Toward the Gulf
Day 12, June 25 1998, Wadi Rum, Aqaba
We woke up in the desert. It had been a bad night for sleep, waking up frequently to reshuffle the sand and to wipe off the ants off my ears and face. The red Wadi Rum sand was everywhere, from underpants to sleeping bags. I may not have become one with the desert, but at least I was taking part of it with me in my baggage and body cavities.
The sun rose in what seemed minutes: the colors of the rock formations and the sand on the desert floor evolved from maroon to orange to white and beige right before our eyes. The desert is beautiful in the morning.
At 6.15 we started to walk the 8 km back to Rum, where we arrived just in time to catch the bus to Aqaba. But first we had to pick up our bags. The shop where we had left them was closed and lockup up. Oh dread! Luckily, the bus driver was willing to drive us to the shop owner's house. But he wasn't home. Oh dread! In a matter of minutes his closest relatives were mobilized and got hold of a key. However, when we arrived at the shop, the keys wouldn't fit. Oh dread! A family member of the shop owner brought relief by turning the key in a secret Bedouin way, and thus the door was open and we could retrieve our bags. We leapt on the bus, waved at Chris, and were on our way to Aqaba, the next tourist trap on our busy schedule.
The inhabitants of Aqaba are really wonderful people, but they do have a few personality quirks. The first is a predilection for winged creatures, especially when they produce noise, kitchen utensils and plants. This is probably the prime reason why we encountered many shops selling birds, kitchen utensils and plants. The animals are treated badly. A doves' wings are clipped and then fit into a cage with four others. Albino rabbits are put in cages they cannot turn around in and left in the full sun for an entire afternoon.
The second personality quirk is not exclusive to the citizens of Aqaba: it is a very hospitable need to welcome all visitors. A typical conversation with a Jordan citizen goes as follows:
Jordanian citizen: "Hello. Where you from?" Tourist: "Hello, I'm from Holland." Jordanian citizen: "Ah… Holland. Very nice. Welcome. Welcome to Jordan."
Any further attempts at conversation, however positive in intention, usually are blocked by the language barrier: their English is not good enough, and my Arabian is even worse than that. The fact that I have been in Jordan for almost two weeks does nothing to diminish their urge to welcome me still.
Anyway, when we arrived at Aqaba bus station, we were immediately besieged by taxi drivers who were inquiring as to what our destination was. Both Dennis and I, grumpy and tired because of the short night, fended off their questions. After reconvening and checking our luggage, we looked up the Petra hotel. It was just 5 minutes walking away, while one of the taxi drivers had offered to take us there for 1 JD ($1.28) !
At the hotel I washed a large amount of dirty clothes in the sink, took a shower and then fell fast asleep on the bed. It was eleven in the morning. When we woke in the afternoon, we decided to grab a sandwich at Al-Shami. Then I had to get some film for my APS camera. It is quite expensive, actually.
When it got late we decided to walk along the beach. I was amazed at how dirty they were. (During the whole day we were in Aqaba, we only saw two public trash cans!) This is unlikely to help increase tourism. For dinner we had some badly marinated Chicken Tikka at Tikka Chicken (where else?) followed by Arabic coffee before falling asleep again.
c l i c k
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