Category Archives: Tour Guide Diaries

The Tour from Hell

This tour was the tour from hell … for me. For the group absolutely not, because they had loads of fun, costing me my hair of course. We are talking about a tour, which shows what Israel actually is, a mixture of culture, adventure, exploration and Israeli sights in all the major touristic centers of Israel. This article is part of the Tour Guide Diaries September 2016.

I’m working on whole range of new tours, like the so called low-budget tours and the tours, which mixes several things together in a more exciting tour then currently exists, and this tour is one of them (for example, we go on concert in the evening, visit festivals, workshops, join even a work camp to dig into the ground with the archeologists, visit the sights, do a little gem-touring, etc.). We were out for 12 days, our group was 50 (originally 30) strong from all over the United States, ages were between 17 and 63, and the group arrived at the airport 13 days ago (from the date of publishing)(so I’m recovering already for three days).

Welcome to Israel from the Ben Gurion Airport
Welcome to Israel from the Ben Gurion Airport

We went to the airport in a very good mood, I had my junior guides with me (Igor and Lena or together “the Juniors”), our new bus and the driver with the nickname “the Beast” (he’s small and overly polite and never shows any emotion, so his nickname is “the Beast” and his real name is Eddie) to pickup our new group for our new mixture tours.

One thing about nicknames! I really didn’t gave them their nicknames. I’ve no nickname … except ‘the Sheik’, because of some small misunderstanding last August, where some Bedouin men on the goat market of Be’er Sheba were advising me to take ten women as wives to drink coffee with me, but nobody remembers that, thank goodness for that.

I double checked my nice, sign-board (so people know it’s us) I was holding with our names on it to welcome our group. I really don’t want to repeat that prank from the last time where the driver changed the text into “Here’s the Idiot” or something like that. The board covered our names nicely.

When the people started to stream out of the checkout I held up my board and voila! People noticed and streamed to us with smiles on their faces. I spoke before their flight with them in a conference call over the Internet and I’m happy they were in such a good mood.

Hi Sheik! How are you?!” one yelled cheekily with a big grin on his face (someone has been talking)! And soon we were almost overwhelmed with the thirty people … and some … more? We moved our group from the hall to let them drink something and have maybe a bite to eat, but I realized that the group was much larger then 30! I was already upset about the Sheik thing and now this. Maybe some people they met during their flight? The Juniors were already suspiciously grinning.

It turned out that at the last moment they found more people who wanted to join this tour, but ‘forgot’ to tell me. So, suddenly instead of 30 people, we have now 45 people! And not to forget the payments. And the reservations. And the bus! And my heart! And what’s left of my hair! And not to forget my blood pressure.

You know, I’m just 56 years old and I’m old man and it’s really in those times that I’m thinking about going on pension. Maybe a pension on an island somewhere with nobody else then my wife. Well … when my wife comes with me, then she wants her cats also to come with us. And her aquarium with those bl**dy fish too. And the kids too and they have dogs.

I suddenly realize that we have a problem. The hotel reservation with our hotel is in Jerusalem and I know that they have no additional place; they are booked full (they had place for us of course, but with 30 people, not 45). One of my Juniors grabbed my hand, which was busy to pull out my hair (not joking). While the group was amusing themselves, five more people came in to join the group (they said ‘sorry, we’re late’, carrying large boxes with toys they bought at Duty Free). That’s 50!

I called a colleague, who must find us a hotel in or near Jerusalem, who can place a group of 53 people that same day. In high season! I quickly broke the connection with the swearing colleague (he’s called ‘The Pipe’, because he smokes … guess what? Correct, large cigars).

Feeling better, I processed the extra people, gave a pep talk to the Juniors and moved the army … eh … group to the Beast (to our bus). The poor man’s face lit up when he saw us coming. When the people started to enter his bus, slowly his expression turned from happy into confused … then shocked and was trying to find me … only I was at a safe distance looking at the scene and waiting for the expected eruption of ‘the beast’ soon to be … erupting.

‘The Beast’ came out of his bus and walked straight at me. I pointed at the Juniors with my thumb and blamed them for the problem of overcrowding his new and shiny bus. Before the juniors could react and recover from the shock, I was already moving quickly into the bus to tackle the next problem. That’s called strategical thinking. I don’t remember who advised something like that, but what I do remember was the advise “… never admit you’re wrong, always blame the one next to you …”. It never works with my wife though.

So in the bus, I started to bring the problem in front of our group. They came up right before they left to Israel with an additional 20 people for the group without telling us and we have only reservations for 30 people and the hotel is booked full. There will be no chance in hell that we would find another hotel for 50 people  within a couple of hours, then maybe a beach … but no beach in Jerusalem. And not to forget the damage for the hotel if we cancel at the last moment, the money would not be returned and the tour would be more expensive for all of us.

So the group decided that they would room together for this night. Not that they cared, because it was a rowdy group, who would be visiting a pop-concert that night after dinner in the old city and I saw already several girls checking out several gents. I felt my blood pressure going up when I also saw the expression of several of the people of this group who were already grinning mischievously.

During our talk, my disgruntled Juniors were already in the bus and my driver in his place. When he started the motor, I could hear how upset he was. The bus is exactly for 53 people and we always have a golden rule to have a larger bus then we there are people in the group. Well, technically we still have (three reserve places), but it was not ideal. They will suffer during the tour.

While we were on our way to Jerusalem, I got a phone call with a swearing Pipe (the guide my age checking out hotels) and he said he moved the reservations to another hotel the days after for 52 people and claimed that I could sleep outside and hung up. Funny boy. Oof. Two things down. Now a bigger bus and that would be even perfect. So instead of chatting with ‘the Beast’ myself, I sent him a SMS. Much more manly, not? I could have sent the Juniors, but they were angry at me for some reason.

American Colony Hotel
American Colony Hotel

All went well during our trip to our hotel in Jerusalem. We only had four bathroom stops, so nothing more then normal in such situation (never happened like that, but who cares at that point). We arrived at last at the American Colony Hotel.

We all got out of our bus and we moved into our hotel, with a smiling hotel manager who was looking at us happily and welcomed us in Israel with open arms. That continued – smiling and all – until he realized that there were not 30 of us, but the whole “g&^^%^$^%$%#$%d” US army!  Suddenly he was not smiling anymore and I saw him already looking for me. The cowards of a Juniors ran already in the hotel, so I was forced to confront the manager myself.

After calming the manager down (and pay a fortune to do that), he clearly didn’t care anymore to welcome us to his hotel, he disappeared posthaste. After everyone was checked in, and disappeared into the hotel, I could sit in one of those easy sofas at last.

That evening I discovered that I forgot to check myself in. “Well, sorry, no place!” But I arranged a bigger bus (the bus was called Fat Bertha, like that super gun), the Beast was happy again. The Juniors were alright after they found out I slept on the sofa. What else? Oh yes. One woman hurt her foot during wild dancing (is the Polkas a dance?), another one discovered that she’s pregnant, one man thought he lost his way and was in the wrong hotel, while he was wandering around at the back of our hotel and we experienced yesterday evening an example what Israeli rock sounded.

The concert hall was a cafe and the rock turned out to be House Music, but that was really great and everyone danced and had fun. They didn’t want to go back to the hotel at the end, but the bouncers almost kicked us out. We took Fat Bertha and went back to our hotel, still singing and dancing.

I had pain in my head and my back was hurting because of sleeping on the sofa. The Juniors had fun and were in a good mood, the Beast was still polishing Fat Bertha and our group was in a super good mood after a great breakfast (I ate chips). At the end we moved into Fat Bertha and drove to the Jerusalem markets and shopping streets. Why? We rented off a restaurant for the day, where everyone could demonstrate that they wanted to cook and we suppose to eat what the volunteers would prepare for us. The Chef of the restaurant refused to allow us ‘barbarians‘ in his kitchen alone, so he would stand guard (in the middle of his kitchen).

I skip a couple days of the tour and move to the 5th day, the day that we go to Be’er Sheba. But one more remark about the cooking in the restaurant. It was so much fun and we ate so well that evening after loads of shopping (we went back three times to the market and it was a fortune what they bought). The group didn’t burn down his kitchen nor the restaurant! And the cook hid the large knifes for some reason.

