Saturday, May 29, 2010

Across the Red Sea into Jordan

The ferry from Nuweiba Egypt to Aqaba Jordan is renowned for being unpredictable. It is notoriously late and sea conditions can lead to a rough sail. Leading up to the ferry ride, one Arabic phrase we learned really sets the stage. “Inshallah”, meaning God willing or As God wills. In context you'd say, "We will take the ferry to Jordan at 2:30, Inshalah."

However, we did have an ace in the hole so to say. If we weren't staying at our beach camp we would have needed to show up 45 minutes before the ferry was "scheduled" to depart and possibly wait around for hours. The advantage was that we could see the ferry from the beach camp and were able to sit on the beach and relax until the ferry cruised by at its leisure. As expected it was late but finally it made an appearance so we jumped in to the van and raced it down to the port.

We were ushered into a big warehouse to wait until the ferry was ready for boarding. This was not a nice place so we were anxious for a swift departure. Sitting on wood slat park benches that have seen better days, we were treated with a storm of flies buzzing around the patch sunlight streaming through the windows. Random cats, stinky trash cans and dodgy people only added to the scene. Asking around it was quickly evident that no one knew when the ferry would actually depart, only that it would leave sometime that afternoon. As we've seen before in Africa, Inshallah rules supreme.

Fortunately, an hour later we set sail for Jordan. It was smooth sailing across the Red Sea, enough so that we took a good nap (although the Dramamine we took to ward off possible sea sickness might have induced the nap!). After an easy exit and rendezvous with our new Jordanian tour leader we dropped our bags and headed for a kebab dinner take away style.

For dessert we strolled down the street to a great local bakery. Throughout our time in Jordan we found the bakeries amazing. Extremely clean with fresh cooked bread and traditional sweets at all hours of the day, they were an easy source for an interesting snack. This particular shop gave us some well-timed samples that helped their bottom line because we all took away bags of yummy treats. Our favorite was a variation of baklava because it reminded us of coffee cake with its good nutty flavor and hint of cinnamon. Afterwards, the owner treated us to the Jordanian coffee ritual that has its own etiquette and goes like this:

The shop owner has a thermos of homemade coffee in one hand and a small cup, no handle, the perfect size one big gulp. He hands you the cup, fills it full of coffee then waits for you to drink it. When you go to hand the cup back you have two options. First, the normal response where you hand the cup straight back. If you do this you are unexpectedly rewarded with a refill because he doesn’t take the cup but just fills it back up. You are free to drink and repeat as many times as wish, although three rounds is customary. The second option is to shake the cup from side to side as you hand it back which means you don’t want any more. You politely reply “Shukran” – thank you, and he moves on to the next patron. One note for the germophobes out there, the cup is communal so everybody drinks from the same cup. Weird I know, but the coffee was great and the experience was even better.

After our enlightening (and delicious!) local experience we all headed to bed.

Tomorrow, Wadi Rum!

No comments:

Post a Comment