Aqaba, Jordon

March 29. Wednesday, 11:45am. Here we are on the day after Petra. This blog will be quite long and all about what we saw. First, let me set the stage about the history of this place. It was founded by groups of Bedouin tribes called the Nabataeans around 100BC. This place was on a trade route (especially spices and frankincense)( spices to help keep meat and other foods more palatable and frankincense used in Christian religious rites) between Europe and the Far East. The Nabataeans took control of this trade by taxing the caravan route. In return they gave the caravans food, water, and protection. They reached their zenith between 50BC and 50AD. They were much influenced by the Greek civilization hundreds of years before. Around the birth of Christ, you remember, the Romans ruled the western world. The romans did make Petra a province in 106AD. The Nabataeans built a beautiful city (Petra), carved out of cliffs that could only be accessed through a very narrow gorge (this gorge is called the Siq). The city was abandoned because of an earthquake in 363AD and also overland trade routes began to shift to sea trade. It was lost and forgotten to the western world for centuries. A Swiss explorer rediscovered it in 1812. We discovered it yesterday. So let us begin our journey to the lost city of Petra.
12:45pm. We left the ship at 8:00am on an air conditioned bus. About 350 from this ship alone. Eight busloads. Also there were two other cruise ships here as well. Huge crowd heading towards Petra. A two hour trip through very rugged desert. No trees, just jagged mountains of rock. We travelled through the city of Aqaba from the port to get to the desert. The city is poor but clean. No security to get off the ship. Unusual since Eliat (Israel) was a half mile across the gulf from our berth. The busses were about ten yards from the gangplank. Our guide told us some interesting facts about Jordon, for instance, most marriages are still arranged by parents. Teachers made about 600 US dollars a month. 95% are Sunni Muslims and 5% are Greek Orthodox Christians. Forty five percent of Jordanians live in Amman, the capital. In an Arabic name “Ben” means “Son of”. None of the buildings are wooden. All stucco. No cremation for muslims.
3:00pm. We see very few women on the street. The ones we did see were fully covered in their Burkas. The area we were traveling was much mentioned in the Bible. It is where Moses and the Hebrews wandered for forty years after escaping from Egypt in the Exodus. Our guide pointed to a mountaintop and said that was where Aaron, Moses’ brother was entombed. A very holy place to all three monotheistic religions that inhabit the Middle East. Somewhere around where we were was said to be the rock that Moses touched with his staff and water poured from the cleft in the rock. Lots of Bible history around here. We finally get to the modern town of Petra. We park the bus and walk about a half mile to the entrance. Our guide buys us our tickets and we enter the park. We then have to walk another half mile to the entrance to the “Siq”. Now I have already walked one mile. The narrow gorge is 1.8 miles long just to GET to the lost city. I’m thinking, “what the he.. is going on”. My brace is squeaking, my legs are cramping, and I don’t know if my feet are still where they are supposed to be(neuropathy). Our group of 40 is still walking with the guide. Guess who brings up the rear? Old Hoppalong Garneau. The whole group has to stop and wait for me to catch up. Embarrassing, to say the least. Sooo, what to do? At the next stop, when the guide is explaining something, I keep right on walking all the way to the end of the Siq. 1.8 miles on a downhill slope. I’ll show them. Now I’ve walked 2.8 miles and this is only the beginning of the city tour itself. Another half mile to go, one way. What’s wrong with me? What am I thinking??? I HAVE TO GO BACK!! ALL UPHILL!!! CALL 911!! Well, this is what we did. Another cripple and I hired a chariot to take us back to the entrance. If you have seen “Ben Hur”, you know what a chariot looks like. Same thing except with a cloth roof. I think this “chariot” was actually made in Ancient Rome! I thought the dune ride was hairy!!! Three of us squeezed together like sardines. Shaffik screams ”huurrah” to the horse and he takes off like a shot. I think that Arabic word meant “I kill you if you don’t move”!!! HANG ON, JIM, WE’RE GONNA DIE!!! We snake our way up the Siq at a gallop, dodging the narrow sides and people. Shaffik continued to yell, ”huurrah”. Both to the people in the way as well as the horse. Can you believe this??? Killed one person, maimed four. NO!!! Just kidding about killing. Maimed, yes!! OMG!! Almost tipped over twice! Shaffik even jumped out twice and ran beside us. Why did he do that? We almost jumped out with him!! At the end, he had to get another horse. No kidding! Horse too spent! He asked us our names at the end of the ride(not the right word for this trip) and when I said John, he began to laugh hysterically. We knew he was crazy to begin with, but now he had really gone mad. Finally, he said that the “almost dead” horse’s name was Johnny. Can you believe it!! Ellen walked the whole trip. Of course! I had to walk another half mile to the restaurant because the close one, right next to the entrance, the ship had booked, went on strike. What a day! We got back to the ship at 6:00pm. Can hardly move today.
Signed, Captain Ben Hur (he was a captain of slaves in Rome’s galleys before he got his license to drive chariots)
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P.S.S. I’ll send some photos later.