We arrived at our usual hotel in Be’er Sheba. Be’er Sheba is a very nice place, but the choice in hotels is limited and they can’t be compared with the hotels in Eilat, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. But this Be’er Sheba hotel would do. And who was there waiting for us while we were checking in the hotel? Right, the same worried looking manager from last August, who was confronted with the fact that there were two small goats running rampage in his hotel in the middle of the night in August and one totally destroyed (or better eaten) room.

Bedouin Goat Market
Bedouin Goat Market

The manager didn’t look pleased. He asked me though if we plan to go to the goat market today. Of course we would go to the goat market and not to forget the chicken market too. And this time I arranged also a small tour on camels and we would maybe see a small auction of buying and selling camels (and we have also chicken speed running organized). I told him that, and he really didn’t look pleased. I guaranteed him that we this time inspect everyone coming in and out of the bus for hidden goats, chickens and camels. The only thing he said was that he would do the same when we would come back to the hotel.

I was happy at that time, because we would only stay one night at his hotel, before we would spent two days in the desert with carts and camels. I really didn’t look forward to meet Fred the Camel again, so I could avoid having a camel tour in Eilat.

Market in Be’er Sheba
Market in Be’er Sheba

We indeed went to the markets in Be’er Sheba (the normal one, and the goat and chicken markets). Nothing exciting happened, except that our group was very hard to keep together (50 rowdy people in a very good mood with loads of energy) with three guides (the Juniors and I). We didn’t pickup any other group, they didn’t buy any goats or chickens, nobody got upset, but there were some people who bought some strange Bedouin dresses for women for some reason. We also tried the camels. That was so much fun that others have problems climbing on camels like I usual have. But no auction of camels, otherwise I could change my Juniors for a camel or three goats maybe, damn that manager.

Bedouin Goat Market
Bedouin Goat Market

We met those same Bedouin men who were asking about my 10 women and again explained to the group that I’ve a harem and 20 children, but I got my coffee. That reminded me about ordering the evening amusement and this time we had real Bedouin musicians not such phony flop of a so called d^&&*^*%&^$%^ magician and his sexy belly dancer like back in August during the goat disaster. The Juniors were giggling! I was highly suspicious seeing that, but at that moment my attention was drawn to my camel, who was trying to bite me. All camels in the world only try to bite me and nobody else.

In the evening back to the hotel, we met the manager, who was indeed inspecting everyone (I forgot to check anyone for hidden goats, chickens and camels), but he obviously not. After that, he insisted in inspecting Fat Bertha and when The Beast finally understood what the manager wanted, they together almost tore the bus apart for their ridiculous quest for goats, chickens and camels! Honestly, who do they think we are?

That evening there was no original Bedouin music, but that belly dancer and her bl**dy so called magician who was loudly calling me “The Sheik” again. I will get my revenge on my Juniors for that!

But thank goodness, I slept wonderful (even when the Beast was snoring loudly), no goats on the rampage, but I heard in the morning that the manager couldn’t sleep all night.

Ramon Crater
Ramon Crater

The next day we visited the Ramon Crater and met our Bedouins. Guess who? My old Bedouin man and his many children and camels and … Fred the Camel. Fred the Camel was the camel only for me, according the Bedouin. Damn him and his camel. The same for the Juniors. I will cook them and feed them to Fred the camel. Never met something so smelly and with such awful sounds he makes when he sees me. Always in a bad mood too. And he bites. And tries to throw me off when I finally manage to climb on his back.

Experience Eilat's Mountains

We moved to the desert with the group on the back of the camels. I knew that the Bedouin with his many children were waiting somewhere with jeeps. They suppose to pick us up tomorrow evening for a big party with the Bedouins. That evening we finally could sleep at 3 am, after I translated again the campfire stories of the old Bedouin. Instead of his usual horror theme, he was telling about the old caravans of ancient times, who were stranded in the middle of the desert and were forced to eat their own camels … and scorpions and other insects to survive.

Experience Eilat's Mountains

I changed the story and translation somewhat (the man speaks only Arabic) and told the group that camel meat tasted just like what we all ate that evening (we ate lamb). The woman who discovered (at the beginning of the tour) that she was pregnant started to puke and the Bedouin who didn’t understand English was looking at me and pointed threatening at Fred the camel and shook slowly his head, frowning and all that jazz.

So he was telling another story about the young Bedouin woman, who fell in love with a boy her age from another tribe, while her father promised her to someone else (three times her age). He translated dutifully, but every time I wanted to make his story sound more … juicy (?), the old Bedouin man (who didn’t understand English?) was pausing and frowning at me. No fun like that.

Under the stars of the desert, it would quiet anyone, so impressive it was. The old Bedouin suddenly had deep knowledge of the stars and demonstrated it. He was trying to explain to us how you could navigate in the desert and with only the stars.

The next morning was a disaster. Fred the camel managed to bite me straight in my behind and couldn’t sit very well any more after that. According Junior, Fred’s teeth were visible for days after that. It seems to be funny for the group though.

Eilat
Eilat

When we finally arrived at our hotel in Eilat, I could find relieve there. For whatever reason, the group tipped the Bedouin man extra! Not fair. They can’t handle some teasing? Especially when everyone was calling me Sheik.

Hilton Eilat Queen Of Sheba Hotel
Hilton Eilat Queen Of Sheba Hotel

I skip the tour here to the tenth day and we are in Jericho. Until then we survived, we didn’t pick additional guests up in our group, we didn’t loose anyone, neither additional goats or any other animals, my behind was alright again and could sit (tenderly). We still were using Fat Bertha the bus and the Beast our driver was still happy. I couldn’t exchange my juniors for camels or goats, so they were still there, looking wearily at me when I could prank them back.

Tel al-Sultan near Jericho
Tel al-Sultan near Jericho

But now we arrived in Jericho and that’s a special place in Israel. Not only it’s the oldest place you can find anywhere in Israel and surroundings, but also very mysterious. There were so many cultures and civilizations arriving and disappearing in Jericho over the many thousands of years, nobody really could even count them. There are hundreds of layers of different buildings built once in Jericho and the archeologists are still counting.

The Canaan were a bunch of wild people, who believed in all kind of gods, who are now classified as demons or devils. So everyone was interested in my horror stories and that I did. So they were already in the proper mood for the Mount of Temptation!

Mount of Temptation
Mount of Temptation

Then we came to the Mount of Temptation near Jericho, where everyone was highly impressed about my strange stories. They wanted to see proof and so we did. We didn’t take the cable cars but walked and climbed the mountain.

Mount of Temptation, the mountain and the monastery
Mount of Temptation, the mountain and the monastery

Half way some people were murmuring something bad of course, until we reached the promised caves and showed them the scratches the devil once had made thousands of years ago, when Jesus was tempted by the same devil to make bread from stone. I showed them the caves of the hermits of old, who dedicated their lives to live there and to pray, never talked to anyone else anymore for more then 40 years.

Or the Hermit who became mad after seven years in a narrow cave and who received food from people from Jericho. He became too fat to exit his cave and he died there. His spirit still haunts the cave, some believe.

Mount of Temptation, inside in the monastery
Mount of Temptation, inside in the monastery

When we finally arrived at the Monastery, everyone was looking a bit sketchy, especially my two Juniors. The Monastery is amazing where you can see the personal cells of the Monks still working there. It’s still not too late to allow the Juniors to dump them there for some month or so, I was joking of course, but one Junior thought I meant it. Ha!

At day 12 we said good bye to everyone. All went well after the disasters at the beginning when suddenly our group grew from 30 till 50. Nobody bought or smuggled any goat or camel, nobody destroyed or ate a room, I got finally my revenge on my Juniors and I had one happy large group of people who felt bad that they needed to go home.

I still have my hair (mostly), I will not see Fred the camel for at least one week and I’m dead on my feet. Now I go back home to see if my wife is still there.

I also discovered that Eddie (‘The Beast’) decided to sleep in Fat Bertha his new bus when I finally came home. My wife hid my phone after that, so I could not help him out. I discovered the day after that he changed our old new bus with Fat Bertha and the bus company was not happy.

Clair, the Red Headed Ghost of Jerusalem

Or the sick who became a ghost? The change of title depends on your perspective of a very funny and mysterious (at first) story I’ve to tell you about a recent so called low-budget tour in September 2016.


For the privacy for everyone involved, if I mentioned names, they are not their true names (except myself).


