A warm welcome from Jordan

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My mobile phone is going dizzy with text messages from service providers. Beep! Welcome to Egypt. Beep! Welcome to Saudi Arabia. Beep! Welcome to Jordan. The only one missing is Beep! Welcome to Israel, which is surprising, because at this maritime Middle East crossroads I can see the town of Eilat across the bay.
It’s welcome, in fact, to Aqaba, where we arrived this morning on board Thomson Celebration after leaving Sharm el Sheikh last night. On the way, according to cruise director Keith Maynard, we passed the spot which archaeological evidence is said to have pinpointed as the place where Moses parted the Red Sea during the flight from Egypt.
Parting the waves today are dozens of glass-bottomed boats buzzing around like tuk-tuks and carrying sightseers from the bustling beach to see the coral reefs, colourful fish, and even a shipwreck in the Gulf of Aqaba.
The midday call to prayer broadcast from the minarets of a dozen mosques does little to diminish the activity as local families take their picnics on the narrow strip of sand. While children splash in the sea, and teenage boys show off by performing elaborate twisting dives from the wooden jetty, mums, dads and grandparents sit in circles on beach chairs or mattresses, sharing shisha pipes and bowls of beans and corn.
Muslim dress codes are in force – no bikinis here – and passengers from the ship have been advised to use the beach further along the corniche at the Movenpick Hotel.
Those who wandered through the streets of downtown Aqaba found shops meeting the needs of locals and tourists alike, though I doubt if any visitors flashed their cash in the meat market, where flayed carcases of cows, sheep and goats hung complete with fur-on heads and tails.
Many passengers remained on board, relaxing on the sun deck or by the pools, resting in readiness for an early start tomorrow morning and an 11-hour excursion to the rose-red city of Petra. Some stepped inside to the Broadway Show Lounge to hear archaeologist Dan Lines’ lecture on ancient Egypt; others joined Keith for a lesson in basic Arabic.
However proficient we become in the local language, it won’t be enough to cope with the souvenir sellers, touts and vendors waiting for us when we return to Egypt on Monday. The only language they understand is folding money – and they won’t take no for an answer in any language.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:33+00:00 22 January 2010|Cruise destinations|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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