Sunday, May 2, 2010


Finally off to Egypt!!!!!!!! We left on Friday April, 15th around 1AM. It took about two hours to get through security. I am not a terrorist Ben Gurion Airport! I know they are just doing their job, but man, it gets tiring. Katie had Jordan stamped on her Passport so that held us up for a bit, but Adie when right through with her Israeli passport. I had to empty my bad twice and they threw away my Proactiv. Bummer. When we got to Cairo, we got our visas, took money out and then look for our taxi. There was someone from the hostel waiting for us. The ride back was very interesting, there are lines on the roads to separate the lanes, but they don't care there. They would pass people in between the lines. It was pretty scary. There were a lot of men walking around at 2AM. Women were not to be found. When we got to the hostel I was a little nervous. It didn't look like the safest place, but hey, it was ten bucks a night! So we were just going to try it out. Two people from our plane were sitting in the living room, and they told us that they mixed up the nights and forgot to book that night, we had an extra bed in our room so we told them to stay with us. When we went to bed that night, I had a really bad bloody nose...the air was so dry. That morning, we had breakfast, but it was one hard boiled egg and a few pieces of bread. We then walked to the Egyptian museum. The streets were so dirty! There were no crosswalks and you just had to sprint to the other side and pray that you wouldn't get hit. The museum was great, the building itself was in pretty bad shape, but King Tut's exhibition was great. It was fascinating to see all of his jewels and all the tombs he was buried in. We also saw the Mummies exhibit where Ramses II was. We walked to find a place to eat, pretty touristy. After lunch we walked across the Nile and then went into the Al-Tahrir Gardens. It was beautiful and clean! There were a lot of couples and many families there. We took a nice nap and then headed back to the hostel.

The toilets were a bit of an issue because you had to pay to get toilet paper even though they had signs not to pay, but of course you needed to use it! There were a ton of men walking everywhere just staring at you. They made you feel so uncomfortable and we were dressed modestly. Most of the women were of course covered, but they even had their faces and hands covered, all you could see were their eyes. When we were walking through the streets women came up to us and started mocking us and started to pull on our clothes. Very very uncomfortable. It was really hard to be there without men travelling with you. We went to a restaurant for dinner called GAD. I had pizza, very slow service. I really don't think they liked serving us. It was just the weirdest thing walking into a restaurant and EVERYONE staring at you.

Saturday morning we woke up early and went to the pyramids! :) We first went to Sakara where the first pyramid was built. It is the step pyramid. We also were able to go into another pyramid and see a tomb. Then we went to Memphis which was a lot of statues that we say at the museum, so we then went on to Giza. We took a two hour camel ride to see all the pyramids and the sphinx. The camel ride was kind of painful. We definitely walked like Egyptians after we got off. My camel wasn't the best at going down the hills. We were able to go up to the pyramids and climb on them. We took a lot of pictures and we were being haggled by everyone. There was always someone trying to sell you something. The grounds of the pyramids were very crowded with many tourists. Our guide was okay, but he kept reminding us that we needed to tip him. Very annoying. We then had dinner back in Cairo at a local restaurant. We had kosheri... some pasta and lentils with tomato sauce. Very delicious! I went back to the hostel and rested for a bit while Adie and Katie walked around. I really didn't feel comfortable in Cairo. We went out for dinner and then I had rice pudding for dessert! They had it at all of the restaurants, so I wanted to give it a try! :)

On Sunday we slept in and went to Islamic Cairo...pretty much like the arts and crafts market of the city. We also went into a mosque! We had to wear dresses that covered us...we looked like elves. Ha. I was surprised that we were even able to go into the mens section of the mosque. It was very large and for once I didn't feel too out of place. We then walked around and I bought some earrings for Rosie. I bought about five pairs of silver earrings. The man was so grateful and kept telling us what good luck we were. I'm sure it takes him all day to sell that many. We kept walking down and then we reached the area where most tourists don't go. It is just so dirty, you were in a slum, it is just trash over dirty over trash. So disgusting. We were pretty bored so we walked to the Embassy to see if we could have a tour or something. It was quite humorous because they looked at us like we were aliens. It was crazy, we didn't know if we could even get in. But the Marine said if we knew someone then we could have had a tour. Oh well. We then walked to the Four Seasons for a drink. It was such a great feeling to be sitting on a clean couch and being able to relax without worrying about being dirty. We had a great time, and then we went downstairs for some dinner. I HAD GINGER ALE! Sounds pretty lame, but I can't get it in Israel, I was so excited. We then left around 9PM to wait at the hostel for our cab. The questioning in the airport was very intense. They didn't believe our story and questioned us for about an hour separately. At one point I started laughing because I knew I had nothing to hide. She just kept coming up with more questions and it was just getting to the point where it was ridiculous. They had Cinnabon and Starbucks!

