The Nuweiba debacle and the footprints of Lawrence

Trip Start Oct 30, 2005
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Trip End Jun 19, 2006


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Thursday, April 20, 2006

After a languorous week in the sun and sea, it was hard to uproot myself from Egyptian soil, and move on from Dahab, but it had to be done and so I found myself, early one morning, at the Dahab bus station, still rubbing the sleep from my eyes. There was a fast ferry out of Nuweiba at 12:30, bound for the port of Aqaba in Jordan, and I was determined to be on it.

What a hopeful fool was I.

From the moment the bus set off 30 minutes late, I had a feeling that I was going to be one of those travel days, an A-to-B day which looks simple and straight-forward in principle but ends up being anything but.
We got to Nuweiba at 12:20, and 5 of us Westerners duly grabbed our packs and hastened off to the ferry ticket office, all set on getting on the fast ferry which as far as we all knew, was leaving in TEN minutes! Myself, Steve from Colorado, and 3 Canadians from Calgary bought out US$50 tickets for the fast ferry and hauled ass to the terminal.

By two o'clock we were still sitting there, when finally the buses came to deliver us to the ferry. By four o'clock, we were well and truly on board (and had been for hours) but the ferry was still sitting at port. By the time we'd crossed the short expanse to Aqaba it was 5:30, and people were getting a little edgy. Unbelievably, we then sat in port for another hour before finally setting foot in Jordan. Fast ferry, my ass.
Ah well, these are the things that happen when you travel. It's just a case of taking the bad with the good, shrugging it off with a resigned "In sha 'Allah", and making the most of it.

The upshot was that after all that transit time, I'd gotten to know Steve and the Canadians pretty well, and it transpired that we were all heading the same way. And so, vastly relieved to be on dry land, and having escaped the clutches of Jordanian immigration, we piled into the nearest cab, and tore off into the night-clad desert towards Wadi Rum.

One of the jewels in the crown of Jordan, Wadi Rum is an extraordinary landscape sculptured of sand and stone. Made famous by the exploits of TE Lawrence, who helped launch the Arab Revolt here in the early 20th century that drove the Ottoman Turks out of Jordan, Wadi Rum presents a stunning vista to any traveller lucky enough to venture this way. On the surface, forbidding and desolate, it is a majestic desert environment of soaring rugged jebels (hills) and rainbow sands. There are cool springs to be found (if you know where to look), dazzling sunsets to ease your aches and pains after a long hot day, and the ubiquitous Bedouin tents with their beckoning shade and a rejuvenating cup of mint & cinnamon tea.

I lay on the cool desert sands that night, with sheesha smoke curling from my mouth into the air like calligraphy, sipping sweet tea. The sky was riddled with stars and galaxies, abundant and clear this far from any light pollution. It was the first time I'd been able to enjoy a sky with such clarity in months, and so I lay there for countless minutes, relaxing, as Orion roamed across the sky, and I made up new names for all the constellations I had forgotten. It was wonderful, and I would've happily lain there all night, if a swarm of vicious enormous desert ants hadn't starting taking chunks out of my legs!!

Hehe. Even in paradise eh?
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