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Published: December 1st 2015
Suez Canal , Israel, Jordan, Oman
Another couple of sea days, but the weather was definitely getting warmer with daytime temperatures reaching about 25C. Didn’t do very much except lounge about reading and watching the shows on the evening! (Hungarian girl violin trio and tenor excellent). Also, there has been some wonderful Italian opera singing – the highlight being an open air Italian production of Gilbert and Sullivans Aida – it didn’t make too much sense to me ( especially as we missed the first hour!!) but there was something very magical led on the sunloungers, wrapped in a blanket, looking at the stars and listening to the music……. The musical was produced to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal…..
We were due to reach the Suez Canal on Sunday evening but as we had to travel in convoy with other ships, we didn’t leave Port Said until 3.30am Monday. Got up at about 06.30am on Mon 23rd
Nov, to see the Sinai Desert and Egypt passing either side of the canal. It was an interesting experience!! Saw a large town, (no idea what it was called!) just before passing under a bridge…..plenty of small fishing boats, ferries
from one side of the canal to the other, mosques, miles of desert, but I think I was quite surprised by the amount of checkpoint stops and military lookout pillboxes and towers, along with a high wall the complete length of the Canal – not sure whether that was to keep the ships out or the Egyptians in!! There was also a surprising amount of bird life and the Canal was remarkably blue and didnt seem that polluted – but passing the Egyptian towns we did manage to attract a lot of flies onto the ship so I’m not sure how clean the towns were – or maybe it was just the heat? We eventually left the Suez Canal about 14.00pm and cruised for the rest of the day in the Red Sea. Tomorrow is Israel!!
Oh and what fun we had disembarking at Eilat!! Total chaos involving long queues on the ship and then again at immigration – took about hour and a half to disembark, followed by huge scuffles for the mini shuttle bus as well as usual queues for the taxis! Decided to just get into town and jumped into a taxi with a German couple
who also just wanted to get into town (5 Euros per taxi or about a 20 minute walk – if you can get on the minibus to the Port Entrance!!)
We wanted to go to Timna Park, about 25kms north of Eilat, and was hoping to share a taxi, but it ended up with just the two of us and a very nice taxi driver who spoke good English! Agreed a price of 100 Euros for the tour and return trip (after quotes of 150 and 200 Euros). Stopped at the various highlights, The Half Mushroom, the Mushroom, Solomon’s Pillars (named after King Solomon) Hathor’s Temple and the Worlds’ oldest copper mine dating back more than 6000 years! It was all sort of a mini Grand Canyon/Sedona with acacia trees everywhere, and stunning colours especially against the deep blue sky! Saw quite a few different birds (including a white crowned Wheater!) There was also an air display on our way back to the ship, over the Jordanian mountains and our taxi driver explained that they were celebrating that the King was visiting Aqaba!
The taxi dropped us off in town where we wandered around the harbour and along
the trendy Beach Waterfront with its boutiques and Casino hotels, until we could see the Jordanian Border. Generally just had a relaxing afternoon, although had planned a glass-bottomed boat tour and changed $50 to 190 shekels to cover the fare, only to find the trip was not running !! Only benefit was to provide funds to buy 2 large ice-creams! We did manage to get internet at the beach but due to the sun, it was difficult to see what you were doing!! Wandered back to the ship, getting back about 17.00pm.
The next day was our trip to Masada Fortress and the Dead Sea organised by the cruise ship! We had to meet at 7.15am but the whole day went very smoothly, arriving at Masada Fort about 10.30am. I wasn’t too keen on the cable car to get to the top but we did get some fantastic views of the Dead Sea and the surrounding desert! Had a good wander around the Fort with our guide, saw some very friendly starlings, and then took the cable car back down to the coach. Lunch was at the Herod Hotel by the Dead Sea, where after spending far too much
time pleasantly chatting, we all went down to the beach for our float in the Dead Sea! It was ok! I’m not a water lover but even I managed to get in and float (Didn’t stay in very long as it was too cold!!) Chris lazed about floating for quite a while, reading his book!! Back to the coach about 16.00ish and a 2 ½ hr drive back to the ship stopping off for 15mins shopping on the way!!
