At midnight our driver, Muhammad, picked us up. We started our 5+ hour car ride to get to Taba, a city in northern Egypt that lies on the Red Sea and is nestled in the Sinai mountain chain. From Taba we were scheduled to take a boat across the sea to Jordan, then a bus ride to Petra. We arrived around 6 am, early for our 7 am crossing. The crossing, however, was on Egypt time, which meant that our passports weren’t checked until nearly 8:00. When we finally thought it was time to go we were told by our tour organizer that there was a problem. He said that Jordan wasn’t excepting people of our age today- we were too young and would have to wait until tomorrow- WTF?! First of all this made no sense and secondly if they organized tours they would have know this before hand, as they had received copies of our passports 4 or 5 days earlier. L. and I sat wondering what was going on and what we were going to do when AY. called. He said that the tour company would pay for a hotel and our meals and to only give them the $200 for the tour and 750EP for the cab ride to and from Cairo. We were put out, but after a night of car sleeping a hotel didn’t sound too bad.
At this point it was nearly 9:30. Muhammad began to drive us to our hotel when the tour operator called and said the Jordanian government gave us permission to make the trip. We were rushed through customs and put on a boat with a bunch of Italians. L. and I were trying to make the most of it, as we had already lost hours off of our visit to Petra and the dead sea was totally out of the question now. The crossing took about an hour. It was pretty cool because if you looked north you could see Israel, if you looked ahead you could see Jordan, and if you turned your head to the right you could see Saudi Arabia.
When we arrived in Jordan we were ushered onto a bus. The tour guide said, “You will be on a Czech tour, do you speak Czech?” NO. He said, “Okay so you can sleep on the bus ride.” Thanks but, I didn’t come to Jordan and pay all of this money so that I could sleep through explanations of what were seeing out the window. The part of Jordan we saw was all desert, which rose into mountains. The houses look very similar to those we saw in Central America- small, concrete structures that look unfinished. After a two-hour bus ride we were in Petra.
We got our tickets to enter the site. Our guide, who spoke English, told us he could not break from the Czech tour group (they had their own guide). Because we had limited time from the visa mishap and because Petra is such a large place we decided to walk through the ancient city on our own. Before you enter the city you have to walk a few kilometers through a canyon. The canyon walls are beautiful, made up of red, orange, brown, and white swirls. You keep wondering around which bend the famous treasury building will appear. And then, there it was. It peaks through a crack in the canyon before it comes into full view. It’s amazing to think that this spectacular building was carved from the face of the canyon.
After spending some time looking at the treasury we walked on to explore the rest of the city. All of the buildings were carved out of the stone and they are everywhere. As you walk further you come to the Roman amphitheater, created first by the Nebetians and then expanded upon when the Romans came. The theater looked like an optical illusion with the way that the coloration in the stones swirled. The ampitheater can sit 3000 people. The last grand structure that we saw was the church, which was just as stunning as the treasury.
With an hour to go we walked back to the visitors center where we caught our Czech bus to start our trip back to Egypt. Before returning to the ship we stopped at the Marriot to have a buffet style dinner. The Czechs ate their food very quickly and it was only L. and I left at the table. I felt a bit like a piggy.
Back on the bus we made two more stops, one at a shop, and another in the “tax-free” shopping district. This region of the world feels much like being at Disney World. At the end of each attraction your lead out into a shop or souq. Later we found out that the reason we stopped in the shopping district was to purchase their famous nuts. We did not buy anything.
When we reached the ship the man that arranged our tour said, “You have to hurry, you are late. The boat would have left without you if I wasn’t here.” We gave him our passports and ran to the boat. We couldn’t get on however until we got our passports back. The ship operators said, “You’re late. What were you doing? We were waiting for you.” WTF?! We thought, they must be taking the piss. First of all you forgot to get our visas, you made us wait hours at the marina, you put us on a Czech speaking tour, arranged that we would go back on the same bus, and now you are making it like you’re doing some big favor for us by waiting, like we had control over what the bus did? At this point we were totally fed up.
When we got back to the marina, it actually got worse. Our guide told us the price was actually $200 EACH. One of the wonderful things about Egypt is that nothing is as you are first lead to believe. I can tell you that our day in Petra was not worth the $550 we spent. And by the way don’t ever book a trip with Midland Travel & Tours.