Tuesday, January 09, 2007 Jordan Jordan

Where next?

We have stayed in the Select Hotel for a week, firstly to have our first rest since İstanbul, and secondly because we are at a bit of a dead-end and had to work out where to go next. The only ways out of Jordan are:

  • Syria (no, we'd need a new visa, and we've just come from there anyway).
  • Israel (no, we can forget about visiting half the muslim countries in the world after that).
  • Saudi Arabia (virtually impossible to get a visa).
  • Egypt (where we would be in another dead-end, and in any case we want to keep heading east).

To keep to our ideal of not flying if possible, the vague outline in our heads has been to get a coach across Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates. And then from there try to sail to India. The backup plan has been Jordan–Egypt–Sudan–Eritrea–Yemen–Oman, and then sail to India. That was the vague plan. Now we have actually researched it, we've found that both options are going to be near impossible.

Plan A: transit Saudi Arabia

There are four ways to get a visa for Saudi Arabia, acknowledged as being the hardest country in the world to enter apart from possibly North Korea:

  • Be a muslim on a pilgrimage (we would need a certificate of conversion from our local imam in our home country, and anyway we've just missed this year's pilgrimage).
  • Have a business sponsor in Saudi (difficult when you don't even have a job).
  • Book an outrageously expensive 'educational' package holiday (errr… no).
  • Get a few-day-long transit visa (you need to have a confirmed coach ticket, a visa for your destination country, and you have to demonstrate that you have absolutely no other options but to transit Saudi. Even then you probably won't get a visa unless you have residency status in the destination country).

Plan B: go into Africa then cross to Yemen

It turns out there are no ferries from Africa to Yemen: the only Red Sea crossings go to Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, according to one source, "it is extremely unlikely that you would be able to persuade a cargo ship to take you." In any case, even if we could somehow get across to Yemen, we would need a pre-arranged Yemeni visa, which would be difficult to get outside our home country.

And after that, what about boats from the Persian Gulf to India?

Again, there aren't any.

In short, we are stuffed.

Our only real option is to fly somewhere, so we have booked two tickets with Emirates to Mumbai (Bombay) in India, leaving tomorrow. Because the flight requires a change in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, we have been able to add a stopover there for a small extra payment. So we're having two nights in a nice hotel in Dubai, reasonably cheaply thanks again to Expedia, and then flying on to Mumbai. Total flying time: just under six hours, during which time we will cover about the same distance as we have done in just over six weeks since starting our journey. It's disappointing, but in truth we always knew we would need to fly at some stage.