. After being used, each package is neatly put in order to occupy all the public space, the road edges being of course a place of choice for the crisps and cigarettes packages.

In Amman I spot the young guy who walks the coolest way. Marie, who I was supposed to meet does not give any sign of living, so after having imagined all possible scenarios of what could have happened to her, I just start following this dude and his friends who take out the Arak while watching the lights of Amman on the hilltops, and I end up in this apartment full of shisha smoke and young males. Marie shows up the following day, not realizing I waited for her all night asking myself where she was. We simply made the appointment with one day difference.

Second night in Jordan for me and we do the Arak session again, together this time. Our host and guide is lost between two cultures, between Pink Floyd which he mimics one by one all instruments, his facial expressions following the music’s intensity, and between the Ramadan that starts soon, a masculine and religious society, somehow archaic in which his dreams do not make much sense.

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The main axis in front of the apartment open the road to adventure for us while we quickly reach the first village hitchihiking. The hardware store offers us the bread. Further on a small road that zigzag through a park, a family forces us to come and to eat barbecue with them, cozily installed on their carpets. Five minutes after having left the tribe it is whiskey and beer that fall upon us with two young engineers. Probably finding that time passes slowly when mummy is preparing dinner, they make a 20km detour to grab a beer for each of us, while relaxed by the first one, while a chill wind is blowing, we watch the sunset carving out Ajlun castle on the other side of the mountain. Under the stars around a fire, I listen to the coyotes howling while asking myself if they would dare to attack me. If Jordan continues this way, I don’t see the point of buying food.

Taking advantage of my naiveness one of our driver manages to put me aside for some minutes, and taking the hand of Marie, wants to bring her further down the forest. He understands quickly that she doesn’t want and ashamed to death he sped away while I was running to the car. It’s sad, but it is probably better for a girl not to stay alone.

The police-hitchhiking day starts. I actually think that in Jordan, half of the people are either policemen or military related, and I cannot figure out if it is appeasing or not. Before crossing the desert to Azraq, impossible to get bread or water without being offered some watermelon. Policeman or military we had one chance out of two, so it is a military who offers to host us. We take seat under the big tent in the garden in front of three glasses of Coke and the entire family extended to the neighbour kids. I am nailed by the twenty-four eyes. Follows an intense communication face-to-face, really taking off when we start to use paper and pen to help our young military’s English, and when we learn how to write our names in Arabic. The patriarch rolls a cigarette and goes in the garden next to the water hose which overflows his plants. He stands up, puts the hose on another tree, sits down and rolls an new cigarette. We go to imitate the scream of the donkeys and camels parked behind the house, and when we come back the dad has changed the hose’s position and has rolled another little one again. On the menu tonight, French fries-fish. Fish in the desert. I wonder if it something usual when receiving guests, some luxury sign. In the mean time, old man is smoking one or two more. Everybody sleeps outside, men under the tent, women and children next to the house.

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This desert is quite unwelcoming and I am not displeased to leave it behind. On the road the desert castles are coming one after the other. I imagine, drowsing, the merchant caravans going through the desert and taking a break in the castles. I think again about the refugees camp we saw the day before, huge, as far as the eye can see, surrounded by fences. With the Palestinians and the Syrians, it’s one third of the Jordan residents who have the statue of refugee.

The crazy one who takes us after is a bit frightening… He overtakes everybody, brakes at the police controls doing big friendly signs and then triples his speed 500 meters further. He gives me three times the phone so that his cousin, who speaks English, can repeat me twelve times that her uncle is an awesome guy. Once arrived in Madaba, the Christian reference in Jordan, we play the differences game with Muslim towns. In fact, not much compared to the other cities except the big church that has the upper hand on the mosque and the little fish stickers on the back of the cars. Tomorrow, Ramadan is starting. We refuse the hosting offer of our next driver and we go to squat four walls and a terrace in between the well-rounded hills that open themselves in front of our eyes just enough so we can see the Dead Sea. The great food managers that we are did not take enough water and food, which is actually good, because we decided to do the Ramadan. We unclimb our terrace and from there the descent into hell starts. The throat is dry and every step is hard under the weight of our backpacks, and the car ridging down to the -427 meters of the Dead Sea drop us in an area empty of life. Empty of all energy I take a look at the sun disappearing on the Israeli side, where we were only few weeks ago. The releasing call of the muezzin rings while we are passing next to security guards waving at us, who will not need to convince us to come in order to empty their water and chicken with rice.

