15 July 2012

Art Galleries

We slept in today. We feel we have done Jordan pretty darn well, and the last few days we are going to take it easy.
For today we planned to see a bit of the modern art side of Jordan. It is not a big thing yet, but Amman is supposed to have a nice contemporary art space.
Andrew from the hotel wrote down the name in Arabic for us to give to the taxi. All seemed to go well, and we were dropped of next to a gallery. Just not the gallery we were after.. Oh well, we are here, so might as well go for a look.
The outside area has a few nice pieces against the walls and some sculptures.

Art gallery

Inside a few rooms were devoted solely to photography. The photo’s were by an artist born in Jerusalem, who had been taking photo’s since the 1930’s. He also owned a collection of photographs going back to 1890. There was a combination of these on show. Mostly photo’s of people and normal life back in the days. There were some amazing pictures of people in traditional dress and city scapes far different from what we have seen on our trip. It made us wish we would take more photo’s of people..
After the visit to this gallery, we had to find out how to get to the gallery we intended to go to. We could see a few landmarks, as we were on one of the many hills of Amman. Still, the street name was not on our small map.. We wondered up a bit, but decided we might as well walk all the way down, find out were we are, and go from there. Very good choice, as a couple of hundred meters down the road we found the gallery! No idea why the taxi had not dropped us of there in the first place.
We started with a little room called “the lab”. There were some photo’s done with a very old technique and with water reflections in them. Well done, but a bit depressing and not that interesting to tell the truth.
Of to the side in a room was a video installation. A women filmed a few days in a row her walk from home to work, across one of the many checkpoints put up by the Israelis in the west bank. She had to walk a bout 2 km every way as they do not allow car on this bit of road. She was off course not allowed to film, so we mostly got shots of her feet.  This was filmed from a hole in her bag, as the first time she tried, the police confiscated the film and threw her American passport in the mud.  It was not that interesting either.  The shots of her walking past an APC, and other people making their way to and from the west bank.  In the blurb, she mentions that the Israelis can close off the strip of road whenever they feel like it.  Firing tear gas and live rounds into the street just because they feel like it.  If we had stayed to watch the whole thing there may have been something in it, but the two days we sat through were not that interesting.  Just people walking.

Andrew preaching

From here we had to find the rest of the exhibitions.  There is another couple of buildings further down the hill.  This is the main section, and out the front there is a Byzantine church.  This has had some of the pillars restored, and a small alcove where the alter was.  Andrew tried to conduct a mass there for his new church, but no one was interested in attending, and even Anna walked away when he started preaching.

The layout of this museum is very confusing.  Walking around we found what we thought was the main entrance, but this turned out to be locked, and we went up the other side.  There is a small seating area here, and it is the perfect place to relax.  A small fountain, and trees providing shade.  We were able to get a couple of freshly squeezed juices here, and this topped off the experience.  However we could not sit here all day, and still wanted to see what the museum had to offer.  Inside another building is an exhibition by an amateur Palestinian artist that was criticising Israel and the USA.  These were 3D reliefs done with glue and sawdust.

Anti Israeli artworks

They were pretty good, if gruesome.  He was present at a massacre of 100+ people, and all his work reflects this.  Another had a statue of Saddam Hussein being overthrown by American cockroaches.  That was really well done.  There was another section that were lines in the sand.  Coloured lines on a canvas with sand glued on to give it texture.  This was about all we could find in the gallery.  We are sure we missed a lot, but it was so confusing finding which buildings were administrative, and which were galleries.

Calling it done, we walked further down the street, and it turned into the street that we had caught the taxi from in the first place. It was only 100m from where we had started!
Back at the hotel we decided to blog some more, and try to catch up to where we should be.  After a while of this we were ready for dinner.  Although we are both a little sick of Hommus and Felafel, we had promised Abu Hamsa yesterday evening, that we would go and see him at Hashim’s.  He was there and glad to see us.  Even taking a bit of time off to come talk to us, but as it was busy (It always is.  24/7) he had to go back to work.  We ended up with every dish they do.  Fool (Beans) Hommus, felafel and Feta.  The feta was brilliant, and we hadn’t had any in Jordan yet.  It was a filling meal as always, and comes highly recommended to anyone visiting Jordan.  Its also cheap!  4JD for more than we can eat…

When do people wear this??

