A Travellerspoint blog

Aqaba, Jordan - Monday, 1 April 2019

Visit the Lost City of Petra

overcast 6 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047

This morning we docked at Aqaba which is Jordan's only seaport, located in the southernmost tip of Jordan on the Red Sea. Aqaba is a blend of sun, sea and mountains that provides a unique backdrop with a pleasant year-round climate, except today it is expected to be 6 degrees max. At least that is better than yesterday, when it rained all day. Today we are going ashore to visit the Lost City of Petra, famously described as "the Rose-Red City half as old as time". It is an UNESCO world heritage site and we are so excited to finally be visiting Petra.

The mysterious city of the Nabateans, Petra, is so securely concealed by the craggy encircling mountains that it was once "lost" for 1,000 years and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. From this natural fortress, the Nabateans commanded the trade routes from Arabia and the East, until the Romans conquered them in 106 AD.

On arrival, we walked to the entrance of the Siq - a very narrow, twisting pathway between towering sandstone and rainbow coloured cliffs. The towering walls created an artificial gloom until we emerged into the blinding light and there was the Treasury - out first glimpse of the Rose-Red City.

The Treasury is the most famous and outstanding of all the monuments. Its Pediment, Rotunda and Corinthian pillars are all carved from the solid rock and it is in a marvelous state of preservation. We entered the Outer Siq, passing the Street of the Facades before we arrived at the Nabatean Theatre. There are tombs everywhere because they were cut into the rock, whereas the temples and public buildings are free standing and destroyed by earthquakes.

Petra is surrounded by stunning mountains and as we approached the main Colannaded Street, we passed some fascinating tombs - The Urn, The Corinthian, and The Palace Tomb, known collectively at the Royal Tombs. The Palace Tomb is one of the largest, representing a three storey imitation of a Roman Palace.

The partly restored Qasr al-Bint is the only freestanding structure in Petra and is thought to have been the main place of worship in the city.

We were up bright and early and watched QM2 come alongside in Aqaba. It is quite cool which will make it easier to don heavier, warmer clothing for our trip to Petra where it is supposed to be only 6 degrees.

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Aqaba is called the White City and the local authorities have asked/told people to build white houses and make them shiney!

Our breakfast arrived at 7, and I had forgotten to order my oatmeal. Duh! Joel, our butler, went and got me some.

There were about 1500 people going to Petra today and others going to other shore excursions and the QM2 staff are so competent in getting all the groups sorted and onto their correct transport with a minimum of fuss in a very short time.

Our drive to Petra took about two hours, with a toilet/shopping opportunity stop along the way. The ladies toilet was smelly, had no seat or toilet paper and wouldn't flush! That's about par for the course in these parts! Phil and I were last on the bus and couldn't sit together but after the first stop, we swapped with a young man. I was quite happy sitting next to a nice lady from the States who didn't lean all over me like Phil does!

The mountains are colossal - high and stark. There is no vegetation anywhere, just rocks and rocks and more rocks. It is very, very dry and dusty and they need rain, a lot of it. In fact, I was quite surprised to hear our guide say that the next war in the Middle East will be over water. My boss's sentiments exactly!

You get a biblical sense while driving along. Jordan reminds me a lot of the pictures in our Sunday School books. Miles and miles of barren, rocky plains, with the odd bedouin tent and shepherds attending flocks of goats. It is dry, barren and desolate. I almost expected Jesus and his disciples to pop up around the next corner!

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When we arrived af Petra, there were a million buses there already. People everywhere.

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It is not known exactly when Petra was built, but the city began to prosper as the capital of the Nabataean Empire from the 1st century BC, which grew rich through trade in frankincense, myrrh and spices. Petra was later annexed to the Roman Empire and continued to thrive until a large earthquake in 363 AD destroyed much of the city. By the middle of the 7th century, Petra appears to have been largely deserted and it was then lost ot all except local bedouins from the area.

In 1812, a Swiss explorer named Johannes Burckhardt set out to rediscover Petra. He dressed up as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to take him to the lost city. After this, Petra became increasingly known in the west as a fascinating and beautiful ancient city.

Petra is also known as the Rose Red City, a name it gets from the wonderful colour of the rock from which many of the city's structures are carved.

The Nabataeans buried their dead in intricate tombs that were cut out of the mountain sides and the city also had temples, a theatre, a colonnaded street and churches.

We walked for miles and miles and miles today - in fact it was about 6 miles over undulating terrain. Some cobble stones, cement and sand. Of course it was all down hill into Petra and then we had to walk all the way back up! Pony rides into and out of Petra were included in our ticket, but Cunnard advised against this because if we fell off and got hurt, the pony people don't have insurance, but we have travel insurance, so what's the issue?

We had to keep ducking out of the way of the horses and the horse drawn carts.

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In fact, the walk back up to the hotel for lunch was quite taxing, and I would have loved to have ridden a horse, but Phil said no.

Petra is really a very special place.

