GETTING TO INDIA: Best laid plans...

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No way.
We don't want no Christian, Jew or other non-Moslem tourists here!
(And that's the truth, PC be damned.)

We dropped the plan of crossing Saudi Arabia [map link] as a short cut to the Gulf states: Kuwait, UAE, Dubai, Oman, Qatar. We did want to explore these Moslem lands as we have so many others.

However Saudi Arabia stands physically in the way: They do not want us (or likely you) there. Period.

Hopping a boat from one of these Gulf States –> Iran would be the shortest, more interesting route. It's in the 'Tried But Failed' basket.

Lonely Planet says:
. . ."Saudi Arabia is one of the most difficult places in the world to visit.
. . .Jews are not granted visas to the Kingdom ... the Saudi authorities
. . .have started tentatively to issue tourist visas, but only for those willing
. . .to travel as part of a group organised by a recognized tour company."

Forget driving across Saudi Arabia yourself.
. . .- Unless you plan months ahead and get luckier than us with the Saudis.
. . .- Or if you are are a Muslim on a Hajj or Umrah. [Wikipedia definition link]
. . .- Or if you have an 'approved' business invitation from inside Saudi.
. . .- Or if you are part of a Saudi travel agent's organized group.

They do not want non-Muslim travelers there, bottom line, full stop. Some nice open religious society they have, huh? National bigotry, by law.

There are business invitations that get around it, but even that is not easy. I watched an American who has some business interests there, with all his paperwork in order, get a dumb run-around. He told me it's extremely difficult, he even owns a company there.

We spent two weeks in Cairo trying. All we asked for was a transit visa to Kuwait, just 4-5 days, supported by a letter from the Government of Canada ($50 at Embassy.)

I was brushed off rudely, within 5 minutes, by a Saudi Embassy visa clerk:
. . ."Since you do not have work in Kuwait, we cannot grant you a visa."
. . .Then he turned his back, walked away, not even a polite goodbye.
. . .What an amazingly rude, arrogant little bugger. Door-slam-in-face,
. . .and he enjoyed his little power trip.

Then I tried going 'local,' hired a recommended Egyptian whose career consists of obtaining visas to Saudi. After several days of frustration, we obtained a meeting with a nice western-suited senior Embassy man, who said it may be possible:
. . ."I will try help you, but it will likely to take 1-2 months. It needs to go
. . .to two separate ministries including the Ministry of Sports."
. . .Sports? I asked, we're just driving through. But yup, it's sports.
. . .He was a friendly civilized gentleman about it – but 1-2 months?

Forget many weeks of waiting in Egypt, followed by a possible rejection. We hopped on the bike and rode the long way around Saudi, skipped all the Gulf states.

We also tried on-line, by email, phone and shopping in person, for any passenger boats/ferries out of Egypt. Even to Cypress or Turkey. Nope.

Forget also about boats that go around Saudi to the Gulf States or Pakistan etc. Zero, zilch, nada.

As a last-ditch effort, we then tried to buy our way aboard a freighter from Egypt, heading to Iran or India. I've been successful at freighter-hopping twice before, once from Maine –> Portugal with a van, once from Ethiopia –> Israel on the Red Sea, also with a van. But that was a few decades back.

I really wanted to cross Saudi by land, partly because I was very concerned about the Taliban war heating up at the time in Pakistan – would we get a visa to get through to India? It seemed very possible that not, then we'd be stuck in Iran. Indeed we were rejected from even applying for a Pakistan visa in Jordan – not a good sign!

Nowadays in Egypt, security is so justifiably tight, insurance on the Red Sea must be so costly due to the rash of big-boat piracy – indeed many ships have ceased doing this route – there's no way to even get near any boats or speak to any captains. So after a few days in Suez and Port Said [map link] we just gave up.

My, how things have changed. Much to the worse in this department.

Hence we were forced to back-track:
..........- Got a Ferry from Nuweiba, Sinai –> Aqaba Jordan.
..........- Jordan –> Syria (been there, done that recently)
..........- Syria –> Turkey (ditto)
..........- Turkey –> Iran –> Pakistan (what we ultimately did).

The Iran visa was requested (see Iran blog for specifics), picked it up at the Iran consulate in Erzurum [map] east Turkey, Kurdland.

Damn the exclusionary racist Saudis; cannot wait until oil prices drop to see how they are when forced to be humble and real.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    Saw your blog and came to know about your tour. Let me congratulate you first, being a motorbiker I cant tell you how glad im, to see that you guys are doing such a magnanimous tour, it's been my dream to do something like that.
    Myself, Nalin Mehra, Im the founder and owner of a Motorbikers Group at Bikaner (Rajasthan), India. The Group's name is Bikaner Rockers. Well if you get down to Bikaner City at your Indian Leg, do Let me know,. I will be very glad to show you around...

    Take Care and All The Best For The Tour

    Nalin Mehra
    e-mail :