"Squat d'un bâtiment dans les collines au dessus de la mer Morte." "Squat of a building in the hills above the Dead Sea."

We walk five minutes to find the less horrible place of the surrounding. I tinker a shelter against the sun for the next day. The water coming from the pipe probably had something fishy. We all get sick under a sun that doesn’t allow us any kind of movement. We still go floating with a heavy heart, the head blown up and the stomach messed up. The place is so unhealthy that we cannot stay, and this despite our state. So we take the hard way of the South to go back to the heights and leave this basin of death. I dreamt a lot about it since the beginning of Jordan and it happened: we got a ride from a woman in a Muslim country. Two students who, because it’s Ramadan, have to find an occupation. A classic one is to take the car and take a ride with no aim.

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My all body is upside down, but I am really happy when I get to see our destination, the castle of Karak, and when in the city the three fruit shopkeepers offer us a crate to sit down and to share the Iftar, the fasting breaking. The Ramadan is definitely over for us since yesterday, but we proudly managed to do it one entire day. The good news to sheer us up is that the traveller is exempted of Ramadan, like women during period, the old people and the young ones, or the ill. The bad news is that in the coming year we are supposed to make up all the days we missed. The others do like they want, personally I will make up my days maybe the year after. Or the next one.

The next day, still feeling bad, we meet two policemen clever as policemen, who decide that today’s mission for them is to bring us to the swimming pool. It’s just an outside swimming pool, quite basic with nice green reflections offered by its algae. Marie of course cannot show any piece of skin (it would be indecent) so she swims fully dressed among the cowboys doing many tricks and jumps into the water to impress the only feminine attendance. The policemen want to host us, but we find a trick so they let us go. It’s in the next village that we discover the magical technique. When I go out of the toilets of the mosque, I realize that the others have disappeared, and before I can even panic, a guy takes me to a house two streets further where I found them seating around a tea. If you are hungry or in need of an accommodation, you just need to hang around the mosque at the time of Iftar. After the meal we are invited from house to house. It’s really the first time that I meet a polygamous, and it’s quite normal here, an old grandpa surrounded by his whole family and indeed has two wives. But we are told that it is very rare among the new generations. Third day of Ramadan, third time we are invited to eat.

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Back on the road the day after and quickly a policeman stops. Is there any other profession in this country? Until Al-Tafile the scenery is incredible. I lay my head against the window of the small car and I dream looking at those mountains passing by. They are beige, empty and dry, with from time to time a Bedouin tent overlooking the valley. I get out of my daydreaming when we arrive in the city and we find easily cars to get to the small village of Dana. The big valley stretches in a straight line up to the desert far away which we can catch a glimpse of, and at the start of this valley a small village with stone houses sits on a hill next to the cliff. The inhabitants abandoned the houses which slowly became ruins. Only some of them were rehabilitated and transformed into hotels. The spring not far transforms into a small river giving water to the village, the water is good.

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Quickly I decide that I like this place. After two seconds of intense negotiation, we find a hotel for one dinar each, or one Euro twenty, acceptable even for our budget. I like our time spent on the terrace basking under the sun, preparing coffee being the most important mission. Mohammed the hotel guy makes me smile, I like him as well, he spends his days cleaning the terrace and watering the few plants he’s growing, and he is not hot-blooded like the other men in the country. I like a little bit less Bilal the “manager” who shows off too much and try to flirt with Marie explaining her how he’s young and successful in life, and that women could never do in a lifetime what he already did. We stay a few days here resting in this beautifully calm place. Everyday I ask Mohammed if the Internet connection he promised us is finally working, and every day he answers that it’s coming. I think he decided to build Internet himself, it should take some time. The second group of tourist in the village consists of a Saudi Arabian man who brings us apricots every morning and discusses with us with interest about religion, culture, sex, and his viewpoints are close and open minded in a strange mix. These talks divert me a lot. For Rémi’s birthday celebration we go to the hotel’s restaurant, youhou! Not a drop of wine, no cake, it’s a first, but it’s like this and everything is alright.

