Istanbul to Bombay by ship 2000: 3
We arrived in the Jordanian port of Aqaba earlier than
scheduled - about 5:00 PM. The Jordanian officials were very efficient and had
the ship cleared quickly. After dinner we caught the free shuttle bus to the
city and had a walk around. The larger Israeli city of Elat was easy to see
only a couple of kilometres away. It is a nice place with relaxed shopkeepers
who were not pushy, but were attentive when you wanted them to be. Everyone is
very polite and friendly,
When we returned to the ship we arranged an early morning taxi,
picked up our passports and turned in early.
In the morning things went amazingly well. The 4:30 AM wakeup
calls were on time, as was the taxi, the flight and the rental car at the
international airport in Amman. We drove first to the Dead Sea, then got lost
trying to find the bridge across the River Jordan to Palestine. We finally
arrived at the Jordanian frontier after lots of help from very friendly
Jordanian people. There we were informed that to cross the border we would
have to go through the military zone by shuttle bus both ways and that it
could take four hours with all formalities. The border police offered to have
a policeman accompany us in our car to the bridge so we could see the frontier
and the River Jordan. After a wait in a police official's office, where coffee
was served, the passes arrived and so did our escort.
The escort dealt with each of the army checkpoints on the road
to the frontier bridge, and once we arrived the zone commander of the area
joined us. Tim and I walked out onto the wooden bridge, gradually working our
way across until we were standing on Israeli/Palestinian soil on the far side,
in front of a gate backed by Israeli machine gunners. Cameras are forbidden in
the area, but our Jordanian hosts took some photos for us with our cameras at
the sign for the bridge.
The River Jordan was quite a surprise - with all it's fame we
had expected something like the Mississippi, but it is narrow enough that a
good broad jumper could clear it! There wasn't much in the way of a land of
milk and honey on either side, but certainly no shortage of guns. There is a
new major bridge and highway under construction being paid for by the
Japanese, but there was very little traffic due to the current fighting and
After returning our host to his headquarters we drove on
excellent freeway to Petra, about two hours away. The Jordanians are
excellent, courteous drivers who pull over to the right lane when not passing,
allowing faster traffic to proceed.
At Petra we encountered typical tourist rip offs, including the
people who rented us horses. We were to have paid for horses to Petra and back
from the site entrance, but it turned out horses were only allowed about 1/3
of the way, and they never did show up at the appointed time to take us back.
The site itself is spectacular. The photos in National Geographic and other
magazines really cannot do it justice - it is a huge site.
When it came time to leave, after grumbling a lot about no
horses and walking up to the entrance, the three of us tried to find Marilynn
- without success. As our chance of getting back to the ship before it sailed
diminished, an alternate plan was made for Tim and Jens to take the rental car
back to the ship, then I'd find Marilynn and we'd fly on to Luxor. We decided
one last search effort would be made, so Tim walked back down to Petra, Jens
watched the top of the trail at the entrance, and I searched the shops and
parking area again. I also got the police, who I had contacted earlier to see
if anyone had been taken out injured. The police and I arrived where Jens was
stationed just as Tim and Marilynn appeared from below - to everyone's relief.
She maintains fiercely that the three of us were waiting in the wrong place
and that she was in the correct spot!
A frantic drive through the back country got us back to Aqaba
to pick up the rental car fellow at the assigned spot, but an hour late, then
back to the ship. The purser was waiting at a freight-loading door, along with
crew, who promptly shut the doors behind us and the ship sailed!
Overnight we made out way to the Egyptian Port of Safaga on the
Red Sea. In the morning we boarded 22 busses with the rest of the passengers,
and escorted by Egyptian police and troops front and back headed for Luxor.
The trip was through an interesting variety of desert, from dunes and
mountains to flat sand. Again there was lots of military and checkpoints on
the road. We tied up traffic when we came into Luxor, as the police had closed
the side roads as we went by. They are very determined not to have another
incident like 1997 when Muslim fanatics massacred a number of tourists.
The temples of Luxor and Karnak were amazing - enormous! A
sound and light show that was held in the Karnak temple at night was
impressive. The following day we visited other temples on the West Bank of the
Nile, and were into two tombs in the Valley of the Kings. While the monuments
were very much worth visiting, battling through swarms of persistent vendors
while participating in mass tourism at it's worst was really tiring. Each
guide had a pole with the bus number of their group on it, and watching these
various divisions stampeding into the sites made me wonder if there have been
other invasions of this magnitude since the Romans. At every turn we were
flanked by police with automatic weapons, and one or two even rode on each
We now have two days at sea, with our next stop being Djibouti.
From here we hope to get into Somalia.