The hellish border crossing, and a walking tour of the Old City by night
Jerusalem Travel Blog› entry 11 of 18 › view all entries
August 4th, 2008 – by: alygally
We left our hotel in Amman around noon, and within 45 minutes we had reached the border. Jerusalem is perhaps another 30 minutes' drive from the border, but we would have no such luck with a quick and easy drive.
First, you must stop on the Jordanian side and obtain an exit permit from the Jordanians. Next, we waited around for over 90 minutes for a shuttle that would take you the 1/4 mile to - and over - the Allenby Bridge, thereby crossing the border. Of course, as we were not Palestinian and not Jordanian, we had to wait outdoors for a tourist bus in the 100+ degree heat. All this pales in comparison to what awaits you at Israeli customs, however.
At the border, you get out of your bus, get your passport briefly checked, then re-board the bus that takes you to the official customs terminal. Upon arrival, your luggage and your passport are surrendered and put into a rather large stack of passports and suitcases. After waiting around for 20 minutes or so, your passport is given to you once more, and you hope your suitcase makes it out alive. You are herded through a metal detector, then placed in a line of approximately 3,000 others...and wait. And wait some more. Then you get interrogated by the IDF (read: 18-year-old girls with big guns and an attitude problem). If you're luckier than we were, you get your passport stamped (or you obtain your visa on a separate sheet of paper), and you get to quickly move on to yet another line, at the end of which your suitcase may or may not be waiting for you in a sea of other baggage.
We were not so lucky. Not only were two of our group members detained (one has Iranian family, one had recently been to Lebanon, and the border guard was convinced she had been in a Hezbollah training camp), my luggage was ransacked and we were all forced to wait around for approximately two hours whilst all of this mess got cleared up.
We finally got through the border after about 6 hours total, and upon arriving at our hotel in Jerusalem (Mount Scopus, in the Sheikh Jerrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem), we went on an impromptu walking tour of the Old City by night.
Disclaimer: Please note that any further entries from my time in Palestine may be a bit, well, biased.
The Old City is wonderfully old, and you get a bit claustrophobic walking around due to the high walls and narrow streets. Entering those gates is literally like entering another world, or going back in time. Although wandering around at night was lovely because 1) it was not nearly as hot, and 2) there were no crowds to speak of, I don't think it was the wisest idea, in retrospect. Things could have gotten a bit dangerous at times - there are no street lights, very steep stairs, dark alleys, and the only way out of the maze of streets is to find a gate. I'm not so sure I would recommend this type of a self-guided tour - wait until daylight, or be sure you're in a large group and have a good map with you.
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