I had to start a second section because of all the photos. So our travels are continued herewith.....
There are sometimes too many photos and sometimes none - Sorry but I do
not have the time to spend hours sorting out and reviewing photos, so just enjoy or pass over what is uploaded that you do not find of interest.
Best wishes to all - Linda & Peter
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO SHOWED SO MUCH INTEREST IN OUR BLOG. SOME FO YOU WROTE TO US DURING OUR TRAVELS TELLING US HOW MUCH YOU WERE ENJOYING OUR ADVENTURES AND THIS SPURRED US ON IN OUR WRITINGS AND TALES, WHICH WE THOROUGHLY ENJOYED UPLOADING AND TAKING YOU ALL ON OUR TRAVELS WITH US.
THIS VOYAGE HAS HELD MANY WONDERFUL MOMENTS AND EXPERIENCES WHICH WE WILL REMEMBER AND CHERISH FOR MANY YEARS TO COME!
12.05.2016 – Arrival Hamburg
Home sweet home.
Summer has finally arrived to Germany. We were very sad to leave the ship and crew members appeared to be sad to see us leave. It was quite emotional and we are so glad that we were able to participate in this voyage. It was wonderful.
We had to rent a transit van in Hamburg to get all our luggage and that of other passengers home.
On our way home to Twistringen we were welcomed by many blossoms and lots of sunshine. On arriving back home I was so surprised to see flowers all in blossem that usually blossem in March, April and May. How wonderful our garden looks.
11.05.2016 – At Sea - en Route to Hamburg
What a change on board. Approx. 1735 passengers disembarked in Southampton and lots of passengers embarked for a cheap weekend trip to Hamburg and back. Consequently the atmosphere on board was very different to what we have been used to for 4 1/2 months.
10.05.2016 – Southampton
The day started with a reunion with our friends Reg and Sylvia from the Isle of Wight. It was really good to see them again. Later in the morning Carry and Barbara (my brother and sister-in-law) and Brian and Lesley joined us for lunch at a local pub. Early afternoon we said Good Bye to Reg, Sylvia, Brian and Les and Clarry and Barbara joined us on the Queen Elizabeth to continue our journey home to Hamburg.
09.05.2016 – At Sea - en Route to Southampton
Lots of Goodbye to be said!
Our waiters and cooks.
08.05.2016 – At Sea - en Route to Southampton
Paddle Tennis & Croquet - Sports Friends saying "Goodbye"
07.05.2016 – At Sea
06.05.2016 – Valencia/Spain
Last port of call. Our expectations were minimum. We just wanted to to spend a relaxed day walking the city. What a surprise to find such an interesting, clean, and very interesting city.
The weather forecast was 20 degrees but cloudy.
Our day started warm, then cool and a short shower came over, but after two hours this all cleared up and we had a lot of sunshine. You really needed to wear a fleece, jumper or jacket as it was too cool to walk around early in the morning. We took the shuttle bus offered free of charge by Cunard into the city centre and headed fot the historic centre. As mentioned we had no expectations and were nicely surprised with what we found. A friendly, clean, and interesting city centre that is dominated by the very old cathedral. We had a wonderful walk around, stopped for a coffee and piece of cake and did some nonsence shopping that we thoroughly enjoyed. Unfortunately we only had a stop from 9.15 am until 3.30 pm and the last shuttle bus back to the ship left the city centre at 2.45 pm. We really enjoyed our “Last Port of Call”.
The Queen Elizabeth World Tour 2016 will finish in Southampton on 10th May and most of the passengers will leave the ship. For us, of course, our tour finishes on 12th May in Hamburg.
Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona with around 800.000 inhabitants in the administrative centre.The metropolitan area has a population ranging from 1.7 to 2.5 million. The port of Valencia is the 5th busiest container port in Europe.
Valencia was funded as a Roman colony in 138 BC. The traditional Spanish dish, paella, originated in Valencia.
05.05.2016 – At Sea
Today the ship organised a country fare for various charities. We had so much fun. There were stalls for: catch und chop the carrot, throw the hoop and win a bottle of champagne, take a chance, guess the weight of a cake, guess the length of a necklace, guess the contents of a glass of sweets, a jumble sale of books and clothing which passengers had donated. At the end there was an auction of various items including a World Map of our tour which was auctioned off for 1000,- dollars. The total amount raised for these charitiesis is 9026.-$. Tmorrow we will be in our last port of call – Valencia/Spain.
