For the first time, and hopefully not the last, Diario de a bordo is honored to contribute to the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Travel Blog 4th Carnival with a post and thus join the initiative of my fellows on the Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Network.
I know, I know… I have barely told you anything about me being part of the Lonely Planet BlogSherpa community, but after a year I still can’t believe that I’m in it. Here I explain why: More than a year ago, Lonely Planet made a call to all travel bloggers because they wanted to complement the info in the Lonely Planet website with blogger’s posts. Though I liked the idea, I have to recognize that I submitted my blog with little hope. However, strangely enough, Lonely Planet accepted it and since then, you can read Diario de a bordo’s posts about all the countries I’ve written about at LonelyPlanet.com. Obviously, this was great news, so why didn’t I tell the whole world about it? Well, mainly because it’s the only Spanish blog in an English website and I wanted to go unnoticed (as I’m not sure they really accept blogs written in other languages). Therefore, I keep thinking that some day they’ll give me the bad news: “Sorry, but you can’t be part of us”. (T-T)
For months, our Google group page was rather inactive, but then someone wrote a post saying: “Why don’t support each other blogs?” (thanks Todd for the initiative!) and everyone woke up from a long lethargic sleep. Since then, a lot of initiatives have been started (we are working in something huge that I hope it will get safely into port) and one of them is the Blogsherpa Travel Blog Carnival. How does this “Carnival” work? Well, someone suggests a topic to the community and everyone writes a post about it and publishes it in their respective blogs. Then one of us, as the host, will do a summary in his/her blog about all these posts. The aim is to promote our blogs among our readers. The current topic is “Rubber Stamp” and the host is Georgia from the amazing blog Gingerbeirut.com. Here it is my contribution:
While we were arranging our trip to Egypt, we decided to stay one week on the Sinai area. Then we figured out that, during our stay, we could go a bit further north-east and visit Petra. I started to read travel forums about ways to get from Nuweiba to Petra. There were two options: by sea or by land. The sea option was soon ruled out because the boat’s timetables weren’t reliable and we only wanted to stay out of Egypt for two days. Moreover, the timetables were awful. But then, I read in a post that, due to the war of 1973, if you get out of Egypt and then go back in through the Israeli border, you can only get a visa for the Sinai area. That wouldn’t have been a problem if we hadn’t had to fly back to Cairo to take our plane back to Spain. I continued researching and I read the weirdest stories ever. The worst one was that of a Spanish family who got back to Egypt by sea and there wasn’t anyone on the border even though it was open. So they went back to their hotel and forgot that they needed the mandatory border stamps on their passports. Days later, they went to Sharm el Sheik’s airport to fly back to Spain and the border policemen told them that they couldn’t get on any plane because they were illegal immigrants. OMG! That mustn’t have been funny. Eventually, with the help of an Egyptair agent, they could board on the plane and fly back to Spain. However, the head of the family later confessed to me that the problem was finally solved thanks to his little son: “I made him cry on purpose to soften the border agent a bit and it worked!”, he told me.
Obviously, I didn’t want to go through that, so the first thing I did in Egypt was to get a re-entry visa in Cairo. In order to get the re-entry visa, you have to go to the Mogamma, a massive concrete building where the whole Egyptian bureaucracy is concentrated, located in Midan Tahrir Square. I was told that having papers done there was like a nightmare, but in the end it was pretty easy. We had to leave the cameras at the entrance and we headed to the first floor. After walking along an endless corridor we got to the window where the visas are dispatched. The whole building was a bit run-down and you can’t see any computer around there, so all the work is made by hand. The government employee there told us to go to another window, buy some stamps, and go back to him with them and fill a form. After doing all this, he took our passports and informed us that we had to go back the next day to pick them up together with the re-entry visas. And we left. Not until the next day did I realize that I had given my passport to someone without receiving any kind of receipt in exchange. How on Earth was I going to claim it back? Would I have to kiss it goodbye and deal with the embassy to have new one done?
The next day, with my head filled with all these questions, I went back to the Mogamma praying not to have to argue with anyone. When we arrived at the window, there was only a woman putting a big stack of papers in some order. We stood some minutes in front of her waiting for any reaction, but there was none. At last, maybe feeling our stare, she told us something in Arabic that we couldn’t understand. A nice guy who was also waiting with us translated it: “The one in charge is praying. You have to wait for 15 minutes”. And so we did. After a quarter of an hour, the man in charge of the passports came and without a word he gave us our passports back with the re-entry visas stuck in them.
So what’s the lesson to be learnt from this? Well, just because things don’t work the same way as in your country, it doesn’t mean it won’t work.
«Rubber Stamp» is the theme of the latest Lonely Planet Blogsherpa Carival, hosted by GingerBeirut. The carnival is now live!