Saturday, February 18, 2023

17th of February 2023 - Relaxing prior to flying home on the 18th

I had intended to do a day trip on my last full day of our holiday however both Ruth and I had run out of energy after all the excursions on the cruise.  We decided to recharge our batteries at our hotel instead.

The most energetic thing we did was head down to the jacuzzi again.  Apparently it is half term here in Jordan so there were quite a few Jordanian families enjoying the jacuzzi and pool.  One woman went into the jacuzzi fully clothed as shown in this picture.

The hotel has its own beach however there were still security men patrolling from time to time whom I decided not to photograph.


My last lunch was Chicken Shawarma which is a traditional Middle Eastern dish of spiced chicken in a wrap.  The wrap was much more delicate than the wraps one usually gets in the UK.  Again there was too much food as it also came with fries and a salad.  I must admit I am uncomfortable about the waste but there is no way I can eat all of the enormous portions.  In the evening I just didn't order any food.

I took one last picture which was the view from our balcony for this stay at the hotel.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

16th of February 2023 - Return to Aqaba

In the morning Ruth and I transferred from the ship to our hotel in Aqaba.  We had to wait for our room for over an hour due to the hotel mislaying our booking.  They did express their apologies with some complementary fruit and little cakes.



In the afternoon we went down to the mail pool and jacuzzi for some serious relaxation including a very nice lunch in the beach bar.

The lunch was very filling so Ruth and I decided to go down to the bar and share some potato skins for supper over a glass or two of wine.


Our room deal includes free canapes in the bar in the early evening.  This is the hotel's idea of canapes.  We had a platter of "canapes" each and sadly had to leave most of it.


One sad footnote is that we met Peter and Hilary during the ship to hotel transfer after days of hearing they weren't around because Peter was ill.  It transpired that they were taken off the ship at Hurghada with Covid and were only able to return some days later.


15th of February 2023 - The ancient city of Petra

On the last full day of our cruise we visited the ancient Jordanian city of Petra.  There is also a modern day Petra above the historic and archaeological city in southern Jordan.  It is adjacent to the mountain of Jabal Al-Madbah in a basin surrounded by mountains forming the eastern flank of the Arabah valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba.

 

The area around Petra has been inhabited from as early as 7000 BC and the Nabataeans might have settled in what would become the capital city of their kingdom as early as the 4th century BC.  Archaeological work has only discovered evidence of Nabataean presence dating back to the second century BC by which time Petra had become their capital.  The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra's proximity to the incense trade routes by establishing it as a major regional trading hub.

Petra is also called the "Rose City" because of the colour of the stone from which it is carved.  We reached the city by the eastern entrance which leads steeply down through a dark, narrow gorge called the Siq ("shaft").  This was formed from a deep split in the sandstone rocks serving as a waterway flowing into the Musa Valley.  Ruth and I took the option of descending the Siq in a golf buggy rather than taking the demanding walk down.  This provided a somewhat hairy ride as the Siq is only 10–13 feet wide with walkers and golf buggies going in both directions. 



The golf buggy decanted us at the end of the Siq by Petra's most elaborate ruin, popularly known as Al-Khazneh or the Treasury.  This ruin has been hewn into the sandstone cliff.  This was my first view of the Treasury which was all I imagined it would be.

Here is a picture of me once I arrived at the Treasury after the ancient Jordanian city of Petra has been high up on my bucket list for some time.

The Treasury is in a remarkable good condition apart from bullet holes made by the local Bedouin tribes that hoped to dislodge riches that were once rumoured to be hidden within it.  It is hard to get a picture of the whole of the Treasury in the area where it is sited.





In the area of the Treasury there were locals offering camel rides or selling various wares.  There is no way I am getting on the back of a camel having seen people screaming when the camel kneeled to let them dismount.


We walked down another small valley from the Treasury to an open area of the city which included a large number of tombs carved into the sandstone rock.  Most of these tombs contain small burials and niches also carved into the stone.