  1. The Tour from Hell (10/1/2016) - This tour was the tour from hell ... for me. For the group absolutely not, because they had loads of fun, costing me my hair of course. We are talking about a tour, which shows what Israel actually is, a mixture of culture, adventure, exploration and Israeli sights in all the major touristic centers of Israel. This article is part of the Tour Guide Diaries September 2016.
  2. Gate of the Chain Clair, the Red Headed Ghost of Jerusalem (9/26/2016) - Or the sick who became a ghost? The change of title depends on your perspective of a very funny and mysterious (at first) story I've to tell you about a recent so called low-budget tour in September 2016.
  3. Tour Guide Diaries September 2016 (9/24/2016) - When two large families from Canada and Israel join for a tour in Israel, WW3 is almost unleashed in Israel. The results of that almost major conflict are that the women take charge and the men wisely murmur "Yes Dear" and the kids have fun.
  4. Tour Guide Diaries August 2016 (9/23/2016) - Three stories for this month in the Tour Guide Diaries. One story is about chocolate and how it came back to the guide and bit him in his behind. The other story sounds like a soap opera, but truly happened. Our group rescued another guided tour group, who were lost in the middle of the Goat Market in Be’er Sheba. The third story is the continuation of the last one about two goats (smuggled from that market) on rampage in a hotel and its aftermath.
  5. Tour Guide Diaries July 2016 (9/23/2016) - Two stories here. One is about the relationship between a guide and a camel with the name of Fred in a tour, and the other one is about a tour with alternative transports with like trains, buses and camels! Further it describes the baptizing in Israel and renewal of wedding vows.

I received an email from a lady living in Florida. She and her group of ladies of the community she belonged to wanted to tour Israel, and they didn’t want to pay the usual amount of money, and they wanted to have fun for 10 days. Well, that she had! Not to forget the excitement!

Apartment building
Apartment building

For your information, their tour cost them $800 per person for 10 days all-in and was custom designed and brought from from the north to the south of Israel.

The group arrived at the second of September 2016 at the airport, where I welcomed the group in Israel. I brought them to their apartments in Jerusalem. I rented four short-term apartments in one apartment building with everyone on it they could wish for, from computers, WiFi, large TV screens, Jacuzzis, large fully stocked kitchens, exercise rooms, library, very large salon, dishwashers, wash machines and more like it. The apartment building and the biggest apartment had also a roof terrace for barbecues and simply sitting in the evening for relaxation.

I still don’t understand why people don’t rent apartments instead of hotel rooms, because they are two till four times cheaper, much bigger and have what hotels miss, privacy. The price for those luxurious apartments are less as one VIP room in a fancy hotel! Click here for low-budget touring.

As a low-budget tour, the group suppose to use not standard (read here hotels) accommodations, so apartments, houses, hostels, guesthouses, campings, everything would pass, but they need to have similar or better luxury as hotels and the price per person $600 or cheaper for a default duration of 7 days all-in touring. We succeed with these low-budget tours.

Anyway, the group of 30 women arrived in the street were the apartment is located and they were charmed. That lasted until they entered their building, they were amazed. After letting them settle in, we could finished the planned dinner for the group (I arranged a German cook to make their first dinner (roast)). During dinner we really got to know each other. I was there with only one additional guide with the name Junior (Lena).

We were discussing the program for the next day, where we would merge two day- tours in one day. One day tour in Jerusalem to get to know the city and the other we would do the new Jerusalem. The day after we would focus on old Jerusalem.

I knew what would happen the next day, so I was so wise to go to bed early, but the ladies stayed up till deep in the night on their roof-terrace. And were wildly cooking and eating of course in the night.

At seven o’clock in the morning it was rise and shine and with some effort everyone complied. After the breakfast, the day started in Israel, exploring the outside of the old city (the walks and direct environment). All of the group, except one! That women with long red hair was not feeling well (not surprising after all that eating and drinking last night and the time differences) and she decided to stay at home. She said “to sleep it off”. So we went on tour without her that day with our first city bus in Jerusalem.

City bus in Jerusalem
City bus in Jerusalem

The tour starts with the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem and before we knew it, we were walking over the old city-walls and I was in tour mode, telling the old and recent history of each wall (and yes, each wall in Jerusalem as its own unique history, which you can’t find in the normal tourist books, then maybe in a summary).

The Jaffa Gate
The Jaffa Gate

We headed north to one of the first (of the 35) watch towers, which has a raised platform to look at the large new shopping and office development that is currently taking shape outside the city walls. One of the women suddenly cried out and jumping up and down in excitement, yelling, pointing and waving at something at the other side of the wall (the inner city). She claimed she say Clair, the woman who stayed behind in their apartments being sick.

Damascus Gate
Damascus Gate

We all looked, but no Clair. The woman who thought she saw her clearly was swearing that she saw her. Everyone had a laugh and we continued the tour until we reached the Damascus Gate. We looked down at the old city at El-Wad road, and who do we see?

The lady with red hair, Clair.

One of the women took her mobile phone and called Clair. She did not take the phone! The red headed woman on the El-Wad road moved out of sight and at that moment she answered the phone. After wild talking in the phone, we all learned that she was still in her apartment and that we’re all ‘crazy’.

We continued with the tour, like nothing happened (some women were murmuring that Clair was pranking them)!

Ben Yehuda Street
Ben Yehuda Street

The tour continued without any additional excitement with ghostly Clair until we reached the Jerusalem’s main shopping streets. We started with the Ben Yehuda Street and the group went everywhere with me in the middle and Junior was running around trying to keep everyone as close as possible together. Ha!

And who was standing there about 30 meters from me (next to a clothing shops)? Clair, our becoming strange and mysterious women with red hair. I mean she looked like her! So I started yelling loudly “Clair! Clair! We are here!” while waving both my arms, but she didn’t respond (but half of the street noticed of course). One of the women from the group with me called Clair immediately, who still claimed that she was at home, in bed this time and not at any market.

This happened again when we were 20 minutes later at the Mahane Yehuda market, but this time with the whole group! Clair was enjoying her Shawarma near the end of the market! I was eating Kebab and group was eating Kebab, Falafel and Gyro, so we could react fast enough! We had someone, who claimed to be home, but following us! What’s going on? When the women were talking with Clair on the phone, I talked with her as well. I could hear in the background the sound of CNN, the American news channel on TV, which you definitely will not hear here on the market.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem

The next time it happened again when we arrived at the Holy Trinity church. One of the women saw Clair slipping into the church and what did we do as group? Right, we followed.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem

First the group was shocked at the beauty of this church, or more accurately the cathedral. Inside this cathedral was amazing, like so many orthodox churches in the Holy Land.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem

And we were right on time for a Holy Mass! But we didn’t see Clair. I asked the woman who said she saw her if she was sure, but the woman nodded, while claiming that she was very sure that she saw Clair entering the cathedral.

Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem
Holy Trinity Cathedral, Jerusalem

We spread out, but after 20 minutes of searching and gawking, no Clair. I was starting to suspect that the group was pranking me. But on the other side, the group was making great effort to find the woman, who didn’t seem to be there. Maybe she was a ghost? An attractive, red headed ghost with the name Clair?

When we left the Holy Trinity, I laughed at the idea. Right. Red headed ghost Clair. That was a very good name for my grave stone maybe. “The Hunter of Clair, the Red Headed Ghost of Jerusalem” or something like that.

Cotton Merchants’ Market
Cotton Merchants’
Market

The next sighting was at the Cotton Merchants’ Market (or el-Qattanin). This is a covered market with next to no natural light but lots of small softly-lit shops. It is possibly the most atmospheric street in all the Old City, started by the old Crusaders. This is truly a nice place to buy some food for the apartments and so we did. After we were satisfied with the loads of fruit we bought, we approached Hammam el-Ain (bathhouse) and who stood there? Right, Clair. In her full glory, carrying a shopping bag, looking at us smiling. She was about 50 meters from us and we started to yell her name, and guess what. She waved at us, and disappeared in one of the side streets.

So the whole group started to run to meet her, but when we arrived at Hammam el-Ain, no Clair. Another bloody mystery. I hate mysteries. And guess? She was at home and this time she was taking a bath. With loads of bubbles, according the blushing women calling her.

I looked at Junior, who nodded. She disappeared from the group and was on her way to the apartment to check out what’s going on. Now I wanted to know if they were making fun of me or not! Or if Clair was pranking the group or the group was pranking me. We will see, not?

Gate of the Chain
Gate of the Chain

We amused ourselves in the meantime and we reached the Gate of the Chain. The Arabic name for this street is Tariq Bab el-Silsila, which means “Street of the Gate of the Chain”. The name refers to the magnificent entrance gate to the Haram esh-Sharif situated at its eastern end. The street is a continuation of David Street, and together the two streets run the width of the Old City from Jaffa Gate to the Haram esh-Sharif.