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It’s all for now and the second part is under construction. Tchuss!

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Nice Israelis, nice.

We are often asked since how long we are traveling, and we answer eight months before realizing that no it has not been eight, but nine months already. Some weeks ago as we were camping on the side of the Nile river, we decided to make a list of the people who marked us during our trip. The people we spend time, we converse and create links with are a big part of this trip. Some of them marked us genuinely and we would like to see them again if randomness of life allows it. In our list many of these people are Israeli encounters.

We talked about what we perceived of Israel, Palestine, the conflict, a good part of the culture, but we didn’t talked about the trip itself.

From the start to the end in Israel we didn’t had to think much, the encounters chained themselves all naturally. Before getting there we had a contact: Rémi met Lauren in Albania during a hitchhikers gathering last summer and she made an impression on him when she arrived and decreed, full of energy, that we had to collect the trash with the kids of the village. Mission they totally fulfilled! She lives now in Nes Harim with Alex and Johnny where the three of them take care in a farm of a goat herd and some plantations. We spent quite some times in Nes Harim with them, the cheese and the goat yogurt being a blessing and the long nights spent drinking and talking on the terrace happened to elapse too quickly. One hard morning we struggled to extricate ourselves from sleep at sun rise, not without the help of the shepherds armed with water, in order to walk the goats together, all of them taking advantage of our mollusk’ shape to do what they wanted. It is a great place, peaceful with a warm welcome and good food/ We also helped a bit, for example playing the guinea pigs for the curry ice-cream. It is Lauren who advised us some places to visit south of Haifa on the way to the farm and how we got to know Ein Hod and Jisr az-Zarqa.

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Ein Hod is an artist village chilling on the side of a hill. Everywhere many quite fancy houses rise together with works of art, sculptures of any kind, installations and galleries. While struggling to find a place to camp, somebody called us from his balcony and ask us in Hebrew if we are doing the « Shvil Yisra’el », a hiking path going through all Israel from north to south. A bit everywhere on the way one can find the “Shvil Angels”, camps or simply people welcoming the hikers. The one of Ein Hod being certainly a bit different from the other ones with its big teepee and its giant eagles sculptures. Great, we got there and shared the evening with few hikers who for once sat up a little later and who had left long time ago when we woke up.

The next days we got to Jisr az-Zarqa. It’s a small Arab village and also the poorest of Israel. To enter we passed through a tunnel under the highway whose facade is painted with all colors and announces « Welcome to Jisr az-Zarqa ». Going through this tunnel is a little bit like taking an inter-dimensional door that makes you change space-time. And there we are, transported to a typical Arab town, with its regular amount of mess, cars honking and trash a little bit everywhere. People are outside, say hello to you, kids play in the street and everybody knows each other. It’s an other face of Israel that we discover here which has nothing to do with the rest.

