About Bruce Fredrickson
When you have visited almost 100 countries and flown over 7 million miles, you have plenty of stories and a lots of experiences to share. Bruce Fredrickson, founder of Curiouscruiser.com, loves to share, write and take photos. While he lives in Boulder, Colorado he has never lost his curiosity and his love of sharing with and teaching others, so his travels go on.
Latest Posts by Bruce Fredrickson
One of the top places on my “bucket list” has been the ancient hidden city of Petra located in southern Jordan about 90 miles north of Aqaba. The most famous image of Petra is the Treasury (El-Khazneh) that suddenly greets each visitor as he enters this hidden city.
Carved into the sandstone rock it is impossible to adequately describe, it must be experienced. Almost 100 feet wide and 150 feet high, it dominates the entrance to the city after exiting the long narrow Sig (chasm) one must travel to enter Petra. It was carved in the first century BC as a tomb of an important Nabataean king and later used as a temple.
The Nabataeans were an ancient caravaning Arabian tribe who settled in southern Jordan more than 2200 years ago. Their trading business enabled them to establish a powerful kingdom that stretched from Damascus and included parts of the Sinai and Negev deserts effectively ruling the greater part of Arabia.
Their trading culture opened them to the influences of the Greeks and the Romans and those influences are evident in the over 800 monuments and structures that make up Petra. Petra is breathtaking and flourished for over 400 years around the time of Rome and Christ until it was occupied by the Roman legions of the Emperor Trajan in 106 AD when it began its decline. Gradually, because it was located in a very difficult to reach hidden canyon surrounded by huge rocks, knowledge of its location disappeared by the Middle Ages and it was not rediscovered until 1812 by a Swiss traveler named Johann Ludwing Burckhardt.
During its height Petra was the focal point in the trading routes connecting the East and the West. The Nabataeans were consummate traders and extraordinary builders. As you explore Petra you walk for kilometer after kilometer thorough the buildings, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, arched gateways, and colonnaded streets carved by the technical and artistic genius of its inhabitants.
To enter the Sig (chasm) leading to the ancient city of Petra, you travel to the modern city of Petra from either the port city of Aqaba (2 hours to south) or from Armen (4 hours to the north). I highly recommend staying more than a day so you can soak in the experience of Petra (there are many quality hotels in the city). This way you can experience the ancient city of Petra both at night and by day.
I warn you that you will be walking almost two miles into and out of ancient Petra on rock and sand each time you visit. The walk in is downhill and the walk out uphill. You can rent a horse, ride a camel, or travel in a horse and carriage if the walk is tiring for you. The price for these is controlled by the government and is reasonable ($30 for a horse and carriage for two people). Here are some pictures of the Sig (chasm) you must traverse to enter and exit the city.
Entering Petra at night is a very powerful experience. Because there is no electricity on the 2 mile path into the ancient city and no electricity in the ancient city, the Bedouins at night put candle lite luminaries on the path in and then light the Treasury area with luminaries. Each night they share Bedouin music and stories for an hour in front of the Treasury. I highly recommend you not miss this experience even though you must walk in and out without assistance (make sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp because the pathway is rugged).
Allow me to leave you with one last image of the ancient city of Petra as you contemplate it’s inclusion in you own “bucket list”.
Wadi Rum, which when translated means Valley of the Moon, is one of the most extraordinary places in the world in which to experience the desert and Bedouin culture. This huge valley located in southern Jordan half way between the Red Sea port of Aqaba and one of the 7 wonders of the world, Petra, should not be missed if visiting Petra is on your “bucket list”.
Wadi Rum is 37 miles North from Aqaba and is the home of the Zalabica Bedouins. Wadi Rum has become a world wide center for eco-tourism and rock climbing. Its 720 square kilometers provides outstanding desert landscape combined with world class climbing and trekking. Guides can be booked prior to your visit or at the Wadi Rum Visitor Center.