Overall Egypt was a lot of fun, but it was just very culturally shocking. I had a great time at the pyramids, but Cairo was just too much for me. Too dirty and I didn't feel comfortable. It was scary walking around not knowing what was underneath the women's clothing and you can't recognize them. I really think it is a security risk when you can only see the eyes. If I ever visit again, I would want to explore more of the country. And, I would stay in a place where I could flush my toilet paper!

Catherine's Visit!

Catherine came to visit on Friday April, 9th. I picked her up at the airport at 4am and then we came back to Jerusalem. We took a nap for a few hours and then we headed down to the Old City. It was so nice to have someone from home here because I felt like I knew so much and I was able to show someone where I have been living for four months. In the Old City we did a lot of shopping and had a nice lunch. We took a ton of pictures and were talking with the locals for a while. We came back and had dinner and then watched American Idol with my roommates. Saturday morning we headed to Tel Aviv for the day. It was the first time I was going to Tel Aviv without someone from school. We had to take a sheruit there because the buses weren't running due to Shabbot. The beach was great. Very crowded, great sun. We went to Moses' for dinner where we had bacon cheeseburgers! Yum. Yum. Yum! On our way back to Jerusalem we were planning on going to this new club with a bunch of people, but then Effe and Aviva were going to the movies so we tagged along. We went and saw Alice and Wonderland in 3D. It was really different than the Disney version. Pretty violent actually. On Sunday we woke up early and went to the Dome of the Rock with Adie, Aviva and Dan. The Temple Mount is gorgeous. Being that close to the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque. We took a lot of pictures and I wore my Wagner shirt so I could send the photo in for my school's photo contest. When we came back to campus we were going to get falafel, but French Hill wasn't open! :( We went to the one next door instead. Not the same, not as good. I had to go to class because I was going to Cairo the following week. It was such a nice weekend. I was so happy seeing someone from home and I was so thankful that she was able to come. I didn't feel that well the next few days, so I slept a lot. I'm glad it only lasted a few days so I was healthy for Cairo.

Rhodes, Greece

Wednesday March, 31st we left for Greece for six nights. I went to the airport with Effe and her family, and it made the questioning process a lot easier as I was with an Israeli family. Our plane was an hour late so we just sat around...I tried a burger from McDonalds, but the interesting thing was it was during Passover, so it was a different kind of bun. Not appetizing. Once on the plane it was a short flight to Rhodes, I had a window seat and it was really fun to see all of the Islands when we were landing. Each island has such a different terrain. The travel agency was Israeli, so there were many on our plane and a few in our hotel. We were the last hotel stop on our bus. When we first got off, we thought the facade was nice but disappointed with how the beach was maintained. Beach wasn't ready for people, broken beach chairs, and the bars or cafes were not open. (I had a big problem with this trip as we wanted a beach vacation and they sent us to Rhodes a month and half before the peak season started. I will put in this post the letter I wrote to the travel company about how upset I was...that will explain more of why I didn't have the best time.) When we got to our first room, the bathroom was really dirty, so we asked for a new room. The second room was a little better, but the bathroom wasn't stocked for us and they had to bring in another bed because there were three of us. The pullout couch that we could have used was broken, there was no clock in the room, the television barely worked, and we had to screw the light-bulb's in manually for the lamps to work. We relaxed a little bit until dinner that night. The meal's were delicious and very ethnic. That evening we went down to the bar and we got a drink.