Chain Street has several noteworthy buildings commissioned by Mameluke emirs in the 14th century. We heading eastwards from David Street and reached the Khan el-Sultan Caravanserai, a restored travelers’ inn. After some relaxing at the inn, we left and who was there? In front of the tomb of the emir Tashtamur (on the right of the inn)? Right! Clair again. The women start calling, Clair disappearing, and Clair claimed that she was watching TV or something.

el-Lakhamin
el-Lakhamin

The next sighting was at the Butchers’ Market (el-Lakhamin). This market was full with people and who was there negotiating with an older Arab man? Right, Clair. I stopped listening to the phone calls, what she was doing in the apartment (throwing up according the women), and I didn’t even want to see her ‘suddenly’ disappearing.

I had enough of Clair and her wonderful, wandering ways of following us. But the group was mystified and they seem to like it, so I was happy too, ghost or not.

That moment Junior called me and she said that she was at the apartment and Clair was there, being sick, the poor dear. I was relieved of course, and told her what she wanted? To come to us or stay there. Junior preferred to stay at the apartment. We both knew that we would be home within two hours, because it was the end of the day.Restaurant

Talking about end of the day, it was indeed getting late, and the group really didn’t want to go back home, but decided to stop at a small “cute” restaurant near the St Stephen’s Gate and to eat there.

We entered the place and I started to talk to the owner (this was not planned, but this was the unscheduled wish of the group, so …) and the negotiations started. We are talking about 29 people and me. We came to a compromise and everyone took their seats. It’s a very nice place and in the back of the ‘small’ and ‘cute’ restaurant there was place for privacy, just like the group preferred. Everyone was calling Clair again and chatting and having a good time.

When the time came that the actual dinner started to arrive at our table, I looked up to prepare a toast. I stood up and lifted my glass and looked at my group. From my point of view, I could see everyone and with my back to the wall I could look straight through the restaurant and watch the door and the terrace too. I opened my mouth to start my speech … then my eyes widened and my mouth stayed open, but no sound came out.

As one, the whole group turned their heads and looked where I was staring at!

Who was sitting there right outside the restaurant on the terrace? Clair!

Everyone (except me, my mouth was still open) stormed out of the restaurant to get to Clair, who didn’t seem to notice anything … yet. She was sitting quietly enjoying her cola, until she was almost molested by 29 women, storming from the restaurant and screaming and yelling “Clair! Clair! Clair“.

The restaurant owner was not amused that a group of women suddenly turned into a bunch of screaming barbarians attacking his customers on his terrace and all of that without paying!

Three hours later we came finally home totally disheveled, tired, exhausted, where we found Clair and Junior sitting on the sofa watching TV and eating pizza.

What happened? We found the mysterious Clair, Clair the ghost, and she was not our Clair, Clair number 1 or Clear being sick. After she was almost molested by us, we explained that we were sorry and it was a mistaken identity, which caused us to react so rude. We tried to explain that to the owner of the restaurant too, so we resumed our dinner. And we had dinner with Clair the ghost. Clair the ghost came from Peru, visiting her family in Jerusalem and her name was Petra.


For your information, their tour cost them $800 per person for 10 days all-in and was custom designed and brought from from the north to the south of Israel.

Tour Guide Diaries September 2016

When two large families from Canada and Israel join for a tour in Israel, WW3 is almost unleashed in Israel. The results of that almost major conflict are that the women take charge and the men wisely murmur “Yes Dear” and the kids have fun.


For the privacy for everyone involved, if I mentioned names, they are not their true names (except myself).


  1. The Tour from Hell (10/1/2016) - This tour was the tour from hell ... for me. For the group absolutely not, because they had loads of fun, costing me my hair of course. We are talking about a tour, which shows what Israel actually is, a mixture of culture, adventure, exploration and Israeli sights in all the major touristic centers of Israel. This article is part of the Tour Guide Diaries September 2016.
  2. Gate of the Chain Clair, the Red Headed Ghost of Jerusalem (9/26/2016) - Or the sick who became a ghost? The change of title depends on your perspective of a very funny and mysterious (at first) story I've to tell you about a recent so called low-budget tour in September 2016.
  3. Tour Guide Diaries September 2016 (9/24/2016) - When two large families from Canada and Israel join for a tour in Israel, WW3 is almost unleashed in Israel. The results of that almost major conflict are that the women take charge and the men wisely murmur "Yes Dear" and the kids have fun.
  4. Tour Guide Diaries August 2016 (9/23/2016) - Three stories for this month in the Tour Guide Diaries. One story is about chocolate and how it came back to the guide and bit him in his behind. The other story sounds like a soap opera, but truly happened. Our group rescued another guided tour group, who were lost in the middle of the Goat Market in Be’er Sheba. The third story is the continuation of the last one about two goats (smuggled from that market) on rampage in a hotel and its aftermath.
  5. Tour Guide Diaries July 2016 (9/23/2016) - Two stories here. One is about the relationship between a guide and a camel with the name of Fred in a tour, and the other one is about a tour with alternative transports with like trains, buses and camels! Further it describes the baptizing in Israel and renewal of wedding vows.

The ultimate battle during the tour
And it was indeed a battle!
This tour was a Family and Children tour for 12 days with a group of 30 (15 kids between 7-16 years, grand parents, parents, uncles and aunts), consisting mainly out of families from Canada and Israel. It was a joyful happening, because most of them knew each other, talked with each other, but most of them actually never met! The itinerary of our tour was traveling from Tel Aviv, Caesarea, Acre, Sea of Galilee, Golan, Safed (Tzfat), Jerusalem, Dead Sea, Qumran, Masada, Negev and Eilat. Because of the kids, I was accompanied by two other (‘junior’) guides.

I was waiting at the airport to welcome and pickup the families from Canada, and one of my juniors (as I love to call them, because they called me Sheik) were organizing part of the Israeli families at hotel Dan in Tel Aviv; the other part of the Israeli families were with me. One grandfather, several mothers and several kids from the Israeli families accompanied me.

We knew that the families from Canada had already landed and waited anxiously when they would appear. My other junior was inside the airport to assist the families from the airplane through the check-in. Then indeed the joyful moment finally had come, the families from Canada approached us with almost all of their luggage; my junior was dragging the rest! He, he.

The two families met halfway, and I expected that they would hug each other, yell, cry, slapping each other on their backs, shaking hands, kissing … the whole thing you do when you meet finally remote relatives … but nothing like that happened. They stopped moving and watched each other icily. Some of the Canadians were looking even angry, dark looks were exchanged and I really had no idea what to do or what was going on.

One moment I assumed joy, the other moment I expected to see Word War III being initiated. That was not what they said when they registered the tour with me. Bl**dy h*ll, only I have those bl**dy situations. The standoff continued for several seconds and I was already looking where the security was located, expected any moment blows to be exchanged.

But the whole standoff was resolved by holding a hand from the grand father to one of the Canadians and accepted the handshake. The tension lessened considerable, but was not totally gone. With stony, unhappy faces, the Canadians were moving to the exit of the hall, assuming (wrongly) that the bus was waiting for them.

It was time to interfere. I introduced myself to the Canadians and they looked displeased. I also proposed to eat and drink something, so they could relax a bit, while we would prepare everything for them. The Canadians said that they had no choice then, while in the background I saw one of the Canadian kids kicking an Israeli kid. I thought that it would be a good idea to move the whole group to a very public area, that in case they went to fight, at least I could get some good video and it would be short, hoping of interference of the police and security at the airport.

While I was suffering under the staring match between Canada and Israel, my junior in Tel Aviv was busy to eat and drink as she liked at the ‘walking’ buffet in the hotel. The mothers were exploring the spa, the kids in the swimming pool and the teenagers were staring at their mobile phones. What the junior didn’t realize was that the teens had live coverage of the stony welcome of the Canadians!

anger-management1In the meanwhile, the tensions between the Canadians and the Israelis at the small restaurant in the airport was increasing and I was ordering the bus to hurry up. At the moment the bus arrived at the airport, the first sandwich was flying towards one of the Israeli kids. Thank god that the grandfather was stopping escalation and we moved out of the restaurant to the waiting bus. Our driver, Ilan (or the Mule as I still call him that, because he also called me Sheik), was waiting for the group to arrive.

