The Rover’s Return is the name of a 14th century building in Withy Grove, Manchester, England. A highly popular British soap opera, Coronation Street, adopted the name for a fictional English Pub featured in the series. The series was extremely successful and ran for many seasons. In July 1997, inspired by this fictional but quintessential British Pub, The Rovers Return opened in Amman, Jordan, followed shortly thereafter with branches in the Dead Sea and Aqaba. The Rovers Return aims to reflect the British sense of community; the comfort of friends; the sharing of meal and drink together; and the sense of a home away from home. Because it took us a long time of intense discussion and research to come up with the name “RovingRaconteurs” for our blog, we were especially delighted to come across this English Pub in the Gateway Complex of Aqaba, Jordan. It felt warm and welcoming. We spent a very pleasant couple of hours there overlooking the ancient city of Ayla and watching the new construction of a fountain feature for the complex. We are often surprised at how small and familiar the world can be! We have been to Jordan only once before—and that was a year ago—so it’s gratifying that this time we would feel very comfortable & welcomed & “at home” in a local establishment. It truly is a small world!
Aqaba is the only port city in Jordan. Located in the extreme South of Jordan on the Gulf of Aqaba off the Red Sea, the area was first established around 622 AD as Ayla. It grew prosperous from trade. Aqaba is now the gateway for cruise passengers to the desert of Wadi Rum, the ancient Nabataean city of Petra, and the Dead Sea. We spent two days here.
On day 1, we went to Wadi Rum where we boarded 4x4s for a “safari” through the desert. This is the land of Lawrence of Arabia. It is also the setting of many Hollywood movies—the latest was The Martian starring Matt Damon. Many local Bedouins live here in their tents with their camels, goats and cattle. They farm and ranch for a while in one location before moving on to another. Our guide told us that these Bedouin tents are made from camel hair. The weave is tight and after the first rain the material sheds water easily—pretty much waterproof. Many of us rode camels through the desert. Rog and I did not as we had enjoyed the experience on a beach in Tangiers, Morocco a couple of years ago. But a camel ride is, without doubt, an experience to remember! This time, we were exhilarated by the speed and wondrous views of the 4×4 safari across the red sand dunes of Wadi Rum. A truly special day!
On day 2, we revisited the Rose Red City of Petra. I did the standard walk from the Visitor’s Center through the Siq (a gorge) to the Treasury (the iconic site in Petra). Roger started at the Monastery and did “the back way walk,” hiking 5.1 miles through the mountains, across gorges and coming to the lower area at the museum. We met up for lunch at the Nabataean Tent Restaurant. We finished the tour by exiting through the Siq—me in a horse-drawn cart; Rog by foot. We enjoyed soft drinks at a café near the Visitor’s Center and shopped at Jeff’s Books before driving the two hours back to the ship where we called it a night!
Awoke the next morning sailing to the anchorage point for the Northbound convoy through the Suez Canal. About 6 miles prior to the Canal entrance, we dropped anchor and spent the night there. As I write, we are transiting the Suez Canal and will exit at Port Said early this evening. It is about an 8-10-hour transit. This is a canal without locks or mechanical assistance. Construction on the canal began in September 1859 and completed in November 1869. It was built by Ferdinand-Marie de Lesseps who followed this success with his failure at the Panama Canal. That project was completed by the United States.
Next stop: Rhodes, Greece!