On Thursday it was very windy and barely sunny. It didn't put me in a good mood at all. We walked to the Old City and had a great lunch. There were a few things open, but not a lot. I didn't mind the bad weather, but I really didn't want to be walking around a city, I have it in Jerusalem, and I did a ton of walking in Prague. I really had my expectations set to be laying on the beach each day and it didn't happen. On the way to the Old City I was very quiet and just stayed to myself. I didn't want to keep complaining and ruin everyone else's trip. I called the travel agent to see if she could get me out of Greece, I was just so upset and couldn't bring myself to accept that I was spending $800.00 on this trip. The flights were booked and I refused to pay more money. For lunch we had baked feta, spanakpita, and an infused spicy cheese. The sun finally came out and it was so nice. We then walked and got orange chocolate gelato. We found a tiny spot on the beach and we took a nice nap. Mike and I walked back and we found a Church for mass on Friday and Saturday. We had dinner at the hotel that night (our meals were included for the trip) and then we went to the Pirate Bar. The Pirate Bar had been rented by an Israeli group, and had their own entertainment so we didn't get a typical night in Greece that night.

Friday we walked up to the Acropolis. The weather was pretty chilly and I was still frustrated. But it was fascinating to see ruins from a Greek temple. We stayed there for a bit and pretending to be in the Olympics and watching a play. We walked back down to the Old City for lunch, but not everyone could agree on what to eat so Mike and I went to a nice seafood place. We had baked feta and calamari. When we walked back to the hotel, we walked along the water and took pictures near the fortress. It was so windy that day. Once back at the hotel I called Dad as it was his birthday and then we went to Good Friday mass. It was a small church and it was interesting as the Priest held mass in many different languages. It was great that for a few minutes everyone felt at home. This was the first time that I had kissed the statue of Jesus and then we received the flowers from the statue. That evening I worked on my Hebrew homework and then we went down to the bar again.

Saturday was finally a beach day! Finally! We went down to Falaraki beach which is a out thirty minutes from Rhodes city. The beach was beautiful, the sad was so fine and the water was great. It was freezing, but unbelievable clear. This was my first time swimming in an ocean! It was so much fun to ride the waves! I would have to say it was a little better than Whale's Tale! For lunch there were only two places open. This was such a big beach town and there were a ton of shops, but nothing open. but we got Gyros...not bad actually! We headed back to Rhodes City and it felt great to shower off the salt water!

On Sunday Mike and I went to church and then I relaxed on the beach of the hotel for the rest of the day. Some people went back into the Old City to do some shopping, but I wanted to soak up the sun. It was such a clear day that you could see Turkey. Turkey was very close, but the mountains were so beautiful. It make me think about the Kurds and how they live so far deep into the mountains. Sunday night we went to the Old City to find a bar. Wow. Beyond dead. There were no young people, it was all 40 year olds and barely any of them! I still just don't understand what people do there when it is the off season!

On Monday we went to Lindos. Beautiful day. We rode donkey's up to the acropolis. I really liked looking out into the water and seeing the different colors of the water. The beach of Lindos which was really a cove was so peaceful and untouched. We had a lot of fun taking pictures from the top. On our way down we stopped along all the little shops. We had a great lunch, and of course we had baked feta. After lunch, we walked down to the beach. There weren't a lot of people, and no water sports to rent. The water was pretty chilly so we just walked in the water. The sand bars all along the coast were great because you could see where you were walking and it was even all throughout. There were a lot of fish swimming around us, not a big fan, but it was so cool to see them glistening under water! I really can't explain how clear the water was. I never thought it would be like that. I took some shells with me from Lindos. On the way home I noticed many religious markings. There were Greek Orthodox, but randomly on the side of the rode there were mini shrines with a candle burning inside. They were very small, but then some were about the size of a shed. I couldn't figure out what they were.