At this point there is a theatre that was cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction.  The theatre was said to hold around 8,500 people for performances of poetry readings and dramas. Gladiator fights were also said to be held here.  The theatre was one of many structures in Petra that had significant damage due to earthquakes.

On our return to the site of the Treasury we had to queue for around fifty minutes to get a buggy back up the Siq.  This ride was even more hair-raising than the ride down as the driver seemed to be in even more of a hurry than the driver on the way down.  Someone fell just in front of our buggy and I don't know how the buggy driver managed to miss her.

When we reached the end of the buggy ride we left the ancient city of Petra for a hotel in the modern city of Petra for lunch.  It had a light fitting that reminded me of a UFO.

I have never had mint tea before that was just mint leaves in hot water.  It didn't taste too bad once I'd forked out the mint leaves and added a little sugar.




14th of February 2023 - Eilat and Timna Valley

Eilat is Israel's southernmost city and the country's only access to the shores of the Red Sea which it shares with Jordan and Egypt which both have a land border with the city.  The shores of Saudi Arabia are clearly visible from the mountains around Eilat and its southernmost beaches.

Coral Beach Nature Reserve Eilat, is a reserve that extends along the sea for 4,000 feet  under off the coast of Eilat.  We visited The Underwater Observatory, a large  aquarium in the Coral Reserve, which includes an underwater aquarium which allows visitors to view the actual coral colony and a large number of aquatic species.  This is below a white observation tower which I didn't climb but apparently gives great views of the coastline.

Taking pictures of the coral and inhabitants from the aquarium was challenging however are some pictures that I did take.





Afterwards we wandered around the aquarium complex taking more pictures before doing a little shopping.  I found some rather interesting silver and mother of pearl earrings, not that I need any more earrings.




The Timna Valley is located in southern Israel, approximately 19 miles north of the Gulf of Aqaba and the city of Eilat.  The area is rich in copper ore and has been mined since the 5th century BC.  There is controversy whether the mines were active during the biblical united Kingdom of Israel and its second ruler, King Solomon. A large section of the valley, containing ancient remnants of copper mining and ancient worship, comprises of the Timna Valley recreation park.

Copper has been mined in the area since the 6th or 5th century BC.  Archaeological excavation indicates that the copper mines here were probably part of the Kingdom of Edom and worked by the Edomites, described as biblical foes of the Israelites, during the 10th century BC in the period of biblical King Solomon.  Mining continued until the copper ore became scarce.  We were shown some of the techniques used to extract the copper from the rock.

The first site we visited in Timna Valley was the “Mushroom” which is an unusual natural formation formed by the erosion of the red sandstone. The bottom of the rock experienced a more rapid erosion resulting in the beautiful mushroom shape we see today.  I found the walk down to the rock tricky and Ruth was surprised that I had attempted.  Ken, one of my fellow cruise passengers, kindly gave me a hand.



We then moved on to Solomon’s pillars which are red sandstone rock formations that look like huge stone pillars.  The 130 feet tall pillars were formed by wind and water erosion.  The impressive shape of the pillars that resembles a temple brought the ancient Egyptians (1300 BC) who carved copper in the Timna Valley to erect a temple to the goddess of Hathor at their foot.  Sadly my good Samaritan Ken fell climbing the pillars and ended up on crutches for the rest of the cruise.




At this point the battery in my camera sadly died so Ruth generously supplied the following picture of one of the wild goats grazing at the bottom of Solomon’s pillars.


We returned to the ship for the Captain's farewell party.  This was being held on the prenultimate night of the cruise because there was a long trip on the following day.


Afterwards we had dinner with Slavko who was another member of the crew.  There was nine of us on the table and we had a great time followed by joining a music trivia quiz in the lounge and a disco at the bar on the top deck.