You can either fly into the King Hussein International airport in Aqaba or visit via one of the many cruise ships that use Aqaba as the jumping off point for visiting Petra. Aqaba itself is interesting in that 4 counties counties represented by 4 cities share a peninsula on the Gulf of Agaba which enters the Red Sea. Three of the cities share the coast line and are important ports for their counties…Aqaba for Jordan, Eilat for Israel and Taba for Egypt. A forth city less than 10 miles away, Hagl, Saudi Araba, gives Muslim pilgrims entry into Saudi Arabia. All the port cities exist side by side and, in fact, except for the entry restrictions into Israel you would assume it is all one large city.
Many famous movies had been filmed in Wadi Rum including one of the Transformers films, Prometeus (where Wadi Rum was used for scenes of the Alien Planet) and Red Planet in 2000. But the most famous was Lawrence of Arabia, the story of the WWI British solder (T.E. Lawrence) who along with Sheriff Hussein led the Beduoins of Jordan and Wadi Rum in the capture of Aqaba from the Turks and later the capture of Demasscus by the Beduoins before the British could reach it on their own. His exploits helped to give Jordan the critical port of Aqaba, which cemented its position as a leading Arabian country.
When we visited Wadi Rum this week we arranged for our Bedouin guide, Yasser, to meet us with a four wheel drive vehicle at the Visitor Center. Yasser, who was born, raised and still lives in Wadi Rum, spoke very good English, since English is a required subject in Jordan’s schools. We spent well over 4 hours with Yasser visiting the valley, sand dunes, trekking areas and the climbing rocks of Wadi Rum. Along the way we visited with his many “cousins” and shared Bedouin tea, coffee and stories. The following photos give a little impression of this beautiful Valley, the Bedouin who live there in their tents, and climbing the sand dunes.
Along the way we shared dates and visited with one of the most celebrated climbing guides in Wadi Rum and his son. We also were given head scarfs (Keffiyeh) to bring home. Of couse, we had to be taught how to wrap a Keffiyeh (we took videos so we could wrap the Keffiyeh when we got home).
And, Beduoin tea which is a wonderful sweet tea made from desert plants was shared a each stop at a Beduoin tent during our visit.
So my advice is to make sure to include Wadi Rum on your “bucket list” when you do finally managed to find a way to visit Jordan and visit the famous ruins of Petra.
Many of us have as we grew up found ourselves fascinated with the the ancient tales of the Pharaohs of Egypt but especially with the tales of mummies and the treasures of their tombs. And the two that probably fascinated us the most were King Tut (the boy king) and Queen Nefertiti. The images that first stuck with us were the Pyramids which are not found in Luxor but rather in Giza just outside of Cairo which is hundreds of miles north of Luxor. In reality Luxor is in my mind the far most interesting place to study the ancient Egyptians.
Luxor located on the Eastern and Western banks of the Nile in Southern Egypt stands on the site of the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes and reached its height during the period known as the New Kingdom from the 16th to the 11th century BC. The east bank monuments of Luxor (Thebes) are focused on the living and the celebration of life while the West Bank monuments are the place of the dead and focused on the burial and afterlife of the dead.
The east bank is dominated by the Karnak which is a vast complex of ancient temples linked to the Temple of Luxor. It is the largest religious site in the world famous for its columns, obelisks, the sitting statue of Ramses II, many chapels, and illustrated panels.
Every night the Karnak is the site of a Sound and Light Show of the history of Thebes which is not to be missed.
The west side of the Nile, the valley of the dead, is the location of the Valley of the Kings (Wadi al Muluk) which is the lcoations of the tombs of the pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom from the 16th to the 11th century BC. There are many tombs (including most of the Ramses’s) but the most famous is probably the tomb of the boy King Tutankhaman which was discovered in 1922. These tombs, buried in the walls and rocks of the valley, can be visited but no photos are allowed. In every case you enter the tomb through a long passageway that ends in the burial chamber itself.
Nearby is the Valley of the Queens which is the burial site of the wives of ancient pharaohs as well as several princes and princesses. It is still being restored and includes many colorful storied panels as well.
And, as you drive out of the Valley of the Queens, you find the immense statues Colossi of Memnon which are two identical statues of the Pharaoh Amenhotep III which guard his mortuary temple.
