Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom

The Seven Pillars of Wisdom is a large rock formation that named after Thomas Edward (TE) Lawrence, also named Lawrence of Arabia's book. It's located just beside the main road to Wadi Rum, just south of junction to Diseh. Whether you're on a tour package or not, or with a guide or not, usually you won't be brought to Seven Pillars of Wisdom or even stop by the main road to have a look on it. The logic is that the attraction is easy to reach and see.

So keep a look up when boarding the jeep from the Desert Highway to Wadi Rum village. As we sat behind the pick-ups, so I had no way to ask the jeep driver to stop for a while when we passed through the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, but it's good enough by just viewing from the moving jeep. Or else you may need to pay additional charge to visit it from Wadi Rum.

Rum Intersection at Rashdiya

The taxi driver kept promoting his tour guide, and he even took out his mobile phone (yes, mobile phone on desert highway, Jordan is not undeveloped after all) to call the tour guide to discuss about the price (and may be, who knows, since he was talking in Arab language, asked for his rewards).

I had actually made a booking with Attayak Ali which recommended by Ruth's Jordan Jubilee. We opted for "A Day with the Bedouin" with overnight in desert, and visits in 4x4. It would costed us 25 JD per person if 3 person in a group or less, or 20 JD is more than 3 person. (Price has since increase - 40 JD per person for up to 2 person, 35 JD for 3 and 30 JD per person for 4 person and above).

So when the taxi driver told us the price is about 20 JD for about the same itinerary in Wadi Rum, I was still thinking it's a steal. So we ended up agreed to join the tour instead of the originally we booked. It turned out to be one of the worst we made during our whole trip in Egypt and Jordan.

The famous Rum Intersection that leads to Wadi Rum from Desert Highway at Rashdiya, with our taxi driver and his taxi.

As expected, our taxi driver dropped us at the intersection to Rum Village from Desert Highways instead of Rum Village itself. At this point, I don't think we had much choice except to join the tour guide that our taxi driver contacted. To add salt to the grain, the tour guide kept chasing us to board the pick-up without much desire to negotiate with us.

We were later taken directly to the tour guide, Mohammed's house without going through Wadi Rum's Visitors Center. But according to Lonely Planet Jordan guide book, you will be able to arrange a guide at the visitors centre based on the next available guide on the roster there.

Bus and Taxi to Wadi Rum

4 of us who decided to go to Wadi Rum, that's Wei Heng, me, Tim and Chris woke up early in the morning to catch the bus to Wadi Rum.Actually we weren't so early, it was already about after 7 am. I rushed to main bus/minibus station at Ar-Reem Street, which is just a walking distance from Petra Hotel. To my surprise, there was hardly any bus in sight. What greeted me instead was few people that directed me to taxi. I tried to ask for the bus to Wadi Rum, but everybody there seems didn't know or uncertain about it. Finally a taxi drive came to me and offered to drive us to Wadi Rum for JOD 10 per taxi.

The fare was quite a bargain, Tim and I both thought so. So we happily departed in his taxi. And as you expected, but to our surprise at that time, the taxi driver started to promote his tour guides in Wadi Rum halfway into the highway.

The six lane wide Desert Highway, a surprise to me that thought such a good highway won't exists in Middle East.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Street View of Aqaba

Along King Hussein St (Corniche), which runs more or less north-south along the coast through the centre of the town, and follows the Gulf of Aqaba around to the west as far as Israel and the Palestinian Territories, and to the south as far as Saudi Arabia.

At central Aqaba

A Night In Aqaba

Aqaba, is just a gulf (Guft of Aqaba) from Eilat of Israel. The night view was superb. Actually, Taba of Egypt is just further down.

At a square in Aqaba, along the King Hussein Street (Corniche), the main street in Aqaba.

A corner of Aqaba Castle (Mamluk Fort), built firstly by the Crusaders in the 13th century, then by Mamluks during the reign of Sultan Qansur al-Ghuri (1510-1517). It was renovated and enlarged by the Otoomans in 1587 and 1628.

Entrance to the Aqaba Castle. We reached there at night, so it's closed. Just beside the fort was Aqaba Museum and visitor's centre.