The Canadians refused to place the luggage with the Israeli luggage. The Israelis refused to sit with the Canadians. A Canadian mother refused  to allow her daughter to sit at the back, an Israeli mother refused to allow her son to sit at the front near the driver, the grandfather refused to speak, and two kids resumed kicking each other again.

What a joy.

Finally, after four bathroom stops, two times puking in the bus, an irritating mule behind the wheels, 5 fights between the kids, cursing, swearing, a really unhappy group arrived in Tel Aviv.

I phoned already ahead of time and asked the hotel to move the rooms reserved for the Canadians to another floor, preferable 5 floors down. They did, at least that was working. I talked with the grandfather to split the tour buses into two smaller ones, and he agreed (he pays for the whole trip, including that of the Canadians), so I did that too. Junior 1 (Andrey was his name) got the Canadians and I had the Israelis. Junior 2 (Lena was her name) would join the Canadians too, but later. That was the plan (the Juniors didn’t know it yet).

Dan Hotel Tel Aviv - desk
Dan Hotel Tel Aviv – desk

Arriving at the hotel, I almost forced the Israelis into the hotel itself (thanks to Junior 1), away from the Canadians. We registered the Canadians and showed them their rooms.

Dan Hotel Tel Aviv - Normal room
Dan Hotel Tel Aviv – Normal room

They were not pleased. Too small, too ratty (whatever that means), too shabby, the carpets were worn, the rooms were dirty, the TV was too small, too less channels, no Disney channel, no movie channel, everything in Hebrew (was not true), the remote was an universal one and didn’t work (it worked partly), the mattresses were bad, the room stinks, the bathroom was too small, no Fox news channel, no newspapers, no flowers (there were, but plastic) and the service was bad (huh?). That was only the first 20 minutes! Oof.

Dan Hotel Tel Aviv - Normal room
Dan Hotel Tel Aviv – Normal room

What they didn’t know was that those rooms cost $220 per night! I know that those rooms are not up to standard internationally speaking and I know that those rooms are indeed overpriced, but at least have the decency to stop complaining and speak with me to do something about it with the grandfather.

Well, I made a correction and assigned the juniors to the Israelis and I would try to handle the Canadians. But something drastically must happen before that.

If the mess was not already enough with the complaining Canadians, two couples started to yell between each other, and one aunt was already thinking aloud to return home and was seriously studying her ticket, playing with her cell phone (which did not work here).

Between all that chaos and fighting, screaming and again cursing, I asked if there was someone speaking for the family (at least the Canadian part), which set off a new round of arguing, fighting and cursing.

After ten minutes of arguing, they finally came to a decision. A man, an uncle I believe, two meters tall, was the spokesman for the family. I immediately called for the grandfather to come to a neutral place (an empty conference room). I asked one of the juniors to watch the Canadians; they might start a warpath with the Israelis if they knew where they had their rooms or they might kill each other.

We met and asked the two gentlemen to cancel the tour. There was no way that this could continue!

That was a shock for both men and they realized that they had indeed a problem. So they started to talk. I immediately left the conference room, locked it, and went to my favorite place, the kitchen, where I gorged myself with sweets. After 20 minutes I returned, opened the door and both men were smiling. What had they decided?

A family conference in that same room.

I was of course highly skeptical, but it’s their business and their decision, so who am I to interfere or offer my advise in this stage. The only thing I did was telling the grandfather that the rooms were not up to standard for this hotel.

Oof, that was a stupid move.

Within an half hour, the manager of the hotel was in the conference room, both part of the families from Canada and Israel joined them and I closed the doors and stood outside, together with my juniors. I had a killer of a headache, while the juniors had an nice time in the spa and swimming pool.

The next day supposes to be a light program with the Tel Aviv promenade, hitting the beach and in the evening we would all go out in Tel Aviv. The Mule (his name was Ilan), our driver joined us later, stinking of cheap perfume. He cleaned his bus, but the smell of the puke was overwhelming, so he gassed the bus with his ‘macho’ perfume. Grand! Great. But maybe we would be lucky to split the group into two buses and forget the large monster. Yes, it was luxurious, and yes, very comfortable, but stinking after Mule’s perfume!?

The doors opened and the harassed looking manager was speeding through it like he was on fire. He was followed by both families, chatting with each other, smiling and nobody was kicking anyone. Within a hour, the Canadians were moved to other rooms, and everyone joined each other to have finally dinner. No fights, no words, no staring and glaring, no kicking and no throwing food. Great.

The grandfather announced that they wanted to continue with the tour as it was originally intended and we could continue with the large bus. Later that evening I asked the grandfather what caused the change of mind and he grinned.

“It’s the power of money. I threatened everyone to revoke privileges and send the Canadians on a low-budged airplane, stopping 7 places all around the world before they finally could be home in Canada and the Israeli families with sending them home and stop paying for their bills and schools. And that worked,” he said, still grinning.

That was crisis number one and resolved. It took of course years from my life, but who cares, not? And I’m already gray.

Then the grandfather asked why the juniors were calling me Sheik and my day was complete.

The next morning started indeed much better. The families were mixing and nobody threw any breakfast and everything looked fine. The grandfather was still grinning at me. We were ready for the tour on the Tel Aviv Promenade.

Tel Aviv Promenade
Tel Aviv Promenade

The families indeed walked over the promenade, the kids went to the beach with both juniors. We continued walking towards Yaffo and it’s markets, narrow streets, and visiting the churches and even a Yaffa Railroad Museum.

In the evening I changed the itinerary and send them to the theater and the kids to a teenager friendly dance club with live music in the center of Tel Aviv. That was a success, because everyone came home happy, jolly and in a very good mood.

Ramat Gan Safari
Ramat Gan Safari
Luna Park 11
Luna Park in Tel Aviv

The next day the itinerary said that we would visit the Ramat Gan Safari in the morning and the Luna park in the afternoon. So far, so good and we survived this day with thanks to the two juniors.

Acre
Acre

Day three would be the test for our driver, the Mule. We would travel to Tiberias, but stop at Caesarea, Acre, Knights Halls, Al-Jazaar Mosque and The bathhouse (Hamam al-Basha), Montfort, Rosh Hanikra Grottoes & Cable Car and Nahal Kziv. Nahal Kziv is a water reserve and we will see if they like that. Also the rest are actually standard tourist attractions and see how the families react to that.

Rosh Hanikra Grottoes
Rosh Hanikra Grottoes

Everything went fine that day, until they came to Rosh Hanikra (you can find there the water or sea caves). At the cable car, one kid pushed the other kid, and from that moment, WW3 was unleashed. The conflict was resolved by an angry grandfather, dragging both kids on their ears outside and forced them to stay there under guard of the spokesman of the Canadians.

Nahal Kziv
Nahal Kziv

At Nahal Kziv, the grandfather almost drowned, the whole family almost wished that one kid would drown, and an Israeli couple started a fight between themselves.

Leonardo Club Tiberias
Leonardo Club Tiberias

We took quickly the bus and moved to Tiberias, Leonardo Club. That evening it went really well, they had their boat tour on the Sea of Galilee. Nobody fell in the water, nobody kicked each other, nobody had a fit, nobody was complaining, no screaming and no cursing.

Sea of Galilee
Sea of Galilee

Except the shipper, who wanted or tried to cut the trip short after 20 minutes to save his precious fuel. I forced him to stay on the lake for an hour, 10 minutes longer then that they paid for as punishment.

Manara Cliff
Manara Cliff

At day 4 we visited Hof Tzemach, a water park near Sea of Galilee, Manara Cliff, Mey Kedem Water Tunnel and in the evening an Old-Tiberias city tour. That went well, except in the evening we went into a small restaurant to eat old fashioned American steak, and the Canadians were looking perplexed at the small slice of meat, which suppose to be a steak.

Hof Tzemach
Hof Tzemach

That went well, and indeed a food fight started with one of the 16 year old kids was throwing his steak at the waiter. He was right on, because he hit him straight in his face, and a moment later fell on the floor, where he promptly slipped and dropped beer and cola all over the floor, washing the grandfather with it.

After loads of excuses and paying loads of money, they changed the mind of the restaurant owner, who wanted to call the police, the sad company went back to their hotel. The Canadians moved their rooms a couple of floors down and there was a cold truce between them.