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On Nes Harim heights, which is located between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv, while watching the sun set we can catch sight of Tel-Aviv’s buildings and even the sun diving into the sea when the sky is clear. On the other side of the hill we see the first habitations of Jerusalem‘s periphery. It was time to leave the goats, so we rose our thumbs for Jerusalem and Elisha, a university mate of Lauren; hosted us. Both study oriental music and we got the chance to listen Elisha playing on his Saz and to try it as well. For Elisha, no way we sleep on the floor, so he gave us his ultra comfortable double bed and slept himself on the floor. Any guide will tell you very well how not to miss the unmissable in Jerusalem so we will not talk about it. Still from our opinion, some things are worth seeing. During our wandering through the small streets of the old town we went up on the roofs after trying several stairwells and it’s really nice to this the city from an other point of view. We also liked the Jehuda market that changes completely atmosphere when the sun sets: during the day a colorful and lively market, it transforms at night when the bars open playing music on their speakers and when youngsters come to hang around and make their instruments resonate in front of the closed iron curtains. During this transition time at the end of the market, we had to keep control on ourselves not to get more veggies and fruits, judged a bit too old, that we can use. In the Nachlaot neighborhood next to the market, we loved to discover the small streets and other hidden gardens. Another night we went to a concert of Bint el Funk, an Israeli band that rocks, mixing Yemenite music, funk and other styles with lyrics in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Jerusalem is a very religious and very touristic city, but also a lively city that still leaves many things to be discovered. The city surprised us when we tried to hitchhike at night, in the city, and a very kind small grand-pa drove us to the tramway station.

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After Jerusalem we wanted to see Tel-Aviv, Israel‘s capital city, but as well the cool, alternative, on the move city, where for example gays and lesbians often emigrate to escape from the other cities’ conservatism. Alex the shepherd came with us and introduced us to Oren, our first host in Tel-Aviv, a big teddy bear currently training to catch objects with his feet. Alex took as a duty to bring us to the best hummus of Israel and to make us visit the places he likes. Alex took the bet not drinking beer until he will brew his own: the last news were that the equipment was ordered and we hope that he didn’t give up, because for a guy like Alex, not drinking beer is like not eating cheese for Frenchman. When we left Oren, we found a refuge close to Karmel market, this time at Maxim’s; while his girlfriend left us for the ‘Backstreet Boys return show, we went with Maxim to listen to a crazy pianist and his band at a nice jazz bar in the same street. Yonathan, a friend’s friend, who introduced us to Maxim joined us a little bit later. In this market, just like in Jerusalem, the amount of abandoned avocados at the end of the market overwhelmed us. Be careful to arrive before the big mega bulldozer that comes to clean everything. Ok, a bulldozer to clean a market sounds a bit weird, but it’s a weird country anyway. Yonathan and Maxim will put all their efforts so we could do longboard, eat at a hummus place (yes again), giving us some clothes or helping us to sell beers when we broke Rémi’s computer and Arthur’s bag got stolen.

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In Tel-Aviv, we like the Yaffo/Jaffa neighborhood of Arabic origin, much prettier than the new and big buildings Tel-Aviv is made of. In its really cool flea market, we bought our new mocha pot, the most indispensable tool of our journey.

With Manu the real Brittany guy, just like we like them, found in between two potatoes and a lemon at the end of the market, we met one night Laura on the beach. She was coming back from the Midburn and the days she spent there made here change her vision of the world, she wanted to help everybody, not care of anything and screw everything. She therefore hosted us without further questions.

When one travels, it is a common saying that people always meet twice. And sometimes even more! In Tel-Aviv we met again randomly Scott who we already met in Cyprus, and Freddy with whom we shared Christmas in Turkey, and already met randomly in Cyprus as well. Zincredible.

From a random research online, we saw that Driss was playing at the Groove Attack festival. The festival was way too expensive for us but we know Driss because he was the director of Hadra festival in Grenoble where we often volunteered. A quick email and the invitations were in our pockets. So there we went to party hard and destroy our ears with Infected Mushrooms and other very good artists. Driss also put the crowd on fire under the water vaporizers of the dance floor. One thing leading to another, we found back the contact of the Exodus organizers, festival where we volunteered in Cyprus. On the beach where the party was organized we met all the crew, except the big Shaman who we will see again later. A crazy one, but also a bit touching once the first impression put aside. It’s where we got our bag stolen and where we discover that the computer screen is broken.

