Aqaba was the port for the lost city of Petra, the eighth wonder of the ancient world. We had already been told that this was a not to be missed excursion and we were very pleased that we took it. It was a long day but worth every minute. Our guide, Sammy, was informative and knowledgeable with a wicked sense of humour. this excursion involves a lot of walking up and down hill and is not at all suitable for people with any sort of walking difficulties. However, there are horse drawn carriages or horses to take you some of the way. Having walked all through the beautiful site with its ancient tombs and dwelling places cut into the mountains, it became a challenge to walk the rest of the 13km back to the hotel for lunch. The first beer didn't hit the sides!! Lunch in the hotel was pleasant with a Jordanian flare and we thoroughly enjoyed the day. It should be mentioned that we were waved away from the ship by some of the waiters and welcomed back to the ship with a crew band, hot towels and orange juice along with some of the waiters and even some of the chefs lined up there. A very nice touch that we had not experienced before on any cruise line.
Safaga has to be the ugliest of all cruise ship ports but it is the gateway to Luxor. There were also several excursions to Luxor and we chose the overnight stay. The day trip was extremely long (15 hours) and we found that for the very little extra we had to pay for the overnight we got much more than our money's worth. We left the ship shortly after lunch and arrived in Luxor some three hours later. Our guide, Mohammed (what else!!), was again very knowledgeable and informative and prepared us well for our visits to the temples and the Valley of the Kings. We stayed in a five star hotel, the Steigenberg, in Luxor which was clean, smart and extremely comfortable. We had a three course dinner which was very tasty and then climbed back into the coach to go to a Sound and Light show at the Karnak temple which was amazing. The single fact that blew my mind there was that I was walking on the same paving stones that Tut ank Amun had walked on four thousand years ago. When we returned to our hotel afterwards we sat in an indoor piazza area and watched some arabian dancing which was entertaining. We had an early start the next day which was good as it meant that we arrived at the Valley of the Kings when it was still fairly cool. With all the knowledge that Mohammed had given us we were well equipped to appreciate the four tombs that we were allowed to enter. We had to pay a little extra to enter the tomb of Tut ank Amun, but we felt it was worth it to see his mummy. Never having seen a mummy before it was quite an experience and you could clearly see what he would have looked like before he died as a young man. We were told that the tomb will only be open for a short time more as even people breathing destroys the artefacts and heiroglyphics. We went to an alabaster factory which was interesting as I had no idea before how alabaster looked in its raw state. We also went to the temple of Hatchetsup which is amazing in the way it has been preserved over the centuries. By this time though, it was very hot and we couldn't wait to get back to the coach. We lunched in the hotel in which we had spent the night and then began our journey back to the ship which we reached at about 6.30pm. a long day but not as long as those people who had left the ship at 6.15am and would not return until after 10pm.
All in all the whole cruise was an amazing experience for sightseeing and winter sun. The best ever!!