On Tuesday our flight was leaving at 1:45AM. We had the whole day to lounge around. I went to the beach again while people went shopping. We had lunch near the hotel, then we tried to go to the Archaeological Museum. The concierge told us the wrong times, so we got there too late. What a bummer. We walked around the Old City some more and then went back to the hotel. We paid extra to have the hotel until 8pm. Around 8, we headed out for dinner. We walked forever trying to find a place to eat. What a cold night it was. We finally found a place that was mainly gyros. These were delicious! The sauce they used made the dish. I had ordered a coke to drink, but it was pretty flat. I asked the manager for another coke and he told said, "I just opened yesterday, what do you want from me?" That line pretty much sums up the entire trip.
After dinner we got crepes and I had a Ferrero Roche spread in mine. Heavenly good. We walked back to the hotel and waited for our bus in the lobby. We waited for about two hours . The airport was dead, we were the only flight at that time. The process they had was really funky, the people giving us our tickets were the ones at the security gate and then were the ones boarding us. It was just really screwy. Surprisingly there were a lot of Orthodox families, I was confused because it would be very difficult to keep Passover in Greece. We finally got back to Jerusalem at 6:30 am. I couldn't make it to class. Unfortunately I was woken up at 9:30 with construction men ripping up the tiles in the hallway because of our water damage. I went grocery shopping and made it to my night class. When I came back from friend Catherine from CT skyped me and told me that she was going to come visit for the weekend!!!!!

Below is the letter I wrote to the travel agency about how I was upset with what had happened.

To Whom it May Concern:

I recently purchased a package to Rhodes, Greece from Helena Davidovich who works for Issta. This was a package that was being sold by Flying Carpet for a six night stay at the Mediterranean Hotel for nearly $800.00. We left March, 31st and returned April, 6th. Prior to booking this trip, I had many conversations with Helena about this trip and our options. She researched many destination spots for our group, however, we specifically said that we wanted a beach vacation. There is no doubt in my mind that Rhodes is a beautiful destination, yet, perhaps during the peak season. I went to a travel agency, as I am not familiar with this area of the world and needed help. I am confused why someone would send me to a destination when things are not open. For every four shops, there was one open. There were no restaurants on the beach open, no water sports, essentially besides walking around in circles- nothing to do. We walked to the acropolis and the Old City, but that took nearly an entire day. We were told by Issta that we could take a ferry to Turkey for the day, which sold the trip for me. However, once in Rhodes, we went to buy tickets and they do not take daily trips as it is not peak season. This was such a disappointment as we had expectations which were set by Issta.

The stay at the Mediterranean Hotel was less than comfortable. We switched rooms twice as the first room had hair all over the bathroom, and then in the second, the pullout couch was broken. They had to bring in a new bed for us, and then finish stocking the bathroom. The room was clearly not ready for us. There was no clock in the room, the television was not consistent when turning on, we had to screw the bulbs into the lamps in order for them to work, the maids left the doors open after cleaning which drew mosquitoes into the room, and the entire hotel staff treated us as if we were simple college students that should not be there. The concierge gave us faulty information on when the Archaeological Museum would close, the wait staff was annoyed that we did not order drinks at night, and then were less than helpful when we asked where to go at night. The front desk specifically said that there was not much to do as it was not the peak season.

After speaking with a representative from Flying Carpet at the hotel, he said that our travel agent was a liar and this wasn’t a beach destination at this specific time period. The miscommunication from either the hotel to Flying Carpet or from Flying Carpet to Issta is not my responsibility. I paid for the travel agent to take on that responsibility, and unfortunately, with this trip, communication was lost. With Issta being the “middle-man” when selling these packages, the company should be more than confident in the trip, and also should not use this as an excuse for the inability to take responsibility when the customer is dissatisfied.

Regardless of whether other travel agents have visited Rhodes at the same time period, I was sold a beach vacation. I am very upset as I spent a lot of money on this trip, and I feel that I was lied to. In effect, Issta sold a faulty product. I’m confused to why someone would send me there if they knew it was not the peak season. I was clear in my expectations of what I wanted out of this trip, and my needs were not met. Compensation is rightfully in order as I was a paying customer whose expectations were not met. Answers are in order either from Flying Carpet or Issta as to why this would be recommended when we were repeatedly told from the hotel, Flying Carpet, owners or stores, and locals that it was the off season.

I look forward to hearing from you and I appreciate you taking the time to help me in this matter.