That about sums up the day, and we have to get some sleep, as we have a day of shopping ahead of us tomorrow.

The 16th was supposed to be a day of shopping. Anna wanted some new clothes. Unfortunately the clothing sold here either cover a women from enkel to wrist, or makes her walk around half naked. There doesn’t seem to be an inbetween. Anna gave up pretty quickly. (To be fair, we only tried the streets in downtown Amman, not the big malls elsewhere)

Final falafel sandwich!

We spent the afternoon with a few arabic coffees and a shisha (nargileh) in an all mens cafe. One final falafel sandwich for lunch. We have had many, many falafel sandwiches and by now we are happy to leave them behind.

Looking forward to Paris!






11 July 2012

Breakfast and Juice
To bus station
4th century Church
Goodbye Sofia and David

We met up with Sofia and David for breakfast. We got some different rolls from the bakery (cheese and fig) and headed to our favorite cafe. The people here have been kind and the fresh juices are just what we need this morning. Before we know it, it is time for Sofia and David to check out. We go with them to the bus station. They will be leaving for Amman today. As Andrew and Anna have decided not to go into Israel on this trip, they are spending some more time in Aqaba. After buying a ticket, we run into our friends from the beach last night. They have not been able to buy a ticket for the Amman bus. David and Sofia got the last ones. Very lucky!

Byzantine Church

The guys come with us to have a look at the near by fourth century Byzantine church. It is only just around the corner, and we almost pass by without noticing. There is nothing left, just the excavations in the ground. Not very spectacular..
We walk back to the bus station as it is time for the others to catch their bus.
We have had a great time traveling with David and Sofia over the last 2 weeks. For us it is quite unusual to travel with other people for so long, but somehow it worked well with them. They might be young, but are intelligent and good for a conversation. Also, they are new to traveling and their enthusiasm has been infectious. Besides that, it is great fun to beat David at cards!
Sad to see them go, but we are sure we will meet up again somewhere in the future.

Old Ayla

Andrew and Anna walk along to have a look at Ayla. Ayla is old Aqaba. It is the Islamic medieval port. Again, not much is left. The Jordanian government has tried though, and we make our way past all the information signs. It seems that the Byzantine settlement was here first. Then when Saladin conquered the region he made a deal with the Christians, to build a Muslim town a few kilometres away. As long as the Christians did not stir up problems, neither would the Muslims.


For the rest of the day and the next, we did not do much. At least nothing interesting enough to mention in the blog. We shopped a bit (shoes everywhere!), went for a swim, watch a movie, etc.
We wanted to leave Aqaba on the 13th, but as that was a friday we could not get a bus out. The next blog will be on the 14th.


14 July 2012

Cliff Hotel

We had to get out of Aqaba.  Yesterday we tried, but being a friday, there were no buss’s running.  We used the time productively though.  Lazing around in air conditioning.  Looking up what we had not done in Jordan etc.  Unfortunately, no internet, so couldn’t do the blog.  This would have been perfect otherwise.  Today we had to do something.  Anything.

Spot the old city of Shobak

Up early, as the only major sight we have not seen is the Crusader Castle at Shobak.  There are only two busses going there.  One at 11, and the other at 12.  Catching the 11am bus was a breeze.  The walk from the hotel was not too far, and even with the bags was a breeze.  A breeze would have been welcome though.  Aqaba is still hot and sticky.  It is weird being in the desert with high humidity.  No clouds in the sky, and feeling like Asia in the Monsoon, until you look behind the city and see the nude hills jutting up out of the ground.