These three last cities/port of calls, have been fantastic; Istanbul/Turkey, Athens/Greece and Valetta/Malta. An exciting descend to the end of a wonderful 4 ½ month World Tour. One more final port of call on 6th – Valencia/Spain. We will have then visited 25 countries on this tour! At the moment we have travelled over 38.000 neutical miles.
Which did we enjoy the most? Very difficult to say! There have been some extreme highlights but we have to let it all sink in when we get home.
Spontaneous highlights as they occured – the 4 wheel drive in the dunes of Namibia, our 4-day Safari in Africa, the water safari in Port Elizabeth, the 5-day overland RV tour on Tasmania, Australia in general, Rabaul, the friendly people of the Phillipines, our overland tours in China and Japan, PETRA-Jordan, the last three stops, especially Malta! So many fascinating places and wonderful experiences.
Our time on board the Queen Elizabeth has been fantastic. Every time we did an overland tour being away for up to 7 days, there were 5 of them, we always received a happy friendly welcome back to the ship with staff asking about our well being.
A most friendly atmosphere giving one the feeling of belonging here on board. So many activities but always a quiet spot to be found to sit back, read a book, listen to music or just relax and watch the day go by!
Have we been homesick, NO! A tour like this is what you make of it and we have made a lot of ours. We have made it a” life time experience”. Of course, by the time we get to Southampton and know the journey is coming to an end, we will be looking forward to our home, family, and friends, and of course we need time to plan our NEXT ADVENTURES!!!!!!!
Cunard Country Charity Fair - Lots of fun for all!!
04.05.2016 – Malta
We want to come back for more!
What a beautiful place. It exceeded my expectations. We will definitely come back to Malta for more than a day to explore this ancient and very interesting country. When I grew up in England I had a penfriend from Malta. We lost contact after several years but this country has always had a point of interest in my mind, so we were both very thrilled to find this spot on earth. I am sure however, that the Maltese people are glad, when at the end of the day a lot of the tourists get back on their ship and leave. It can get very overcrowded in places.
Malta: The George Cross Island has always held a special place in the hearts of the British. Over the centuries its strategic position has invited invaders from all quarters of the compass and they have left everything from prehistoric temples and cart ruts through catacombs, palaces and churches to massive fortifications, all packed into a rocky, barren looking island smaller than the Isle of Wight.
The inhabited islands of the Maltese archipelago consist of Malta, Gozo and Comino. Malta, the largest of the three, is 17 miles long and 9 miles wide. It is 57 miles south of Sicily and 180 miles east of Tunesia in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. The island has no mountains, rivers or lakes. Most of the total population of about 370,000 live around Valetta and the two harbours on either side.
Malta has some of the earliest archaeological remains in the Mediterranean, dating back to 4000 BC.
Sunshine and blue skies! Inspite of this we had to have a jacket with us. We made sure we got off the ship among the first passengers and decided to take the Hop on – Hop off bus again which ran over the island at a charge of €10 per person.
I had told Peter that I would like to visit the ancient city of Mdina so this was an ideal way of getting there and seeing something of the island in the open top double decker.
Mdina – beautiful, fascinating and just the type of place that Peter and I love to walk through. Narrow streets with tall ancient buildings and fascinating doorways. I could do a photo book on the doors of Mdina!
On arrival we made our way through th city gates heading in the opposite way to the many tour groups. We arrived at the cathedral. Tickets cost €5. This includes the entrance to the cathedral, palace and museum. The cathedral and museum are well worth visiting but we were a little disappointed at the palace as there was more or less just a restauarant and café.
Just strolling through the streets and squares around Mdina was wonderful. You feel thrown back in time and when the tour groups leave you feel a wonderful peace settle around you.
Mdina is one of the most impressive places in Malta, only 6 ¼ miles west from Valetta. A settlement existed on the steep hill overlooking most of Malta in the Brinze Age and flourished under the Romans.
The bus journey to Mdina from the port of Valetta took approx. 30 minutes. We left Mdina around 1 pm and hopped off the bus in Mosta. Unfortunately the cathedrl was closed so we got back on the bus and headed for Valetta.
