KEVIN OF ARABIA
Which way to Mecca?
After three days of sailing up the Red Sea we arrived in Aqaba, Jordan. The city was filled with half a million tourists celebrating a local holiday. It was a good day to head out of town to the desert. Yazeed was our Jordanian guide. He is a Muslim who was educated in Britain and is married to a Spanish Catholic woman and has some very interesting ideas about the Middle East. He calls the Arab Spring the Arab Hell because of the instability it has brought to this area of the world. Jordan is being inundated with Syrian refugees fleeing the violence of their homeland. The numbers are reaching about 2000 a day. Yazeed says that Jordan is surrounded by “naughty neighbors” who are always causing a ruckus.
We passed Bedouin herders tending to their goat and camel flocks on our way out to Wadi Rum. The desert landscape is one of the most beautiful in all of Arabia. Soaring reddish pinnacles and flat desert floor, narrow canyons and green oases make up this stunning area. Most people are familiar with the dramatic scenery of Wadi Rum because the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” was filmed here. T.E. Lawrence worked
THE SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM
T.E.Lawrence first coined the term
with the local Arab tribes in their revolt against Turkish rule during WWI. He led the rebels to recapture Aqaba and then headed to Damascus to chase out the Turks. Lawrence is still revered by the Jordanians and many children are named after him. The spectacular rock formation in Wadi Rum is named after his book, “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.”
Brooks, John, Kevin and I boarded a four wheel drive truck and headed off exploring. We stopped at Bedouin camps, rode some camels, explored the canyons and sand dunes and reveled in the mystique of Lawrence and his beloved desert. Yazeed told us that the Bedouin, in order to immunize their babies, extract the venom from poisonous snakes and mix it with mother’s milk and then rub it all over the skin of the infants. Apparently it has worked for centuries in protecting their childrene from deadly snake bites.
We spent one day in Safaga, Egypt where 550 passengers disembarked and the same number of new passengers boarded for the cruise up the Suez Canal.
The canal is often referred to as the ditch because, unlike the Panama Canal, the Suez has no locks as it
slices a path through the desert. It took 10 years of digging by Egyptian forced laborers to make the canal. Initially the British were against the building of the canal mostly because it was a French idea led by Ferdinand de Lesseps of Panama Canal fame. Now it is one of the most important water routes in the world with about 15,000 ships passing through each year.
Captain McNeill said that the cost for our ship to go through the canal is around $300,000. This is roughly $100,000 more that most cruise ships pay. The reason is that the Voyager has an azipod propulsion system instead of standard propellers and therefore must be accompanied by two tugs for the full day transit of the canal. We can’t see why the type of propulsion should make any difference but in the eyes of the Egyptian Canal Authority it does. Going through the canal instead of around the Cape of Good Hope shaves 6000 miles off the journey. The savings in time, wear and tear on the ship, crew salaries and fuel pays for the cost of the canal passage.
When we came out of the Suez and entered the
Mediterranean Sea, the Captain sounded the ship’s horn five times as a farewell to the Middle East and announcing our arrival into European waters.
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