Day 6 – Taba, Red Sea
As we leave Bethlehem and cross the Palestine border into Israel I see graffiti on ‘The Wall’, all exhortations for peace and brotherhood. It’s sad and ironic there’s little peace in this region, the very place where the Christ preached peace and love. The wall divides more than two countries – the differences are stark. Israel has well laid out roads, good cars, orderly traffic, cleaner streets; Palestine is more like India – the roads are narrow, lined with shops with wares taking up footpaths, there’s litter on empty plots and roads. The people are friendly and warm and the shopkeepers call out, ‘India!!! For you three dollar only’.
We move into Jerusalem, unsmiling Jews look at buses carrying tourists with disdain. Considering that tourism is one of the biggest sources of income, Israel can learn a thing or two about ‘atithi devo bhavva’ (The guest is God) from God’s Own Country. In most tourist places the attendants and officials are impatient and at times their attitude borders on rudeness. I now have a new regard for how India, and Kerala, in particular treat tourists. We are so good that we give up a lot to accommodate guests, like we have given up parts of Goa to guests from Israel, Russia and Nigeria.
We enter into Egypt at the Taba border drive along the Red Sea. The waters are a deep blue and quite calm. The roads are deserted but there are scores of housing projects coming up alongside the shore. Spartan resorts with camping facilities dot the beaches. We check in to a beach resort for the night. The beautiful sea looks inviting but I am tired and sore. But not wetting my feet in the Red Sea feels unthinkable. The waters are warm. I click a few pics when one of the guards, Amr (that’s how he spelled it for me) and says, ‘namaste India’. He loves India, he says, ‘India green and bootiful’. When I asked him if he has visited, he says, ‘only on television’. At most places – the customs, the restaurants, shops Egyptians are warm towards Indians. Nice to know we have at least one friend in the Moslem world.