Jordan: Leaving Bedouin Camp - then Aqaba


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Middle East » Jordan » South » Aqaba
March 11th 2020
Published: March 12th 2020
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Today we had a beautiful sunrise at the peaceful Bedouin camp. We left at 7 a.m. and went by 4 X4 to Sammy's camp for breakfast. After breakfast we traveled to Aqaba - a port city on the Red Sea. This city was a strategic city in WW1 with Lawrence of Arabia.

Aqaba (English: /ˈækəbə/, also US: /ˈɑːk-/; Arabic: العقبة‎, romanized: al-ʿAqaba, al-ʿAgaba, pronounced ) is the only coastal city in Jordan and the largest and most populous city on the Gulf of Aqaba. Situated in southernmost Jordan, Aqaba is the administrative centre of the Aqaba Governorate. The city had a population of 148,398 in 2015 and a land area of 375 square kilometres (144.8 sq mi). Today, Aqaba plays a major role in the development of the Jordanian economy, through the vibrant trade and tourism sectors. The Port of Aqaba also serves other countries in the region.

Aqaba's strategic location at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea between the continents of Asia and Africa, has made its port important over the course of thousands of years.

The ancient city was called Elath, adopted in Latin as Aela and in Arabic as Ayla. Its strategic location and proximity to copper mines made it a regional hub for copper production and trade in the Chalcolithic period. Aela became a bishopric under Byzantine rule and later became a Latin Catholic titular see after Islamic conquest around AD 650, when it became known as Ayla; the name Aqaba is late medieval. The Great Arab Revolt's Battle of Aqaba, depicted in the film Lawrence of Arabia, resulted in victory for Arab forces over the Ottoman defenders.

Aqaba's location next to Wadi Rum and Petra has placed it in Jordan's golden triangle of tourism, which strengthened the city's location on the world map and made it one of the major tourist attractions in Jordan. The city is administered by the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, which has turned Aqaba into a low-tax, duty-free city, attracting several mega projects like Ayla Oasis, Saraya Aqaba, Marsa Zayed and expansion of the Port of Aqaba. They are expected to turn the city into a major tourism hub in the region. However, industrial and commercial activities remain important, due to the strategic location of the city as the country's only seaport.

The Edomites, who ruled over Edom just south of the Dead Sea, are believed to have built the first port in Aqaba called Elath around 1500 BC, turning it into a major hub for the trade of copper as the Phoenicians helped them develop their maritime economy. They profited from its strategic location at the junction of trading routes between Asia and Africa.

Around 735 BC, the city was conquered by the Assyrian empire. Because of the wars the Assyrian empire had in the east, its trading routes were diverted to the city and the port witnessed relative prosperity. The Babylonians conquered it in 600 BC. During this time, Elath witnessed great economic growth, which is attributed to the business background of its rulers who realized how important the city's location was. The Persian Empire took the city in 539 BC.
Roman milestone that marked the starting point of the Via Nova Traiana on display in the Aqaba Archaeological Museum.Aqaba Church, considered to be the world's first purpose-built church.
The city continued to grow and prosper which made it a major trading hub by the time of the Greek rule by 300 BC, it was described by a Greek historian to be "one of the most important trading cities in the Arab World". The Ptolemaic Greeks called it Berenice. The Nabatean kingdom had a large population north of the city, the ones who had built Al-Khazneh in the city of Petra, they outnumbered the Greeks which made the capture of the city easy. One of the oldest known texts in Arabic alphabet is an inscription found in Jabal Ram 50 kilometres (31 miles) east of Aqaba.

In 64 BC following the Roman conquest, they annexed the city and called it Aela (also Haila, Aelana, in Greek rendered Άιλα Aila).

Both Petra and Aela were under strong Nabatean influence despite Roman rule. Aela reached its peak during Roman times, the great long distance road the Via Traiana Nova led south from Bostra through Amman, terminating in Aela, where it connected with a west road leading to Philistia and Egypt. Around AD 106 Aela was one of the main ports for the Romans. It was the home origin of what came to be known as the Ayla-Axum Amphoras. By the time of Eusebius, Aela became the garrison of the Legio X Fretensis, which was moved to Aela from Jerusalem.