Some times it is worth spending a little to have an adventure while you are cruising…
Located just 7 miles off the southern Turkish coast is the island of Cyprus. It is unique in the world in that it’s capital city, Nicosia, Cyprus’s largest city is the only capital city in the world that is the capital of two countries. Since the Turks invaded the country in 1974 under the pretext of protecting the Cypriot Turks from the Cypriot Greeks during an attempted coup, the northern and southern half of the island have been divided with Nicosia being at the center of the dividing point. To pass from the Greek side to the Turkish side tourists need to present a passport and obtain a Turkish visa.
Cruise ships visiting the island use the southern Greek port of Limassol, which is the second largest city in Cyprus and has been inhabited from ancient times dating back to 2000 BC. It is best known for its prominence during the events surround the Crusades. Richard the Lionhearted took English control of Cyprus during the Crusades. In fact he married Berengaria of Navarre just outside of Limassol at the Castle of Limassol which was restored during the 19th century.
Image our surprise when we visited the more famous Castle of Kolossi just outside of Limassol and found a modern day Greek Cypriot wedding taking place. The original Castle of Kolossi was build during the Crusades by the martial Order of Hospitallers of Jerusalem in the early 1200′s and then after the Hospitallers lost in Acre in 1291 they transferred their base of operations to Kolossi in 1301. In the early 1400′s an earthquake destroyed the and the current version of the Castle was completed in 1454.
But the most spectacular runes found outside Limassol were build much early starting in 325 BC and continuing with additions by the Romans from the 1st century AD through the 7th century AD. These are in the ancient city-kingsom of Kourion which was founded by the ancient Argives, who were inhabitants of ancient Argos in the Peloponnese. It is believed that Kourion flourished until the time of Alexander the Great when he abolished it along with many other city states.
The Theatre. below, was likely build in the 2nd century BC. It could seat up to 3000 people and has been reconstructed in recent years
Nearby is the House of Eustolius which was build during the early Roman period and was remodeld during the 3rd and 4th century BC. It is a grand Roman house overlooking the sea with the style of a classic grand Roman villa of the times. Lovingly restrore over the past few years its important mosaic floors are preserved and there are inscriptions which show the connections to both paganism and the new religion of Christianity.
While one could spend all day exploring the many additional monuments that have been unearthed at Kourion it is would be negligent not to venture the 1/2 mile northeast on the site to the Agora (market). It is magnificent and its settling is special overlooking the rock cliffs along the ocean north of Limassol.
Sometimes you find magic in the least expected places. Recently on an Asian cruise we hired a wonderful guide and a boat about 100 miles up the Mekong River from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). We entered the Mekong at the riverside town of Caibe (somestime writen as Cai Be). After spending the morning touring Caibe’s floating markets and on shore markets it was time for lunch. Bai Loc asked our boatman to pull up to a small dock on the river and we walked up to a riverside restaurant Xeo May. While unassuming, it turned out to be very special.
As we entered Xeo May we were first struck by the fact that there we no other tourists in the room, only locals. It was very clean and utilitarian…wooden tables and wooden chairs and a beautiful view of the river. We were immediately greeted by the owner who told us Bai Loc had already order our meal and he hoped we would enjoy eating it as much as he and his staffed would enjoy fixing it for us.
Image our surprise when a Crispy Elephant Ear fish straight form the Mekong River appeared on our table. We were a bit trepidatious because we had just spent the morning on the River and let me tell you the water was not exactly the cleanest water we had ever been on…in fact it was a dirty shade of brown and had everything you could image floating in it. But we were the guests so we thought lets just “go for it”.
The fish was scrapped from the bone and wrapped in very thin rice paper with a little cucumber and pineapple.
Next to follow were shrimp cocktails and a mysterious but wonderful pork dish with steamed rice straight from the paddy. The meal was finished off with mango and the whole experience was memorable. And no, there were no repercussions afterwards other than the pleasant feeling of total satisfaction.
“Ok, lets sync our watches and all agree to be back on the bus at exactly 10:35 am.”
How many times have you joined a cruise line sponsored tour and been packed onto a tour bus to see the sights only to spend a significant amount of your time waiting for others who do not know how to read a watch.
