Friday, March 11, 2005

Trip to Al Arish

Trip to Al Arish

The photo of the dune was taken from the car (stationary) on the way to the middle of nowhere.

I am writing this sitting in a small hotel room in Al Arish. The Mediterranean is licking softly at a white beach only thirty metres away. I think it would be an accurate guess that no-one reading this has been here, unless you are in Australia's armed forces and have had an MFO posting.

This is a small town on the top end of the Sinai Peninsula, nuzzled in a friendly way against Gaza (unlike the occupants of the countries).

I would like to say it was an interesting drive. Most of it really wasn't just flat scrubby desert with an occasional small town until we reached the bridge over the Suez Canal.

Then it became sand dune after sand dune, encroaching on the road in sly drifts, a strange light to medium landscape that was somehow more like the sea - grey sky, grey road, and wave after wave of sand. The water table here is high, and now and again in dips in the sand were date palms, or even more strangely, sheets of very still water lying in silver sky-coloured ribbons beside the road. Houses in the occasional tiny town were poor with shutters and no windows.

Al Arish means 'the feather' - a great name.

The road to Al Arish
The road to Al Arish

Just to show you what I mean - this is a shot taken from the window an hour after we left. Nobody said that every picture had to be good. Even taken from a Mercedes.

and again....

This one was another hour later.

And more.....

The road ahead half an hour after that.

A short stop near the power lines
A short stop near the power lines

And again - aken on a leg stretch I the middle of the Sinai.
Then suddenly there was traffic banked up ahead of us before the gates and checkpoint that would let us onto the bridge. A large US ship was going under the bridge, so they had just closed it. Bob chatted to friendly guards, I sat in the car and read a book.

The Sinai Peninsula was much more interesting with large sand dunes encroaching on the road, scrubby growth, very poor looking towns without even glass in the windows of the houses, and surprisingly prolific gardens - though most of it looked the same. A large number of power poles followed the road through the sane dunes, and it looked odd - just sand and sky and masses of power poles, with the odd glimpse of grey sea. Bob is a historian (by interest) of the wars in this region, and enlivened the trip with stories of the campaigns in the towns we drove through, and the problems they had keeping enough water and food coming in for men and horses. I looked at the region we were driving though, and wondered why anyone would want to fight for it. The answer was, of course, control of the Suez Canal.

We are staying at a "resort". The room is fine - sparse and clean with two large beds. I have a heavy cold and I am recovering form a couple of days of the Pharaoh's Revenge. Bob went off for his meetings and helicopter ride, I walked the beach, and then the bed looked very inviting. Five am starts are just not my thing! The bed was very solid. I reached for the pillow and could hardly lift it!

The dining room in the middle of nowhere
The dining room in the middle of nowhere

We left again at 5.45 in the morning. I doubt if I will ever be used to these very early starts - but next time I am going up in the helicopter!


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