Aela came under Byzantine Empire rule in AD 300, where the Aqaba Church was constructed, considered to be the world's very first purpose-built church. The city became a Christian bishopric at an early stage. Its bishop Peter was present at the First Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council, in 325. Beryllus was at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, and Paul at the synod called by Patriarch Peter of Jerusalem in 536 against Patriarch Anthimus I of Alexandria, a council attended by bishops of the Late Roman provinces of Palaestina Prima, Palaestina Secunda and Palaestina Tertia, to the last-named of which Aela belonged. Aila fell to the Islamic conquest by 650, and the ancient settlement was left to decay, while a new Arab city was established outside its walls under Uthman ibn Affan., also known as Ayla (Arabic: آيلة‎). The geographer Shams Eddin Muqaddasi describes Ayla as nearby the ruined ancient city.



A view of Ayla

Ayla with a background view of mountains North of Aqaba

Aqaba Fortress
The city prospered from 661 to 750 under the Ummayads and beyond under the Abbasids (750–970) and the Fatimids (970–1116). Ayla took advantage of its key position as an important step on the road to India and Arab spices (frankincense, myrrh), between the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian Peninsula. The city is also mentioned in several stories of the Arabian Nights.

Baldwin I of Jerusalem took over the city in 1116 without much resistance. The center of the city then moved to 500 meters along the coast to the south, and the crusader fortress of Helim was built, as well as Pharaoh's Island (now in Egyptian territorial waters about 7 kilometres (4 miles) west of Aqaba). The city declined in the late 12th century due earthquakes and attacks by Bedouins and Mamluks forces.

Ayla remained under the control of the kingdom of Jerusalem from 1116 until 1187, when it was captured by Saladin. The settlement by this point had essentially disappeared, and the site became known after the nearby mountain-pass, as al-ʿAqaba. The old fort was rebuilt, as Aqaba Fortress, by sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh Al-Ghuri in the early 16th century. For the next four centuries, the site was a simple fishing village of little importance.

During World War I, the Ottoman forces were forced to withdraw from Aqaba in 1917 after the Battle of Aqaba, led by T. E. Lawrence and the Arab forces of Auda abu Tayi and Sherif Nasir. The capture of Aqaba allowed the British to supply the Arab forces.

In 1918, the regions of Aqaba and Ma'an were officially incorporated into the Kingdom of the Hejaz. In 1925, Ibn Saud the ruler of Nejd with the help of his Wahhabi Ikhwan troops successfully annexed the Hejaz, but gave up the Ma'an and Aqaba to the British protectorate of Transjordan.

In 1965, King Hussein, through an exchange deal with Saudi Arabia, gave 6,000 square kilometres (2,317 square miles) of desert-land in Jordanian territories in exchange for other territories, including 12 kilometres (7 miles) of an extension of prime coastline south of Aqaba, which included the magnificent Yamanieh coral reef. Aqaba was a major site for imports of Iraqi goods in the 1980s until the Persian Gulf War.

We had a boat ride/snorkeling trip to the coral reef. I don't have an underwater case so I didn't take photos underwater. The corals and fish were beautiful. The water was cold (19-20 Celsius) but it was worth it. After snorkeling we had lunch and then danced on the boat on the way back to port.

I spent several hours trying to rebook my flight, then we walked nearby the hotel and had dinner. There are many hotels and restaurants in walking distance of where we are staying, so some of us went to a Syrian restaurant. I had yogurt/cucumber appetizer and kebab Aleppo style. I've been really impressed with the food on this trip - both in Egypt and Jordan.

Talal, our leader, has talked about Hand motions (significant so you don't do the wrong one), was to tie the scarf, political situation and the royal family, and many other things. All the information is a bit overwhelming which is why I use wikipedia for the places we are visiting.

The scarf: The keffiyeh or kufiya (Arabic: كُوفِيَّة‎ kūfiyyah, meaning "from the city of Kufa" (الْكُوفَة); plural كُوفِيَّات kūfiyyāt), also known as a ghutrah (غُترَة), shemagh (شُمَاغ šumāġ), ḥaṭṭah (حَطَّة), mashadah (مَشَدَة), chafiye, dastmal yazdi (Persian: دستمال یزدی‎, Kurdish: دەستمال یەزدی‎ destmal yezdî) or cemedanî (Kurdish: جەمەدانی‎), is a traditional Arabian headdress, or what is sometimes called a habit, that originated in the Arabian Peninsula, and is now worn throughout the Middle-East region. It is fashioned from a square scarf, and is usually made of cotton. The Keffiyeh is commonly found in arid regions, as it provides protection from sunburn, dust and sand.