This is the Obelisk Tomb, carved by the Nabataeans in the 1st century AD. Above the tomb are four pyramids and a niche with a statue in bas relief that symbolizes the five people buried there. Below is the Triclinium, a banqueting hall, where the body lies in state before it is buried.

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This is a water storage tank built by the Nabataeans to divert the flash floods of Wadi Musa from the Siq to Wadi Al Mudhlim and Wadi Al Mataha. A tunnel, which is 88m in length, was cut in the rock for this purpose. The Nabataeans were masters in hydrological engineering.

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The Siq is a narrow gorge that leads into Petra. The Siq resulted from a natural splitting of the mountain and it is 1.2 km long. Two water channels run along both rock sides, one contains fresh water for drinking and the other for normal use.

Walking through the Siq, gives you the feeling that something wonderful is about to happen, and of course, it is.

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We finally rounded a corner and peeping through the rocks is The Treasury. What a magnificent sight. It is almost 40 metres high and intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, figures and more. The Treasury is crowned by a funerary urn, which according to local legend conceals a pharaoh's treasure. The Treasury was probably constructed in the 1st century BC.

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There were people everywhere - camels, horses and horse drawn carts.

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We then left our group and continued on alone to the amphitheatre. This is carved into the side of the mountain at the foot of the High Place of Sacrifice. It consists of three rows of seats separated by passageways. Seven stairways ascend the auditorium and it can accommodate 4000 spectators. The back wall of the stage was rebuilt by the Romans. This is the only theatre in the world carved into the rock.

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After our mammoth walk back up to the top, we had a buffet lunch at the Movenpick hotel. It was very nice and the best thing was that I could go onto Facebook and download some photos of our trip so far. Couldn't get on to email or travellerspoint - not sure why. But at least my Facebook friends know that I am still alive!

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There she is - home sweet home!

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When we arrived back at the ship, there were hundreds of people standing on the wharf. I thought there had been a "clear lower deck" but no, the QM2 staff were standing on the wharf, welcoming us back with champagne. Very classy.

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We have decided not to go to dress up dinner tonight but instead to have room service, a bubble bath and early to bed. It has been a very long (10 1/2 hour) day but totally enjoyable. Two days of sailing relaxation as we head through the Suez Canal. This will be very interesting.

Now having a G&T on the balcony, waiting for our dinner.

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I have a bit of a sniffle, but I think it is rhinitis from the dust. It is everywhere.

I am sitting on our balcony, typing my blog and the call to prayer has started. It is really quite beautiful, even for an aetheist like me.

Room service took a long time to come because everyone else had the same idea.

I then started to watch Calendar Girls on TV and finally got to bed later than I wanted to because it is such a good movie, I couldn't stop watching it.

It has been a very long but totally enjoyable day.

Posted by gaddingabout 10:40 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

At Sea - Sunday, 31 March 2019

overcast 16 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047
We did a very silly thing last night. We we came back to our cabin after the show, our Daily Program for today was on our bed. I read it and it said to put your clocks back one hour, which we did, but we are supposed to do it tonight and not last night! We almost missed breakfast! Silly, silly.

It is a lot cooler today and a very, very strong wind blowing. I did five laps of the ship and almost got blown away. Hardly anyone sitting in the deck chairs today. The weather for Aqaba is 19 degrees at the port but 6 degrees at Petra. That's cold.

The sea is a lot more choppy today too but in a huge ship like you, you can't feel a thing.

We spent all day in the cabin being very lazy. I cleared thousands of emails from my phone.

Before dinner we went to a show by Pete Cutler. He was a great talent - singing, tap dancing, pianist and had just come from two years with the London cast of Les Miserables. Finally, we have seen a great show on this ship.

For dinner, the chef made our table Peking Duck and it was delicious. Nothing is too much trouble for them. We just ask for something and it appears.

After dinner, our waiter Loncey from Mumbai told us he was going home tomorrow because his father has had a stroke. He is very sad and we are sad to see him go. He is a very nice person.

We have put our clocks back TONIGHT!

Posted by gaddingabout 09:42 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

At Sea - Saturday, 30 March 2019

sunny 30 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047
Gala Evening
During the early hours of this morning, we entered the Red Sea and are now technically out of the "pirate infested waters". On the left hand side is Eritrea and on the right is Yemen.

Now we can have our cabin curtains open at night and the decks will be open and lit again. I couldn't understand why we had to go to such lengths to become invisible to the pirates. Surely any self respecting pirate would be able to spot a ship as huge as the Queen Mary!

Question - what colour is the Red Sea?
Answer - red. (all due to the plankton that turns red when the sea temperature gets very hot, then the fish come along and eat it and the status quo is returned - nice, blue sea)

Today a week ago, we flew out of Sydney to Dubai. It seems ages ago!

After breakfast, I went for a walk around the deck and kept bumping into Robin and stopping to talk. So after only four laps, I decided to have a swim. I went in the Minnow Pool on Deck 6 but a lady pointed out a deeper pool to me a couple of decks up, so I'll try that one this afternoon. It never ceases to amaze me the number of "bright white" English people, who lie in the sun and get redder and redder as their skin burns. Haven't they heard of Melanoma - the biggest killer of Australians? But I have to admit that the Northern Hemisphere sun is a lot kinder than ours in Australia.

