Thursday, May 23, 2019

May 21, 2019.    Aqaba, Jordan,  87 Pictures,  130/183

Aqaba, Jordan's only port on the Gulf of Aqaba, is located at the intersection of four countries, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, all visible from our docked ship.

Jordan's King Abdulla II began his reign when King Hussein died in 1999.  He embarked on a modernization program which propelled Jordan into becoming a modern, western style country.  Women have total equality in all facets of life.  Jordan has 10 million residents, 50% being Bedouins, and has accepted 6 million refugees. (2.5 million Palestinians, 1.5 million Syrians, 1 million others)  Amazing commitment by such a small country.

Six of us hired a local company to tour Petra and Wadi Rum, instead of joining an Oceania tour.  Many advantages acrue to being on our own, especially the separation from a crowd of 200 people.  We caught up to the 5 buses en route and our driver, after prompts to 'beat the buses', took us on a shortcut to do just that!  Happily we were checked in and touring before the crush.

I asked our Muslim guide, Husam, how he felt about his neighbors, including Israel.  He said everyone gets along just fine at the personal level with the exception of the Palestinians.   He said he loves the Israelis.  Apparently they are always demanding more and constantly complaining, which is creating many problems in Jordan.  Seems to be a common thread in these parts.

Our 100 km drive to Petra from Aqaba was interesting with a variety of scenery, much of it very reminiscent of Arizona. (See Photos)  Highways are modern, with street lighting, even in uninhabited areas.  Go figure.  Hundreds of electricity generating turbines cover the ridges.  Camels, goats and Bedouin camps dot the landscape as people scratch out a living in this hostile climate.  Everyone drives nice vehicles, however, while talking on their cell phones!  With King Abdulla in power, the Bedouins began getting housing around 1985, effectively ending their nomadic lifestyle, but many still pitch tents in their back yards to keep a connection to their past.

Petra is an impressive site which dates back about 2,000 years, as detailed by our many photos.  It was built as a mausoleum for a Nabataean King and hundreds of other tombs occupy the area. Jordanians lived in caves along the route to Petra for several thousand years, finally moving after 1985, when the new King supported the commercialization of the Petra historical site.  Employment revenue began to flow and people could afford housing.

We followed up on the poignant account of a New Zealand nurse who met a Bedouin, Mohammad Abdallah, in 1978 while visiting Petra.  Apparently they had an instant connection and she never left.  They lived in a cave, of course, for 7 years, while raising three children, then moved to housing in 1985.  Marguerite van Geldermalsen set up a health clinic to help the Bedouins.  Tragically, her husband died in 1999, but she still lives in Petra operating her book stand and souvenir shop with her son.  Her book is titled - 'Married to a Bedouin'.

Moses's brother Aaron is reputed to be buried in a white mosque located on Aaron's Mountain, (Jabal Harum) the highest peak in the area.  My photo does no justice due to the distance.

Second part of our day was spent in Wadi Rum.  I know, seems like there should be an exotic Arabian rum in the mix, but no such luck.  Wadi Rum translated as Valley of the Moon.  This area has been used for many movie sets, including Martian (Damon), Star Wars, and Lawrence of Arabia.  Area is similar to the vistas in Arizona and Utah.

Our day ended with a drive around down town Aqaba.  Very nice city of 135,000, with high end hotels and lots of outdoor restaurants. See Photos.  Our driver and I connected on a personal level and we hope to see him again on a non-business basis. For example, I teased him by asking what they do when a bunch of his friends go out for dinner with their wives dressed in burkas, by asking him how they know who to take home.  His quick response was - I will take them all!  Truth is we saw no women in burkas and very few with head covering in Aqaba.  Husam smokes, drinks alcohol in moderation and enjoys the finer things in life, like any Westerner!

We were travelling with four USA residents, who were rather format in their interactions with our Guide.  I was more informal and kidded with Husam.  Well,, Younga even went so far as to tell him that I was not a Canadian as she felt uncomfortable.

Well, intereting---- For fun, I said to Husam, " You and five of your buddies take your wives out for dinner and they are weraing burkas.  How do you know which one to take home?"   He hesitated for a few seconds then said:  "I would take them all home!"  Then we both had a good laugh! ( As I was asking the question, the USA four were squirming and exclaiming not to even go there.)

Fast forward:  When we arrived back at the ship, everyone except myself went on board and I took a few minutes to investigate the hugewind turbine impellors.  When I rounded the corner stock of blades, Husam was waiting for me in his Van.  Calling me over, he asid he really liked me, as a good Canadian. He gave me his contact information and told me to please come back to Jordon.  He wanted to see me again, have me over to his home, etc..  He said the USA residents wer not nice people,  Wow!!!

As we approach the port of Aqaba

On the drive to Petra

Watermelon patch

Convenience Store along highway

Looks like she is in a hurrey to get to the store

Bedouin home site - Tents in the desert

Free roaming camels

Rugged topography on the way to Petra

 Petra townsite

Entrance gate to Petra Historical Site

Younga, Hasam, Paul, Bette, David and Merrilynne on the 2 km walk to Petra

Old caves used for housing.

Start of the canyon leading to Petra

Traditional marriage site in the canyon leading to Petra.  Guess it is official.

An earthquake eons ago fractured the topography, creating the canyon complex where Petra was built.   Sandstone lent itself to easier carving.

Continuing our walk toward Petra

Wouldn't be a good day if this was for real!

 Original carving of a camel and man has eroded, leaving only feet and part of the man.

Traditional dress

Option to get to or from Petra, for $40.00.  Merrilynne wouldn't let me use it!

 First glimpse of the Treasury at Petra

Treasury at Petra.  So-named because legend had it that gold was buried with the King.  Never has been found, if true.  Note the relative size of the monument when compared to the tourists.

Hundreds of tombs dating back to 0-100 AD

 Beautiful mineralization

Marguerite's son, selling her book, "Married to a Bedouin"

 Tour of Wadi Rum

Numerous varied displays of weathering

Historical display, narrow gage trains.  Railroad to Aqaba port is still vital.

Tea in a Bedouin home

Return from Wadi Rum to Aqaba

Photo of typical highway.  Note the lighting along the center, in the middle of nowhere.

Few pictures of downtown Aqaba.  Modern, highend hotels.

Construction barracade beautification

Dock at Aqaba.  Wind turbine blades shown are 240' long.

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