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A BEDOUIN DESERT RETREAT!

Jordan

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View JORDAN & EGYPT 2019 & SOUTHERN AFRICA 2018 on TracingTheWorld's travel map.

OCTOBER 15TH 2019 DAY 4

Yeah for the sleep in!  So needed!  My feet are still aching a smidge from yesterday.

After packing our bags we head up for breakfast.  Coffee please!  I am really enjoying these Jordanian buffets, fresh fruit, cheeses, cold meats and of course Falafels (must learn how to make these or at least find a good Middle Eastern Restaurant in Brisbane!)

Breakfast over we pile into the mini van and head out of the Petra Valley.  The sky is a little grey today and thank goodness it isn't as hot as yesterday.

As we drive out you get a better sense of life here.  Their lives revolve around the tourism trade that comes to Petra, everything is tied to the ancient city.

We get to the upper edge of town and stop at a lookout with amazing sweeping views of the valley below.  You can clearly see the entrance to Petra and that stoney road leading in.

The lookout has a strange monument, Husam explains it is a birthday cake to celebrate the Kings birthday, 3 layers with a giant candle on top.  When you take a good look... 'Oh yeah! So it does!'  To be honest it has seen better days, as had the children's playground and gardens, but that view!

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We were there!
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And there it is...!

Clambering back into the minivan, the winding drive down gives us fantastic views of the valleys below. The rocky formations in the below valley where Petra was discovered by a Swiss explorer in 1812 (it was a secret until he snuck in dressed as a local and revealed the location to the world) stretches out for miles. I ask Husam if any other hidden sites have been discovered since Petra, he shakes his head and I wonder what else is hidden in the maze of rocky formations that the sand has buried long lost from human eyes.

As we get out of the hills the land flatten outs and becomes sparse and rocky, the sandy landscape seems to go on forever.

We stop at a large tourist shop Husam shows us the traditional head scarves worn by the bedouin or the Kkufiya, he always has one on and so we shop! There are so many to choose from it is hard to pick! Luckily we have time to browse, you can't rush these things you know!

With scarves in hand we get a quick lesson on how to wrap them, luckily they come with instructions as I will never remember how to do it!

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Which one should I get...!

As we drive thru the sandy landscape, someone asks Husam about relationships, and in an Islamic society, how do couples meet one another, there is a bit of a gasp of surprise from the back seats.  But as personal as the questions are to his credit he is not shy about telling us how he met his wife. 

He saw her crossing the street and when finding out where she lived asked his mother to visit the house of her family and speak to her mother on his behalf.  

It is difficult to concentrate on the beauty of the landscape as you listen to him tell his story.  The 2 mothers talk, and her mother tells her about Husam and she agrees to meet him.  The next week he and his mother are invited around and the 2 of them talk in the living room with their mothers in a another room.  They discuss the future, family children, or as he puts the important issues.  Which makes a lot of sense to me as they get to know each other before emotions grow and we all know that they can cause a relationship roll coaster!

After a week they get engaged, she picks the ring which he pays for, at first I think, 'what a week, that's quick'.  But being engaged is not like how we view in western society, a promise to marriage, now they are able to go out in public together as their family and neighbors know they  have permission from their families to be out together. 

Giving them time to get to know each other the engagement lasted over a year before they got married.  This gave them time, as if either of them had any doubts that they are not the 'right one' the engagement could be broken.  No wonder Jordan has a lower divorce rate than western countries, it makes sense.  I really appreciate his honesty and for sharing such a personal story with us, a bunch of virtual strangers, it can't be easy to do.

As we turn off the main road rock rusty colored rock formations appear, the Wadi Rum, the desert heart of Jordan.

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Entering Wadi Rum!

It begins to look like we are entering another world.  No wonder this place has been used as a beck for many movies, Star Wars Rogue One, The Martian (with Matt Damon), Prometheus, Transformers Rise of the Fallen, Lawrence of Arabia (of course, no better place really!), and this year they are filming the new Star Wars movie The Rise of Skywalker.  

We park at the visitors that marks the entrance into this protected area, and as we do the clouds clear a little as the sun tries to break thru. 

The first thing we do is head up to the look out!

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Welcome to the Wadi Rum!

We get a fantastic view of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom named from the movie Lawrence of Arabia, and I can't help but try to count the pillar like grooves.

We spend a little time browsing thru the shops before we head out into the desert to our camp for the night. And I for one am excited to explore this amazing landscape!

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The 7 Pillars of Wisdom!

With our entry passes sorted it's a short drive to a Bedouin village where we stock on snacks for lunch.  The little local shop is stocked to bursting, and there is so much to choose from.  Fresh fruit, traditional breads and of course humus!