Valetta, also a most beautiful city to visit. We could easily have spent the day here and only have seen a fraction of what the city offers. We decided to give St. John´s Cathedral priority as we had heard a lot about it. The charge of entrance is €7,50 for seniors. This includes an audio tour and entrance to the museum. I was so overwhelmed by the building that I did not get around to following the audio tour. It would have taken me at least 2-3 hours in the cathedral and then the visit to the mesuem on top. We did not have this time. I spent my time examining the beautiful building, taking photos and filming (flash photography is not allowed). Just marvelling the gold gilted walls, marble floors and statues took me over 1½ hours. A short visit to the museum let us know that this building, the cathedral and museum is well worth a visit but to make the most of it all you really need 3-4 hours.
Time to heaqd back to the ship and sail away. Peter went off to his friends for a game of paddle tennis while I spent the time on the open deck enjoying the atmosphere of our sail-away. Sunshine, blue skies and a wonderful picturesque coastline. Malta – I am sure we will be back for more!
03.05.2016 – At Sea
02.05.2016 – Athens
Athens: The foundation of our civilisation was the building of Athens, Phiulosophy, polotics, mathematics, the natural sciences, art, almost all of “life as we know it” was invented or defined in ancient Greece, and in particular, in the city state of Athens.
Pireaus is one of the largest cities in Greece and has been the port of Athens since ancient times. A gateway to many historical sites, as well as many treasures, including the Acropolis and the Temple of Poseidon. With lots to see and do, Piraeus is truly an exciting port of call.
We arrived in Piraeus at 7.00 am and were ready to start on another adventure. We decided to get up at 6.00 am to make an early start. This was a correct decision because the Acropolis can get FULL.
Our tour: We had decided to use the “HOP ON – HOP OFF” bus today. The buses started at the cruise terminal and a 24-hour service cost 20 Euro for 2 lines and 25 Euro for 4 lines.
The journey to Athens took approx. 30 minutes. Our first stop was the Acropolis. We spent at least 2 hours in and around the Acopolis. Excavations have brought to light traces of pre-Hellenic occupation of the limestone rock rising 230 feet above the surrounding city. We had time to walk down to the Theatre of Dionysus which was opened in 534 B.C., the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and then took the bus over to The Arch of Hadrion, The Temple of Zeus and The Plake (The Old City). We managed to see Constitution Square with the Parliament building, but did not have time to wait for the changing of the guards. Athens is such an interesting city full of ancient stories and buildings. We were amazed to see the remains on the ancient under the streets of the modern city. The weather was warm and sunny, we had a wonderful day exploring the streets and buildings in Athens. This city is definitely also worth a second visit.
01.05.2016 – At Sea – Transiting the Dardanelles
We are so glad to have the sea days to relax and prepare fo the next port of call. In this case – Athens!
30.04.2016 – Istanbul
A dreamlike vision of domes and minarets shimmer on the horizon and, as you glide into the harbour, the legendary city if Itanbul slowly fills up half the sky. From the kaleidoscope of street scenes to the serenity of the surrounding waters, from the ancient wonders of vanished empires to the timelessness of handcrafted art, Istanbul offers one intriguing adventure after another.
Our tour: We were undecided what to do considering the recent IS attacks in Turkey. We decided to get off by ourselves and try and keep away from crowds.
We had a wonderful day and wonderful warm, sunny weather.
We took the tram, which is just outside the Cruise terminal, at a cost of 4 Turkish Lira ($1,50) into town and headed for the Blue Mosque (This closes daily for visitors at 12.30 pm). This is of course very interesting, a must for visitors to Istanbul and an experience to see, but after seeing the Grand Mosque in Muscat there was no comparison of beauty for me. It made me also realise again how lucky we were to get to Muscat so see the Grand Mosque.
We enjoyed strolling the streets and watching local activities. We headed for the Grand Bazaar but for safety reasons only entered inside for a few hundred meters to take photos and quickly make our way out. There are thousands of visitors here every day so this is obviously a dangerous place to be in at such times.
Our next stop was the St. Sophia Church, were I stood in the queue for over 30 minutes and would have had to wait at least another 15 minutes to get past the entrance so I gave up. We only had one day – 7 hours in Istanbul and you cannot see it all. We walked over to the Topkapi Palace (passing the tombs of the St. Sophia Church, which we stopped to visit-there were no crowds) where we walked the gardens and went to the museum.
We had beautiful weather, sunshine and blue skies. Istanbul is definitely worth visiting again but with at least 3 days to have time to visit some of these beautiful historical buildings. Quite a few passengers decided not to get off the ship for safety reasons.
