Neot Hakikar is a tour company founded by Israeli settlers in 1961 who began running trips to the Sinai in 1967, after Israel captured the area of land between the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba during the Six-Day War. When Israel ceded the Sinai back to Egypt as a result of the peace treaty, they joined forces with Jabaliya (the Arabic word for highlanders and the name of the Bedouin tribe that lives in the High Range of the Sinai) and merged. Their main office is in Tel Aviv, 67 Ben Yehuda Street , and can be reached by e-mail at: email@example.com.
Neot Hakikar’s packing list specified: a daypack, good walking shoes and sandals, shorts and t-shirts for day, warmer gear for night (it gets very cold in the desert at night), water canteens or bottles, flashlight, sun hat, sunglasses, suntan cream, lip balm, bathing suit and towel, etc. We were too naive (or dumb) in the early stages of travel to even consider bringing extra munchies just in case…
Packed, flew and in Israel, the big group met in Jerusalem and set off by bus along with two Israeli guides to the border crossing at Eilat-Taba. This adventure group consisted of people from all over Europe, Israelis, Americans, young and old, a cross-section of different professions and religions.
THEN — There were only a few little hotels in Eilat and nothing but guard huts at Taba, the border crossing, and a “deserted” desert. The border guards weren’t exactly thrilled to see us and made the guides hand-carry all the supplies for 30 people across the border. Once everything was unloaded, the Taba guards decided to harass the Israelis a little more and made them carry everything back to the border station to check how much food and wine they were bringing into Egypt.
Once that was finished, with lots of mumblings and grumblings from us as well as the guides, an Egyptian guide shepherded the group and provisions onto a public bus heading towards the “beach town” of Nuweiba, 70 km/43 miles south of Taba. NOW –Nuweiba is an actual “beach town” with Hilton Hotels and fancy resorts eons removed from the deserted stretch of beach in 1984 with no one but us on it. Our Bedouin drivers met us in Nuweiba with three 10-13 person seater trucks, open on the sides on the sides for direct contact with the desert trails and scenery and a jeep to carry supplies. Think…military convoy…and you’d get the picture.
Time for lunch on the beach with a gazillion flies thrilled to see human flesh and food, driving one and all insane. The guides began passing out fresh bread, salami, tomatoes, opening cans of fruits and vegetables, and passing around a -gallon plastic jug filled with water that all drank from and passed on to the next person, including the Bedouins. Germaphobic us did a double-take but with absolutely no choice except die of thirst, we did the same and passed it to a male New Yorker who was even more naive about adventure travel than I was. Mr. N.Y. hadn’t seen 20+ people already drink from this container and when ex-Marine informed him of this fact, he replied, “Why didn’t you tell me before I drank?”…to which ex-Marine replied, “Misery loves company.”
Everyone else tucked into the food but Mr. N.Y. just sat there. When ex-Marine asked why, he wasn’t eating, he “…was waiting for the flies to go away..”. In case you didn’t know this fact of life — flies do not go away until it gets dark. This was going to be a long five days…