Miriam’s whatsapp message to me just a few hours ago came as a surprise. I’ve been concentrating so much on my students union campaign that the outside world has been a distant thought.
So when her message read; “did you know that yesterday a bus full of (south) Korean tourists exploded in Sinai desert? There was a bomb inside and 13 people got injured, and 4 died. 50km from the Israeli border in Taba. Wtf!” I was brought be back to reality!
Just over a month ago I was in the Sinai desert with Miriam. Her “WTF” expression is mutual… It’s just crazy to think that we walked down that same street where the bus exploded on sunday, when we crossed the border from Israel on New Years Eve…
And for me it’s even more surreal because I started my Middle East journey in Sharm el Sheikh during my Christmas break, then made my way up to Cairo for a week before taking the 8-10 hr bus ride through Sinai desert to Taba to cross into Eilat, Israel. I walked on that street where the bus explosion happened on 3 different occasion to exit and re-enter Egypt. I loved Egypt so much that I convinced Miriam, a stranger I had met only through ‘Couchsurfing‘ in Israel who became my friend travel buddy, to travel with me to the Sinai desert to see-in in the New Year hosted by Bedouin of the Sinai desert…
Just an extra 50km from the bus explosion near the Israeli border is where our bus to Nuweiba (when it finally arrived at the Taba bus station) stopped minutes after we got on, and a plain clothed immigration officer stepped on and singling us out, demanding to see our passports – just as we’d settled and made ourselves comfortable on the packed bus full of locals from Cairo holidaying in Sinai. We hadn’t been told that our FREE ‘Sinai visa’ stamped in our passports at the border was valid for only the first 100km from the Taba border, so we argued our case thinking we were being scammed when we were asked to pay for a visa! We eventually paid the extra fee to get to Nuweiba before 2013 ended…
It’s a scary thought that innocent people are being targeted through terrorism attacks. It could just have easily have been me at any point of my journey. And an Israeli friend’s personal experience of being kidnapped about a year ago just as he crossed the border from Eilat into Taba when he shared a taxi with a Norwegian tourist, possibly on the same street of the explosion, makes me realise just how lucky I am when I travel to such places. My friend Grace has told me a few times that my ancestors must me working over time to keep me guided… I’d like to think they do it because it’s part of my fate to be a curious being and travel the four corners of the earth… To see the good, the bad, and the darn right ugly!
My thoughts and condolences go out the families and friends of those who died in this tragic incident. And the people of South Korea. Last summer I was fortunate to volunteer with a South Korean charity in the Dominican Republic – Good Neightbors. I know how brave those tourists must have been to venture into the Sinai which his rich in history and scenic beauty, yet deadly for its terror reputation.
Ironically, my Egyptians friend Karim from Cairo just tagged me in this picture. He was unaware of the news (imagine that)!
My Taba/Eilat border crossing in pictures: