Egypt & Jordan with Imaginative Traveller: Part II, Egypt – Jordan

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Egypt and Jordan
By Sylvia Seschel

After two days in hustle and bustle Cairo, we headed toward Mt. Sinai (where Moses received the Ten Commandments) via the Suez Canal with five new people in our group. We barely saw the freighters leaving in the distant haze.

Instead of 2 a.m. wake up call to see the sunrise at Mt. Sinai, everyone agreed to see the sunset the night before. A Bedouin guide led the way. Thinking I am in the best shape of my life, I knew the climbing and fresh air is a huge difference than my normal gym workout.

Two people changed their minds half way up and took the camel ride. I don’t know if they paid the full price of 70 Egyptian pounds or bargained. The ride stops at the 750 steps of Repentance. Over two hours of trekking, my head felt heavy and I didn’t have the stamina to continue. Though the teahouse sold overpriced chocolates (Mars bar for 10 EL or over 2 CDN.) I enjoyed the peace on my own, at the same time though I wished I kept on going. Three Bedouin men were about, preparing for their supper after fasting. They invited me to join but I politely declined.

I saw the change of colour in the sky though everyone else had a better view on the other side. It got cold as the sun went down. I had layers of clothing on my upper body. My legs can take the cold. When the group came back, I asked if the sunset was nice. Some said it was OK but they said they felt sorry for me wearing shorts.

The next day we made a visit at the working St. Catherine’s Monastery. Again you can be sure camel rides will be offered. We saw our Bedouin guide of Mt. Sinai at his shop along the route back to the bus.

Who knew when the ferry was going to leave? One guess was good as another. A couple hours later our tour guide noticed action at the door. We boarded a bus to take us to the ferry. I could have walked.

In Aqaba, Jordan, we boarded a mini van. At the exit we had to get out of the mini van, run through a security x-ray machine (always have a sense of humour while traveling) then back to the mini van. What did they think? Ah, yes, maybe some people watched McGyver and learned how to make, I shudder to say the word as its not funny, little explosive devices out of candy wrappers or something.

We didn’t have the afternoon in Aqaba, as a brochure indicated. The next morning I passed an invitation of tagging along with a few people. I’m not a shopper and wanted to explore this duty free city on my own. I walked along the waterfront, watching the people swim and sail, going past the yacht club, taking a picture of the McDonald’s sign in Arabic for a friend, and seeing the English pub Rovers Return (for us Coronation Street fans). Having about an hour left, I did buy a couple pieces of jewelry.

Leaving Aqaba was like leaving another country, passing border inspection. Because it’s duty free, residents are allowed only a certain amount and us foreigners, no limit.

There was a kid – couldn’t have been more than 11 years old driving the jeep along Wadi Rum, the desert of Lawrence of Arabia stretching as far as the eye can see. The red rocks rose to meet the most spectacular deep blue sky I ever saw.

I laughed at the tacky “Indiana Jones Souvenier Shop” in front of the red rose city Petra’s entrance.

Donkeys, camels, horse and carriage transported people (for a fee of course) but I enjoyed my walk along the Siq, a gorge cut out by water, narrow twists and turns of this path leads toward the Treasury (Al-Khazneh), used in the final sequence of Indian Jones and the last Crusade. Climbing old steps we saw the dramatic view of Petra from High Place of Sacrifice.

After a delicious buffet lunch, I couldn’t face another challenging climb. A couple and I headed to Petra Church (Byzantine Church) to see the mosaics. Heading back to the entrance, the clouds got heavier, the wind picked up whipping the sand around. I’m glad I didn’t climb to the monastery.

Shivering, I took a long hot shower, washing the sand out of my hair. Later the Turkish bath did not disappoint me. Steam room, aloofa scrub, hot tub, and soapy massage.

The wind was bitter at Kerak, a 12th century fortress. I was glad to have layered my clothing. After lunch at Madaba, we walked over to St. George Church to view the oldest mosaic map of Ancient Palestine.

Our day ended with a tour of Mt. Nebo, presumed site of Moses’ death and burial place. Because of the haze, we didn’t have a sharp view of the Dead Sea and Jerusalem in the distance.

Our last day. In the morning we visited Jerash, an example of a Roman provincial city. It was mainly buried under stand until the excavation in 1920s.

After a delicious buffet lunch at Dead Sea Resort and Spa, we capped off a wonderful trip floating in the Dead Sea. Well, I floated for a few seconds. I’m not a swimmer, love the water but have a little fear. Being 400 metres below sea level, the afternoon is a lot warmer than the past couple of days. Our tour leader warned us don’t dive, (someone did from my Egyptian tour group and the water stung his eyes), don’t swallow the water (make sure to have a bottle of water any case you do, and don’t shave the day before.

I am a sucker for sunsets and this one had to be one of the most brilliant, colourful yet. The sky and water turned different shades by the second. I stood in awe relishing at that moment I was at the Dead Sea, and witnessing this spectacular beauty (words really can’t describe). You have to see it for yourself.

Imaginative Traveller is part of Trek Holidays.

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