The bus trip was uneventful.  Passing through the mountains.  These are bare and jagged.  The rocks splitting the ground and falling apart.  There is rubble everywhere.  The rocks have hardly weathered, and look sharp against the skyline.  All points.  Huge piles of scree collecting around the base, and you can see where it has been bulldozed from the road after one of the numerous rockfalls.  Mostly sandstone, but huge lines of black/green rock running through it.  Curves where the rising pressure has contorted the landscape, and you can almost hear it groan.  These hills eventually give way to desert, and we wind our way to Ma’an.  We were not sure if we would have to come back here to stay, or if we could head on to Tafila.  It sounds like there is no accommodation in Shobak at all.  We were not too happy about this possibility, as Ma’an is drab, dirty and not that interesting.  It is a transport hub, and the only reason for its existence is that there would be nothing here otherwise.  The bus did a loop or two of the main street, dropping people off, and picking up others.  Then hit the side streets, past the university (It does seem that every decent sized town in Jordan has its own university!) and back out to nothing.  Plastic bags blowing in the wind.  Black rock desert, and a limestone quarry.

Making it back into the hills, we are dropped off in the middle of nowhere.  No town, just a crossroad.  We had thought we could check out town.  See if there is a hotel.  Get lunch and find out about buses.  Nope.  The only street signs were pointing to Petra and Shobak Castle.  We had said to the driver we wanted to go to the castle, so he probably dropped us off at the closest spot.  Nice of him, but where are we?  How far it it?  Can we buy some water nearby?  WTF?

At least the driver had called a taxi for us, and it was happily sitting there waiting for us.  The meter did not work (Like most of the Jordanian taxis we have been in) and he wanted 3JD to go to the castle.  As we had no idea where it was we accepted.  5 minutes later we were looking out and up at the castle.  It really was not that far.  Although we would not have been able to walk it.

Arches at Showbak Castle

The Castle is an imposing sight on top of a small outcrop of rock.  The road winds down to the bottom of the valley, then back up the other side to the castle itself.  There was a visitors center at the bottom, and the taxi cruised past it.  We thought it may be like Ajlun again, and we would have to walk to the bottom.  This was, luckily, not the case.  At the entrance there is one small souvenir shop, and we were allowed to leave our bags there while we explored the castle.  Signing into the place with the local caretaker we were surprised to find out that it is still free.  This is a nice change.

Walking through the castle, there are signs of the multiple levels that it would have originally been, however only ruins remain.  There was almost nobody present, and we basically had the place to ourselves.  Even the visitor book only registers a half dozen people a day.  So the place was quiet and peaceful.  However it was hot and sunny as well.

The church has been nicely restored

We started our walk around the outside edge of the castle, and went to the church.  Apparently there are two churches in the place, and this one still looks churchy.  There is a couple of alcoves, and a large vaulted ceiling.  In the corner there was a small set of steps that had partially collapsed.  Andrew grabbed the torch and decided to go down.  This led to a small passageway.  With a steep decent, covered with the dust and rubble of ages, and treacherous footing, he wormed his way through to the bowels of the catacombs.  It is not really that bad as there is only one way to go, but with the small amount of light put off by the torch it was hard to see anything.  On coming back up, we consulted the trusty guide book, and it said there were christian engravings, and Muslim carvings, as well as a small throne.  Andrew thought he had not gone far enough.  This time he armed himself with the torch and the ipod (for extra light).

The Crypt under the church. Not that spooky

This combination was a lot better, as the ipod put out a lot of light in a wider arc, and the torch could pinpoint things.  As long as it was within a meter!  Going back down you could now clearly see old catapult balls, a grindstone, and a lot of plastic bottles.  At least it only smelt musty.  There were no signs of any of the things mentioned in the guidebook, so we think it was written to make it sound more interesting, without expecting people to go down.  When Andrew reached the point that he turned around before, the tunnel came to a sudden halt.  It was only another meter or so until the end.  This showed the power of the torch down here.  He would have been better off with a flaming branch or something.  Still it was a bit of fun.  Back in the extremely bright daylight, we went around the old battlements.  Some of these are being repaired, and others are left as decaying piles of rubble.  On top of the site, nearly everything was a jumble of rocks.  There were a few archways still intact, and other rooms that they were fixing up.  In the middle is the second church.  This is now roofless, but a very large two story structure.  The original vaulted roof would have been massive, and where it now ends you can see the start of the curve.  It is impressive architecture.  Even today.