Or how many times have you been told:
“here is the British Museum, you have 90 minutes to see it on your own and then return to the bus at exactly 2:00 pm.”
You paid a lot of money expecting to to be guided around the museum and now you are on your own.
Delays, delays, delays…
Disappointments, disappointments, disappointments…
What can you do?
The alternative is to do the research and hire your own private guide for the most important ports you visit and for lesser ports just get off the ship and start walking. I do both and and I see a lot more…
Let me talk first about just getting off the ship and walking. Many ports are small and it is easy to find you way around by yourself. When I am going to one of these ports I do a little research before my trip on the web and find a walking guide and map to the city. Or many times I look for a audio walking tour for my iPhone (or other smart phones) on the web.
Many audio tours are free but sometimes I have to pay a few dollars to download the tour but the cost is nothing compared to hiring a guide. When I download an audio tour in almost every case the audio downland also includes a pdf file map of where the audio tour will be taking me.
If the port is bigger but I do not want to pay for a private guide, I will do one of two things:
1. Look for a “Hop on Hop off” bus and buy a day long ticket (you can do your homework first on the web to determine if they have these tours and where to meet the bus). The beauty of this option is I get to most of the major sights in the city and I can hop on and off as necessary to visit them. Plus the tours always give me a good map. The tours include earphones and have multi-language channels to explain what I am seeing and what is coming next. I always take the top deck of the bus so I can shoot photos as we move (be careful though because standing up to take a photo is a bit risky).
2. If there is no “Hop On Hop Off ” bus available I look for a local tour option as I leave the port area (there are almost always tours available at booths near the port area or in the center of the town and they are always cheaper than the cruise tours) or I hire a taxi for a few hours (be sure to settle on a fixed price before you get in the taxi). I have done this many places including places you might think are risky like Tunisia and Alexandr1a, Egypt and have had a great time.
When it is an important port, or if I am going to be in a port for a few days, I always do the research ahead of time and hire a private guide to meet me at the port. How do I find one? My best resources are Cruise Critic and Trip Advisor. Web searches using the port name “+tour guide” also works for me. Before I hire them I look for reviews of the tour guides I find by putting their name into a web search and adding “+review” to the search.
I find that private tour guides are not that much more expensive for my wife (often less expensive) and I than ship sponsored tours and they are certainly a lot more personal and comprehensive. To cut the cost of the tour, one thing I often do is share the guide with one or two other couples.
How do you find people to share with? You go up the Board Section on Cruise Critic and scroll down to the Roll Call sub-heading and then click on the name of your cruise line and then when it comes up to the name of Your ship.
As you read down the Roll Call you will see your cruise listed if a Roll Call for it has already been started. The Roll Call consists of people sharing tips who have registered with Cruise Critic and are already on your ship. You can view your ship and the information sharing without belonging to Cruise Critic but I would suggest you might want to be a member so you can communicate on the Roll Call.
To do this join Cruise Critic, choose a log on name you want to use and make up a password. Then start communicating with others who will be on your ship. Some will have already booked private tours and are looking for others to share
“Quick, hand me my telephoto lens and hold this one for me!” How many times have you asked your wife to be your personal lens slave.
Well, I asked my wife one to many times. She said “enough…I am done. I am on vacation. You are wasting my time and your time always switching lenses. Either learn to live with one or get a point and shoot”.
For quick grab shots I use my iPhone but for quality photos I need my SLR. And I finally found the perfect solution. I bought a Tamron AF 18-280 mm “all in one” lens.
It is now available for Canon, Nikon and Sony SLR cameras. There are a few compromises when you use this lens but I have really be exceptionally happy with it over the past 18 months that I have been using it. It costs about $650 but I often see $100 manufacturer rebates offered.
I do still carry my regular Canon 18-55mm that came with my camera for quick non-flash shots around the ship and inside some of the buildings I visit with lower lighting levels because it is a bit faster.
Although with the variable ISO speed setting on my Canon I find the Tamron works exceptionally well in almost every setting I need it in so my lens switching is very rare…and my wife is now a lot happier with me now that she is not “slepping” my lenses.