France, Spain, Egypt, Jordan and UAE 2013
This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.
Just to be clear, the two pictures I have noted as 'inside a tomb' were not taken by us with our camera--as we said, we were not allowed to take photos. So, just to illustrate what we were talking about, I took 2 photos of the pictures in the book we bought, which were things we saw with our very own four eyes!
(Nothing is sacred to Mark)
15.05.2013 - 17.05.2013 32 °C
At Sea Days
The four of us made it into the pool yesterday One of the pools was closed due to maintenance so the body count was pretty high. They use sea water in the pools which is the only way to go. On the NCL ships they have two salt water pools, one has a depth of around 6' and the other is much deeper, perhaps 8 or 10' which is great for diving or cannon balling. The two pools on this ship both have a depth of only 5 feet or so which kind of sucks.
Susan and I actually laid on some chaise lounges and sun bathed for around 20 minutes. That was long enough. The sun is pretty intense here on the Red Sea, so we don't want any burns.
Yesterday Susan, Val and Troi did the rock climbing wall. I self appointed myself as videographer. Troi did very well scaling the vertical surface very competently. But my heart swelled with pride as the wife of my youth, now donned in her harness, climbing booties, and helmet, began her ascent. She assaulted the perpendicular incline with the gusto of a crazed chimpanzee. Three quarters of the way up she manifested only the slightest display of fatigue with her goal still clearly fixed in her sight. Thirty seconds later she rang the bell at the acme of the man-made mountain signifying success and her wish to be repelled downward. It was a thing of beauty. Val got half way up in a valiant attempt of her own.
Buoyed with confidence and still in the grips of her adrenaline high, in minutes the para-legal secretary had in-line skates on and was tearing up the track reaching a velocity of three miles per hour at times, slowing only for the corners and straight stretches. The G forces must have been incredible.
Onto more somber news now. As of today we both have pretty serious cases of diarrhea. mine replete with stomach cramps, both of which began yesterday. Susan came down with her affliction this morning. Not the end of the world but kind of a bummer, pardon the pun. We are chewing imodium pills to beat the band to stem the tide.
I had a very unusual experience this morning. Those of us who wear glasses have all experienced being in the outside winter air and walking into a warm house only to have the lenses 'fog' up. This morning, I walked out of our air conditioned state room onto our balcony to join Susan. Immediately my glasses fogged up as the very hot and humid air enveloped me and my specs. I've never had reverse fogging up happen to me before.
We enjoyed an interesting show last night. The act was a professional pick pocket. It was not only entertaining but educational as he is really in the business of helping people to be protected from this kind of thing as he works with as many as thirty police agencies around the world. In Paris, over three hundred iPhones are stolen every day. As you can imagine, to make his act work, he requires the assistance of “volunteers” willing or otherwise. Troi interestingly was of particular interest to the showman, and was not only on stage at one point, but personally groped in his seat as well.. I'll let Val fill you in for the salient details, but will say that he did get his watch back.
We are having our last special meal tonight. It's at one of these paid restaurants, but Susan and Val pulled some strings to get us in free this evening. It's an eating place that specializes in meat, which has me interested. My only apprehension is how it might exacerbate our “problem” later on, but at times you just have to throw caution to the wind.
We've had three things fixed by the ship's maintenance department. Two successfully one not. Our fridge is for all intents and purposes dead, but when the guy came to check on it, all he said was: “Sorry Boss, but that's all it can do.”
I'm clean shaven as of this morning. I miss my pitiable stubbly countenance.
Time to head back to the state room, as I have to see someone about a horse. Woe is me.
14.05.2013 - 14.05.2013
Day 9 of Cruise
Port: Aqaba, Jordan
Excursion: Petra and Wadi Rum
Final port of call and final excursion, before the end of our cruise at Dubai. Mark has already written about his excursion to the Dead Sea, which he enjoyed like 'ten men'. I'm glad he did, because he really missed something by not going along with Val, Troi and I.
Other than seeing the pyramids of Egypt on this cruise, the opportunity to see Petra was a big draw for me. I have wanted to see this place since I first saw it—I think it may have been on the Indiana Jones—Last Crusade movie, but possibly before that as well. Once again, the reality was better than the anticipation.
