Getting from Dahab to Aqaba
Jumping back to my post on Dahab, I headed North up the Red Sea from Nuweibaa to Aqaba, the southernmost city of Jordan, from there I’d make my way to Wadi Rum before going to Petra. Yes, I ended off my Dahab post saying my next stop after Aqaba would be Petra, however having met a couple in Dahab who told me about Wadi Rum it sounded and looked interesting, a real Arabian Desert environment. For the life of me I cannot remember both the couple’s names, the guy was called Sam (from Jordan) the girl I cannot recollect nor was it an everyday Western name; it wouldn’t be as she was ¼ Lebanese, Egyptian, French and obviously another country. We had some interesting conversations, they were a bit hippie and stoned most of the time, the girl having some interestingly alternative beliefs (not religious). I enjoyed speaking to them, I hadn’t had the opportunity to have broad topic range conversations with people my age (they were younger, early-thirties) so to have frank conversations regarding contentious topics was insightful.
I won’t get political, that’s not the reason for my blog, exploring, learning and extending my being is, so speaking to people rather than regurgitating what the web or TV news feeds is an opportunity to grasp…whether I agree with somebody’s opinion or not. The ferry crossing did what it says on the tin; it was full, with only three tourists including myself, the rest were all Egyptian men who work in Jordan. At a guess, I think the ferry company doesn’t clean the ferry too often, it was very dirty and if you needed to go to the toilet it wasn’t a pleasant experience, that’s just for a pee…not in a million years would I use the toilet to “drop the kids off at the pool”. I felt a little sorry for these working men who must do this journey often with the ferry company taking advantage being the only one available – at least the journey is a short one, 3 hours isn’t bad. A bit steep at $90 for foreigners, still cheaper than flying and not so bad that I wouldn’t use it again. We left Nuweibaa late arriving in Aqaba shortly after dark; at the back of my mind I imagined Aqaba to be like an Egyptian city, not somewhere I wanted to arrive at night not knowing how to get to my hotel. Don’t get me wrong, Egypt was fantastic but far from picturesque cities where you amble through the roads window shopping – I felt a little apprehensive before arriving in Aqaba. I had phoned my hotel to say I would be arriving late, to cut a long story short with a few calls I arranged for them to pick me up from the port – 15km from the hotel, it cost £30.
We, the three tourists (a Arabian man, Chinese woman and myself) were ushered through the queues of passengers by a well-groomed army officer in white uniform. The officer, formal yet friendly and austerely patient as the Chinese lady had a rucksack and bags with everything except the kitchen sink was trailing behind, so we walked at a snail’s pace. At the visa area the officer politely told us to wait nothing else as he disappeared into a restricted area. After half an hour the officer returned, I was a little relieved, took us to the visa counter and viola we had our visas, after which he escorted us through security to the exit. Upon reflection I’m embarrassed at my thoughts, I seldom regret being vigilant when it comes to security or self-preservation; I would subsequently learn that my thoughts were ill-founded, Jordan to all intense purposes is very safe.
The army officer that escorted us would be a reoccurring theme throughout the country as they, Jordanian’s as a whole, go out of their way to ensure tourists enjoy their visit to their country. I hadn’t intended on writing so much (above) about my trip from Nuweibaa to Aqaba, as I started writing, like every time, I write what comes to mind. I’ll elaborate more as I write about my journey through Jordan, the one thing I will state for now is: Jordan is precariously situated in a volatile neighbourhood but shouldn’t be compare to the environments of its neighbours because of its proximity. I think Jordan is a jewel, overlooked because of the peripheral noise of the neighbourhood so people associated it with all the bad/contentious news in the area…the truth is oh so different. Aqaba – This should be short ?. I was expecting more from Aqaba, don’t know why, just thought an ancient Red Sea city would have more. Aqaba has been inhabited since 4000 BC and been a key trading port for centuries, remarkably there isn’t much archaeology except a few small sites but with no written ancient history recorded. What many people do know about Aqaba is the Great Arab Revolt Battle that took place at Aqaba, when the Arab forces consisting of many tribes took the city from the Ottomans – made famous by Lawrence of Arabia.
There is good diving in Aqaba, anywhere in the Red Sea really, but I didn’t do any for two reasons: 1. The setting of Dahab in my opinion is better, and I didn’t want to spend more money on diving just yet. 2. I wanted to use my time in Aqaba to catch up on writing and posting; Egypt’s internet wasn’t worth the effort of trying to upload to my site. Aqaba Fortress – Played a pivotal during the Arab Revolt, it used to be a castle dating back to the 16th Century, next to the fortress is the Aqaba Archaeological Museum – neither of these were open to the public as they were restoring the Fortress and working on the museum, such a pity as these are two of the major tourist sites in Aqaba.
Right next to the museum is a towering flagpole aptly named the Aqaba Flagpole; it is the 6th tallest freestanding flagpole in the world at a height of 130m. It stands as commemoration to the Battle of Aqaba, standing where the Arab Revolt flag was hoisted after their victory over the Ottomans.
There isn’t much else to Aqaba that I know of or saw. I wasn’t aware that the city of Eilat in Israel was so close either; if looking across the city you could easily mistake Eilat to be an extension of Aqaba, that’s how close they are. From what I’ve read and been told the relationship between the two countries is cordial to friendly, I can across a few Israelis in Aqaba. The city centre, not a large central business district (the city’s population is circa. 180k) is nice, with friendly people and good restaurants, far from a massive city environment. Going back to my earlier topic, Aqaba is very safe, I walked around at night, obviously looking like a tourist, the only thing that happened to me was people wishing me “welcome to Jordan”. Having a few simple phrases in a local dialect is a great ice breaker and people appreciate it too. I had learnt during my time the most common terms and I used them numerous times every day.
Good phrases to know
- A-Salaam Alaikum (there are a few variations of this, they are all pretty much the same) – means, “Peace be unto/upon you”. This is a Arabian universal to the equivalent of Hello. You can also shorten it to just Salaam.
- Wa-Alaikum-Salaam – is the response to the above.
- Shukran – means “thank you”
- La – means no. So you can say “la shurkan” if you are being pestered at a market, this normally results in them stopping &/or asking you if you speak Arabic. Either way they normally stop pestering you.
- Nem fielaan – yes
- Nem min fadlik – yes please
- In sha Allah – means “God willing” or “if God wills”. So if someone says “I hope you come visit Jordan again” a polite response would be “in sha Allah”
These phrases got me through Egypt, Jordan and Istanbul. Arabic is an interesting language, very passionate and a language I’d consider learning more – when spoken nicely it has a melodic pace and tone. Shew, I’ve written a lot without having said much! My formula of writing what comes to mind sometimes takes me off on a tangent! To finish off on Aqaba I stayed at Costa Marina Hotel & Suites, value for money it is very good. About 20 minutes’ walk to the city centre, 25 minutes to the Fortress, if you don’t feel like walking they have bicycles you can use free of charge. As there’s not much in the city centre staying on the beach or in the centre is much more expensive and noisy. The owner, who’s name I cannot remember, couldn’t be more accommodating even if he tried. I cannot tell you how many free espressos, Turkish coffees and cold hibiscus tea (tastes almost like cranberry, bloody delicious!) they gave me! The hotel was spotless with an interior (size and décor) exceeding its price, both the owner and staff were excellent. I hadn’t expected to say so much about Aqaba, over the three days I was there I wrote and uploaded as much as possible whilst making plans for Wadi Rum, spend a day and night there then head to Petra. ….Not that there’s much to add but here are a few additional pictures