09.16.2008 - 09.19.2008
We realized we needed to get out of Cairo to maintain our sanity and because the India visa took so much time, we had to change our original plan which was to go to Alexandria and the Siwa Oasis. Thinking on our feet, we made a last-minute decision to travel to Jordan to see Petra and the Wadi Rum. We flew to the capital Amman, to begin a three-day car trip with Ibrahim, our new favorite driver and all-around solid Jordanian. "Okay, Boss?" Turns out his brother opened a chain of gas stations in California, is likely wealthy, invited Ibrahim to visit a few years ago. In the space of four months, Ibrahim drove through thirty some odd states and fell in love with Las Vegas seafood buffets. Our country rocks!!!
Our first full day was in the ancient sandstone city of Petra which you access via a narrow gorge called a siq (see one of the Indiana Jones movies for reference purposes). This opens dramatically onto the treasury building (misnamed because it held no money, much to the chagrin of looters who attempted to shoot open the giant urns atop), which is carved out of the sandstone wall.
Besides all of the architecture, what really stands out are the amazing colors of the stone itself. Many of the buildings are the tombs of wealthy Nabateans, the people who originally inhabited the place.
From there, we drove south through the country to the Wadi Rum desert. This was made famous for many Westerners by T.E. Lawrence's exploits there...you know, Lawrence of Arabia? Like the cool desert. We went on a sunset tour of part of the desert via pickup truck with a Bedouin family. They were absolutely great, spoke no English, but spoke the universal language of love. At one point, Dad got out and let Junior drive the truck in a display of fatherly pride. The kid was eight years old and held his own despite barely clearing the dash. We won't go into detail but there was one horrifying moment when we watched Junior flooring it in reverse narrowly missing a standstone wall (we weren't in the truck at this point). Despite this, Dad was clearly trusting of him and remained calm. It really made us think of the difference in child-rearing practices across cultures. Oh yeah, Dad even trusted Will enough to drive the truck. Here's a few pics of the scenery.
The funny part was that once the tour was over, Dad drove 50 mph in the shifting sands to get back home in time to break the fast at sundown. It was still Ramadan and people are eager to eat as soon as they can. The landscape was beautiful and it's a place we would both love to return to for more exploring. Later that evening, we had the odd experience of sleeping out in one of the several tourist "camps" that dot the desert. These are Bedouin-like camps where bus loads of mostly European tourists spend the evening having a meal and sleep in a canvas tent. A somewhat bizarre experience, but beautiful desert stars.
We liked our Bedouin driver so much that we decided to book a camel ride with him for the morning. The setting was stunning, the animals hungry and mostly docile, our asses stunning, but painful. Hut, hut, hut!
We sadly drove to the port of Aqaba where we spent the day buying daggers and eating the local cuisine before embarking on a very long evening of travel consisting of ferry, bus and taxi, across the Red Sea to Dahab, Egypt.