Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wadi Rum and Aqaba

Last weekend I went to Wadi Rum and Aqaba for a conference sponsored by the Rotaract of Amman-West. It was incredible! Wadi Rum is a desert canyon area, and Aqaba is the little bit of coast that Jordan has with the Red Sea. We got down to Wadi Rum after the sunset unfortunately (it is supposed to be spectacular), but it was close to a full moon which was also incredible. We stayed at a camp called “Beit Ali” and went up to the top of the hill for a breathtaking view of the moonlit desert. The bus trip was a mini party, and we stayed up pretty late to continue the party/gathering as well. I tried Hookah (here referred to as: sheesha, argelah or hubbly bubbly. It was interesting, since I had never smoked even a cigarette before. I had never fancied the idea of intentionally inhaling anything “toxic” in my body, but figured it is a big cultural thing and a few times wouldn’t hurt.

The next day we went on a 4x4 “safari” ride through some of the desert and the canyon area. I wish we had more time to climb some. The 4x4 stopped a few times and we were able to get out…unfortunately the batteries I had with me were so cheap and died after 1 or 2 pictures. Afterward we left for Aqaba, checked into the Hotel and had a very delicious lunch: Sayyeidah which is a lightly battered fish in a brown rice with crisp inions and pine nuts, along with many of the tasty Arabic appetizers (hummus, baba ghanoush, salad, tahini). After everyone rested (except me, who went out looking for the nearest public beach, which was harder to find than I hoped) we went on a glass boat around the Red Sea. The boats have some of the bottom where you can see down into the Red Sea. We left after sunset though and since the boat was traveling fast the bubbles from the engine prevented us from seeing anything; so we all hung out on the top deck. It was such a beautiful night. After we got back to the hotel we had the Rotaract District meeting followed by a barbeque and dance party.

The last day we had free time and I went scuba diving in the Red Sea! I went to the Red Sea Diving Center, which was a great choice. Abdullah Mamony is the manager and was very helpful in making arrangements for the dive. It was a British lady who hadn’t went on a dive in over 10 years and me with our Dive Master. Even though I had only gone on less than 20 dives, I managed to do great job with my buoyancy and everything else. She on the other hand was holding onto the Dive Master the whole first dive. Both dives were at one part of the public beach, about a 15 minute drive away from the hotel area. The first dive we went to the sunken Tank and the second we went to the “Seven Sisters” which were seven huge pieces of coral. The sea life was breathtakingly gorgeous and has helped further my love for scuba diving.

Last night I went to an Italian concert sponsored by the Italian Embassy. It was another interesting cultural experience within a cultural experience (if I didn’t write about it, I went to a Flamenco concert a few weeks ago). It was very nice. It would have been much nicer if I could understand the words, but even without knowing you can feel the excitement or tragedy in the tone.

I went to a Rotary-Amman Petra (the sponsor club to the Rotaract club I volunteer with). The guest speaker was a famous Jordanian comedian, Nabil Sawalha, who discussed the importance of laughter and humor. One rotaractor who attended with me, Noujoud, helped share with me how important he has been for Jordan in making steps towards overcoming political/social taboos and how inspiring he has been to the Jordanian and Palestinian people. Later this weekend I’ll be going to a dinner with the Rotary clubs and the District Governor who is visiting.

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