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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Aqaba for Petra (was Uncle Michael our tour guide)

What is the Greek word for rock?  ......      Petra of course.

We woke early this morning so we could call Kirsty for her birthday.  Up on deck we went to watch our sail through the gulf into Aqaba. We could see the Jordanian mountains on one side and on the other we passed the many coastal resorts of Egypt and Israel.

We reached the port 2 hours later than originally scheduled but at least this time we were given those hours back at the end of the day, so no port time was lost.

We all gathered at Magnums and headed down to the gangway together to find our Guide from Douna Tours for our trip to Petra. I would have to say this was one very excited bus as Petra was a major highlight for everyone on the ship.

Our first stop was customs. Aqaba is a duty free city so there must be restrictions on what you can take out.  The bus was stopped and the hull opened for officials to take a look.  After an all clear we were waved off and we were on our way again.

We were expecting a little 20 seater bus but much to our delight we had one of the larger buses so we could spread out a little and we were much more relaxed.  Our bus driver sure scooted along but I think the plan was to get us there before the 36 princess buses arrived.

What an amazing landscape..... just rock, rock and more rock and mountains always mountains.  Then there is the colours of cream, red and black streaked through the rock to signify their content. Every now and then there would be a touch of green of a lone tree or wild grasses which gave the wandering camels, goats and donkeys something to chew on.

Throughout the drive you spotted small Bedouin camps.  Even though the government have built small communities for the Bedouins to live in a lot revert to the camps for the summer months.

Our official first stop was at a look out where our guide described it as a Jordanian Grand canyon, for all you could see for miles and miles were valleys of mountain and rocks.  Next was the obligatory stop at a souvenir shop disguised as a toilet stop.  Here you could relieve yourself and shop for the best quality trinkets in Jordan.  I love these stops lol.... but don’t tell my husband......  I even had an encounter with a very flirtatious Jordanian on his magic carpet.

Then it was on towards our destination..  We weaved our way around the narrow streets of Petra City until we came to the entrance of site....

Once the tickets were bought we started our 2 km walk towards the most the famous attraction at the site........... The Khazneh or Treasury as most know it...

The first 900 metres took us past lots of other points of interest carved into the rocks.  It was here that we reach the entrance to the Siq.  Best described as a kilometre plus long chasm that leads us into the main part of the old Petra.

All along the Siq we would stop at different points of interest and the guide would give us a little bit more information about this phenomenon.  As we had beaten the other 39 buses you could really appreciated the magnitude of where we were...  There were only a few other groups wandering down the Siq with us ...our biggest issue was trying not to get run over by the careering horse and carts that would race the people who did not want to walk to and from the Treasury. (Those in the group will remain nameless)  These drivers were on a mission ...... to see who could make the most money in one day..  Nothing would slow them down , not a narrow pass, uneven ground nor pedestrians in their way....

We walked and walked and at each turn you hoped that you had arrived, but finally our guide made us line up along one side of the Siq and slowly walked us from one side to the other until he took us through the opening.  Not unlike Indiana Jones, as we all stepped out into the courtyard our jaws dropped when we saw one of the most famous ancient mega structures in the world....

We were lucky that the area was still very quiet and we were able to move around easily and take lots of photos..... from there we moved further into the site... once again stopping  at strategic points where we were told about the area we were in.... As we walked along we saw more tombs, dwellings and eventually stopped at the Amphitheatre.  We were then instructed to turn around were we saw perched up the mountain the 4 royal tombs...... another wow moment...  Something funny worth mentioning was the young Bedouin children all vying for your “1 dinar, 1 dollar, 1 dinar, 1 dollar”.....  to sell you anything from postcards to beaded necklaces...... Our guide in their language told them not to waste their time with us but if they hurry up back the other way there were 36 buses of tourists coming LOL

Now we were about halfway into the site and we were left to our own devices and given a time by our guide to meet back up at the entrance ...... We had about an hour and half to get back, all up hill !!  It took a bit of coercing but we managed to get our guide to admit that they had a special shuttle just around the corner for him to get back to the top  LOL.....

There was still so much to see and we only had scratched the surface so we slowly started to meander our way back occasionally stopping  to barter for some purchases.  By the time we arrived back at the Treasury it was the same time as the 36 buses did..... boy are we glad we had been there  and done that....

Once we were out of the Siq our entry ticket entitled us to a horse ride for the last 900 metres  back to the entrance.... Both Garry and I decided to partake but Carole and Randy decided to walk.... I gave them my camera so they could take a few snaps.....   I was a bit worried about leaving them behind as we hopped on our horses and were on our way..... Until I realised that these horses were pretty slow ... well I guess that happens when the men lead them for you ..... and especially when Carol was suddenly walking next to us as we worked our way up the hill......  The horses were free but the drivers leading them weren’t so the paid them $5 in form of a tip.... Garry was challenged for another $5 but you can imagine Garry’s response.


Our meeting place once at the top was the “Cave Bar” that was in the hotel .... Think of it as a mixture of Tomb and Beer Garden and you end up with a very pleasant spot to have a quick Ale. As we were last to arrive our was even quicker.

Finally at 4pm it was time for lunch.  What a more suitable name for a restaurant in uptown beautiful Petra City, “One thousand and one night” . Perched on a hill this family restaurant had a real carnival feel to it... You could eat inside, outside on the balcony overlooking the city, down on the grassed area or under the make ship Bedouin looking tent...  on another section there were mini cars and carnival rides for the kids... There were water features and replica of the Khazneh.  This place would be magical at night as you see lots of rope and festoon lighting where ever you looked.... And the food.... it was fantastic.... lots of traditional salads, rice, lamb and chicken meals....  With our plates overflowing we certainly made use the of the fantastic views from up on the balcony.

With sore feet and full bellies we all waddled our way back onto the bus for the long ride back to Aqaba... We were taken on a short drive around the city and then dropped off for 45 min to get a feel for the place... The boys managed to buy a case of Petra Beer......500ml and 8% alcohol.......let you know how good it tastes lol

The best I did was a bottle full of sand and 3 postcards.... but the guy was more interested in trying to sell me silver jewellery instead of the postcards.... We would have loved to sit and have a coffee as the cafes were all starting to come to life......but it was back to the boat for us for our 10pm sail away.

We met up with Roz and Arnold by the pool to cool down the body and ease some of those aching muscles....  As the guy on the grill was still cooking we sat up there with a bottle of champagne and a large plate of chips enjoying the lights of Jordon on our left and Israel on our right.

Slowly slowly by the end of the night our small table of 4 ended up a table of 10.  As it was late at night it was one of those quiet eerie sail aways as we silently pull out from the wharf spun around and sailed back down the gulf towards the red sea.

During the day the ship was presented with plaques from the port and the authority as this was the Dawn Princess Maiden visit to Aqaba..... Apparently the Dawn Princess is the first ship of it’s size to visit this city...

Garry’s world cruise Bread Roll Count so far - 98

Joanne’s  Lobster count – 7



1 comment:

  1. Its always lovely to have a bottle of bubbly as you sail away, your day sounded wonderful, and the photos are really beautiful !