Introduction: Plan B – Alexandria to Amman
After my first foreign cycle tour around Croatia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, I knew I had to get out cycle touring again soon. This time for a longer and more challenging tour in a more exotic part of the world. After my last tour in September I was working non-stop between my placement job and my college course for nearly 9 months. This meant no time off bar 4 days at Christmas/New Years and (due to projects) 1-2 days for Easter! I wanted something to aim for after this so I set about researching far off lands. After a short while I settled on the Middle East. I had heard great things about Syria especially so based my trip around this country, while also planning to visit both Jordan and Lebanon which I had also heard were extraordinary.
The plan was to fly into Amman, the capital of Jordan and then bus it to Aqaba at the south end of the country. From here I would cycle north taking in Wadi Rum, Petra, The King’s Highway and the Dead Sea before heading north for Syria. Once across the border I would cross over to Lebanon and cycle through the Bekaa valley visiting Baalbek & Tripoli and then head north into Syria again. Here I would spend most of my time, visiting Krak des Chevaliers, Homs, the desert ruins of Palmyra and finally Damascus before returning to Amman and flying home. The return flights were booked to Amman and that was that!
One month after booking the flights, the Arab revolutions began. Few could have seen it coming but the revolution reached Syria. By mid April it became clear that Syria was out of the question. The brutal crackdown on the protests in Syria meant that hundreds were being killed by security forces and more were being tossed in jail. The country was in a state of disarray and any foreigner passing through the area would be instantly caught up in the maelstrom. Borders were closed and all journalists were kicked out of the country. A cyclist passing through with a large camera and a video camera would raise major suspicions. Meanwhile in Lebanon 7 Estonian cyclists were kidnapped in the Bekaa valley (still being held captive after 2 months.) This news effectively cut my plan to shreds so a few weeks before flying out I set about creating a plan B.
With a quick look at the map I came up with another viable route. With a bit of research I drew up a route crossing from Alexandria in Egypt to Amman in Jordan. So with this set I booked a one way flight to Cairo!
I would see the sights of Cairo first before getting a train to Alexandria. Starting in Alexandria (to avoid the traffic of Cairo) I would cross the Nile Delta to Ismailia, travel down the Sinai peninsula via St.Katherine before taking the unreliable ferry across the Red Sea to Jordan. This ferry meant I could avoid passing through the 15km of Israel territory (thus avoiding the Israeli passport stamp which would mean that in the future I could not visit Syria, Lebanon, Iran or Sudan.) Once in Jordan I would continue my original route taking in the length of the country, visiting Wadi Rum, Petra and the Dead Sea before flying out of Amman. The route totalled around 1450km and I would have 18 days to complete it!