Monday, February 13, 2023

13th of February 2023 - Safaga Port

Safaga, also known as Bur Safaga or Port Safaga, is another Egyptian city located on the coast of the Red Sea, south of Hurghada.  Tourism centres around the beaches and diving.

Ruth and I skipped the excursion which ferried people to a Safaga beach as neither of us are sun worshippers.  There was little else to do in Safaga so we relaxed on board the ship.  This included a trip to the jacuzzi where we sampled some fruity mocktails.

12th of February 2023 - Hurghada and a celebration

Today we arrived in Hurghada which is an Egyptian city located on the coast of the Red Sea.  Tourism is the city's main industry.  Hurghada is a popular destination for tourists and Egyptian bathers.  The city is considered to be a paradise for sports and recreational divers.


Ruth and I started the day with a cocktail making demonstration onboard.  Sen made three delicious cocktails of which everyone was given samples.


After lunch Ruth and I took the shuttle bus into Hurghada city centre.  My main mission was to buy stamps and send off the postcards I had written.  There was little else for us to do in Hurghada but we did notice a Costa Coffee near where the shuttle bus dropped us off.


We gave the Costa Coffee a miss and spent some time in a hotel bar by the beach.  Ruth thought she was ordering a hot ginger tea but ended up with a gin and ginger alcopop.  I had my first Egyptian beer which was decent.


To celebrate my birthday the ship's hotel director Chris joined Ruth, myself and four other passengers for dinner.   Another couple joined us later on.  Chris arranged a medley of starters for the whole table which included some particularly yummy giant shrimp.  There was a great atmosphere and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.  I shared out my birthday cake with everyone on the table.


After dinner Ruth and I went to watch an Egyptian dancing troupe.  The irony was not lost on me that the belly dancer was framed by the minarets of a mosque.  The lights of one of the minarets is showing in the top left of the picture.



I rounded off the day with a rather superb espresso martini as my after dinner coffee.









Sunday, February 12, 2023

11th of February 2023 - Great Pyramid of Giza and Sphinx

On the 11th of February we were taken by coach past Cairo to Giza.  Giza is most famous as the location of the Giza Plateau, the site of some of the most impressive ancient monuments in the world.

 

Cairo is situated on the east bank of the Nile and is the twelfth largest in the world by population located.  A number of  constructed buildings in Egyptian cities and villages have been declared by the state as “unplanned” with thousands of buildings being built without licenses.  Many of these buildings do not comply with safety regulations or can even threaten the safety of aviation for being illegally too tall.  Some of these buildings have been partially demolishing.  The d├ęcor of some of the demolished apartments was clearly visible.

 

Giza is the third-largest city in Egypt and  is located on the west bank of the Nile, about 3 miles southwest of central Cairo.  It is part of the Greater Cairo metropolis.  including a complex of ancient Egyptian royal mortuary and sacred structures, including the Great Sphinx, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and a number of other large pyramids and temples. Giza has always been a focal point in Egypt's history due to its location close to Memphis, the ancient pharaonic capital of the Old Kingdom.

My first view of the Great Pyramid of Giza was from the coach.  I had imagined the Pyramids to be out in the desert however they are practically in the city of Giza itself.

 

The next view was from the entrance to the Giza Plateau.  The entrance was incredibly busy as it is half term in Egypt.

 

There was quite a few hawkers actually in the Giza Plateau especially those selling camel rides.  I hadn’t considered there would be camel poo over large parts of the Giza Plateau.

 

I met my goal of sitting on the Great Pyramid of Giza but decided not to attempt to enter any of the Pyramids.

 

The highlight for me of the Giza Plateau was seeing the Sphinx despite the Sphinx having lost its nose and beard.

 

After the Giza Plateau we were taken to a shop where we saw how paper is made from papyrus.  This is apparently a process taking up to  a few weeks rather than days.

The trip took over eleven hours.  I wasn’t expected to watch Sonic the Hedgehog on the way back.  The sound was patchy and the subtitles were in Egyptian but at least this passed the time.