02 January 2011

2011; A New Year and a Old Treasure

I’m fed up to here with the cold, so we decided to drive down to Aqaba to spend New Year’s Eve and Day. It was a gorgeous trip! We had rain on the way down, but it was moving north to Amman (thank God!!) and by the time we arrived the rain was finished and the magnificent blue sky was populated with puffy white clouds. It was the kind of day that made me so happy to be alive in this place at this time! We watched as the sun peeked over the mountains before deciding to come out for the day to light the mountains across the Red Sea in Egypt. There was a brisk, warm breeze carrying the smells of falafel and foul being cooked, bbq fires burning and the ever present fragrance of horse manure…
First stop was the souq. We wandered amongst the stalls giving hope to the hawkers and then dashing it to bits on the pavement when we left empty-handed. The last stop was a gallery selling housewares where we bought half dozen nice wine glasses to use at midnight to bring in the new year with mimosas.

Today (New Year Day) Osama and Ayoub went out on the fishing boat for a few hours whilst Zeek and I wandered through the ruins of al ‘Aqaba Castle. The castle is still under excavation, but we saw a great deal of it. Parts have been restored, but all in all it’s rather a sad relic. It’s apparent from the empty vodka bottles that for a few it’s a place to drink in secret. There are still so many artifacts lying about on the ground when they should be catalogued and put inside the little museum we toured.  The one thing I saw, though that really frosted me most was a sewer pipe run through this ancient castle! I’m astonished that the city powers thought no more of an ancient historical treasure than to break through its ramparts and turn their sewage through it! What were they thinking??

al ‘Aqaba Castle was built in the early 15th century as shown in the inscription just inside the main entrance. It was renovated in 1587 CE during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Murad ibn Selim Khan and again in 1628 CE. It was inhabited throughout the Ottoman period. The castle was partially destroyed by the shelling of British ships during the First World War. Following the victory of  the Great Arab Revolt in 1917 the Hashemite coat of arms was hoisted above the entrance under the direction of Prince Faisal ibn al-Hussein.

The museum is housed in the historical residence of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, the leader of the Great Arab Revolt and great grandfather of Abdullah II, the present King of Jordan. He lived here for six years after the war.

Inside the museum are important pieces from the Islamic site of Ayla (Aqaba) with items that date to the Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid periods. It represents the Islamic periods from mid-7th to beginning 12th century CE. Also on exhibit are foreign pottery and coins left by ancient traders.

I wish for all of you a very Happy, healthy and promising New Year!

Remnants of rain just after sunrise

Just after sunrise on King's Highway

Sun just beginning to shine of Egypt

The seawall is beginning to crumble 
Fishing Boat, Red Sea

Mountains of Egypt's coast

Cruise liner moored. The smaller boat is the fast ferry to Egypt

Mountains behind Aqaba

This man took a great deal of interest in Osama's fishing pole

Helpful Ayoub and little girl who took interest in us

Ayoub the fisherman

The Old Man and the Sea

Gossiping and people watching in the souq (Osama, Jim, Ayoub)

Same like that, but adding Zeeko to the mix

Still watching... Still gossiping...

An ancient sycamore that fell in the castle

Roots of sycamore

Looking out over the ramparts

Are you coming or not...?

15th Century door

Sunset, Wadi Rum



Driving through the town on the way out




Nuts house in the souq

Spices shop. He says his prices are lower than WalMart...We don't have WalMart on this side!

They've been working on this gas station for more than a year!

We stopped here for coffee

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