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Sometimes we are tired of hitchhiking. And then something happens to remind us why we do all this: Rimoch and Jeky are part of it. At this time we already wanted to leave Israel but Rimoch promised that we could come and drink some good beer if we came to visit their kibbutz. Because we never went inside a kibbutz we allowed ourself this detour. Rimoch and Jeky are this couple that make concerts dressed as giant space lizards. Rimoch speaks with no pause if you don’t manage to control him, which probably takes years of training, on all different topics and in detail. Jeky doesn’t listen anymore since long what Rimoch says but still looks tenderly for head lice in his hear.

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Kibbutz watizat? Kibbutz are collectivist villages created by Zionist movements during Israel’s colonization. First mainly agrarian they developed later industrial activities. Historically, kibbutz members were known to be engaged and militants, advocating egalitarian values, cooperation between members and the absence of private property. With time kibbutz changed a lot and many of them did not keep much from their values while their industries and agrarian activities have been mainly privatized. The kibbutz’ importance in the Israeli society as well as their number is in clear decrease since 1970. Today one can probably still find kibbutz with these original values while the others range from village a bit more communitarian to a simple memory of the past.

Ginegar, the kibbutz in which we stayed some days keeps some traces of this history. The common laundry or the dinning room are still here, and if they were yore important components, they are nowadays optional. The newcomers don’t necessarily share the egalitarian values and are not really part of the community while the kibbutz population is getting older. Nevertheless it is true that we feel a particular atmosphere, the feeling of community is here, people look happy and get along well with each other, and religion is almost nil, astonishing for this country.

Ginegar is a very green place where the buildings have a strange aspect (who said Soviet?), and adjoining the village a huge cattle exploitation with cows that see only concrete all their lives. Proof that industrialization got the better of traditional farming. We also keep in our minds the image of the golf carts that parade everywhere, only a few cars pass by, which we adore to observe the coming and going.

It is Rimoch and Jeky that advised us the spot next to the Dead Sea were we hitchhiked to with Johnny. Remember Johnny? It is our friend shepperd. If Alex and Lauren are young in age (like us), Johnny is young in his head (like us). It is this South African dude who at one point asked himself what the hell he was doing with his life. He decided to leave everything behind and to go meditate in the Sinai mountains. He then found his luck with the farm that he brilliantly manages. A great soul who learns by experience, his cheese getting better at each batch while the sheep heard is everyday more behaved. Even with his curry ice-cream he gets better. The coast sides of the Dead Sea are very impressive. We went not far from Metsokei Dragot where people swim naked, where nobody comes to harass you or sell you a regenerating spa. There it is chilled, with a small pool of clean water to rinse that we shared with the passing people. This is where we met Rivi and Katja who took us back to Jerusalem to spend the evening at the light festival of the city. Rivi studies in the US at Naropa University in Boulder, a pretty special alternative university that she seems to enjoy. And if we get there one day we might say hi.

In Israel people are cool and open. Maybe a bit too speed, a bit too much cutting your speech off and not listening to you (isn’t it Rivi?), but we like them anyway. We are as much in disagreement with the government and its way of managing the situation and the inside issues we talked about in previous articles, as we felt well with the people we have met. There is in this country a kind of solidarity hard to re-transcribe by writing, some kind of trust and easy and straightforward communication. Israel was a great moment of our trip.

This is for our forth and last article about Israel, if you still have any questions just shoot them us.

Flexouilles!

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Flash news – Dude, where’s my camera?

Hello girls and boys and all the others.

We have a good and a bad news. The good one is that we are in Addis Ababaxxx le capital of Ethiopia, that we are all right and that we are being hosted in a nice flat, with unlimited hot sower (first since weeks, maybe months), a kitchen, Internet, electricity, and a beautiful view on the surrounding mountains. It’s Ronen a cool dude found on Couchsurfing who welcomed us for few days, and we can finally rest after our recent adventures rather difficult.