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It is much hotter today - 30 degrees. How it is going to drop to 6 degrees in Petra, I just can't imagine.

Around mid afternoon, a speed boat arrived to take onboard the soldiers/marines and their weapons who had been onboard the QM2 to protect us from any pirate threat. It was all quite exciting.

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The Cunard crockery is by Wedgwood and the glassware is Waterford. Lovely.

Spent a relaxing afternoon in the cabin and on the balcony, reading and dozing. Time for a G&T then dressed for dinner. It was a gala evening, so guys in dinner suits and ladies in equivalent attire. The table next to us had suckling pig and we have ordered one for next week and invited two others to join us.

The maitre de made us all crepe suzettes for dessert. Yummy.

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After dinner we went to the Rhythm of the Night show. Singers and dancers. It was pretty good but Chris said that the shows this time aren't as good as other cruises. But it was a nice way to end the evening.

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Now that the pirate threat has gone, we were able to walk along the deck at night.

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Posted by gaddingabout 03:30 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

At Sea - Friday, 29 March 2019

sunny 26 °C
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Queens Suite - Deck 9 - Cabin 9047
A sea day, sailing to Aqaba.

Set the alarm for 7am. Don't know why because we went back to sleep until 8ish and then went to breakfast and chatted at length with Robin and Chris.

It's going to be a lazy day today as there is not much on the program that I want to see, except the Big Band performance after dinner tonight.

I am trying to find the energy to walk around 7 deck a few times.

I noticed last night that I had lost a diamond off the front of my evening shoes and miraculously found it on the floor this morning. Unfortunately I didn't bring a tube of SupaGlue with me, as I usually do, so I will have to keep the diamond safe until I get home.

It is exactly one week since we left home. It feels like ages, but in a very good way. People lined up all along the deck taking in the sun. These are the people from the cabins that don't have a balcony.

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I went for a walk around 7 deck this morning. Five times around - 5 1/2 kilometres. It felt good. Then we went to lunch and I chose a Coronation Chicken Baget which wasn't so good. Coronation Chicken is what the people ate at their street parties in the UK after the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. It is chicken in a light curry sauce with raisins. I had one in Scotland once. It was nothing like that and was pretty awful. The worst meal I have had on this ship. Every other meal has been outstanding!

We watched the movie "Crazy Rich Asians" this afternoon in our cabin. It is a bit of a chick flick but it was entertaining enough.

Before dinner we went to a ventriloquist's show. He was quite funny and a very good ventriloquist. He actually had come fourth in Britain's Got Talent.

For dinner tonight we had Chateau Briand specially made for us. It was delicious. The quality of the food in the Queen's Grill is outstanding.

Posted by gaddingabout 03:13 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

Camelford, Cornwall - Monday, 15 April 2019

It's freezing and blowing a gale!

overcast 6 °C
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Bowood Park Hotel, Camelford - Room No 121

The forecast for today is not good - rainy, windy and cold. Jean and Andrew are picking us up this morning and we are going sight seeing. Not sure where yet. This is a view of Andrew's blueberries.

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We drove to Andrew's cousin's farm, Peter and Wendy Button. They have dairy cows. The wind is freezing.

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We then visited a couple of local cemeteries, and found a couple of Button graves, that help complete the jigsaw puzzle. I'm not sure what the name of the villages were because they merge into each other.

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We went to a slightly larger town called Wadebridge and Phil went shopping for some new trousers and ended up buying a shirt. We then had lunch in the most atmospheric little place, with millions and millions of clocks on the wall. It was warm and cozy, just the thing to get out of that wind.

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This is Tredinnik Farm, another farm that Andrew works, but it is separated from the home farm.

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We drove to Fowey to visit Andrew's sister Ann, who is married to Jim. They live in a lovely house on top of a hill and have a view of the ocean, on a clear day. Not today! When we left their home, it was sleeting slightly.

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Ann had prepared a lovely afternoon tea of scones, jam and cream and fruit cake. She was very interested in the Button family history and Phil took notes about their family history and will probably write an Addendum to his book.

We had afternoon tea in a lovely all glass sun room which was lovely, even on a bleak, windy, rainy day.

On the drive home, we came across this unique bridge, but the council have recently narrowed the entrance to the bridge because too many large vehicles were crashing into the bridge and damaging it. There is not much space on either side for a normal car to get through, but ambulances and fire engines have to go the long way round. Crazy!

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Just for old times sake, we called into the Blisland Inn for a drink and decided to stay for dinner. By this time, I am feeling decidely unwell, due to motion sickness, due to sitting in the back of the car and whizzing along narrow, curly Cornish lanes. My fault. I should have taken a tablet before we set off and I would have been fine. Won't let that happen again.

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Posted by gaddingabout 02:20 Archived in England Comments (0)

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