About 06.00am we left Eilat and cruised the 8 miles across the Bay to Aqaba in Jordon docking about 08.00am. We were booked on a Costa Premium trip to Petra and duly met up at 08.15am and boarded the coach. ( Premium Tour Petra – A Premium Tour is supposed to guarantee one language – but we had English and German. Queried it but told that we had a smaller group of people on our tour to compensate!!)
Jordan is much more mountainous than Israel and we drove up past Wadi Rum, a strange series of rock formations, and after stopping for a quick break, drove onto Little Petra! Unusually – it was closed as there were some famous
musicians playing and filming there, so we drove back to main Petra, arriving approx. 11.40pm!, meeting back at the bus by 14.45pm (Lunch was postponed until 15.00pm!) After the initial stalls and tourist bit, we entered the gorge which is the entrance to Petra. (Bab al Siq) Fantastic rock formations in the sandstone rocks and amazing tombs, carved by the Nabateans in 1AD. Because the gorge has always been prone to flash flooding, the Nabateans built a dam and also an 88 metre tunnel to divert the water.
The gorge wends its way downwards, getting quite narrow in places, very high and amazing colours due to all the minerals in the rock – copper, sulphates, magnesium etc. Eventually you reach the iconic Treasury (Al Khazna) a magnificent façade rising 40 metres high. The square is full of camels, donkeys, horses, tradesmen, police as well as all the tourists so quite chaotic! A path leads off carrying on downwards past loads more tombs carved into the rocks, to the theatre. The theatre can accommodate 4000 spectators and the back wall has been rebuilt by the Romans when they later occupied Petra.
We were getting a bit short of time
by now, so it was a quick run down to the Royal Tombs and a clamber up over the rocks to take the photo’s before starting our walk back up to the coach! Stopped on the way back just to climb up into some of the tombs, the roofs being just incredible colours. Anyway, a fairly uneventful 45 minute walk back up the Gorge, onto the coach and to the hotel for lunch! It was a 1/2hr quick buffet lunch – absolutely delicious with lots of lamb stews and lovely typical Jordanian puddings of coconut sponge with syrup. No wine today!!
Our guide then informed us that we would now able to visit Little Petra, so we all piled in the coach and drove back. It was quite a short visit as it was getting dark but we did see the tombs and the staircase at the end – although not enough time to climb to the top of it! There seemed to be steps and stairways everywhere and I would have liked more time to explore, but as it was we didn’t get back to the ship until 18.30pm with it sailing promptly at 19.00pm. Awaiting in our
cabin was a travel advice leaflet outlining the Ship’s security plan from November 27 – December 8 in the event of pirate attacks.
The next four days were sea days, pleasantly passed doing the usual things. Enjoyed crossing the Tropic of Cancer on 27th
Nov just as the sun was setting over the Red Sea! Very atmospheric!
We were docking 20km outside of Salalah on Tues 1st
Dec, so arranged to get a taxi with some friends into the town and visit Al Baheed and then hopefully find some wifi at the Lulu Shopping Centre after visiting the tomb of Nabi Umran and the Clocktower ( Burj A’Nahdah).
The day went more or less as planned and we managed to negotiate the price of the taxi for 90 euros for 4hrs for 4 people (This eventually turned into 110 euros + 10 Dollar tip for nearly 5hrs trip, but did include entrance fees and coconut drink and bananas!!) Went to the Grand Mosque first before going to the Old Souk, selling loads of incense burners, and then onto Al Baleed which is a derelict 12thC trading Port that used to be known as Zafar! Had a good
wander around but it’s obvious they are in the process of restoring it, with workmen and diggers scattered around! Saw the tomb of Nabi Umran, who was said to be the Father of the Virgin Mary or maybe the Father of Moses…at 33 metres long he was certainly a very tall person!!! Our taxi driver (Fahad!) then dropped us off at a very modern shopping Mall, where we managed to get ½ hours free wifi!!
Chatting to some people later, they had gone to a beach (left out of the port) – apparently a very nice cove where you could swim, with a Hotel that did good food and also had free wifi!
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