In Jordan, the red-and-white keffiyeh is strongly associated with the country and its heritage, because the red color was introduced into the Keffiyeh by the Jordanian Bedouins under British rule , where it is known as the shemagh mhadab. The Jordanian keffiyeh has decorative cotton or wool tassels on the sides; the bigger these tassels, the greater the garment's supposed value and the status of the person wearing it. It has long been worn by Bedouins and villagers and used as a symbol of honor and/or tribal identification. The tasseled red-and-white Jordanian shemagh is much thicker than the untasseled red-and-white shemagh seen in Persian Gulf countries.

Gestures and body language




There’s a whole range of gestures used in Arab culture which will either be new to you or which carry different meanings from the same gesture in your home country. Rather than nodding, yes is indicated by inclining your head forwards and closing your eyes. No is raising your eyebrows and tilting your head up and back, often accompanied by a little “tsk” noise (which doesn’t indicate impatience or displeasure). Shaking your head from side to side means I don’t understand. A very useful gesture, which can be used a hundred times a day in all kinds of situations, is putting your right hand over your heart: this indicates genuineness or sincerity, and can soften a “no thanks” to a street-seller or a “sorry” to a beggar, or reinforce a “thank you very much” to someone who’s helped you. Many people in the south of Jordan will instinctively touch their right hand to their heart after shaking hands.

One hand held out with the palm upturned and all five fingertips pressed means wait. A side-to-side wrist-pivot of one hand at chest level, palm up with the fingers curled, means what do you want? If someone holds their flat palm out to you and draws a line across it with the index finger of the other hand, they’re asking you for whatever document seems relevant at the time – usually a passport. You can make the same gesture to ask for the bill (check) in a restaurant.

Pointing at someone or something directly with your index finger, as you might do at home, in Jordan casts the evil eye; instead you should gesture imprecisely with two fingers, or just flap your whole hand in the direction you mean. Beckoning with your palm up has cutesy and overtly sexual connotations; instead you should beckon with your palm facing the ground and all four fingers together making broom-sweeping motions towards yourself.

The Royal Family:

Hussein bin Talal (Arabic: الحسين بن طلال‎, Al-Ḥusayn ibn Ṭalāl; 14 November 1935 – 7 February 1999) reigned as King of Jordan from 11 August 1952 until his death in 1999. According to Hussein, he was a 40th-generation direct descendant of Muhammad as he belonged to the Hashemite family which has ruled Jordan since 1921.

Hussein was born in Amman as the eldest child of Talal bin Abdullah and Zein Al-Sharaf. Hussein began his schooling in Amman, continuing his education abroad. After Talal became King of Jordan in 1951, Hussein was named heir apparent. The Parliament forced Talal to abdicate a year later due to his illness, and a regency council was appointed until Hussein came of age. He was enthroned at the age of 17 on 2 May 1953. Hussein was married four separate times and fathered eleven children: Princess Alia from Dina bint Abdul-Hamid; Abdullah II, Prince Faisal, Princess Aisha, and Princess Zein from Antoinette Gardiner; Princess Haya and Prince Ali from Alia Touqan; Prince Hamzah, Prince Hashim, Princess Iman, and Princess Raiyah from Lisa Halaby.

Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein (Arabic: عبدالله الثاني بن الحسين‎, ʿAbdullah al-thani bin Al-Husayn, born 30 January 1962) has been King of Jordan since 1999. He belongs to the Hashemite family, who have ruled Jordan since 1921 and claim agnatic descent from Muhammad's daughter Fatimah.

Abdullah was born in Amman as the first child of King Hussein and his second wife, British-born Princess Muna. As the King's eldest son, Abdullah was heir apparent until Hussein transferred the title to Abdullah's uncle, Prince Hassan, in 1965. Abdullah began his schooling in Amman, continuing his education abroad. He began his military career in 1980 as a training officer in the Jordanian Armed Forces, later assuming command of the country's Special Forces in 1994, and he became a major general in 1998. In 1993 Abdullah married Rania Al-Yassin (of Palestinian descent), and they have four children: Crown Prince Hussein, Princess Iman, Princess Salma and Prince Hashem. A few weeks before his death in 1999, Hussein named Abdullah his heir, and Abdullah succeeded his father.


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