Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Stamp and the Security Check

The problem:
We're off to Israel, Jerusalem to be precise, and then to meet friends we made in Turkey. But we have a problem. Our journey along the Silk Road will take us through Iran, and you cannot get a visa for Iran with an Israeli stamp in your passport.

The theory:
So, like many other travellers, we have to leave Jordan at the King Hussein/General Allenby bridge across the Jordan river and enter Israel through the West Bank. We then have to ask the immigration officers not to put either exit or entry stamps in our passports, but on a separate piece of paper. We also have to leave by the same route and repeat the process in reverse order, within 14 days.

The reality:
8.45am A shared taxi gets us to the Jordan border post in good time.
9.45am We are still waiting to buy an exit stamp from an official who is not where he should be
10.15am We have our exit stamp on a piece of paper and board the service bus to take us to the Israeli border post.
11am Waiting for service bus to fill up
11.15am The bus is full. We are now waiting for a border guard to check everyone has an exit stamp
11.45am Arrive at the Israeli border post where we wait to hand over our backpacks to baggage handlers.
12.05pm We wait to pass through a metal detector and then a Star Trek transformer device that blows air under our clothes. Oooooh.
12.30pm Queue to present our passports to Israeli immigration officers who are all female soldiers, and the one in front of us is shouting at someone so we change queue.
12.45pm We present our passports together and ask for an entry stamp on a separate piece of paper. After giving an explanation for the reason, the soldier indicates that this is okay, and then asks a few questions. I get my passport back, but Gayle is asked further questions. She blanks when she is asked for her paternal grandfather's first name.
1.10pm After several more questions, Gayle is asked to take a seat while they process a security check based on the questions they have asked.
2.30pm Gayle is called by a police officer who has her papers. Which hotel is she staying in Jerusalem? The Citadel. What is the full name of the hotel? The Citadel Hostel. That is a hostel, not a hotel, she is informed, before being asked to return to her seat.
3pm Chatting with many other travellers who have all visited Lebanon and Syria too.
3.40pm Gayle is called again and presented with her passport and separate entry stamp and an apology for the delay.
3.55pm Board minibus to Jerusalem and wait for it to fill up
4.35pm Arrive.

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