Published: August 31st 2010August 26th 2010
When I was just a little child, spending time with my family in Eilat (Israel's south-most settlement), I remember looking in Aqaba direction, Eilat's Jordanian neighbor, thinking how things would look like from across the border. I remember how fascinating the idea was. These were the early 80's and at that time Israel and Jordan had no diplomatic relationship, which made these thoughts a faraway dream. Only 30 years later, 16 years after PM Rabin and King Hussein signed the peace treaty between the two countries, I set my foot for the first time on Jordanian soil. You can figure my enthusiasm about it. You see, in the Middle-East crazy reality, a guy like me can travel half the world and back without getting to see a place five minutes from the border of his country. Not anymore. Coming back from Georgia
after a tedious week, I wanted to make use of the few days off I still had, so a vacation in a nearby location seemed the right idea. Jordanian tourism rallies these days upon King Abdullah's vigorous activities in promoting Jordan's economy. So we picked up a fancy hotel recommended by a friend and
took a flight to Eilat. From there it was a 10-minute taxi ride to the border (Rabin Crossing Point) which is a strange place - after passing the Israeli procedures we had to walk about 100 meters on a non-roofed paved road which looked like a demilitarized zone, before reaching the Jordanian side. Then it was another 10-minute ride to Aqaba. Anyway, things went quite smoothly.
Aqaba is a harbor town locked by the red-sea and the desert. As Eilat, it enjoys the amazing contrast between the red-stone mountains descending sharply into the bluish sea, one of the world's best views. The hotel was amazing - friendly staff, great service and food, nice pool and even a private beach. We spent 3 relaxing days by the pool and beach. Dinners were taken in the town center which offers a variety of local food, seafood and even an excellent Italian restaurant.
On the third day we took a tour to Petra, a UNESCO protected site, ranked #16 on BBC's List 50-places-to-see-before-you-die
. For Israelis this site is not less than a myth. Songs (see title and below) were written about the bold youngsters of the 50's sneaking the border
just to see this wonder and never coming back. Most of them got caught and killed by the hostile Jordanian Legion. This of course added a lot of excitement to our visit!
The site itself is indeed impressive. After walking in the narrow gorge called "Siq" for about an hour, the crevice suddenly opens to the marvelous red-stone sculptured "Treasury" shrine. Very dramatic. It was 40 deg Celsius (100 Fahrenheit) outside but inside the gorge it didn’t feel that bad.
We came back to Aqaba the same day, utterly exhausted from the heat and walk, but with a lot of satisfaction from seeing the place. After another day of resting by the pool we crossed the border back to Israel and flew back home. הסלע האדום - חיים חפר
מעבר להרים ולמדבר,
אומרות האגדות, ישנו מקום,
שאיש ממנו חי עוד לא חזר,
והוא נקרא הסלע האדום.
הו, הסלע האדום, האדום. The Red Rock - by Haim Hefer
"Beyond the mountains and the desert
There is a place, the legends tell
Of which no one has returned alive
And it is called the Red Rock
Oh, the Red - Red Rock"
There are more photos below