Around the Mediterranean

Always starting from Northern Greece we headed East to the first passport control where a duo of Iranian trucks took us from the Greek-Turkish border to Ankara — we ate with Hossein and Akbar at their side kitchen, slept in one of the trucks while they lay in the other. We continued south by regular, long-distance bus. The Syrian people were extremely friendly, more so than mass tourism-ravaged Jordan‘s.

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iraq-photographer-studio

Baghdad, Iraq, January 1999. A country at war. Photo studio with background scenes from the southern marshes and Switzerland-looking mountains.

To get into Iraq at the time of the U.S. bombing was very hard … and costly, I mean the visa. I tried different tricks, at different embassies, through different channels, and finally one worked, but I had to go back several weeks later. A Belgian photographer did not get it, even through the Red Cross, and he was soooo jealous! To get into Libya was much easier, I mean the paperwork. The actual crossing from Egypt was special, the arrival at the last Egyptian town of Sallum with the full moon shining on the Mediterranean, the taxi driving up the steep hill, the cold night spent in a dilapidated hotel, the first encounter with Libya‘s officialdom housed in a container, right in the middle of the desert where a customs official peering from a high-placed window handed us, with a disapproving look and not a word, the disembarkation form in Arabic.To get a visa for Algeria we needed an invitation and a one-month long wait. That, on top of the fact that the land border between Morocco and Algeria was again closed, made us opt for an original way of getting out of still embargoed Libya: along a thousand or so Moroccan guest workers, we boarded a huge Greek passenger boat chartered by the Libyan government, which took us in three days to Casablanca along the North African coast via the strait of Gibraltar.

For the European part, a Moroccan bus took us from Fez to Algeciras, by Gibraltar, then a Spanish one to Brussels, and by coincidence, the friend of a friend needed a minivan to be driven to Greece, and we obliged …

Le tour de la Méditerranée en bus, en commençant par la Grèce et la Turquie, puis la Syrie, la Jordanie, l’Irak, l’Egypte, la Libye et en finissant par le Maroc. L’Algérie on y reviendra plus tard, il fallait attendre le visa pendant un mois à Tripoli et de toute façon la frontière algéro-marocaine était fermée.

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