Dan Hotel In Jerusalem
Dan Hotel In Jerusalem

At day 5 they visited Safed (artist-colony), Otzar Hastam (Jewish religious amusement park in Safed), Sorek (Avshalom) Cave or Bell Cave or Hariton Cave and Bloomfield Science Museum.

Bell Cave
Bell Cave

The armed, tense peace continued and at least they were not throwing around food and curses anymore in the evening during dinner in the new hotel in Jerusalem (Dan Jerusalem). Also a bit hard to do, because the Canadians and Israelis were sitting on separate tables.

In day 6 the armed truce continued and the official cold war between Canada and Israel continued in all its glory, but there were some people who were working to undermine the armed truce. The kids!

Biblical Zoo, Jerusalem
Biblical Zoo, Jerusalem

The itinerary for that day was visiting the Biblical Zoo, Time Elevator, Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, Wohl Rose Garden and in the evening the light show at City of David. That went spectacular and everyone was dutiful impressed. The Canadians were not admitting that they enjoyed the show with the fun day and the Israelis were acting like Canada didn’t exist.

Wohl Rose Garden, Jerusalem
Wohl Rose Garden, Jerusalem

That came to a the climax the next day when the families were visiting the Yad Vashem and Children’s Memorial. The started screaming at the Children’s Memorial! That was for me (and many others a very bad idea), so mount Sheik or William exploded and erupted! Enough!

Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum
Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum

Peace was back, but with me in the role of the UN (or what the UN suppose to be doing). We went to the next thing in Jerusalem and moved to the Hop-On Hop-Off Tour Bus 99. That was followed by the Mahane Yehuda Market and that was fun.

Mahane Yehuda Market
Mahane Yehuda Market

The families started to bicker and then to fight again and guess who was enforcing the peace? The Arab shop owners and the market!

Everyone was properly ashamed and the tour continued with the Bible Lands Museum. On our way back to the hotel, we canceled the evening city tour and everyone went to their rooms cursing each other.

Jerusalem Scavenger Hunt
Jerusalem Scavenger Hunt

The whole thing exploded straight in everyones faces during the Old City Scavenger Hunt. It was hilarious! The families went against each other and were accusing each other of cheating (indeed they did), started to curse each other until one of the fathers punched the other on his nose and then it became worse. The police arrived and interfered; the gentlemen with black eyes, split lips, bruises went to the police station and the women came together with the kids to discuss what needs to be done. Junior 1 went with the gentlemen and police and junior 2 and I stayed with the women and kids.

Cinema City Jerusalem
Cinema City Jerusalem

We continued with the tour to First Railway Station, Haas Promenade, and Herzl Museum and had a good time, while the group of subdued gentlemen were caring for their bruises in their hotel rooms. In the evening we all (except the gentlemen) went to the Cinema City Jerusalem.

Kibbutz Ein Gedi’s botanical garden
Kibbutz Ein Gedi’s botanical garden

The next day (day 9), the itinerary had planned the Dead Sea, Qumran, Ein Gedi and Ein Gedi Botanical Garden. I planned my revenge! This was the most stressful tour I’ve every seen or heard off.

Dead Sea
Dead Sea

At breakfast, the last one in Jerusalem, there was a very different group then usual. All males of the group sat subdued at a table in a corner, hardly having the courage to stand up to get food. The other part of the group, the females, we amusing them selves immensely and had an obvious good time. It seemed to me that they had a ‘talk’ that evening or night! Great.

At the Dead Sea I sold the story to the group (in the bus before we arrived) that they all needed to be covered with Dead Sea mud, because it sucks the aggression out of the body. The women were looking pointedly at the uneasy looking men, including the kids and grandfather.

And indeed, after 15 minutes at the Dead Sea the men were totally covered with mud. And I took care to use a beach without public showers nearby. So if they wanted to get rid of the mud, they must go into the Dead Sea itself, he, he.

The women were not so stupid and immediately saw that there were no showers and asked me about it. I answered them that there were indeed showers, but in the nearby hotels for NIS 5 per person they could use it.

After the gentlemen suffered enough under the mud and trying to wash it from their bodies in the salty Dead Sea, each wound would sting doing so! The women were looking at the scene with satisfied expressions on their faces. That would teach them, not?

Qumran
Qumran

The women demanded spa instead of Qumran and so it went. The ladies went to a hotel nearby for their spa and the gentlemen were eating dust at Qumran. Feeling sorry for the gents, we moved quickly (without the ladies) to Ein Gedi.

Ein Gedi National Park
Ein Gedi National Park

All the unease, dust, and dirt was washed away in the waters of Ein Gedi. I called the juniors to collect the ladies for a nice tour in this amazing oasis.

We finalized the day with the beautiful Ein Gedi Botanical Garden.

In the evening, they had amusement of the belly dancer and his d****d so called magician, who still called me Sheik. The belly dancer was explaining to the women why her husband (the magician) was calling me Sheik, but I didn’t know that at that time … yet.

When the women and the kids went to bed, the men stayed behind. The grandfather asked how I manage to have so many wives and 20 kids, while he had always such problems with one wife! Before I could answer that, I saw a grinning belly dancer leaving the Bedouin tent, where we all ate before. So I told him that everything was a lie, but ended up with telling them the story again, because they heard it already from the so called d****d magician.

Before anyone could drink too much (and face the wrath of the women again), I told them to go to bed, because tomorrow we drive to Eilat after Masada. That helped … somewhat. Almost everyone went indeed to their (separate) rooms (the women moved to separate rooms before), except the grandfather and the spokesman of the Canadian families. They stayed awake until I found them next morning snoring. One of the kids drew a sun on the bald head of the grandfather. I decided not to say anything.

At the Bedouin breakfast, we had some amusing scenes, where the grandfather had no idea what was drawn on his bald head and answered the question if he had already a shower. “Of course I had!” he exclaimed. Everyone promptly laughed.

At Masada I went all out. I planned to have a normal tour of Masada, but this time I went with the extended version of it.

When we left Masada finally, everyone was intrigued and properly impressed.

Timna National Park
Timna National Park

When we finally arrived at Eilat, before we went to our hotel, we visited the amazing Timna Park. and in the evening we were bowling at Eilat (that was after we checked in at Dan Eilat.

Dan Eilat Hotel
Dan Eilat Hotel

First thing we did, right after the breakfast, was greeting Fred our camel. We went with the Eilat’s Camel Ranch.

Eilat’s Camel Ranch
Eilat’s Camel Ranch

That was indeed fun for the kids, while their parents and the rest went with the camels. I insisted that grandfather went with Fred the camel. I choose to walk (I took the jeep from the many kids of the Bedouin man).

In the afternoon we went to the Dolphin beach, followed by Nightmare Eilat. In the evening we had Chinese theater at the Eilat’s Isrotel Theater.

I was happy, because the next day this dreadful tour would finally end. When I was thinking that, I heard load voices and screams and yells from the corridor next to my room, I shared with the Mule, the driver. There we go again, I thought.

I opened carefully the door to the corridor and what did I see? Complete strangers fighting and cursing each other in the fancy Dan hotel. I was so relieved and smiled happily. That one is not on me.

Ice Space
Ice Space

The next day, day 12, the final count down had reached its point of meltdown during the breakfast. It started so well and we were planning to go first to Ice Space. That idea was forgotten quickly, when grandfather was squaring against one of the formidable women from Quebec! Everyone took their sides and I started to call for  Mule and his bus, so we could get the Canadians quickly to the airport to avoid any further meltdowns and police.

After the woman slapped the grandfather in his face after loads of screaming  near the panicking hotel manager (fingering his mobile), I managed to drag the Canadians to the bus. The juniors helped the kids with the luggage and dragged everything down and straight into the bus. Without a word the bus left to the airport, where I was trying to calm everyone down. At the airport, we unloaded everyone and wished them a good trip back home.

That was one tour, never to forget and I really don’t want to have ever a repeat if I can avoid this.

In this month, we had several more tours, thank god they were normal tours without any drama. I met Fred the camel seven more times after that and it seemed that he was angry with me, because I sicked grandfather on him. Who could tell that a gay camel had such reaction and viciousness. Yes, he bit me in my behind and I could not sit very well for two days. And yes, the Bedouin man was laughing for the first time when Fred did that. And yes, I was too slow. And yes, that proofs that Fred the camel is a vicious camel with a bad temper and a long memory. But it doesn’t proof that Fred the camel is more intelligent then me, according Mule.