Istanbul, historically also known as Constantinople and Byzantium, is the most populous city in Turkey and the country's economic, cultural, and historic center. Istanbul is a transcontinental city in Eurasia, straddling the Bosphorus strait between the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Its commercial and historical center lies on the European side and about a third of its population lives on the Asian side.
The city and surrounding province is said to host a population of around 14 million residents.
Founded under the name of Byzantium on the Sarayburnu promontory around 660 BCE, the city developed to become one of the most significant in history. After its reestablishment as Constantinople in 330 CE, it served as an imperial capital for almost 16 centuries, during the Roman and Byzantine (330–1204 and 1261–1453), the Latin (1204–1261), and the Ottoman (1453–1922) empires. It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times, before the Ottomans conquered the city in 1453 and transformed it into an Islamic stronghold and the seat of the Ottoman Caliphate.
Approximately 12.56 million foreign visitors arrived in Istanbul in 2015, five years after it was named a European Capital of Culture, making the city the world's fifth most popular tourist destination. The city's biggest attraction is its historic center, partially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
29.04.2016 – At Sea – Transiting the Dardanelles
This was new history for me. We followed the transit up on deck listening to the heart breaking stories of the innocent men who died here in World War I.
28.04.2016 – At Sea
27.04.2016 – At Sea – Passing through the Suez Canal
The Suez Canal is an artificial sea level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. We are a convey of 22 ships being led by the Europe 2, followed by Queen Mary II and then ourselves Queen Elizabeth. The present sea depth is only 18 meters!!
I spent all day from 6.45 am until 5.30 pm outside on deck following our passage through the canal with my camera. It has been a great experience.
After 10 years of construction, it was officially opened on November 17, 1869. The canal allows ships to travel between Europe and South Asia without navigating around Africa, thereby reducing the sea voyage distance by about 7,000 kilometres (4,300 mi). It extends from the northern terminus of Port Said to the southern terminus of Port Tewfik at the city of Suez. Its length is 193.30 km (120.11 mi), including its northern and southern access channels. The canal is a single-lane waterway with passing locations in the Ballah Bypass and the Great Bitter Lake.It contains no locks system, with seawater flowing freely through it. In general, the canal north of the Bitter Lakes flows north in winter and south in summer. South of the lakes, the current changes with the tide at Suez.
The canal is owned and maintained by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA) of Egypt. Under the Convention of Constantinople, it may be used "in time of war as in time of peace, by every vessel of commerce or of war, without distinction of flag.“
In August 2014, construction was launched to expand and widen the Ballah Bypass for 35 km (22 mi) to speed the canal's transit time. The expansion was planned to double the capacity of the Suez Canal from 49 to 97 ships a day. At a cost of $8.4 billion, this project was funded with interest-bearing investment certificates issued exclusively to Egyptian entities and individuals. The "New Suez Canal", as the expansion was dubbed, was opened with great fanfare in a ceremony on 6 August 2015. On 24 February 2016 Suez Canal Authority announced that the new side channel opened officially.
Passing through the Suez Canal from 6.0 am until 5 p.m.
25.04.2016 – Aqaba – Petra – Jordan
I have tried to upload this report 3 times without success, so hopefully this 4th times will be successful!
Today in history – 25th April 1859, ground was broken for the Suez Canal.
This is a big highlight on our World Tour that has been up to our expectations. I could write for hours and hours trying to explain this magical place. Where should I start?
Fascinating, amazing, for me beautiful, magical, astonishing, a place that I could have spent several days or even one week exploring and taking photos. So much history and magnificence about it, that it definitely is a magnet for me. I could imagine being there at sunset and sunrise, wandering peacefully through the tombs and along the paths which people before me walked several thousand years ago.
We booked this tour with Cunard which was a very wise decision. If the bus gets back too late the ship will wait. It was a 10-hour tour. The journey from the ship in Aqaba to the Lost City of Petra takes 2 hours. Our ship was originally expected into port at around 7 am and we were booked onto the 8 am tour. Our arrival was delayed and we finally docked at 8.45 am and our tour bus left the dock 10.15 am.
The journey to Petra was very interesting. We drove past by Bedouin tents, small villages, and drove through a beautiful mountainous area. We had a guide in the bus who spoke very good English. On arrival we followed our guide to the entrance and received a map of the area and our entrance tickets. I was told that the entrance fee to Petra costs about 50 Euro. This entrance fee was included in our tour price. Our guide stopped at regular intervals to give information. I tried to listen and concentrate but find this very difficult when I want to do photography. I need my time and space for my creative construction. I need to find the perspectives that I require and find it impossible to stand on one spot for 10 minutes listening to someone talking when the option of taking photos of such a beautiful surrounding pressures me into getting irritated, so I gave up and decided to do what I wanted to do “Capture this beautiful day” as much as I could in photos and films. I had a ball!
