... And That's how I Ended Up In Jerusalem

Alejandro and I coincidentally had similar schedules that lead us both back from Petra to Amman at the same time. The next morning he was supposed to head to Israel, while I was scheduled to fly back to Cairo. I was a bit nervous about heading back to Egypt, especially since every local in Petra was warning against it. The news was still portraying a violent and chaotic image of Tahrir square. Though I'm sure it was more contained than how it appeared, I didn't want to take the risk of getting caught up in any political unrest, especially traveling by  myself. Fine. I will actually admit it. It was difficult to be a foreign woman in Cairo. I hate recognizing that my gender can, in some ways, impede my ability to travel.

So a few hours before my flight's scheduled departure I made the decision to follow Alejandro to Israel instead. I had a friend there also, who I planned on convincing to come travel Egypt with me in the next week anyway.

We set off the next morning to cross the King Houssein Bridge a.k.a. the Allenby bridge that runs near Amman into the West Bank. The word bridge in this sense is really misleading. After hours of waiting on the Jordanian side, we finally boarded a bus to cross the alleged bridge, which was actually a span of road designed to look like a bridge that could probably be walked across in less than 30 secs. If you blinked, you would  miss it.

Though 3 hours had passed since we left our hotel, we were only halfway through the border crossing process. It took 3 more hours, several more lines, and multiple interrogations before we finally made it across the border! From there we hitched a bus to Jerusalem, where we maneuvered are way through the maze like streets of the Old City to our hostel.

It may be blasphemy to say, but I was not exactly excitited about being In Jerusalem. Last year I was privileged to make a most memorable tour through the region with an amazing group of people. The trip changed my life and ultimately set me on a path that has led me to this trip now. However, it also was a reminder of how much has changed. I wasn't exactly prepared to deal with that. This might seem counter-intuitive especially since I am scheduled to attend University at Tel Aviv starting in October. It's not. The two cities, though in the same country, are worlds apart. And while I was in Jerusalem, I couldn't shake this feeling that of discontentment in that I wasn't supposed to be there....yet.

 Jerusalem is a city that seems to carry heavy emotions from anyone who has spent time there. The heaviness was almost debilitating as I walked by a police station with my friend. "That's where they beat Aziz's (a friend of ours) brother to death. With the oppressing tension that hangs in the air of the city, I spent most of my time in Jerusalem feeling like a rat in a cage.

Almost like my experience at the check point coming back from Ramallah into Jerusalem. But I'm ahead of myself. I was fortunate to get out of my cage for a day in Jerusalem and meet up with a good friend from home. Unexpectedly I was able to escape the physical confines of the city as we made are way to Ramallah in the West Bank. It was a nice experience to see Palestinian city thriving with so much life and economy. It was quite a different Palestine than is usually described. Not to mention full of amazing food!

On our way out of the West Bank, we had to disembark the bus in order to walk through the check point. Never in my life have I been made to feel like such an animal, being herded from one "stall" to the next, waiting in line, passing through gates that immediately locked behind us into other gated corridors. It was quite an interesting experience to say the least.

I honestly can't complain too much about Jeruslam though, after all, it was where the trio from Cairo was reunited. The minute Alejandro and I put our stuff down in our hostel beds, I noticed Mice - another traveler from Cairo - had his stuff on the bed across from us! It was wonderful to all meet up once again, which in traveling can often be quite a rare experience. I enjoyed Micey's company for the few days we were in Jerusalem together. We explored the various schwarma and falafel stands, ventured to find the best spot for Shisha in the old city, and always managed to find an ice cream stand whenever the craving hit...which was often in the heat of Jerusalem.

Ultimately, Jerusalem was filled with nostalgia for me, as it is for most people, but after a few days I was thankful to make plans that took me out of the city.