And the bad one, we got stolen and we lost our two cameras. No no ladies and gentlemen, not one, but our two cameras. We were walking on the road on our way to hitchhike out of the city of Kembolcha when a tuk-tuk stopped and proposed to bring us a bit further for free. Rémi hopped in the front while Arthur was in the back with two other guys and our backpacks. The two guys discretely opened the pockets of our two small backpacks on which we usually always keep a close eye on, and they took our two cameras, a recorder and phone charger.

As we were saying in our last flash new we arrived in Africa where our travelling style is not working as well as we would like. We really are the white men whom a good part of the locals tries to draw out anything they can from us and to take advantage of us. Just a day after the cameras got stolen, it’s a kid this time that searched Rémi’s pocket and achieved to take his phone, before we noticed and managed to get it back.

In fact the true bad news is that we fell we cannot trust anybody and that we cannot travel the way we want, adding to it that we lost all our pictures of Ethiopia and that we don’t have a camera for the continuation of the trip.

To celebrate this event we decided to create a new category : Stolen Items.

But be careful don’t panic! Once we forget about all the things that make the journey difficult we are really happy to be here, to drink beer at the bar for 0,5€ the pint, to get into cars that disappeared since long time in Europe and to be invited for coffee ceremonies.

Ciao dear pizzas.

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Flash news – ሰላምናችሁ Africa

Salamnatchu ሰላምናችሁ!

Since approximately one week we are in Ethiopia and therefore left the Arab World to enter the real Africa. The first days were quite difficult. There are very few cars so it’s very hard to hitchhike, many people ask us money, especially the kids following us on hundreds of meters, and one often tries to make us pay the “white man price”. It’s the rainy season so it rains a lot, impossible to camp, hard to be hosted, and we end up paying for hotel rooms. We just arrived in Mekele where we find a bigger, more welcoming city and people apparently more used to strangers.

Since several months we are getting late on our articles. Every day from 11am to 5pm Internet doesn’t work, from 5pm to 9pm there is a general electricity outage, which only leaves us the 9-11am time span to have fun charging 38 times the same pages waiting for a stable connection. Comfortable places to write with an electrical plug are rare, so we opt for the “chic” hotels where we drink delicious Ethiopian coffee.

After months of desert, we are happy to cruise through the green mountains of Ethiopia, to have seen monkeys (no dad, no elephant yet) and to have trade tea for cheap and good beers. It’s what we drink now when the rain is too strong, no other option.

But the articles will arrive. Be patient, we send you a lot of telepathic coffee meanwhile.

Ciao!

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Israel, Palestine 3/3 – Can I have the hummus?

Here is the third and last article on our reflections about Israel.  We hope that you carry on and that at least one or two of you will read until the end. If you missed the last episodes here are article 1 and article 2, easy!

« I realized I was not only defending my country. » a friend that signed a 10-year contract after his military service tells us.

Invoking self defence Israel allows itself to replicate with huge power. The military technology and the means of Israel are by far superior compared to the Palestinian ones, like the Iron Dome for example. On the website Breaking the Silence soldiers talk about their experience explaining that often orders are not given respecting war conventions and that civilians are not spared as much as they should. The unbalance of forces is terrific, the Israeli army is overly powerful, and if it is of course normal to defend yourself from terrorist attacks, the truth is not that simple. Many Palestinians are killed while the amount of dead on the Israeli side is insanely less. Often the fault is given to the “terrorists” that are said to use civilians as human shields and to launch rockets from inhabited places (schools, public buildings, etc.). It is likely that these people use this methods and commit many war crimes, but Israel doesn’t strive all the time to protect the civilians as the international conventions ask for. While reading the testimony of these soldiers it becomes obvious that the Israeli army, considered as legitimate, is far from being irreproachable. As an example, during the last war against Gaza in summer 2014 (“protective edge” operation), there has been according to the UNO 1400 Palestinians civilians killed against 6 Israeli civilians.

But the imbalance is not only in the amount of people killed. The Palestinian people suffer, their country is not recognized and is getting surrounded by a wall, their freedom is taken away. And during this time, one hour driving away in the Tel-Aviv bubble, David is jogging and doing push-ups on the beach. A surrealistic gap that makes one quickly forget about the rest when spending a few days playing beach racket on the water side.