We are separated into Jeep 4x4s, and our driver is the only one with all female passengers.  Mohammad is a small man in crisp white traditional robes and a big beaming smile.

As we head out into the desert the colors jump out you, and you begin to see why it is such a popular place to make movies.

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Desert Safari!

The rusty colored sand is a stark natural contrast to the rock formations that remind me of stacked pancakes dripping with syrup... definitely out of this world. 

The colors change when the clouds part and the sun comes thru, the weather seems ever changing today, it makes this place even more intriguing.

Mohammad is quite quiet, but is constantly smiling.  We make jokes with him, I think it was Diana and Zoe who started the joke, and we become the 4 wives of Mohammed, he turns and his grin is wide!

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The 4 wives of Mohammed!

The joke takes on a life of it's own and as we pass dwellings he points and says "See this house?" we nod and answer and after a long pause "This not my house!" we all laugh and this continues thru our drive as he points out caves and enclosures for storage, finds the most run down ramshackle place "See this house...?"   With laughter we say "This not your house!"   All he says is "No this is your house!  I build it better for you!"  This is becomes the theme of our entire drive.  Mohammed our tiny Bedouin guide with a big sense of humor and a smile to match.

The landscape changes from flat to rolling sand dunes of beautiful rusty orange.

We stop at our lunch spot, Camels are lounging in the sand and a black and white covered area is set up at the base of a towering rock formation.

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Bedouin Lunch Spot, perfect!

Our hosts have a fire going and large vast iron kettles steam away,  we are invited to sit on a stone bench covered with the traditional red and black cushions.  We are offered cups of sweet minted tea as we eat our lunch.

Thunder can be heard rolling across the desert, it seems to echo off the cliffs behind us.

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Trying to capture a picture of the lightening... yeap I failed!

After lunch Husam takes us for a short walk, etched into a crevasse of the cliff is a set of ancient writing, just as we are about to walk away lightening strikes above the towering rock formation and the thunder rolls louder, it gives other worldly place and eerie feel and somehow adds to the atmosphere.

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Ancient writings!

We have a little time to explore, and some of us try to get to know the Camels, they are unfazed by us and just lounge about, one or two lifting up their heads as if for a photo op, the others just ignore us completely. 

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Just chilling...!
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'Oh... Hi!'
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'This is my good side!'

They are such gangly things, but they seem to have permanent smiles on their faces and those lashes...!

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Thomas trying to make a new friend!
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'Scratch my cheek Tracey!'

Bedouin and their camels are coming and going from, what I guess is called a rest stop.  Watching them in the distance with their white robes and shemagh (traditional head scarves) billowing in the wind is like stepping back in time. 

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Past traditions continue!

The haze in the air, the threatening storm that is thundering across the valley and the unique rock formations it is easy to imagine life as it once was before the modern technology took over.

large_20191015_144110.jpgStepping back in time!

We say goodbye to our hosts and Husam has to tear us away from the Camels as they seem to be getting all the attention.  With one last chin scratch we leave them to continue lounging.

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A Cheeky Close Up!

As we all pile into the 4x4s Husam makes the rounds talking to each of the drivers, when he comes to our drivers window, we are all in fits of laughter as the wives joke continues.  When he asks what is going we explain that we are the 4 wives of Mohammad, when Hussam tells him he can't have all 4 us he must take one, Mohammad's straight faced reply sends us into fits of laughter "No they are all mine!.. you can have 1 camel!"  he turns and looks at us grinning proudly, he is well chuffed.  This is going to be a fun afternoon!

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Heading Out!

And off we good the Wadi Rum opens up before your eyes, it seems to have it's own moods, the sands change color in places and the rock formations dominate the landscape.

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Yeap it does kinda feel like we are Mars!
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They look like layers of burnt pancakes!

We stop at an orange sand dune and get out and stretch the legs, the sand seems to sparkle in the sunlight like children's glitter has been scattered across the sand and embedded itself into the rock.  

This is were they filmed Lawrence of Arabia and when you look out to the horizon you understand why.

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Stretching the legs!

This is were they filmed Lawrence of Arabia and when you look out to the horizon you understand why.  It really would have set the perfect backdrop.

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Stunning colorful contrasts!

It isn't has hot here today as it was in Petra and the threat of the thunder storm has been left behind.

We drive over sandy hills when suddenly a creamy sandy salt pan opens up and we drive over it you can hear it crackling under the wheels.

We come to a dry river bed we park to the side of a large rocky outcrop that looks like it has been split in two with a giant axe.