The city if much bigger than we had expected and it is a long way to walk from the entrance down to the bottom of the valley. We had approx. 34 – 38 degrees, lots of sunshine and fortunately for us, a light breeze.
It is possible to ride a horse, which we were told is included in the entrance ticket (you just need to give the men a tip at the end). You can also ride in a horse driven cart. This is however very bumpy! After entering through the narrow valley to the main entrance in front of the Treasury, you can take a camel ride leading further down the valley. There are also donkeys available. We walked the whole way down and back. I had so many photos to take that I did not have time to get on a camel or horse. I must admit though that I got very tempted on the last segment of our return journey. Peter carried the camera bag that I had tried to keep to a minimum weight (but we had 3 water bottles with us) and I carried the camera and my main lens. Nevertheless, walking for at least six hours in the heat and concentrating on getting the right photos, even though I was in 7th heaven doing so, was strenuous.
Both Peter and I were exhausted at the end of the day. We were not only exhausted from the strenuous walk, the heat, but also from the impressions! Unbelievable.
On arriving back at the ship, at 8pm, we were welcomed by a parade of officers and employees from the Queen Elizabeth with trays of champagne glasses for us. I was told that this is always done at the end of this special day for the participants of the Petra Tour as Cunard feels that visiting this Lost City of Petra is VERY special. 800 guests took part on this all day tour in 20 buses. What a wonderful gesture from Cunard to end a splendid day with this special reception.
I can definitely recommend this destination to anyone considering coming.
If you are on a ship I can also strongly recommend using the ship´s tour on offer, even if it seems expensive at the time, it is worth every penny, cent or whatever currency you use! This Cunard Tour was extremely well organised and
It is a location that Peter and I would love to return to. We would probably stay at the hotel at the entrance to the ancient city and make various tours and walks of the city very early in the morning and in the later part of the day when the tourists have left. That is when the city has a special atmosphere. I feel it a great honour that I have been able to visit such a special ancient city and hope you enjoy a small collection of my photos shown in this blog.
On the way from Aqaba to "The Lost City of Petra"
Inside "The Lost City of Petra"
What a wonderful way to end a fantastic day -
watching a beautiful sunset on the desert of Jordan
Petra, originally known as Raqmu to the Nabataeans, is a historical and archaeological city in the southern Jordanian governorate of Ma'an that is famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system. Another name for Petra is the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved.
Established possibly as early as 312 BC as the capital city of the Arab Nabataeans, it is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan's most-visited tourist attraction. It lies on the slope of Jebel al-Madhbah (identified by some as the biblical Mount Hor) in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah (Wadi Araba), the large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985.
The site remained unknown to the western world until 1812, when it was introduced by Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. It was described as "a rose-red city half as old as time" in a Newdigate Prize-winning poem by John William Burgon. UNESCO has described it as "one of the most precious cultural properties of man's cultural heritage". Petra was named amongst the New 7 Wonders of the World in 2007 and was also chosen by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of the "28 Places to See Before You Die".
Pliny the Elder and other writers identify Petra as the capital of the Nabataeans and the center of their caravan trade. Enclosed by towering rocks and watered by a perennial stream, Petra not only possessed the advantages of a fortress, but controlled the main commercial routes which passed through it to Gaza in the west, to Bosra and Damascus in the north, to Aqaba and Leuce Come on the Red Sea, and across the desert to the Persian Gulf.
The narrow passage (Siq) that leads to Petra
Excavations have demonstrated that it was the ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. These innovations stored water for prolonged periods of drought and enabled the city to prosper from its sale.
In ancient times, Petra might have been approached from the south on a track leading across the plain of Petra, around Jabal Haroun ("Aaron's Mountain"), the location of the Tomb of Aaron, said to be the burial-place of Aaron, brother of Moses. Another approach was possibly from the high plateau to the north. Today, most modern visitors approach the site from the east. The impressive eastern entrance leads steeply down through a dark, narrow gorge (in places only 3–4 m (9.8–13.1 ft) wide) called the Siq ("the shaft"), a natural geological feature formed from a deep split in the sandstone rocks and serving as a waterway flowing into Wadi Musa. At the end of the narrow gorge stands Petra's most elaborate ruin, Al Khazneh (popularly known as and meaning "the Treasury"), hewn into the sandstone cliff. While remaining in remarkably preserved condition, the face of the structure is marked by hundreds of bullet holes made by the local Bedouin tribes that hoped to dislodge riches that were once rumored to be hidden within it.
