Showing posts with label cruising the Red Sea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cruising the Red Sea. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Exploring Jordan’s Wadi Rum: What are we doing?!

The afternoon sun was intense by the time we arrived and the wind had stirred up the desert dust. Jordan’s Wadi Rum looked as vast and unforgiving as it did in the epic movie, Lawrence of Arabia.

Sand storm brewing in Jordan's Wadi Rum
We’d spent the morning at Petra, the ancient rose-red city carved out of sandstone cliffs centuries ago. We were on a day-long outing -- booked long before boarding our Oceania’s Nautica cruise ship in Bangkok bound for Istanbul.  We’d opted out of the cruise ship’s tours offered in the Kingdom of Jordan. Instead, the two of us set off with a tour company’s driver who turned us over to local tour guides at Petra and  at Wadi Rum, with whom they contract for services.

Stretching for more than 278 miles (720 kilometers),Wadi (Arabic for ‘valley or river channel’) Rum is also known as The Valley of the Moon.  Our tour was through just a small portion of this expansive landscape, yet, that which we experienced seemed a vast, isolated world. 

A long lonesome road in Jordan's Wadi Rum
DSCF3193We left the main highway and were following a narrow road to nowhere it seemed, when in the distance we saw a beat-up old pickup along side the road. Our driver pulled up behind it and its driver, a Bedouin man with a red checked ‘shemagh’ (scarf) covering his head, came back to our car to get us. He was our next tour guide.

With sand swirling out over the landscape we opted to ride in the cab with him, instead of in the back bed of the truck with its rather firm seats. His command of English was a bit limited, but far better than our ability to speak his language.

With our original tour-company driver assuring us he’d meet us in a couple hours for our trip back to the ship, we were off!  In an old pickup. With a Bedouin driver. In the Wadi Rum. In Jordan. In the Middle East. . .

PicMonkey Collage
Setting off in the Wadi Rum - Jordan
. . .and when the pickup left the pavement and began bouncing over the desert sand, I have to admit that for several moments, my brain was bouncing as well.

It was silently screaming, “What are we doing?!?!” 

I had obviously let  my imagination get away from me – I’d listened to too many ‘well-meaning-but-overly-cautious-ones-back-home’. 

What were we doing?

Wadi Rum - Jordan
In reality, the time spent in that pickup traveling where roads didn’t go, may have been the highlight of the outings we had during our month-long cruise through the Middle East.

The Wadi Rum was designated a ‘protected area’ in 1998 and in recent years it has become a popular destination for eco-tourism.  Hiking, camel treks, rock climbing and camping bring thousands of tourists here each year. And that thriving tourism business is providing a new source of income for the Bedouin communities of the Wadi Rum. 

Still, with increasing tourism, we saw just one other tour 'truck' similar to ours in the distance and one other  Bedouin with his camels, hoping to convince some visitor to take a ride on his giant beasts.

Visiting with the camel-ride vendor - Wadi Rum, Jordan

Our guide knew his route – we’d have been hopelessly lost and turned around without him – and after slipping and sliding over the sand (which reminded us of driving in snow) he topped to point out some of the area’s ancient rock drawings carved into the sides of the sandstone and granite mountains that make up the Wadi Rum.

Ancient rock drawings - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Then on we bumped and slid through the sand, no markers or signs in sight but our driver with some innate GPS system it seemed knew which way to turn and when.

A portion of our route - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Amazing stretches of desert. And some of the astounding moments we experienced still bring goose pimples and smiles when we look at these photos. . .

Absolutely loved this and not a posed scene for tourists - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Time went far too fast and we ended our tour with a stop at The Seven Pillars of Wisdom landmark named for the book – by the same title – written by Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia.  Much of the award-winning 1962 movie, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, was shot in this Wadi Rum.

Seven pillars of wisdom - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Our time at both Petra and Wadi Rum was too short.  We wouldn’t combine the two places into a single day’s outing again.  Both are deserving of far more exploration. Should we return, we’ll do it in the early morning before that unrelenting Middle Eastern sun reaches its full intensity.

Any number of tours are available in the Wadi Rum and a good source of information is found at    Should we get back there, I want to camp out over night.  Next week I’ll tell you where I plan to camp! 

Just for the record: I did leave information in our ship’s cabin that provided the name of the tour company, phone numbers, our destinations and estimated time of returning to the ship – just in case something had happened to us (intended or accidental) or that might have caused a delay in our return.

Safe travels to you all and thanks to those subscribers who’ve alerted me to problems with Feedburner’s distribution of blog posts.  If you’ve subscribed but are not receiving posts regularly on a weekly basis in your inbox, please let us know in the comments below or send us an email to  Many thanks!