Camels relax and the distance is the remnants of a stone building, it is an eerie intriguing place.  Nature is trying to get a foothold in the sand and pops of scraggy grow along the once waterfilled river.

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Hints of the past!

We scramble down into the river bed and Husam takes on a walk to explore the ravine, somehow from different angle the entrance disappears and blends into the surroundings but as we get closer it appears again.

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We're heading into where?
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Oh in there... somewhere!

Before we go further in Husam directs to us to turn around and look up, and points to a huge rock formation, "What do you see?".... Oh yeah it looks like a face with a crown watching over the desert... It really does!  the kings head as he calls it, is very distinctive, he looks like he is smiling with his eyes closed.

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Watching over his domain!

We come to the entrance which doesn't look like much but opens up to expose a large ravine, with rocky layers like giant steps carved by nature into the sides. 

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In we go!

Husam points out the wring and carvings on the walls, 1000s of years old.  The carvings of the people are so cute!

The little men stand with straight legs and the women stand with their legs apart, representing child birth.  Their are little animals, I can make out the Oryx like Antelope with it's curved horns and what I think is meant to be trees. Writing covers some places on the wall, I wonder what it says!

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The little people...!
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The Animals...!

We clamber down and Husam points out some of the writing, it is ancient Arabic, he says he can read some it, and points out the word "THE" the only difference from todays writing is the missing some of the dots and dashes.  He draws and example in the sand, oh yeah dots!

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Historical site in the middle of the desert!

Unbelievably this gorge floods with water when it rains making it and important location for the traveling Bedouin, he sees the doubt on our faces and shows us a video of the ravine from the day before when it rained.  It starts off as a small trickle and builds up to a gushing torrent filling the river bed that is dry as bone today.  Such a quick change in such a short time!  He swears that it was just a shower not torrential rain that was the cause.  He is grinning at us, I swear he like surprising us.

We pile back into our 4x4s and head further into the desert, passing tented camps set against stunning rock formations.

Carved into the rock face is a little house and Mohammad grins and says "See this house" we nod, "Yes", he turns and looks at us "This is your house!". It turns out it is a storage location for the wandering tribes.

We come to a fantastic rock formation that is like a great natural bridge. But unlike most of the rock in the Wadi it is a golden ivory color.

People are climbing up to walk across, and even after Husam warns us that Intrepid recommends not doing this as it isn't covered by insurance, I still wouldn't do it, from down here I can see 2 large cracks, solid rock or not, nothing is going to get me up there!

After taking a group photo we have time to explore for awhile, what a fantastic place this is!

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The Intrepid Travelers!

On the move again and we stop at a permanent camp in the middle of the desert, a rest stop Bedouin style. Men sit around under tents large black cast iron pots of tea are on the boil over fires, tables are covered with Bedouin souvenirs.

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Bedouin Rest Stop!

Trust me to find a cat in the middle of the desert! A cute little ginger tabby is lazing on the tables.

It is loved a well taken care of, all purrs and very smoochy!

We spend time browsing before Husam rounds us up, having to drag me away from my new furry friend for the last part of our journey into the heart of the Wadi Rum.

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Desert Friend!

As we drive deeper into the desert it seems to change. The short drive to takes us thru orange sand and dark ivory rock piles. Nature is trying to take hold out here, plants appear sparse clumps dot the horizon. It is a little bumpy but Mohammad doesn't seem to mind, I guess his butt is used to it!

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From Red to Orange!

We arrive at our campsite. Wow it looks amazing. Nestled in the curve of a large rock formation, permanent tent structures are set up to one side and a dining hall at the end.

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Our Bedouin Campsite!

The black and white tents, of you can call them that look more like cabins. They are quaint and comfortable. The inside walls and ceiling are carefully covered with red and black decorative goats wool fabric, thick and heavy and make great insulation. Two beds pile thick with blankets, we wont be getting cold tonight!

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My little home in the desert, for tonight at least!

We even have a little window with little wooden shutters.

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The View from the Room!

We unload our bags and say goodbye to our drivers then make our way to the restaurant hall for a cold drink.

Our hosts introduce themselves and tell us about tonight and the traditional dinner we will be sharing... sounds awesome!

Husam takes for a climb up to his favorite viewing point. The path up for most is easy, but me I don't like it so much, the whole fear of heights thing can be annoying, toughen up women!

We make it up before sunset. It is peaceful up here!

The vast landscape of the desert spreads out forever.

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The Wadi Rum... WOW!

While we wait for the sun to set, we chat to Husam he tells us about the Bedouins and desert life, they have been around for centuries, and try to keep most of their traditions in this modern and fast changing world.