And yes, I met the belly dancer multiple times and do you know that she has a little pimple between her b … you know. It’s true. I saw it very clear during … when she danced close … very close. Thank god I’m old and have a belly and I’m gray.

Tour Guide Diaries August 2016

Three stories for this month in the Tour Guide Diaries. One story is about chocolate and how it came back to the guide and bit him in his behind. The other story sounds like a soap opera, but truly happened. Our group rescued another guided tour group, who were lost in the middle of the Goat Market in Be’er Sheba. The third story is the continuation of the last one about two goats (smuggled from that market) on rampage in a hotel and its aftermath.


For the privacy for everyone involved, if I mentioned names, they are not their true names (except myself).


  1. The Tour from Hell (10/1/2016) - This tour was the tour from hell ... for me. For the group absolutely not, because they had loads of fun, costing me my hair of course. We are talking about a tour, which shows what Israel actually is, a mixture of culture, adventure, exploration and Israeli sights in all the major touristic centers of Israel. This article is part of the Tour Guide Diaries September 2016.
  2. Gate of the Chain Clair, the Red Headed Ghost of Jerusalem (9/26/2016) - Or the sick who became a ghost? The change of title depends on your perspective of a very funny and mysterious (at first) story I've to tell you about a recent so called low-budget tour in September 2016.
  3. Tour Guide Diaries September 2016 (9/24/2016) - When two large families from Canada and Israel join for a tour in Israel, WW3 is almost unleashed in Israel. The results of that almost major conflict are that the women take charge and the men wisely murmur "Yes Dear" and the kids have fun.
  4. Tour Guide Diaries August 2016 (9/23/2016) - Three stories for this month in the Tour Guide Diaries. One story is about chocolate and how it came back to the guide and bit him in his behind. The other story sounds like a soap opera, but truly happened. Our group rescued another guided tour group, who were lost in the middle of the Goat Market in Be’er Sheba. The third story is the continuation of the last one about two goats (smuggled from that market) on rampage in a hotel and its aftermath.
  5. Tour Guide Diaries July 2016 (9/23/2016) - Two stories here. One is about the relationship between a guide and a camel with the name of Fred in a tour, and the other one is about a tour with alternative transports with like trains, buses and camels! Further it describes the baptizing in Israel and renewal of wedding vows.

De Karina Chocolate Factory Tour & Workshop
De Karina Chocolate Factory Tour & Workshop

Chocolate Feast
Do you see the image above? It’s about the chocolate. When I was on tour with a group of Americans from Texas, they knew my preference of junk food and especially the really nice sweet stuff. They thought to surprise their guide and bought chocolate when we visited the De Karina Chocolate Factory. It was a bit strange, because the majority was buying chocolates, and not a little, but kilos! That was 10 in the morning.

When we left Ein Zivan (that’s in the Golan), the group preferred that they stretched their legs and have their picnic early. Two families presented me with their bags full of chocolate and they insisted that I accept their little gifts (because the evening before I arranged for them a boat on the Sea of Galilee with life music and dancing (music was for free, the boat cost the group $300, or $30 per person) for four hours!).

So I ate. We are talking about white chocolate here! Melts in the mouth. And the chocolate with those strawberry fillings, melted in my mouth and face. And the milk-chocolate encapsulated with dark chocolate melted in my mouth, my face and shirt.

The group was having their picnic and I had my chocolate. After a hour we continued with the tour, while I continued to eat. Instead of decreasing the amount of chocolate, it increased faster then I could eat, because others offered me bags and boxes of chocolate too.

When the tour continued over the afternoon and early evening, I became more green by the hour. I didn’t see that, the people did … I only felt it.

But I’m from the stronger stuff and a bit of chocolate (a couple of kilos) would not bring me down (not for nothing I’m from Holland, there they eat chocolate when they are babies and in England it’s official medicine).

In the evening we arrived at our hotel tired and excited. Why excited? Dinner was waiting for them! The favorites for the families, because I always arrange something special for the group during dinner, like ‘magicians’ for the kids, dancers for everyone, violin player (trying to be romantic, not?) for the parents, or something extra ordinary like the ‘exploding’ or ‘imploding’ desserts for the kids and me, or the laughing candles for the parents, or the most delicious marzipan, chocolate, strawberries, real whipped cream and hot chocolate sauce tastefully made together for everyone … and me of course. The last was planned for that evening.

When this delicious dessert came up in a big show with sparkling star-thingies, and everyone’s eyes were popping out in the restaurant (also guests from the hotel and not part of our group, I – for the first time in my life – did not feel well and ran to the bathroom and waited (after being violently sick) till the desserts were gone.

What did I learn? To keep quiet about my preferences of anything during a tour. And not to mention chocolate.


Bedouin Goat Market
Bedouin Goat Market

Being lost

Bedouin Goat Market
Bedouin Goat Market

The worst thing what can happen with a guide is being lost. That can happen you know, especially when you visit places, where not many tourists come. I was with a group of tourists from Germany on the Israeli Gems Tour. At that moment we were visiting the market in Be’er Sheba. In Be’er Sheba you can find more then one market; you have there the ‘tourist trap’ normal ‘Middle Eastern’ market, the goat market and the chicken market, all of them Bedouin markets. The Gem tour means that you visit places, where normal tourists are not coming, but are extra ordinary interesting.

At that moment of time, when we walked through the normal market, several people from my group asked me in English (that was strange, because we only talked German during the tour) where the goat market was. I didn’t realize it then, but there was another group and guide (from Belgium), who were listening in to my telling the group what-was-what during the tour and they followed us already for a hour, enjoying our touring.

So I answered back that we will visit the goat and chicken market soon and said loudly how we would be traveling there (on foot) (in English). Then I start noticing the Belgium group and their guide and they quickly moved away from us.

I forgot the whole thing, focused on my group, did my thing and we arrived at the goat market. I was forced to interfere three times, because certain members of the group wanted to buy a ‘cute’ little goat! And the price they asked for was unbelievable ($30!) (you could buy a camel and wife for that money (I’m joking … maybe)).

When I explained what most of the people would do with the goats they were buying (eating them of course), two ladies (from my group) insisted to save the goats and buy a few (the cute ones, they added) (that’s another story I tell in the next entry here). Before I could hunt down the ladies (running into the market again), I was stopped by panicking strangers screaming and crying in Flemish. I speak Flemish very well myself, so I asked what was going on?

Bedouin Goat Market
Bedouin Goat Market

It’s not dangerous there at the Bedouin goat market (with a big male guide), but you don’t see girls and young women running around without the traditional wear of the Bedouin women (see the images of the women dressed) in shorts, revealing tops and bright t-shirts and with no family or male company! That’s more then uncomfortable for everyone and it makes those Bedouin women very angry!

Those crying Flemish people were really distressed and in full panic mode! It turned out that they were listening to us at the previous market and their stupid guide thought that it was a good idea to follow us. While doing that, he lost sight of us, and he didn’t hold his group together, so everyone got lost, distressed and in full panic mode, especially when those Bedouin women started to curse them.

At the end, all of us helped to find everyone of the Belgium group (but we could not find the guide at that time!) and the two girls from my group. I was forced to rescue two times several girls from a mob of angry Bedouin women, who were cursing them, because the way how they were dressed (shorts and tops) and they were also trying to make photos of those women! Oof. You don’t do that with those women! They will start trowing stones at you!

That interfering of mine was shoving my belly between the girls and the mob and yelling at the Bedouin women in Arabic: انهم لي! (innahum ly! or in English “They are mine“). That shocked the mob for a while and we had time to run back to the rest of the group. The girls and I were happy we escaped and in a good mood, smiling and all, but I didn’t realize that this would bite me in my behind later!

So suddenly I had not 30 people in my group, but 55! Guiding a group larger then 30 people with one guide doesn’t work, so I was forced to be creative. We moved quickly from the goat market to the chicken market! For a bit of money, we had a chicken race, sipping home made lemonade and drinking real Arabic … or better Bedouin coffee (super strong and super sweet) and loads of sweet ‘food’. That kept everyone occupied until the replacement guide could arrive … so I thought.

While waiting, several Bedouin people recognized us from the goat market and called me Arab names, while laughing, which made me blushing (I’m male and human) and uncomfortable. When some of the women were asking what they were saying, I didn’t answer of course. (“I don’t know“). What I didn’t tell them was that those Bedouin people called me ساحر النساء, or sahir alnisa or in English ‘Lady Killer’ and alshshaykh (Sheik). They referred to the moments I was trying to shock the Bedouin mob at the goat market so we (the girls and I) could run away.

