The difference between the fast ferry and the slow car/truck ferry was just $10, but about 3 more hours of travel time across the Gulf of Aqaba to Jordan. And hanging out on the slow ferry with all the truck drivers on a Saturday morning was not something I really wanted to do. One guidebook said that the fast ferry runs everyday at 3pm except on Sunday. Another one said it ran early on Saturdays. The owner of my beach camp in Nuweiba called what he said was the port and they said there was NO fast ferry on Saturdays, but the slow ferry would leave at 2pm. The book, of course, said the slow ferry leaves at noon. And to top it all off, the man said that the ticket window closed at 11am either way.
What?? It was like an awful middle school math problem!
So just to be on the safe side, I arrived at the Nuweiba port at 10:30am to find out the Fast Ferry was running and would depart at 3pm just as my book said. So I proceeded to waste the next 5 hours wandering around the scruffy port area all the while schlepping my bag through litter covered, crumbling sidewalks and gutters. I sat in one café hoping to eat lunch, but was never served. The only other customers were a table of Egyptian men smoking shisha pipes. No one ever came to my table except a cute little girl who presented me with a ‘bouquet’ of leaves. I thanked her and she pointed to the ring on my finger that my mom had given me years ago. I guess this was the exchange she wanted, but I would not trade. I moved on to a second café and had some decent falafel on pita and read my Israel travel guide for a very long two hours.
Finally I moseyed to the port entrance. The signs were all in Arabic so luckily the security guards and policemen every 100 meters were pretty helpful. First I went through a security check where my bags were x-rayed. Then I was pointed into a large bright hall where I sat on a hard bench before going through immigration. After getting my passport exit stamps, I sat on a hard bench in a large dark hall. Here I came in contact with the first westerners I’d seen all day. About twenty passengers sat waiting… a handful of them tourists. Next, we were herded onto a bus that had definitely seen better days. What was once a luxury coach with plush seats was now dirty, torn and tattered with broken seat arms and seat backs that no longer stayed in the upright position.
When I finally boarded the ferry at 3:30pm (of course it was late), my ticket and passport were checked no less than five times and then I entered another world. It was as nice and plush as any big fast ferry I’d been on before. These kinds of ferries are kind of like business class in an airplane, but with much more room, larger comfy seats, a coffee and snack bar and general luxury compared to where I’d hung out all day.
It was a Saturday and also low season so myself and just the few others on board rode the huge empty vessel past Saudi Arabia on the East and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on the West up to Jordan under a full moon.