A little farther from the Treasury, at the foot of the mountain called en-Nejr, is a massive theatre, positioned so as to bring the greatest number of tombs within view. At the point where the valley opens out into the plain, the site of the city is revealed with striking effect. The amphitheatre has been cut into the hillside and into several of the tombs during its construction. Rectangular gaps in the seating are still visible. Almost enclosing it on three sides are rose-colored mountain walls, divided into groups by deep fissures and lined with knobs cut from the rock in the form of towers.
View of the Royal Tombs in Petra
By 2010 BC, some of the earliest recorded farmers had settled in Beidha, a pre-pottery settlement just north of Petra. Petra is listed in Egyptian campaign accounts and the Amarna letters as Pel, Sela or Seir. Though the city was founded relatively late, a sanctuary has existed there since very ancient times. Stations 19 through 26 of the stations list of Exodus are places associated with Petra. This part of the country was biblically assigned to the Horites, the predecessors of the Edomites. The habits of the original natives may have influenced the Nabataean custom of burying the dead and offering worship in half-excavated caves. Although Petra is usually identified with Sela, which means a rock, the Biblical references refer to it as "the cleft in the rock", referring to its entrance. In the parallel passage, however, Sela is understood to mean simply "the rock".
Josephus Eusebius and Jerome assert that Rekem was the native name, and this name appears in the Dead Sea Scrolls as a prominent Edomite site most closely describing Petra, and associated with Mount Seir. But in the Aramaic versions, Rekem is the name of Kadesh, implying that Josephus may have confused the two places. The Semitic name of the city, if not Sela, remains unknown. The passage in Diodorus Siculus which describes the expeditions which Antigonus sent against the Nabataeans in 312 BC is understood to throw some light upon the history of Petra, but the "petra" referred to as a natural fortress and place of refuge cannot be a proper name and the description implies that the town was not yet in existence.
Rekem is likely derived from the Nabataean name for the city, Raqmu.
More satisfactory evidence of the date of the earliest Nabataean settlement may be obtained from an examination of the tombs. Two types of tombs have been distinguished: the Nabataean and the Greco-Roman. The Nabataean type starts from the simple pylon-tomb with a door set in a tower crowned by a parapet ornament, in imitation of the front of a dwelling-house. Then, after passing through various stages, the full Nabataean type is reached, retaining all the native features and at the same time exhibiting characteristics which are partly Egyptian and partly Greek. Of this type close parallels exist in the tomb-towers at Mada'in Saleh in north Arabia, which bear long Nabataean inscriptions and supply a date for the corresponding monuments at Petra. Then comes a series of tombfronts which terminate in a semicircular arch, a feature derived from north Syria. Finally come the elaborate façades copied from the front of a Roman temple; however, all traces of native style have vanished. The exact dates of the stages in this development cannot be fixed. Few inscriptions of any length have been found at Petra, perhaps because they have perished with the stucco or cement which was used upon many of the buildings. The simple pylon-tombs which belong to the pre-Hellenic age serve as evidence for the earliest period. It is not known how far back in this stage the Nabataean settlement goes, but it does not go back farther than the 6th century BC. A period follows in which the dominant civilization combines Greek, Egyptian and Syrian elements, clearly pointing to the age of the Ptolemies. Towards the close of the 2nd century BC, when the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms were equally depressed, the Nabataean kingdom came to the front. Under Aretas III Philhellene, (c.85–60 BC), the royal coins begin. The theatre was probably excavated at that time, and Petra must have assumed the aspect of a Hellenistic city. In the reign of Aretas IV Philopatris, (9 BC–40 AD), the tombs may be dated, and perhaps also the High-place.
