Aqaba, Jordan and the Suez Canal Transit

2019 HAL World Cruise

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday April 10, 11, and 12, 2019


The primary reason cruise ships come to Aqaba, Jordan is to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the wondrous Nebatean “Red Rose City” of Petra and the amazing Wadi Rum desert.   We have experienced both and you can read about them by checking out “Archives” for April 2017.  You will also find a gazillion photos of the Suez Canal!!!!

However, this time, we spent our first day in Aqaba touring the Shoubak Castle.  The castle was built in 1115 by Baldwin I of Jerusalem during his expedition to the area.  Soon after, in 1116, he captured the port of Aqaba.  The castle was strategically important because it dominated the main passage from Egypt to Syria thus allowing taxation of not only traders, but also those who were on pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina.  It became part of the Lordship of Oultrejordain in 1142.  Eventually, the greedy Raynald of Chatillon used the castle to not only attack rich caravans but to build ships and transport them overland to the Red Sea from which he planned to attack Mecca itself.  Obviously, this was intolerable to the Ayyubid Sultan Saladin who preemptively invaded the Kingdom and captured the castle in 1189.  The castle is currently being studied by an Italian archaeological team for the University of Florence.

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We always snap a few photos from the Lido deck before departing the ship for the day. We like to record the view from the dock. Usually its all cargo and cranes and pretty ugly. This, however, is a view I would call exotic!
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This is a more normal view of a city and its environs. But in Aqaba, it’s just so impressively majestic the way the mountains loom over the city and port!
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We scheduled an early morning tour to Shoubak Castle. It’s a 2 hour drive to the castle, located just north of Petra. As we start out, we immediately enter stark landscape just outside the city limits.
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This is the city of Ma’an, known for its limestone. And, yes, these buildings are constructed with limestone.
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This is Abu al Jirdhan Station. It is the staging area for Haj pilgrimages to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The picture is of Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein,the King of Jordan.
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We spotted camels grazing. Can a Bedouin camp be far from here? (don’t miss the baby camel!)
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And not too far away, we spot the Bedouin camp. The Bedouins may be nomadic; but they travel in comfort. Note the truck!!!
A last, we are entering the town of Al Muthallith just outside Shoubak Castle.
A last, we are entering the town of Al Muthallith just outside Shoubak Castle.
After just over 2 hours, we arrive at the castle.
After just over 2 hours, we arrive at the castle.
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Shoubak Castle, {aka Montreal Castle) was built by the Crusader King Baldwin I of Jerusalem in 1115. But by 1187, the then King Raynald was building ships here. He launched them in the Red Sea and set out to attack Mecca.
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Sultan Saladin retaliated. In 1187 he conquered Jerusalem, and then besieged Montreal for 2 years before it fell in 1189.
Today, ruins are all that remain.
Today, ruins are all that remain.
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Even the small community outside the castle grounds is abandoned and deteriorated.
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But, you know, there is always something romantic about wandering through old ruins. You take a turn and look–a stunning view!
All too soon, it's time to head back to Aqaba.  We've come to the end of Day 1.
All too soon, it’s time to head back to Aqaba. We’ve come to the end of Day 1.


On day 2, we happily shuttled into town, did a little shopping, had a pleasant lunch, and returned to the ship for an afternoon departure to the “anchorage” outside the Suez Canal where we spent the night.

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Day 2 finds us on the shuttle and dropped off at what appears to be the Aqaba transportation center. Here in the center of town, buses and taxis await passengers. Tourist information is available. The HOHO leaves from here. You can even buy coffee!
There are lots of stores.  We spent a lot of time in the spice shop!!!
There are lots of stores. We spent a lot of time in the spice shop!!!
We strolled through a local park in the middle of the town.
We strolled through a local park in the middle of the town.
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Eventually, we made our way to our favorite restaurant, Rovers Return. We discovered this English Pub in 2017, just after starting this blog! We’ve been returning to it ever since!
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Rovers Return is named after a fictional English pub in the highly popular and long running British soap opera, Coronation Street. That fictional pub was inspired by a 14th century building in Withy Grove, Manchester also called Rovers Return.
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The first Rovers Return opened in Amman on July 31, 1997, followed closely by branches in Aqaba and the Dead Sea! Their stated goal is to promote a sense of community and provide the comfort of friends sharing a meal and drink together. Like home!
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The afternoon’s libation is Blonde Ale by the Carekale Brewery. This is the first family owned microbrewery in Jordan.
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Located in Fuhays canyon, it is handcrafted, with a respect and love for beer, from the finest natural ingredients. So says the label!!!
Rovers Return overlooks the archeological site of Ayla, the old city.
Rovers Return overlooks the archaeological site of Ayla, the old city.
As we shuttle back to the ship, we pass the Public Beach.  Looks inviting!
As we shuttle back to the ship, we pass the Public Beach. Looks inviting!
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Here, we’re approaching The Great Arab Revolt Plaza, and the 6th tallest,unsupported, flag pole in the world. Rather than fly the Jordanian flag, this pole usually flies the flag of the revolt. The plaza is currently under renovation.
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Next to the Plaza is Aqaba Fort (aka Aqaba Castle). It was originally built by Crusaders in the 12th century; destroyed by Salah Al-Din in 1187; rebuilt in the 16th century by Mamluk Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh Al-Ghawri;.and today, is under reconstruction.
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In July 1916, T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) was here for the victorious Battle of Aqaba in the Great Arab Revolt. He rode triumphantly to Cairo to report the good news to General Allenby.
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And next to all that, is the port where our ship awaits our return. We will leave this afternoon for the “registration” point for the Suez Canal transit. After spending the night at anchor, we’ll have an early morning transit through the Suez Canal.


Early the next morning, we led a “conga line” of ships coursing through the Suez Canal.

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I suppose it’s unkind of us to think of the Suez Canal as the “Big Ditch,” but it just doesn’t have the movement and excitement of the Panama Canal. This is a very sedate transit.
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There are, actually, two canals. One heading north and the other for southbound traffic. I just love the optical effect of a ship sailing thru SAND!!!
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In less than 12 hours, we exited the canal and began our voyage through the Mediterranean Sea. We are on our way to Naples!


We are now in the Mediterranean Sea.  Our next port is Naples, Italy.

One thought on “Aqaba, Jordan and the Suez Canal Transit”

  1. Love the visits to the ruins. My favorite memories of Rome and environs. I also love Ales Rog. Keep enjoying your exploits.


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