More wandering around took us to the old marketplace.  Here there are rooms leading off to each side of the road, and it would have been a bit of a crush in full swing.  Now there was only one more thing to find.  Apparently there is a secret passageway leading to the bottom of the hill as an escape tunnel if needed.  There were a few places that had stairs leading underground, but these had all lead to single rooms, most probably for storage.  There was no visible way to the rooms under the top level like there was in Karak. By now we had already walked around the area twice without noticing it, and on the third circuit we went a different way.  There it was as clear as a dark hole in the sunshine!

Andrew trying to go through the escape tunnel without breaking his neck!

Again Andrew took the torch and Ipod to descend into the depths.  This was very steep, and again there was so much dust and dirt that even though there were steps, the buildup on them made it very dangerous, especially with the lack of light.  These steps had the unfortunate tendency to be uneven, undefined and completely unseeable.  Sometimes they were smooth (at a steep angle), sometimes not even there.  As he wound deeper into the hill it got worse.  There were sections where the tunnel had collapsed blocking most of the way through.  Eventually there was a split in the tunnel.  On the right was a passageway leading back up.  Although there was too much damage to go up that way.  At least without a better torch.  There was fresh air being blown down from it though, so it should have been possible.  At the junction, there was also a doorway made of stone.  This is the first place since the top that was constructed, rather than carved.  Another very steep slide turned into an almost circular staircase to the bottom.  From here there is a small metal ladder leading back to the surface.  Not wanting to walk back up the hill on the outside, Andrew climbed back through the cool dark depths of the hill.  This was a lot easier than going down though, and exhausted, collapsed on the top step where Anna was patiently waiting.

Having finished Shobak, we now needed to find accommodation, or at least a bus to Tafila.  As it was only 4pm we thought we would have plenty of time.  There is a camp nearby, and we asked the people here how much it is.  Prices in this country are made up on the spot, and this one was 20JD each.  That was not happening.  Especially with our luck at camps so far.  they also said it was the only place to stay around here.  Not wanting to fork that much out, we took a car to Shobak town.  On the way the driver pointed out his hotel.  He was one of the people that had said there was no other accommodation in town….
He dropped us at the road, and we decided to try and hitch, or catch a bus if one went past.  There was one bus, but it was an Army one, and said they would get in trouble if they picked us up.  Back to waiting in the shade.  A taxi turned up, and we tried to ignore it, as we had bad experiences with this in Irbid.  However the Taiwanese girl in the taxi was having non of that, and we were piled into the taxi.  This trip turned out to be a lot of fun.  Wan (Lin Wanchun) was fantastic.  She was here on business, and only had weekends to explore Jordan.  We were lucky enough to catch her on the way back to Amman.  With a bit of confusion we were offered to go all the way with her.  We had originally said just to Tafila, as we knew there were cheap hotels there for the night.  But who would pass up a trip all the way to Amman?

the conversation ranged from what each of us had seen in Jordan, where we had traveled to (Wan is Very well traveled) and what we thought of different places.  The taxi driver was also a bit of fun.  If somewhat crazy (like all Jordinian taxi drivers that you spend any amount of time with).

Wadi Mujib dam at sunset

Wan wanted to see Mujib Gorge.  So we detoured that way.  It was a good decision.  While we had seen it on the way to Dana, it had been midday.  Now in the afternoon, it is a lot more impressive.  The Grand Canyon is appropriately named, and with the shadows creeping up, there was added colour and texture.  It was a lovely shade of pink today.  The ridges in the side were prominent, and stopping at the lake at th bottom was a highlight. The shadows had covered the end of the lake, but the opposite hill was still in full daylight, and going yellow.  The hills further behind were purple and a hazy blue at the back.  Talking to the police at the bottom, we found that you could walk to the dead sea in about two hours from here, or you could go up river to a lovely little place that the guard came from in an hour or so.  We did not have that luxury though.  Especially when he told us there were still hyenas out there.  Not so worried about the snakes and such, but a hyena?  Good to see from a distance we are sure.  Just not up close and personal.

