Derek and I ( jenny) left Ireland on december 6th 2011 to begin our journey to Gaza. After a stopover in Cyprus we arrived in Cairo on december 21st . We made our way to our hostel , quite close to Tahrir Square where we met up with Irish freelance Photographer, Jeff Bright from Sligo http://www.jeffreybright.com. The plan was to leave Cairo after a few hours sleep and make our way to Rafah , to arrive early in the morning. As some of you know, there is no way of knowing how things will turn out at Rafah, so we expected a long delay……….WE WERE RIGHT!!!
The last time I travelled from Cairo to rafah, it took over 7 hours because of checkpoints, now the journey takes less than 5. Once you leave Cairo there are a lot of military on the road but no police checkpoints, in fact we did not get stopped until we reached Rafah town.
So, we arrive at Rafah Border early hours of the morning , and the “Fun” begins. Power play, Politics, Mind games , humiliation , degradation , CORRUPTION are all words that anybody who has ever been at the Border will associate with it.
5 minutes turns in to 2 hours, just to be asked for more paperwork , you hand in the paperwork and it is decided after another 2 hours, that is NOT the paperwork they need, you are asked to get a letter from Irish embassy faxed to the border, but amazingly they refuse to give you the number of the fax machine,so we go into Rafah and get the letter faxed there,and once again they will not accept the fax being sent to somewhere in Rafah town, then there is more paperwork from the Egyptian Authorities needed and it goes on and on , In fact at one point, we were told we could not enter ” For our own safety”………
While we are waiting at the “loosely termed” Cafeteria , you do get the chance to meet some amazing people of different nationalities. I remember once looking around our table and there was Derek , myself and Jeff, Mohammed from IHH, Ashraf and Abdullah from Gaza but living in Kuwait , a german photographer and a lady from Gaza city. At the end of day one, the german guy had decided to return to Cairo, The Palestinian lady was Forced to return to Cairo and Ashraf , Abdullah, and the 3 of us headed to a cheap hotel in El Arish for some food and sleep, Mohammed from IHH had finally gotten in to Gaza after almost a week of sitting at the border.
So, the story is basically the same for the next few day’s, arrive at the border, wait at the cafe, drink tea, speak to many other people but get refused at 5pm each day, Friday the border is always closed so by Sunday, Christmas day, we leave Rafah. Ashraf and Abdullah had eventually been allowed entry by Saturday evening
We need to return to Cairo to see the Egyptian authorities so Christmas day 2011 we spend in a shared taxi with 6 other people and a 5 hour trip back to Cairo, we have chicken shawarma on the side of the road for christmas dinner and book in to our little hostel near Tahrir again.
We spend the next few day in Cairo trying to find the correct offices and individuals to sort out the paperwork but without much luck. We head to the Irish embassy who are extremely helpful and they get us sorted but things are now moving very very slowly in Egypt since the revolution and we end up staying for over 3 weeks in Cairo until we finally get the paperwork we HOPE will allow us to cross.
We spend our time in Cairo chatting to people about the Revolution, playing and talking to the street children or visiting Tahrir square, we were lucky enough to be in Tahrir square on January 25th , the anniversary of the revolution ( we also managed to do the touristy bit and visit the Egyptian Museum) until finally Saturday 28th January 2012 we head off again towards Rafah
We arrive to see the same crooks and bandits as the last time offering dollars sheckles and of course to bring you in through the tunnels at ludicrous rates,thankfully they recognised us and didn’t bother us.
This time we meet Sven from the Icelandic Palestine association and a Palestinian lady and her german husband trying to get in to register their marriage in Gaza. Surprisingly, we don’t actually get delayed too long this time and get through the first gate pretty quickly. We arrive at the travel hall where we sit with many others for the next few hours,,,,,,,, passports get stamped, departure tax is paid, obligatory bus tickets for the less than one minute bus ride is paid, short trip to the other side and we are in………,
Question answered , WE WANT OUR BOAT BACK……