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Showing posts from August, 2012

Sleeping amid sacks of Cannabis: My night with Bedouin opium farmers in Sinai

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Sometime in the mid-Nineties my ex-wife heard there was a great hike in Southern Sinai, where, while standing in Asia, one can look out over Africa.  I liked the sound of this, so we went to the Egyptian embassy in Tel Aviv and got visas to South-Sinai (it was outside the Sinai coast area where Israelis have visaless access).  These were the years of the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations and before the rise of al-Qaeda.  Sinai was a pretty safe place at this time.

We caught a rickety bus which goes from the Egyptian border with Eilat to Cairo. The bus slowly crossed Sinai, and after the better part of a day we got off in Wadi Feiran, which is thought to be the site of the biblical battle of Rephidim, where the Israelites beat Amalek and which contains a palm tree forest.

In Feiran we made our way to a Byzantine convent called Deir el-Banat. The convent is 1,500 years old and looked completely alive (though a bit empty).  At the convent a woman, who I suppose was a nun, looked a b…

Cycling in Israeli summers: How air-conditioning boils me alive.

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Its the end of July and it hasn't rained in Tel Aviv for over three months. The ambient temperature is 30 degrees centigrade by seven a.m. and at night it doesn't get below 23. Humidity reaches 65% and midday temperatures are close to body temperature.
We have no air-conditioning in our house and I cycle to work, which causes constant astonishment in my office. Everyone else lives and sleeps in air-conditioned flats, they briefly step out into the heat as they go to their cars, which are also air-conditioned and then they drive to the office where they again, briefly, step into the heat of the underground car-park before ascending to the air-conditioned office.  So they only have brief encounters with the heat and can't understand how I manage.

Cycling in this heat does require a certain amount of care. I wear sandals, shorts and loose sleeveless shirts in an effort to keep my body from heating up. Gloves are out of the question and I would prefer not to use a helmet, tho…