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Husam!

The sky is cloudy which sadly hides the sunset but the desert takes on a life of its own and changes color with the arrival of dusk. It seems to change moods, from burnt orange to dark umber, darkening with the cloudy sky.

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Desert sunset...
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... Sadly too cloudy for the full effect!

We climb back down to camp and relax before dinner.

Then we head outside to where dinner is being cooked. We watch as they dig thru the sand to the layers of rock, broken glass and hot coals.

They unearth a large metal cylinder and when the side is unwrapped there are layers of steaming chicken and vegetables, delicious smells fill the desert air.

The dinner is fantastic and the smokey flavors mix wonderfully with the herbs and spices, the chicken is so soft and tender it just falls off the bone.

With full bellies we make our way outside, blankets and cushions have been laid out around a blazing fire for us, and we lounge and chat under the cloudy starry night.

Husam tries once again to answer all our questions (I kinda feel sorry for him as we aren't shy about what we ask!)

Why do Islamic women cover their hair? The Koran tells them that their bodies are precious and should be treated as such and that they should only show themselves to those they chose to marry and love with all their heart as he is the one who will honor and cherish them for the precious beautiful creatures they are. It is actually a lovely thing and respectful. In fact men too should dress modestly, in Jordan they do not wear shorts or walk around bare chested, and both are expected to be virgins on their wedding night.

While we are chatting a shadow is making its way along the rocky cliff, and as it reaches the light emanating from the fire, it turns out to be a Camel, it casts long ghostly shadows on the rock walls. It kinda fits in with the mood of this place.

The conversation continues as he tells us about their traditional weddings, earlier in the day he told us that the man pays for everything and that is his responsibility to care for all the women in the family.

The future Groom pays for everything she needs on the day and for the rest of their lives together.

He will go with her and their families to the jewel merchant with a price agreed upon by both families, and she chooses that amount in gold.

The first night of the wedding is for the women only and she has all her friends and family together. The second night is for the men and they gather to together as the women do. The third night is the wedding feast and everyone is invited, the mother of the groom cooks and all the women in the family and the neighborhood come early in the morning to help prepare the banquet.

The groom greets all the guests and his best man makes a list of each guest and the gifts they bring, because if and when they are invited to a wedding they will bring the same amount.

The male family members help with the party serving the food, drinks and arranging the tables as there can over 2000 guests, a true neighborhood affair.

It sounds amazing, but the actually ceremony is done at her family home or city hall with only the parents to witness the event.

As the fire dies down we give Husam a break and head off to bed and these blankets are really snugly and warm. The thunder storm has long past and the Wadi Rum is quiet and peaceful!

OCTOBER 15TH 2019 DAY 4

We wake up relatively early and breakfast is ready fresh baked bread and fresh fruit.

We say goodbye to our hosts, and drive back to the small village.

Most of the group has opted for a Camel ride back, having done this in Morocco I thought I would give it miss this time! So we stop in the middle of the desert where the camels are waiting with their owners. I watch as they get organized and laugh at them as they screech and flail about when the Camels stand up in that weird rocky way they do.

I wave at them from the comfort of the 4x4 and enjoy the peaceful drive back to the village.

When we arrive people are milling about, Camels lounge in the sun and children are running about.

While we wait for everyone to get back Husam and I try to engage in a conversation with a young fella and his Camel but typical of his age he is surly and sullen, Husam just laugh it off and I wander about for a bit taking one last view of this amazing place.

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A boy and his Camel!

Soon the group arrives and they I must admit some of them look a little uncomfortable, and there is even louder shrieks when it comes to the dismount! Yeap I remember that!

It certainly is entertaining to watch!

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Camel Rest Stop!

While we wait for everyone to get organized I wait with my this handsome cream Camel who loves a good chin scratch, the expression on it's face looks like it's laughing, it is adorable!

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My happy friend!

Finally Husam rounds us up and we pile into mini bus and leave this amazing place!

The drive out is quiet as there are a few of us who would have liked to explore for a little longer.

Once on the main road the desert passes by.

We stop at a small souvenir shop which is actually bigger on the inside. They have these fantastic paintings at the entrance, but first I need a cold drink, the shop is filled with all sorts of colorful trinkets.

When I go to pay for my drink I ask about the paintings. The shop asks me where I am from and when I tell him New Zealand he says "I know the New Zealand currency is low not good like here in Jordan, so for you I do a special price!"

Hmm I don't know whether to be offend or not! But since one of them doesn't jump out at me I leave it and head back to the bus.

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How much baggage allowance do I have?
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WOW but.... Na!

