Today we are in Aqabah which is located at the end of the Gulf of Eliatt.
The Jordanians call it the Gulf of Aqabah and may the best PR. Department win the battle of whatever the best name is. Aqabah is the only coastal city of Jordan which is for the rest land locked between Israel and Syria. Ancient Aqabah was once called Eliath but that name now only exists on the Israelian side. And that side is quite close. As a matter of fact the border runs right along Aqabah itself and the same at the other side for Eliath.
Jordan and Israel are on reasonable terms and thus the border is in frequent use and most cruise ships do crew exchanges here. So connections can be made from airports on either side of the border. What a funny part is, is that there is no direct transport over the border. Thus if you leave the ship in Aqabah, the agent will bring you to the border, then you pull your suitcase through the border and show your passport and then on the other side another agent (same agency) with another car takes you to the airport. Going the other way, goes the same. But this is only done if there is no flight available from the airport at Aqaba which connects with the international airport in the capital of Amman.
We docked this morning at the very exciting “main cargo terminal” of the port. Further out there is a big container port but we are at a flatbed area meant for regular cargo ships and cruise ships as there is ample parking here. Although it did not look as if there was much happening here, Aqabah is the industrial motor of Jordan with large industries and a blooming import and export trade. From the ship we looked all day at the blades of large windmills, so I assume they are putting a windmill farm up somewhere in the desert. Plenty of wind, especially in the afternoon, when the sun over the desert creates its own high pressure system. That sun also produces the warmth in the afternoon. On arrival it was chilly (At least compared to what we had in the past few days) but by 14.00 hrs. it felt nice and toasty outside. But that will be gone by sunset with the temperatures dropping to about 18oC /65oF.
Aqabah itself has some interesting ruins and antiquities and claims to have the ruins of the first purpose built church in the world. How they come to that claim I do not know as most very ancient churches have an estimated date of construction so you cannot go by the simple date of opening the front door for the first time. But most guests did not opt for that but went on the tours. Either on the tours I mentioned yesterday or on “private tours” with 2, 4, 6 or 8 others and then you can decide to go anywhere. A tour which intrigues me is a visit to Shoubak Castle which is not so usual. Shoubak is a Castle of the Knight Templars and is less known than Kerak Castle. The Knight Templars have always fascinated me as I still find hard it to comprehend that there could be an international Army, Banking system and Trading organization that was able to operate completely outside the rules of the various countries, just because the Pope said so. They find their roots in the fight for the Holy Land in the 11th. and 12th century and they built some fascinating castles, which in Jordan have withstood the times very well. Shoubak was built in AD 1115 as (Krak de Montreal as most of the Knight Templars were French) and is still there. It fell in 1189 to the forces of Saladin the Great but he left the castle as was; did not tear it down and thus we still have it. One day I will make it there.
Most of the Tours last 6 hours and returned between 1500 and 1600 hrs. But the ship has to wait for the return of the tour from Petra which left at 08.30 in the morning and lasts 9 hrs. so they need fair winds to make it back by sailing time at 19.00 hrs. I have seen that seldom happening so we might leave a little later than planned. But tomorrow is a sea day so we have time. After departure we will retrace our steps out of the Gulf of Aqabah / Eliat and will then turn north again to follow the north finger of the Red Sea, or the Gulf of Suez, until we get to the Suez Canal for our transit.
Weather: Little change. Sunny but getting less warm in the mornings while we are progressing northwards.