31 October 2022 Halloween in Aqaba, Jordan Day Two
Happy Halloween to all.
I had such a good night’s rest. Quick Lido breakfast of muesli, fruit, OJ and coffee.
Instead of leaving at 9am, last night I noticed that my tour leaves at 8am, gathering 7:45am in the theater. Jan and David are also on bus #2, which is nice.
Driving through the city of Aqaba, I looked down and saw a local mother encouraging her sleepy son to look up at the foreign tourists. I lowered my face mask and waved. She waved. I blew kisses to the boy, and she blew kisses back. I feel so welcome here, and so far everywhere.
At St. Catherine’s Monastery I admired a local woman’s dark long dress. Too close to sneak a photo, I said, “What a beautiful dress” as she got into her car. Her husband wore western clothes. When he backed the car away, I politely waved. And the woman waved back to me with a smile.
Today we drove through the countryside of Jordan, much like Arizona and Utah, but without the bright colors. The dark rocks and strata are basalt.
Mahout our guide introduced himself and the driver Haufat. I had a shady window seat. I think that there were Frankincense trees out in the desolate land, also near Sharm and in Oman several years ago.
Mahout taught us about the people of Jordan. His family are Bedouins, moving often with their goats, sheep, and camels, and moving their school with them. He said that the Christians and Muslims get along well, sharing many prophets. He told us how children all go to school together until age 12. Then the boys and the girls go to separate schools. Women have rights and men have responsibilities in Jordan.
Our destination was 2 1/2 hours north plus a 30 minute rest stop. Could not believe facing a squattie potty / hole in the floor, but luckily there were also western toilets. This “Supermarket / bazaar” was the ultimate high-priced tourist trap. Endless temptations. I bought three magnets for 5 Jordanian Dinar / 7 Euros / $7.
“A two hour scenic drive north of Aqaba brings you to the municipality of Shoubak, where you’ll visit one of the best-preserved (Christian) Crusader castles in Jordan. Shoubak Castle is an early 12th century Crusader castle, perched on the side of a rocky, conical mountain 4265 feet above sea level. Although less famous than the popular Kerak Castle, its isolation from the nearest town makes it a more atmospheric setting. Built in AD 1115, Shoubak was originally called Krak de Montreal – the first of many fortifications built by King Baldwin I of Jerusalem to guard the road from Egypt to Damascus. It successfully resisted a number of sieges before finally falling to Saladin troops in 1189.”
Back on the road, Mamout told us that Shoubak Castle is on the highest mountain in Jordan and is cool enough to grow apples.
Impressive Shoubak Castle could be seen from miles away. The uphill road became windy and narrow for our big bus.
It was a long steep walk from the parking lot up to the castle ruins. I decided to go ahead and pay 8 Euros to ride a golf cart up and back. (Everything is expensive in Jordan. Gasoline is $8 a gallon.)
The castle ruins are indeed impressive stonework with magnificent views down into the valley below. Next surprise was seeing how many stone steps led into and then up inside more of the castle ruins. I continued carefully with my trusty hiking stick, until I felt that it was no longer safe for me to climb up more. Several of us sat and waited for the group to finish climbing and descending the endless steps. One woman fell. It was not me.
By riding the cart downhill, I had extra time to enjoy the Shoubak Visitor Center. The “bazaar” was a room full of souvenirs, including photos of the King of Jordan.
Our bus left Shoubak Castle at 1:25pm to make the long drive back. I saw two small herds of goats and a handful of camels. Occasionally there would be a green field or green trees or olive trees.
Our rest stop at the elegant tourist trap was only 15 minutes this time. I did enjoy looking at their tempting souvenirs. Really liked the three hanging camels, but $20 was outrageous.
Continuing our drive back, Mamout told us about the Orphans’ Valley that we were driving through. Unexpected rain and a flash flood had wiped out the Bedouins who were traveling there with their animals on their way to Aqaba one year.
We arrived back at the ship about 3pm. I photographed the sad looking mother dog who must be the port mascot.
Managed to send and label photos to family before dinner.
We were all at dinner tonight. Jan & David had toured Petra AND Wadi Rum yesterday. Charlotte & Bill had stayed overnight in a Bedouin tent.
My dinner was the Chicken Corn Soup, Cauliflower Berber, Greek Lamb Moussaka (last night was “beyond meat” moussaka), Chocolate Caramel Tart, wine, and decaf coffee.
No show in the World Stage tonight, so I listened to the Piano & Cello duo in the Explorer’s Lounge.
Back in my room were waiting two dark chocolates, the Daily Program, and welcome news that clocks will be moved back one hour tonight.
The end to a Happy Halloween.
Photo Gallery by Barbara Cummings
And now it is on to Safari, Egypt, where Barbara has a scheduled tour to Luxor and a long, long day. JWC