Back into the taxi and off.  Wan was every taxi drivers dream.  Not just good looking, she gave our taxi driver massages every time his back got sore.  As it got dark the music came on.  Unfortunately for us, we were in the back.  Along with the speakers.  Not many people realise that if you turn up the volume, not only are the people in the back deafened, they cannot hear what you are saying.  Just trying to keep our heads from exploding was an effort.  Let alone when the taxi driver wanted us to jive along with the music.  He switched the radio to an English station, and for the first time in Jordan we heard English music.  This was not much help, as we don’t know any of the top songs anymore anyway.  Still it made a change from Arabic, or Romanian as the case may be.

On making it back to Amman, Wan wanted the taxi to drop us off first. The taxi driver did not want to do this, and it sent tingles down our spine.  However when we got to Wan’s hotel, she wanted to fix up the entire bill.  This was good for us, as the driver could not put the squeeze on us.  Still, hitching ended up costing us 25JD….  It could have been a lot worse.  It also seemed that Wan’s pre agreed price changed at the end as well.  Again, Hitching is NOT FREE in Jordan!  But we were lucky, and the company more than made up for the cost.  So Thank you again for making an interesting trip Wan!

The driver was pretty good as well, and dropped us off downtown at the trusty Cliff Hotel for no extra charge.

All in all it was a very good day for us, and we arrived back in Amman a day before we expected to.


10 July 2012

Aqaba castle and museum
Break in hotel
Native dancing
Evening on the beach

Today we have an easy day planned.

Aqaba Castle

We started with going to Tourist Info, to find out about our visa. We have a few days left, and we thought it might be fun to spend them in Jerusalem. We are just not sure if we have a multi entry visa. We don’t want to get stuck in Israel.. As it turns out we don’t have a multi entry, but that is not a problem. Jordan will renew our visa for free. The problem is that Israel charges a $38 exit fee per person and Jordan has a 9JD exit fee. A bit too steep for us, as we can only spend about 4 days there. We decide to spend the last days in Jordan and maybe see a few things that we skipped on the way. This means that today is our last day with David and Sofia, as they are going back to Amman tomorrow.

Peeking over the walls of the castle

Andrew and Anna head for the Aqaba Castle south of downtown on the beach. It is only a small castle, but pretty. Unfortunately it is closed for renovation.  There is a lot of this going on in Jordan.  They are reconstructiong elements of all the major archeological sites. We spend some time walking through the museum next door, which is actually really well set up. Lots of info about the castle and Ayla, the old muslim town that was here before Aqaba.  Stories about the Byzantine town, and how they made a deal with Mohamoud to co-exist.  It also details some of the other archeological sites around the area.  This is good, as it is more interesting here, and the sites themselves are usualy just small escavations in the ground, with nothing to see anyway.

Freshly squeezed Fruit Juice!

When the day gets too hot, we stop for a juice at our now most favorite cafe in Aqaba. The coffee yesterday was good, but the fresh juices are amazing. We feel the vitamins hit us.

We sit out the heat of the day in our air conditioned hotel room. After this we meet up with Sofia and David to go online. David needs to book his ticket to Germany. This all takes longer then planned.  Mostly because the place we had planned to do it, with a big WiFi sign out the front does not do it, it is just for playing playstation games.  Anna and Sophia tried to do some shopping at the same time.  We ended up all going to another place.  A propper internet cafe.  Dingy, Hot and a bit dirty.  There were less than  a half dozen computers, and a slow connection, but we got the job done while the girls were sitting outside.  The guy from the shop next door was sweet.  Apparently the girls could not sit on the ground as it was dirty, and kept trying to bring them chairs, tea and the like!

