Crossing into Jordan from Egypt requires crossing the Red Sea, from Nuweiba to Aqaba.
The trip to Jordan by ferry is not exciting. The best tip I can give is have either lots of reading material, movies or music loaded on your i-pad/pod/phone or prepare to sleep. (Apparently hang-overs from a big last night in Egypt help considerably in this department!).
There is a lot of waiting – in the terminal and on the ferry before it leaves. The fast hydrofoil (about 50 minutes from Nuweiba to Aqaba) works three weeks in every 15 – and requires maintenance the rest of the time. The slow ferry used as a back up takes about 4 hours.
Maybe it was due to our extraordinarily good luck getting from Cairo to the Red Sea, or maybe it was because Ahmed was our good luck charm and we were sadly leaving him – onto new countries and new guides. Either way, our good fortune had run out….
The slow ferry was waiting for us…
Stepping on to Jordan soil, the difference is immediately noticeable. Everything is cleaner, in better condition, and more orderly. Jordanians seem wryly amused that anyone would even want to visit Egypt. Jordan has few export options to contribute to their economy. According to Aziz, our new guide, the country’s wealth has amassed on the basis of its small population (around 6 milion) that’s educated and highly business focused. Aqaba, is the only port for the landlocked country and it’s something of a tax free zone. It’s a good place to stock up on supplies for the next few days travel. Water, chips, chocolate – all staples for cross country mini bus trips. If we’re lucky we can find some decent fruit.
It’s also a good place to buy alcohol – which is either not available or very expensive at any of the places we stay. Like Egypt and Morocco serving alcohol in establishments in sight of a mosque is illegal. Aqaba is Jordan’s “resort” town, with a plethora of hotels and rich, middle-aged Jordanian holiday makers. Several public beaches are crowded by early morning.Hawkers rent out overpriced beach chairs, li-lows, and trips in glass bottom boats. The snorkling and diving is reputed to be some of the most spectacular in the Sea.
For those stuck seeing the sights on land, there is the old castle. Originally built by the Crusaders, the Mamluks expanded it in the 16th century and the Ottomans held it until the British all but destroyed it in WWI bombing. Mostly Aqaba is just the entry point for tourists coming into Jordan, usually on route to see much more grandiose monuments and sites such as the extensive Roman ruins at Jerash, the ever-changing desert sands of Wadi Rum and of course the spectacular Treasury and Monastery buildings at Petra.