Linking this week with:
Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Egypt: A Journey as interesting as the Destination

Sometimes we’ve found the journey is every bit as interesting as the destination. That was certainly our experience during our introduction to Egypt . . .

Early morning arrivals had become the norm on that Magic Carpet Ride of a cruise we took from Bangkok through the Middle East to Istanbul last spring. As we approached Port Safaga, (Bur Safaga) an Egyptian port on the Red Sea, the early morning sun was illuminating the mountains surrounding it.

Port Safaga, Egypt
Mountains? In Egypt?  Those towering tan peaks were just the first of many things about Egypt that blew away many of my pre-conceived notions. Silly me, I thought Egypt was a flat, dry, sun-baked stretch of endless sand.

Port Safaga, Egypt

Unlike the working port where our Oceania Nautica would be docked next to local ferries for two days, Safaga, the resort town some 37 miles away, hosts snorkelers and divers drawn here from around the world for its stunning reefs and fish. In 1993 it was the site of the World Windsurfing Championships. Silly me, did I know that tourism promotions had billed the Red Sea here as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Underwater World”?

P1000995Cruise ships stop at this working Port Safaga because its location, about 230 kilometers or 143 miles, away from Luxor, the city built on the site of the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes. It is the gateway to that treasure trove of antiquities.

Frankly we find these working ports, teeming with frieghters, commerce, ferries and everyday life far more interesting than the beautifully landscaped cruise ship ports. But we didn’t have a lot of time to watch port activities because. . .

. . .we’d opted to visit Luxor on one of the ship-sponsored ‘big bus’ tours. We were new to Egypt and weren’t quite ready then to explore it on our own, as we recently did on our visit to Cairo. It wasn’t so much security concerns - and there are security considerations when traveling in Egypt - it was more a question of acquainting ourselves with the country in a short amount of time.

 (BTW, thanks to the world’s geopolitical situation, it could be said their are security concerns in going to your own local grocery store these days, so it isn’t fair to single out Egypt.)

PicMonkey Collage
Caravan loads and departs
Safety and security were taken seriously by ship’s staff. We were told we would travel in a caravan of buses, with an armed escort vehicle in the lead. And that the front two seats in each bus would be reserved for the armed escorts (actually, we didn’t have any in our bus, but others did report having them). In reality, our ‘caravan’ lasted until we hit the open road when the drivers took delight in passing each other and setting out on their own.

We didn’t have a sense of caravan on our return trip to the ship. However, the local tour guide assigned to our bus had us back aboard and out of Luxor by 6 p.m. because after that time vehicles weren’t allowed to leave the city and travel the route we were taking back to the ship.

The Journey to Luxor

So off we headed for Luxor on a near three-hour journey each direction; a journey that we quickly realized was as interesting as is the destination!

En route to Luxor
I have no idea what this sign says, but I can tell you that it was the first I saw as we left the city and I read it as, “Whoa! We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto!”

Vast long stretches of sand, helped keep my preconceived notions about the country alive, but still the topography was more varied than I had expected.

One of many guard stations in Egypt
Elevated check points stations randomly appearing along the route were reminders of heightened security. Armed officers were visible inside most and the height of the bus put us almost at eye level -  even this shutterbug wasn’t going to aim and shoot at them – I waited until I saw an empty window.

PicMonkey Collage
Views from the bus - every day people. . . doing everyday things
The best part of this journey was the chance to see ordinary people going about their everyday lives.  Viewing this unscripted spontenity of life makes up some of our favorite travel experiences. As we came to towns we could see the families tending their small herds, and the workers creating roadways and lining canals. We pondered how hot the woman dressed from head to toe in black must be considering the temperature was in the high 90’s F.

On the way to Luxor

As we neared the Nile River, the life giving impact of is tributaries was evident in the greening of the landscape - trees and agricultural fields lined our route.  This portion of the trip by far was the most fun because we had such an unexpected welcome:

An enthusiastic welcome to Egypt
Children along side the road greeted our parade of buses as if they were carrying rock stars. Waves, shouts and smiles. . .

And another group of enthusiastic greeters. . .
. . .this group jumped, shouted and high-fived each other when they made eye contact with those of us on the bus. . .

We'd reached agricultural land en route to Luxor
Irrigated fields stretched for miles along our route, giving us a glimpse of this agricultural part of the country.

Man and beast

Moving the crop
Everyday scenes creating long lasting memories. . .

Waiting to cross the road. . .
How could Luxor’s antiquities possibly top these scenes? In our next post we’ll focus on what we found in Luxor. . .  That’s it for this week. Thanks for the time you’ve spent with us. Happy and safe travels to you and your family ~

Linking this week:

Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration


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