“Ah this is an Arab town.” one of our first driver tells us.

“Hein? What do you mean by this?” We are a little bit shocked at first when we hear about “the Arabs over there”. But actually the Israeli society is really organized like this: there are some “Jewish” villages and some Arab villages located only a few kilometres away from each other and with very few exchanges between them. An Arab village is different from a Palestinian village because it is on the ground of Israel and the Arabs who live there have the Israeli citizenship. But it is as well another world where the laws and the general organization are not quite the same as anywhere else. This ghetto-phenomenon, although happening all around the planet, seems very strong in Israel. The society is divided in a great deal of mini-groups, the Arabs in their villages, the settlers in their new barbed-wired residential cities, the Palestinians surrounded by walls, but as well the Sudanese district, the kibbutz and the Druze towns (a surprising stream of Islam). It is almost like there was a will to separate folks, it is better that people don’t meet too much. The Israeli Arabs for example don’t have to do the military service as their allegiance to Israel or Palestine is doubtful, but it actually only keeps each side far away from each other. If instead of doing nothing they would have to do a civil service to integrate the global system?

We ask ourselves about the Israel-Palestine programs that really exist. People often talk to us about the Arabs, who are like this, who build their houses like that and so on. And like many clichés there is a part of truth. “But have you been to Palestine?” “Euh no not really or I was a child.” We want to compare it to the ‘banlieues’ (suburbs) in France where people that have never put a feet in these places allow themselves to criticize them. When you only live with the same people and when mixes are rare it does not really helps mutual understanding and does not make hate vanish.

No English” answer us an orthodox man when ask him our way.

If there is one surprising community, not to say weird, in Israel, it’s the ultra-orthodox Jews, the Haredi. They are people who dedicate their lives to religion, the study of the Torah and who are strictly following the Halakha, the Jewish laws. Different branches exist in this community. The classical ultra-orthodox man walks around with a black suit, a black hat with wide edges and a white shirt. Very often he has a long beard, has some kind of long braids in pig tail shape that grows on his temples (payots) and wears the tzitzits, kind of weaved strings that hang from his pants that is visible to make them remember God’s commandments. You cannot miss them. The women also have an official clothing style, not really sexy, going along with a quite ugly hair cut. They are spending their time pushing pushchairs. Pushchairs, pushchairs, pushchairs everywhere, the orthodox Jews are making many many children and the families with ten kids and more are not rare. They live recluse in neighbourhoods or entire cities, the children are going to specials schools. They meet only people from their community and are only learning the Torah, oh yes, no Mathematics or English for these little orthodoxes. It then becomes difficult to get out of this system in which their thoughts are completely focused in one narrow direction. And the people who have the courage to get away from that end up completely lost, to find a job for example, because they lack so many skills. Hearing somebody telling us “no English” in a country where everybody speaks perfectly English is a bit weird.

With an early marriage and an immoderate number of kids by couple, it is easy to see how the Jewish orthodox population is growing and how important it becomes for the Israeli government to win the votes of this community. This part of the population that is dedicating their lives to God and the reading of the Torah is a problem that impacts the rest of the Israelis. Since they are not working they live from the help of the State, especially the child benefit, while doing some arrangement in between their very closed network. With a little signature from the rabbi, they don’t have to do the military service. But well, they already have a quite high dose of brain washing from their life style and religion, it’s maybe enough.

To the ghetto-phenomenon we talked about earlier about the Arabs, we need of course to add the ultra-orthodoxes who are a perfect illustration of it.

Don’t hitchhike with Arabs car” tell us approximately 10,000 Israelis.

The Israelis are afraid, they are afraid of the Palestinians, they are afraid of rockets. Often when we are talking about our trip and we are saying that we want to go to Palestine, Jordan or Egypt, they think we are crazy, they tell us that we are going to get murdered. Every Israelis repeat to us that we should never go inside an Arab car when we are hitchhiking, those same Israelis who have never been to Palestine.