We (deliberately) had a much smaller group this time, only 9 people. A much smaller bus, but it was comfortable and air conditioned, and had several more seats than people. Our guide was Aladdin and our driver was Abraham.
Aladdin's discourse on the 1.5-2 hour ride explained the history of the area, relating it to biblical history—and there were lots of overlaps. I will have to get out “The Good Land” when I get home. We drove along the Kings Way, which was a route through Jordan of the camel caravans. This was the area of the Edomites, who were descendants of Esau. Moses apparently came through the area of Petra Aaron died in this area and was buried on Mt. Hor—there is a shrine there for his grave. We could see the sun shining on it as we descended the valley down to the entrance to Petra. The Moabites also held this land.
There was more interesting stuff he told us about the land and the country which may get commented on separately later. For now, we go to the entrance to Petra and we had about 1.5 hours here (the entrance fee was $75). Most of that time was spent walking down 'el Siq' (the narrow path that descends between the high rock formations on either side) to 'el Khazneh' (the famous Treasury) and back up again (45 minutes each way, the walk was either 1.5 miles or kms—both were said and I can't verify this little factoid yet). The descent takes you down 30 m vertically from the entrance—which means that the walk back is all uphill. The walk down was completely interesting all the way with lots to look at from side to side and up and down. Much was natural formations owing to natural erosion of the rock walls, but also along the way there were the holes of tombs which had carvings around the entrances, and the left side wall had an aqueduct that ran all along the wall between about (my) waist and shoulder height, that brought water down into the city. It was not very large, just a shallow basin about 1 foot wide and maybe 9-12” deep, carved out of the rock. At Petra's height, it had 25,000 inhabitants. Not sure how that aqueduct filled the needs of that many people, I think there must have been cisterns to collect the rainwater.
The rock walls were not 'red' right from the start of our walk, but they were certainly beautifully variegated in colour, and the wind erosion of the sandstone has, apparently, emphasized the striations more than when the carvings were originally done. From what Aladdin told us, and what I'm reading in the book I bought, there seems to be a fair amount of mystery yet about the whole area's history. But the Treasury dates from the 1st Century AD, and may actually be a funerary monument to King Aretas IV of the Nabataeans—Petra belonged to the nomadic Nabataeans from after Alexander the Great's death, and part of the 'mystery' of Petra's history is due to there being no written history of these poeple.
As we walked down el Siq, everywhere we turned the rock formations were beautiful. Then ahead of us, we saw the narrow vertical gap in the rock that you see in pictures, and then....we could see one side of the Treasury appearing in the opening. The sandstone now had the famous pinkish hue, with the black and beige striations. We came out of el Siq into the square in front of the facade of the Treasury. Aladdin met us here and gave us some more information about the history (not all of us had made it this far) and then gave us about 10 minutes to explore a little farther down the roadway to see some other things, before we had to make our way back up the hill again. We took lots of photos (which do not do justice to what we saw) and then started the climb back up to the entrance.
Today, there were more than 30 buses from our ship alone that toured Petra, each bus holding at least 30 people. However, Aladdin told us that before the recent 'middle east' troubles there used to be 5000 people visiting Petra daily, now there average about 500. As we heard from Mohammed and Assam, this area of the world is really suffering from the downturn in tourism. Aladdin's sentiments were that Jordan is suffering a bum rap owing to the problems of other surrounding countries—there is nothing happening in Jordan that is dangerous, but it is painted with the same brush as the countries (like Egypt) where there have been problems.
One could have a horse ride at the start of the walk down to the entrance into the chasm (800 m), which was included in our ticket, but none of us chose to do that. Wasn't a long enough ride to justify the effort. You could also take a horse and carriage ride down and/or up but that was an extra charge. The horses did not look like they were very well cared for, and the riders and the carriage drivers were very reckless. A couple from our group saw a woman run down by a horse and carriage—not seriously hurt, but it didn't surprise us to hear that. At the bottom, in the square in front of the Treasury, there were also camels available for riding. And all along the way, there were the ubiquitous little burros.
End of Petra, but not the end of the day.