Our tour manager found something even better
- a boat with a deck that was below water. Seats were arranged along each
side, each one next to a porthole. This deck could be used as soon as
we were above the coral reefs.. We left Aqaba with great expectations.
Unfortunately, although the trip out was interesting we encountered problems
as soon as the coral beds were reached. During the journey the swell had
increased. In fact, it was so bumpy that we actually hit the reef. The
coastguard immediately warned us off and eventually escorted us back to
Aqaba. We saw no coral and no fish! However, our experience should not
put off anyone who wants to try this way off seeing what the Red Sea has
to offer. Just be careful to go out on a calm day.
The boat and . . .
. . . its submarine deck . .
. . . and the view
Jordan Experience: This is located through an archway next to McDonalds
on the Corniche, and is part of small, modern shopping and leisure complex
which includes an English pub called The Rovers Return (see right). The
Jordan Experience comprises two parts. Firstly, there is a guided walk
through passageways into which are set niches containing photographs and
other exhibits to illustrate the history of Jordan. Of particular interest
is a large timeline exhibit. This is only the appetiser, however, as visitors are then ushered into
a spacious 110-seat Imax-style movie theatre which has steep tiers of
long benches. Once seated, the lights go down and the movie starts. A
couple is seen in a car driving on a narrow road above a gorge. They go
over a speed bump. At this point the 'experience' begins as your bench
also moves as though you were going over the bump. The couple are arguing
so much that they miss a sharp turn and drive off the road over a cliff.
Your bench moves so you feel like you are flying and sure enough the car
on the screen appears to fly. To cut a long story short, the car acts
like a flying carpet and its movements are experienced by the viewer seated
on his aircraft-simulator driven bench. The flying carpet travels across
all of the visitor sites of Jordan, sweeping low over sheep and rising
above Petra, finishing 25 minutes later by flying back to Aqaba and into
the car park of the Movenpick Hotel (a clue as to where some of the funding
may have come from). Despite being plainly a way of showing the cruise
ship visitors that there's more to Jordan than Aqaba, and despite it showing
many of the places I had already been, I found it surprisingly enjoyable.
The feeling of flying was quite realistic and was a strangely moving eperience.
It was well worth the modest admission fee and no doubt is a respite from
the sun if you visit in the summer.The cinema has a good but expensive craft shop in the ticket office /
waiting area. We visited at low season and they were prepared (if a little
grumpily) to run the movie for just two of us.
Castle (Mamluk fort): This small but interesting ruined fort is situated
close to the coastline and near the centre of Aqaba. The use of the site for a castle probably dates from the crusaders in
the 13th century, but the current structure was built in the 15th century
by the Mamluks and may have been expanded by the Ottmans. The British
Navy destroyed it by shelling in 1917. Points of interest for the visitor
include the huge wooden doorway and the views from the upper floors.
The aerial view shown opposite is taken from the notice that details
the history of the fort.