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Sunday, November 2, 2014

10/28: Aqaba, Jordan on the Red Sea

We were up early to get the 7am bus from Jerusalem’s Central Bus Station for the 4 plus hour ride to Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city on the border with both Egypt and Jordan.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we were on the same two lane road for much of the trip we’d been on days earlier when’d taken the day trip to Masada, En Gedi and the Dear Sea. 
Photos from the bus en route to Eilat, Israel.

Upon arrival at Eilat, we immediately got a taxi to the Jordanian border crossing 5 kms north. Steven and I both remarked that we’d never seen an emptier border crossing in our lives; it was only us and 2 Singaporean women who had been on the bus crossing over to Aqaba, no other people or cars, nothing – altogether strange its being so deserted at a major crossing. We had to get a Jordanian visa and had to hand over our passport a couple of time but the whole process went off with nary a hitch and without having to pay a penny OR fill out any forms, etc.

When all the border formalities were over, we got a fixed rate taxi to our hotel where we stayed for just one night. Saw a large number of murals on the way into town from the bus station.
We needed to stay in Aqaba one night before heading out at 8 the next morning for our ride to Wadi Rum because our tour there started at 10. Jordan’s beach resort town of Aqaba is the country’s southernmost city and is located on the Red Sea. Some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world is centered on the unspoiled coral reefs just south of the city center. It would have been fun to explore the reefs but we didn’t have that sort of time.
First off, we walked through the fairly small market area as we always find produce and clothing markets fascinating. We didn't realize that we'd see in Jordan a gazillion sand sculptures when we saw these first ones in Aqaba.
The BIGGEST cabbages we've ever seen. Wonder how many people could be fed on St. Patrick's Day with just one of them!
I love lamb but seeing these carcasses made me rethink that!

A local bakery where we bought some rolls to munch on while sightseeing; it turned out one had yummy chocolate inside and the others had what we think was a cooked fig filling.

Behind the market was one of the city’s beautiful mosques. located on the beach road, known as the Corniche.
Too long a mosque name for me to write!

We then walked the few blocks to the city beach which, as we had been told by the hotel, was not nearly as attractive or conducive to tourists as the South Beach. Oh well, it was  still interesting seeing the local women on the beach wearing the full jet black Arab dress and head covering and a number of boat owners pleading that they take us out for a boat ride in their glass bottomed boats.

Since there was so little to see or do in Aqaba, we stopped in at the small museum and Mamluke Fort for a while. We were given a private tour of the latter which was interesting.

Photos of the males in Jordan's ruling family were commonplace in Aqaba even in the tiny museum.

The guide showed Steven how to recognize numbers in Arabic. The number five in Arabic for example looks like a zero.
The cistern
The guide showed us basil plants growing in the rocky ground.

The guide insisted on posing us here in the doorway - yeah, I know, rather cheesy!
 Wandered back to the beach for a few more photos after leaving the museum and then
along the main street past the mosque again.
Aqaba's Great Arab Revolt Plaza right by the beach. The tower was so tall, the only way I could've gotten it all in was to have taken the photo from a number of feet out in the sea!
Gulf of Aqaba with Eilat, Israel in the background.
Certainly one of the more unusual benches we've seen this trip. I joked that we should put together a series of simply bench photos but Steven was not quite as amused.

As we walked past the long named mosque again, this man stopped and gave us a business card with some Muslim links and his email on it asking us to contact him if we needed information on Islam. We thanked him and disposed of the card later. The mosque was beautifully photogenic though, I thought.

This large scale ship model was almost completely hidden behind trees in a traffic circle.
Our ‘real destination’ was getting an ice cream cone at the McDonald’s we’d passed on the way into town! So very strange seeing the ad for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys as we’d not seen or heard about them in at least 10 years.
Even a picture of the Jordanian Royal Family, including the American Queen Noor, in the McDonald’s!
One of the stranger things we saw was this man riding his camel up and down the streets as if he were really driving a car!

More murals on the side of the street. I swear Aqaba should be nicknamed The City of Murals.

Then spent some time at the uninteresting Flea Market looking at clothing options for the fashion conscious Arab woman, etc.
My oldest friend, Lina from Ottawa, had sent me an email asking if I could say a prayer for her that day in a ‘house of worship’ as she was responsible for a major fundraiser that evening. Steven and I pored over the map and luckily found a Catholic church not too far away and made our way there. We thought the church was closed for the day since it was so dark and deserted but fortunately it was still open. We turned on the lights, I lit a candle and said a prayer wishing you every success that night, Lina, my dear.

The sun was setting much to our surprise because it was then only 4:45 but we headed back to the hotel. Steven wisely asked the man at the hotel the local time which was an hour later than it had been in Israel which had switched to Daylight Savings Time. Thank goodness he did ask as otherwise we would have missed the taxi that was picking us up at 8 the next morning to drive us north to Wadi Rum!