Aqaba, Jordan

Aqaba, Jordan – A City of Unequaled Heritage

We arrived in Aqaba, Jordan, located on the northern end of the Red Sea and right next to neighboring city, Eilat, Israel. Jordan is basically a landlocked country between Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. Jordan’s only port is Aqaba because in 1965 Jordan’s King Hussain traded a portion of land to Saudi Arabia in exchange for a portion of land that contained access to the Red Sea.

Jordan is a safe and friendly country that maintains warm relations with the United States.  In fact, we learned the U.S. embassy in Jordan is the largest embassy in the Middle East.

Later in the day we joined a group of about 40 from the Ship and headed for a 2-night and 3-day overland to Wadi Rum and Petra. We were in 3 big buses with one guide and one Ship escort on each, so we were well looked after.

We met at 2pm and boarded buses for the trip to Wadi Rum. A little over an hour later we jumped into the back of jeeps rigged with two facing bench seats and headed off into the desert.

Wadi means valley and the Wadi Rum is a huge valley with reddish colored limestone hills up to 850 feet high with red sand desert landscape between. The sand was pretty well packed, so the ride was fairly smooth and super scenic.

It seems this desert is the “highway” to get anywhere in the region and every vehicle we saw was a pickup rigged to hold “visitors”.  The jeeps were not the only form of transportation in the area as we saw many camels in the desert with us.

Wadi Rum is a region dominated and managed by the Bedouin people. They choose this desert lifestyle as they have for centuries.

In fact, our guide himself is a Bedouin, has a master’s degree and worked in the US for several years. Omar has been a guide for 15 years and he was super knowledgeable.

Our first stop on the way to our “camp” was a huge sand-dune which we climbed.

Oh my goodness that was a huge challenge. Walking up hill in soft sand is not easy, but the views from the top were spectacular and made it well worth the effort. The walk down was much easier and even fun. Fortunately, we did not fall on our faces.

Our second stop was at a narrow gorge between two hills where hieroglyphics etched into the stone walls had been discovered. We could plainly see the words and pictures of people and animals.

Our final stop was at an overlook to watch the sun set over these gorgeous sandstone hills. It doesn’t get any prettier than this.

Next, we drove to our campground and by this time with the sun set it became very chilly for our 20-minute ride in the back of the truck. We were frozen solid by the time we got to our camp with “bubble tents” in the shape of geodesic domes.

We thought this would be very cool, and it was. Three quarters of the dome was plexiglass which provided some amazing desert views. Outside, without any light “pollution”, it seemed you could reach up and touch the stars.

We were welcomed to the main tent where we warmed up and had a glass of fresh orange/lemon juice (no alcohol here) before being escorted to our bubble tents.

After a rest we met for dinner that was a feast enough for about one hundred people. We were entertained by a Bedouin Storyteller, who at 47 had some interesting tales, and was an entertaining speaker. Amazingly, this group of 40 Residents sat quietly and listened and asked questions. Very cool experience.

There was a star-gazing experience after dinner, and we could see plenty of stars from our tent.

An amazing day at Wadi Rum.

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