Day 83 of 111. Petra, Jordan
All I really knew of Petra before today was that it appeared in scenes of Indiana Jones movies. From the visitor’s center, we had to walk down a canyon for about 45 minutes. This canyon is called the Siq. You can choose to use a horse-drawn carriage instead of walking, but our guide, Abdullah, had interesting things to tell us about the Nabateans who established Petra as an important oasis along the trade routes. The Nabateans were very clever about managing and storing water… a vital skill in the desert. They were also skilled at carving buildings out of solid rock. The iconic building, the Treasury, is what you see when you first come out of the Siq. These buildings were actually tombs. The name Treasury came about because later explorers got it into their head that the urn at the top of the building was hiding an ancient treasure (it is not). There are bullet holes that showed how people tried to shoot the urn.
This is a major tourist attraction and so there are opportunities to ride camels, tons of trinkets (or Bedouin scarves) to purchase, and you can even have lunch around the corner from the treasury. There are many other tombs to see and there is an amphitheater built into the rock wall. If you want to climb 800 more steps, there is a monastery (no, thank you).
Abdullah showed us a coin that was found in Petra. It shows an ancient king and queen and is very old. At lunch, we had Coke Light… which look really cool in Arabic. We also visited the Indiana Jones Supermarket on the way back to the bus. This was another amazing visit. I’m glad I am writing down a few of my thoughts because I really want to remember/relive these travels.
Day 83, Wadi Musa, Jordan
About an hour outside of Aqaba, we saw our first Bedouin tent. Bedouins still live a nomadic way of life and are allowed to move anywhere in Jordan and surrounding countries (with permission). Their tents are made of goat hair cloth. The number of peaks in their tent indicate their wealth with three to four peaks being moderate. This usually means they own about 20 – 30 goats/sheep and about five camels. They also communicate with each other or mark their territory by stacking stones.
Day 77 of 111. Nakhl, Oman
We visited two popular tourist spots in Oman: the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and Nakhl Fort.
The first stop was the Mosque in the city of Muscat which was a gift to the City/Country by the Sultan and the only Mosque open for visitors. I can’t tell you in words how beautiful this is with the tall teak wood doors and intricate designs everywhere. The carpet in the main prayer hall was woven in one solid piece. The chandeliers are huge and entirely made of Swarovski crystals! The way they sparkled was breathtaking and the photo simply does not do it justice. We were required to remove our shoes during our tour. As this is an Islamic country, women needed to have their head covered as well as their arms and legs. Both sexes needed to cover any tattoos before they were allowed to enter. The site is not only a place of worship but a religious school and library. Our guide “Al” showed us the proper way of washing before entering for prayers.
Our second stop (about one hour outside of Muscat) was at the Nakhl oasis. This is the location of a fort that was used in the past to guard the trade route that came through the area. One of a rooms was used to store dates from the local trees. They served as food for the garrison but the sap that was generated by the dates while in storage was collected in jars, heated to boiling, and used as a weapon against in attackers.
While on the way to Nakhl we passed by the Sultan’s camel farm. He raises camels for racing. The race track is located just behind his farm. Betting is not allowed on the races as this is an “honor” to win.
Day 77 of 111. Muscat, Oman
Today we visited Muscat, Oman. The Sultan was in town, but not at the palace. The blue and gold palace is like our White House where State functions occur but it is not a residence. The Sultan lives elsewhere in town. The Sultan’s Coat of Arms are crossed swords with a dagger. We thought that he might invite us to tea or least a ride on the yacht, but no such luck.
The main tourist item being sold at the ‘Souk’ (marketplace) is Frankincense for which Oman is famous. It is collected in the local mountains. The town is proud of this as evidenced by the giant white incense burner in the hills coming into town.
After we leave Oman, we’re headed to Aqabah, Jordan. To get there we need to pass through pirate-infested waters. The Captain is ready as evidenced by the razor wire installed on the promenade deck. We also have high pressure water hoses and four LRADs (Long Range Acoustic Devices) rigged, manned, and ready for immediate use. Cross your fingers!
We also had a ‘Sari’ night on the ship so the ladies could show off the Saris that they bought while we were in India. The staff in the dining room was dressed in appropriate attire to complete the evening.
As with every other place we visited, we saw McDonalds and even KFC. I didn’t see any Starbucks here. Oman is known for its coffee that is made from roasted date seeds. I don’t think Starbucks carries this yet.
Day 76 of 111. Sea Day in the Arabian Sea
The sea days are really a welcome change from visiting cities. The overland trip to the Taj Mahal was wonderful and amazing but also exhausting. We also enjoyed the trip to see the Elephanta Caves, but this meant traveling and visiting for several days at a time. The chance to attend watercolor class and another hands-on cooking class (as well as lots of naps) was needed. The cooking class was with guest chef, Paulette Mitchell. She is an expert in Indian cuisine and we started with a mango lassi (a yogurt and fruit smoothie that really helps tone down spicy dishes. There was interesting and tasty watermelon curry, a vegetable dish, spice rubbed fish, and a dessert made with yogurt, sugar, condensed milk, saffron and topped with chopped pistachios. Each dish was really tasty. My art project was a simple sketch of two camels. The technique was a background of paint made interesting with the use of a shower cap.