The highway starts to wind thru dry rocky valleys and after a stop at one of Jordan's large roadside service centers, the wives and I head straight for the cafe corner... ah nothing beats a good latte, but this will do for now.

Finally Aqaba comes into view the Red Sea glistens in the distance. Like Amman the houses are all the same color the ivory sandstone they seem to love here. Palm trees and Bougainvillea add spots of color on the city streets as we wind our way thru the traffic.

Our first stop is at a tourist shop as Husam must get our ferry tickets for tonight. Once that is done it is off to the hotel.

It is situated in the heart of Aqaba and quite fancy by all accounts. Three rooms have been reserved so we can shower and rest for the afternoon, pity it doesn't have a pool as it is an absolute scorcher today, so dry and hot!

Sadly we have to say goodbye to Husam as he is heading back to Amman but he promises that we have a guide who will help us with our ferry transfer tonight. He really has been amazing.

The wives and I head out for a walk we find this amazing street art as we explore, but it really is too hot to do much and when we discover a McDonald's (Yeah I know, but there really wasn't much else open) we head in for ice cream and air conditioning!

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Aqaba wall art!
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Adding color the city!
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Didn't see an Oryx in the desert!
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Oh we met them![i]

As soon as you walk outside the windless heat hits you full force, its like being inside an oven. We find our way back to the hotel and spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing.

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Greetings from...!

We have time for dinner before we leave Jordan and there is a lovely restaurant just down the road from the hotel, so we sit outside and enjoy the cool evening air.

It is dark when the mini bus arrives and the drive to the ferry port takes over an hour. The road takes us around the bay and the city lights sparkle on the surface of the Red Sea.

Once we arrive our driver takes us in and speaks to the customs official for us. He hands out our visa passes to leave Jordan and takes us to a room to relax, and assures us that someone will come and take us to the ferry.

It isn't easy to relax in this old and yeah I will be honest dingy terminal, as there are a lot of police and security, and we have just watched them bring a group of men thru the terminal in handcuffs... umm, ok!

Finally and official comes and signals for us to follow, foreigners are being boarded first.

One of the girls in the group takes it upon herself to boss us about telling us all to hurry up, she hasn't stopped complaining since we got here (she is taking her obvious nervousness out on the rest of us), and no one speaks to me like a child and my reply seems so shocking to her she soon shuts her mouth.

The walk to the ferry takes us thru a graveled container area, where trucks and cars are parked and dragging your bag is not an easy task, wish I had opted for back pack!

As we are making our way up the ramp I am cornered by little miss bossy who apparently didn't appreciate the way I spoke to her, I informed her that I don't appreciate being bossed about by like a child and she huffs and mutters something under her breathe (which I cannot repeat as the language is bit too colorful repeat) making those within earshot uncomfortable.

We load our bags onto a trolley and make our way up to the deck. The lounge if you can call it that isn't very clean and has seen better days. But there is a small shop to by snacks and drinks. The wives find a row of seats and try to make ourselves comfortable.

You can feel the ferry engines roar to life and we finally leave Jordan behind. Any thoughts I had of snoozing is not going to happen as the place is packed and the chatter is loud, I think our group has the only women on board, it does make us feel a little uncomfortable!

An official comes over and asks us to register at the customs window, so we line up and I am very uneasy about leaving my passport with them but I don't have a choice and I will admit I never take my eyes off that window until my passport is safely back in my hands!

Believe me when I say don't drink too much as you really don't want to use the toilets they are filthy and the men have no issues using the ladies toilet, to the pint that one of the officials has to ask them to leave so we can use it in private... Thank you!

The journey seems to take forever but we finally reach Egypt in the middle of the night, as we left Jordan later than scheduled.

The walk to the ferry terminal is quite a distance and some of us a sleep deprived, but the terminal is modern, clean, quiet and huge! We are led by a customs officer to register in and the process seems to go quite smoothly until we get our bags scanned and one of the young Canadian boys has a Swiss knife in his bag, and we have to wait while he is taken away and questioned, if it was me I would be a nervous wreck! At least the lounge is comfortable!

When he finally returns we are guided out of the terminal and Mohammad our guide for the next few weeks is here to greet us.

So after loading ourselves and our bags into the waiting minivans and a quick stop for water we head off to our Red Sea camp. The drive isn't long but it's past 1am by the time we get there.

All I know in my sleep deprived state is that the camp is on the beach and we are staying in these little thatched huts, Diana and I have to share a bed and I am really glad I have my sleeping bag with me...!

Posted by TracingTheWorld 20:49 Archived in Jordan

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