At Tourist Info we had picked up a flyer for a show down on the shore with native american dancers. We all want to have a look, but we are now so late, that we have to skip dinner.  This is not the problem that it sounds, as Aqaba is up to the early hours of the morning each day, but still our tummies were grumbling.  Howevere we had time to pick up a bottle of vodka to celebrate our last night with the others.

Who thought we would be seeing Native American dancing in Jordan?

Wild dancing by the men

The dance show is part of the Jerash festival and organized by the american embassy. As the seats start to fill up we notice that the audience is being split. One side is for families (we are in there too) and the other side is only for the (single?) men.
Finally the dancing starts. Most of the dancers are from Oklahoma.

Picking out the audience members

The women mostly do very simple elegant dances, but the audience doesn’t really get into it until the men start dancing. Their styles are much more uptempo and wilder, and the single men audience is picking up the vibe and starting to clap and dance along. Overall the show is well done.

Sunset over Aqaba beach

The evening ends with the dancers inviting audience members to come down and try some native dancing. We watch for a while  as it is quite funny, but then decide to go before everybody wants to.

We find a quiet place on the town beach and toast a vodka to David and Sofia.As this is our last night together we thought we might as well have a little celebration.  It was good to be able to do this, and while we tried to be discreet, mixing vodka on the beach is never that subtle.  So a few drinks, looking over at Israel, and trying to work out the Egyption boarder and everyone’s plans.

We meet (again) some friendly locals, to hang out with and talk to. At the end of the night we go back to our hotel for one last round of cards.  Anna Crushed him.  Unfortunately, Sophia has the scores, otherwise we would have it framed and sent to Melbourne.  Honestly, we cannot even remember who won, but it wasn’t David! 😉


09 July 2012

early rise
bus to Aqaba

Up early this morning, a quick breakfast and we headed into Rum Village to take the bus to Aqaba.  Awad did try.  Last night, he knew Anna wanted to ride a camel, and wanted to organise one to take us to the village, however we had to decline, as it would mean an even earlier morning, and was too expensive.

The trip into the village was uneventful, and we were dropped off almost outside Awad’s house. It did not look like a bus stop, but his wife Fatima was here waiting for the bus as well, so it could not be too bad.

After a long while of listening to the donkeys and roosters wake up, the bus arrived.  It was already basically full, but they managed to squeeze us on.  We were stuck in the isle, between the bags and nowhere to go.  After we left the village, the bus stopped and we were told to get off.  Thinking the worst, we were worried.  However it was so the driver could go through and collect the fares.  After collecting ours, we were allowed back onto the bus.  A bit further along we were all told to sit down.  The only problem was there was nowhere to sit.  Anna and I ended up stuck in the well beside the door, and the others in the isle.  It was an uncomfortable trip to Aqaba, but at least it was better than our “Taxi” ride the other day.

Aqaba. A town like most others, but with a beach. Also a lot hotter and stickier.

On arriving in Aqaba we walked downtown.  At least from this bus stop it was not too far.  We checked in on a number of hotels, and eventually found one that was in our budget, and on first appearances was clean.  It still had no hot water, but at least the water tank was on the roof and could be heated during the day.  On closer inspection, there was a nice hand print on the wall that has been there for however long.  All it needs is a quick wipe to remove it, but we decided to leave it, maybe with our date added underneath, to see how long it will take to be removed.  However we will never know the result.  The bedding was also not clean.  On going back out we saw a french couple that we had met at the bus stop.  We asked about their room, and they had an even dirtier one in a different hotel, so I think we got out of it well.  We were talking to the owner the next day, and he asked how it was.  Andrew said so/so and he asked why.  We mentioned the sheets, and the bonus of TV and Air Conditioning.  Andrew had not realised he was the owner, and on finding out said that if he had known he probably would not have said anything.  We had a good laugh, and I think he appreciated the honest information.

South Beach

We had a quick exploratory trip around the downtown area and took a taxi to the beach.  There is a beach in the town itself, but we wanted to go snorkeling.  We bought two sets, and got the taxi.  We asked for Black Rock,as it is listed in the guide bookas being one of the best spots.  The driver said he knew it, and drove almost all the way to the Saudi border (12km) away before stopping and asking for directions.  He then did a u-turn and dropped us at the closest beach.  This was not black rock, but as there were a lot of people here, we thought it would be ok, and left it at that.  Finding a spot under an umbrella, Anna and I got changed, while Sophia and David ran straight in.