This fear make us often laugh, and is completely out of step with our hitchhiking experience in Israel, where it’s not rare that a young women give a ride to the two bearded guy we are, at night, on a small road. It never or very rarely happens in Europe.

Today we celebrate the day when Jerusalem got captured. Should I say captured or liberated ?” “Well it depends of the point of view” we answer to an Israeli teenager not sure of his French.

Jerusalem is one of the main disagreement point of the conflict. High place of many religious streams, Jerusalem hosts tourists and pilgrims from the whole world. 1967 following the Six Days War Israel took over the control of all the city, and every year the ultra-nationalists Jews happily remember it to everybody in a giant manifestation during Yom Yerushalayim, the day of Jerusalem. Of course, the Palestinians don’t agree with this occupation. While Jerusalem could be a place where every religion live in peace, it is instead the demonstration of the inability of some men to deal with their differences.

It is when we ask a boy in the street during Yom Yerushalayim pretending not knowing anything, what the origin of this agitation is that he answers this superb sentence. During several hours we will make an indigestion of blue-and-white flags and exacerbated nationalism. Jews from all the country came to follow the procession in the street of Jerusalem. Some teenagers were throwing fliers asking the expulsion of the Muslims from the last place in the old town that they still really control, the Temple Mount. We have been warned, a package of hundreds of army and policemen is on-site, and it’s actually quite normal when we see that the march passes through the Muslim quarter yelling very elaborated slogans like the classical “Death to the Arabs!”. A little bit of originality would have been appreciated. Many altercations happen with the pro-Palestinians and their anti-protest is of course kept aside by the “peace” keepers. utds_2015_05_17-17_40_26

In all that mess, a small group of people are carrying roses and offering them to the crowd to cool everybody’s ardor. From both side of the protest, pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli, people asked for a flower with a genuine smile before destroying it petal by petal in front of their face and throwing it on them. It’s quite difficult to express the human madness that we experienced this afternoon. They were no more men, only enraged sheep going crazy with every slogan, waiting for the next friction to find a reason to hate the other side even more, and if possible to fight a little bit.

The women had a different track than the men’s that we didn’t follow, so we can not say if they dared also to destroy the roses.

Actually, it was a quite sad day for us and we got home with an heavy heart. But that being said we saw the city during more normal days and Jerusalem is a really cool city.

We made a small video of the day to give an idea what Yom Yerushalayim looks like.

The best hummus it’s here.” We still didn’t got where it was, every Israeli has a different address.

The Israelis are proud of their few specialities. They all know the best address in Israel to eat falafel or hummus, and they all have the best recipe to make a shakshuka or to prepare the tahini. In the end, they admit it, those meals are originally Arab while they integrated them to their culture. When you get to know both cultures it becomes a game to spot all the similarities between Israelis and Arabs. The language is a good example, most of the Hebrew words having an Arab origin.

“Make hummus not walls”, the solution is all found for this street artist on the separation wall of Palestine in Bethlehem.

« Hey but in France you are not afraid of the extremism rise?! » many drivers tell us.

In Israel, and even more in Tel-Aviv, we hear all the time speaking French. Many French Jews, often from Paris, emigrated to Israel using the law of return in order to get Israeli nationality. Many of them moved out because they think being more safe in Israel. We often got this same discussion with Israelis explaining us that they saw on TV that it is dangerous to be Jew in France and that the country is full of Islamic extremists and Anti-Semitics. We are very surprised and needed every time to explain that no, the Islamic extremists are not doing the rules in France, and that no, it’s not very dangerous to be Jewish in France. We still wonder because we only have a limited knowledge on the topic, but we have the feeling that the French Jewish community, closed on itself, tends to exaggerate anti-Semitism and the problems Jews could face in France.

Trying to summarize everything, we ended up with something quite long and we didn’t even speak about our experience as travellers (which was great), but it will be done in a future article.

Hummus to everybody! Arfer and Raymi.

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