I was not so lucky, because some of those Bedouin men spoke perfectly English, French, German, Hebrew and Russian and explained it to my group in all juicy details and were telling them about harems and Arab and Muslim marriages with more then one women and how good it looked for me to have more then 10 women. I would always be more then welcome to come back to the market and drink coffee with them, but I suppose to force my women to dress accordingly, … and the whole thing went on and on.

When the whole thing was finally ended and we gave up waiting for the guide, we went back to the bus, I had a group of 55 people behind me (laughing, giggling and the like) and me with my red face trying … praying that they would forget the whole thing.

When we arrived at the bus, we had a problem. My group was already in the bus, but the Belgium group not. They had no idea where their bus was. At the end, we decided to take them in and to bring them to our hotel in Be’er Sheba. So we did. During our short trip in the bus, the driver was asking if everything was alright with me and why I was so red. The reaction was that the whole bus was roaring with laughter.

The bus driver’s eyes went wide when he listened to the group explanations that I had a harem! That idiot believed it too! Local Israeli and local Be’er Sheba resident! And that idiot was telling it later to my travel agency too. Everyone had a “Laugh at Wim day”. But I’m afraid that was not the end of the day for me, oooooh no!


Goat rampage

Bedouin Goat Market
That’s the mother of the two goats. My photos of the bl**dy two goats are lost or deleted!! Ha!

After the adventures on the goat market, we settled down in our hotel in Be’er Sheba. After a good, loud and hilarious dinner (together with the Belgium group, who was still waiting for their new guide), we had our show (a belly dancer) while eating. I regretted that, because some of my group paid her to dance in front of me … very close. That was so much not fair, but everyone thought it’s hilarious. So I threatened them all with calling my wife and set her on them! And that didn’t help of course, so I was sipping my lemonade and eating sweet cakes and kept quiet. I’m so happy that I’m 56 years old with a belly. Not like that beautiful dark hair belly dancer and that clown of an i****, who suppose to be the magician and constantly called me Sultan and Sheik, but all in all, it was a nice evening.

I observed strange behavior though from several of the women from my group, like whispering and grinning, giggling and the whole jazz, and my bullsh*t antenna normally will send wails of sirens off that something is going on, but everyone was still making fun of me, so I didn’t pay too much attention.

Everyone went finally to their rooms and I had rest … or so I thought. I shared the room with the driver and the newly arrived guide for the Belgium group. The new guide arrived at 11pm, heavy weighted, enormous mustache and a very deep voice and spoke fluent Russian, Hebrew and Arabic, but no English or Flemish or German. Well, that was a problem for the next day.

While I was trying to sleep, the driver and the new guide kept me awake with their snoring. The driver had a light snorting sound, while the guide had a deep growling and rumbling sound while sleeping. The driver had probably a dream, because he started to hack in his sleep and he sounded almost like a goat … the blaring of a goat. Just like at the market, the goat market the day before … and again I heard him almost blaring like a goat. Then suddenly I heard a very loud and clear sound of a goat! That sound came straight from the outside of our room. And it was joined by muffed female laughter. I sat suddenly wide awake in my bed, and promptly hit my head on the wooden beam.

I left the room quickly to see what was going on and when I walked towards the kitchen, I heard loud male voices in Hebrew and Arabic and female voices in English, Flemish and German and loads of giggling. When I arrived at the entrance of the kitchens, the goat mystery was solved. Two little goats were eating something, while the cook was swearing in Arabic, the manager telling the cook off in Hebrew with his hand full of money and the girls cooing to the two little goats.

It seemed that the goats broke lose and found the kitchen themselves and were making a mess of things there, until the cook found them. When the furious cook was trying to hunt down the scared goats with a knife through the corridors of the hotel, he met his manager, who immediately met the girls looking for their goats. The manager was very upset of course and was demanding all kind of things until the girls gave him money and was quiet for the time being. That was the situation when I found them; just like a soup opera on TV.

The problem with goats is that if you let them alone in a room, they would cause heavy damage to the walls, cables, curtains, plants, flowers, chairs, bed, blankets, sheets, towels, toilet paper, bags, computers, laptops, phones … well, everything. I proposed that the cook would find a temporary place for the goats, so everyone can go back to their beds. The cook agreed immediately, while waving his knife. The girls refused and the manager was telling them to kick out the goats. After two hours of ‘discussions’ we agreed that we would bind the goats in the garden at the back of the hotel. We finally had our rest.

When I brought the girls to their rooms (I didn’t trust them to go back to the goats and guard them or something strange like that), we discovered the damage the goats had done to the room. Wallpaper ripped from the walls, cables eaten, curtains torn, plants eaten, flowers eaten, chairs damaged, bed damaged, blankets torn, sheets torn, towels torn, toilet paper everywhere, bags torn, computers chewed upon, laptops chewed upon and phones chewed upon.

One of the girls said something like “… nice goat soup …” and that set off the girls with each other. Another hour later we decided to switch some girls with other girls of other rooms and at last everyone could sleep. It was 5 am. I went back to my room and fell asleep almost immediately and woke up by a scream of the driver and hit my head again.

That morning at breakfast, a very exhausted group of girls (and me) were trying to eat. Outside the hotel we heard the two goats loudly blaring. The whole group of 55 people heard already about the nightly adventures, while I was wishing for my pension, everyone was discussing what to do with the goats. The driver was refusing to allow the goat in his bus. The newly arrived guide was trying to explain in Hebrew to people who understood some English and of course Flemish what his group suppose to do (waiting before their bus came).

I was translating for the Belgium group with their guide in Hebrew and Flemish, and trying to discuss what to do with the two goats with the manager in Hebrew, and trying to mediate between the girls and the same manager of all the damage from the goats in one room in German, till the answers came in the form of the freshly arrived bus driver for the Belgiums and the belly dancer and her i**** of a so called magician in Arabic, who still kept calling me Sheik, even in the bl**dy morning. She brought something sweet with her for me (chocolate) (she received a big tip from the group) and left happily. I got the idea of the life time (after the chocolate of course, which I didn’t share with anyone).

I proposed to swap the guide with the driver for the Belgium group (who spoke English) and the guide had bus driver license. That was one. I paid for the damage for the room, so the manager was happy and quiet and I brought him many times business. And the girls paid for the taxi to bring the goat to the market. Yes, I was laughing so hard! I tried to explain to the taxi driver in Arabic that his passengers were not the girls but the two goats.He didn’t believe me and thought I was joking.

At the end, for $50 he was willingly to bring the goats back to the market. I’ve no idea if he did it or brought it to his wife at home for a nice dinner, but sorry, I didn’t care that that moment.

At last we could move to our bus and continue with our tour. I took loads of pain killers for a killer of a headache, but everyone else was in a very good mood and had loads of fun.

From that day, the group called me Sheik instead of Wim or Mr. Vincken. Cheeky b*ggers. And every time people asked why they were calling me Sheik and the group explained. That went well, until we arrived at Dom Polski church in Jerusalem and spoke to the priest. They introduced me as Sheik before I could say anything. The priest knew me very well for a long time already because of the tours. When he asked the group why, they explained and he looked at me very strange. When I came later with a new group to the same church, he welcomed me by name … Sheik. And he explained to the new group why I was called Sheik. I never knew that priests had such twisted humor.

Later, when the tour was finished, the travel agency contacted me, who arranged the tour for the people from Belgium. He thanked me and when I asked how it went with the new tour guide, he hesitated with answering. ” … you know, your idea of swapping the driver with the guide was not such a good idea after all, because he lost his way almost every hour during the bus drive to Eilat. They reached Eilat after 7 hours. It suppose to be 3 hours! That %#$%& …”. Those poor people. I never met the guide who lost his way, neither the travel agency. They tried to call him, but he never answered. What happened with him, no idea.

That’s it. My fingers are hurting from all that typing. At the moment I’m in the desert with a new group south of Be’er Sheva and met the manager and the cook yesterday (when we slept there for the night). This time we stay two nights with the Bedouins and have a great time there. Nobody calls me Sheik at the moment.

Many things happened this month, but I keep it with three stories. The next one I will write for the happenings in the Tour Guide Diaries July 2016 and start on the Tour Guide Diaries for September 2016. Many hilarious and nice things happened, especially with my friend Fred, the Camel. That’s the story for July.

I publish this article for the site and close the laptop and go to sleep. Good night everyone.