Attack of the mini Sea Urchins

While we were putting sunscreen on, They returned holding David’s hand.  We thought they were putting us on, until we saw their faces.  As they got closer, we could see that David was covered in blood.  Sending Sophia off to find a first aid tent (or a lift to hospital if needed) Andrew wrapped David’s hand in our towel.  People came running up, and asked for a cigarette.  We thought it was a joke, but it wasn’t.  They needed it for the heat.  He had put his hands on a sea urchin, and a lot of spines had broken off in his hand.

Lets burn his hand, it will be good for him! (?)

The heat from the cigarette would cause the spines to shrivel up like plastic and most of them popped out of the skin.  There were still a few bad ones in the hand, but these guys were not worried, and said that he would be right within two days.  It still did not look good though.

After this incident, we decided we would still go swimming.  Trying out our new snorkel sets, we found the bands were not big enough for our heads.  Tying two of them together seemed to work, but in the water we could not create a seal.  This was not a problem, as the water never got deeper than our knees anyway.  Walking out into the water, we were now paranoid about the sea urchins.  This was well founded as we got a bit deeper and they were in every nook and cranny.  There was also coral here, but most of it was young, and not that well developed.  There were also some small schools of fish, but it was not the best site to be.  Giving it up, we returned to shore, and hung out for a while.  On the way out, we saw the park rules.  These included wearing footwear into the ocean.  A wise rule.  Still we got to swim in the red sea.

We were a bit worried about getting back to town, as we were a fair way out, but on the other side of the road we almost immediately found a taxi to take us back.

That was about it for the day.  Enough adventure to last us a while!


08 July 2012

jeep tour
siq carvings
sand dunes
cards and dinner

Breakfast in the shade of the car.

An early start to the day, as these bedouin tents collect heat quickly.  Proper ones can have the walls raised to allow a breeze through, but these ones are fixed.  Breakfast was simple.  Bread, candied sugar, jam and hommes.  Followed by Chai.  Noting to blog about really, but we have to put something in here! As the camp has no shade in the morning, we ate next to the car in the little bit of shade it provided.

We were scheduled to do a tour with Awad today, and we were hoping it wouldn’t turn out like the accommodation.  A few points on the map, and covering about a quarter of Wadi Rum should take us about four hours.  First off Khazali Siq.

A very narrow canyon

A small split in the rocks across from where we were camped.  This was in the shade at least.  Climbing up into it, we walked along for a short distance, before we came to a wall.  When it rains the water from both sides of the hill gather and rush down this siq.  One area that would be a nice little waterfall brought an end to our walk.  Andrew scaled it and walked on to find there was another ascent just up from there, and did not want to go further.  On coming back out, Awad joined us.

Nabataean rock carvings in the Siq

He made sure we did not miss the Nabataean rock carvings on the wall that we had overlooked on the way in.  This was mostly engravings of stick figure people and feet for some reason.  The Buddhists must have come through this way at some time…

A short drive through the sand brought us to the Wadak Rock Bridge.

This bridge might not be strong enough to hold us, so we did not climb it

This is a small rock bridge over some rocks (hence its name)  It is too fragile to walk over, so we just went to look at it.  Not very impressive, except as a monument to the fragility of rock, and the power of wind and sand.

This one is strong enough to hold Andrew

The next rock bridge, Umm Fruth Rock Bridge is a lot higher and longer.  It is a small climb to the top of the hill, and from here you can walk over the bridge itself.  Apparently in the past they had ropes so you could go down the other side, but there are no longer there.  Looking down, it is quite high, and fairly wide.  Anna stayed at ground level for this one, as we wanted to get some photos of us on it.  While we were admiring the view from the top, Anna was checking out the wildlife at the bottom.  There was a small bird flitting in and out of the shade.  There is supposed to be a lot of wildlife in the desert here.  Onyx, Hyena, cats, lizards and birds, but besides the small birds and lizards, we did not see any.

Onto Burdah Rock Bridge.  While we were driving, Awad pulled up in the middle of nowhere.  We thought it was just to look at the view, and did not realise that we were at our destination.  The rock bridge was visible in the distance, however it would take hours to hike up to it.  As we had been bumped around in the back of the vehicle for a while, we decided to sit in the shade for a bit and re-hydrate.  As we sat there talking Awad decided to show Andrew Bedouin Goh.  It is a board of five by five squares.  You place two of your pieces at a time untill the board is full bar one square (Awad was coal, and Andrew pebbles)  From there you move one piece to an adjacent open square.  If you get an opponants piece between two of yours, you can remove it from the board.  If you can move it again to take another piece you can, otherwise it is the other players go.  Repeat untill one person is down to one piece (as they can no longer take the others).  Awad let Andrew win, and we all piled back into the car.

Andrew was allowed to drive the next section.  This was an experience.  Within five metres the car was stuck in the sand, and Awad had to drive it out.  On attempt number two, Andrew found that the accelerator did not really work unless it was flat on the floor.  It went 95% of the way easily, but this only kept the vehicle turning over.  Hence getting it bogged.  Going too slowly.  Pushing it flat, we could get some acceleration.  The steering wheel was attached sideways and was a bit disconcerting holding it this way to try and keep the car going straight.  It was a bit of fun cruising around the sand.  In the back was another matter.  People were being thrown from side to side, and Anna was almost bounced out the back.  In this way we reached Lawrence’s House.

Left overs of Lawrence’s house

This was our next destination, and the reason Wadi Rum is so famous.  It is a bit of a disappointment.  There is nothing there.  A small wall next to a rock.  Most of the wall is destroyed, and the rubble is strewn everywhere.  We had a small look around, climbed the hill and found a bedouin tent flat on the ground around the corner.  We joked that it had been left there after Lawrence.  It even had a teapot in the corner.  There was also some carvings in the rock here, that is supposed to be old, but who knows.

We were most of the way through the tour now, and Andrew was vetoed from driving any more.  No one else wanted to so we continued on to the big Sand Dunes.

Sand Dunes (or in reality : one really big dune)

These had been the ones we walked to yesterday, so were no big surprise.  They were big though.  Big and Orange.  Big, Orange and a single bush growing on the side.  In contrast to the vivid sky blue sky behind.  They are a sight.  Andrew decided to climb to the top.  This was before he realised how high they were, how hot the sand is, and how steep the climb.  Still he made it to the top.  The easy way would have taken him up the crest of the dune from the bottom, but he decided to walk up it halfway on one side.  Each step creating a miniature avalanche of sand that obliterated footprints on its way to the bottom.  The others wisely sought out shade and watched.  On coming back down, he took his shoes off and emptied a miniature dune of sand on the rocks.

Not sure how old these carvings are

Our last stop was the Map that Lawrence made.  This is a rough carving of Wadi Rum on a flat rock.  In the past there had been a massive rock slide, and this rock is sitting there with the sheared side up.  Awad poured water onto it to make it clearer.  The map is very rough, and I think his mental map would have been better.  Still it was interesting, as nearby there was more Nabataean graffiti that had survived the rockfall nearby.  This was mainly camels, people, and what looked like a cowboy riding a camel throwing a boomerang.  Apparently it is just the people passing through writing what they were bringing, and what water there was.  This was the end of the tour, and we were driven back to the campsite.

The rest of the day was spent playing cards, sleeping, and otherwise just lounging around.  Dinner was the same as yesterday, and we sat watching the sunset with cards in hand (we had to finish the game of Joker before we lost all the light).  It was not too bad, and with a few more (working) amenities, it would have been really good. Awad tried and made us a campfire with the mandatory teapot brewing. Nice, but once again a bit of privacy would have been appreciated.

We discovered that the only bus out of here was at seven in the morning.  So it will be an early morning for us.