In 106 AD, when Cornelius Palma was governor of Syria, the part of Arabia under the rule of Petra was absorbed into the Roman Empire as part of Arabia Petraea and became its capital. The native dynasty came to an end but the city continued to flourish under Roman rule. It was around this time that the Petra Roman Road was built. A century later, in the time of Alexander Severus, when the city was at the height of its splendor, the issue of coinage comes to an end. There is no more building of sumptuous tombs, owing apparently to some sudden catastrophe, such as an invasion by the neo-Persian power under the Sassanid Empire. Meanwhile, as Palmyra (fl. 130–270) grew in importance and attracted the Arabian trade away from Petra, the latter declined. It appears, however, to have lingered on as a religious centre. Another Roman road was constructed at the site. Epiphanius of Salamis (c.315–403) writes that in his time a feast was held there on December 25 in honor of the virgin Khaabou (Chaabou) and her offspring Dushara (Haer. 51).
Byzantine era – decline
Petra declined rapidly under Roman rule, in large part from the revision of sea-based trade routes. In 363 an earthquake destroyed many buildings, and crippled the vital water management system. The last inhabitants abandoned the city (further weakened by another major earthquake in 551) when the Arabs conquered the region in 663. The old city of Petra was the capital of the Byzantine province Palaestina III, many churches were excavated in and around Petra from the Byzantine era, in one of them more than 150 papyrus were discovered which contain mainly contracts. The ruins of Petra were an object of curiosity in the Middle Ages and were visited by Sultan Baibars of Egypt towards the end of the 13th century. The first European to describe them was Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig Burckhardt during his travels in 1812. At that time, the Greek Church of Jerusalem operated a diocese in Al Karak named Battra and it was the opinion among the clergy of Jerusalem that Kerak was the ancient Petra.
Because the structures weakened with age, many of the tombs became vulnerable to thieves, and many treasures were stolen. In 1929, a four-person team, consisting of British archaeologists Agnes Conway and George Horsfield, Palestinian physician and folklore expert Dr Tawfiq Canaan and Dr Ditlef Nielsen, a Danish scholar, excavated and surveyed Petra.
T. E. Lawrence -(Lawrence of Arabia)
Petra siq in 1947 compared with the same location in 2013
In October 1917, as part of a general effort to divert Ottoman military resources away from the British advance before the Third Battle of Gaza, a revolt of Arabs in Petra was led by British Army officer T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) against the Ottoman regime. The Bedouin women living in the vicinity of Petra and under the leadership of Sheik Khallil's wife were gathered to fight in the revolt of the city. The rebellions, with the support of English military, were able to devastate the Ottoman forces.
Late Twentieth Century:
World Heritage Site Designation
Bedouin forces officer in Petra
The Petra Bedouin were forcibly resettled from their cave dwellings in Petra to Umm Sayhoun/ Um Seihun by the Jordanian government in 1985, prior to the UNESCO designation process. Here, they were provided with block-built housing with some infrastructure including in particular a sewage and drainage system. Among the six communities in the Petra Region, Umm Sayhoun is one of the smaller communities. The village of Wadi Musa is the largest in the area, inhabited largely by the Layathnah Bedouin, and is now the closest settlement to the visitor centre, the main entrance via the Siq and the archaeological site generally. Umm Sayhoun gives access to the 'back route' into the site, the Wadi Turkmaniyeh pedestrian route.
On December 6, 1985, Petra was designated a World Heritage Site.
The Bidouls belong to one of the Bedu tribes whose cultural heritage and traditional skills was proclaimed by UNESCO on the Intangible Cultural Heritage List in 2005 and inscribed in 2008.
In 2011, following an 11-month project planning phase, the Petra Development and Tourism Region Authority in Association with DesignWorkshop and JCP s.r.l published a Strategic Master Plan that guides planned development of the Petra Region. This is intended to guide planned development of the Petra Region in an efficient, balanced and sustainable way over the next 20 years for the benefit of the local population and of Jordan in general. As part of this, a Strategic Plan was developed for Umm Sayhoun and surrounding areas.
27 sites in Petra are now available on Google Street View.
Threats to Petra
The site suffers from a host of threats, including collapse of ancient structures, erosion due to flooding and improper rainwater drainage, weathering from salt upwelling, improper restoration of ancient structures, and unsustainable tourism. The last has increased substantially, especially since the site received widespread media coverage in 2007 during the New Seven Wonders of the World Internet and cell phone campaign.
In an attempt to reduce the impact of these threats, Petra National Trust (PNT) was established in 1989. Over this time, it has worked together with numerous local and international organizations on projects that promote the protection, conservation and preservation of the Petra site. Moreover, UNESCO and ICOMOS recently collaborated to publish their first book on human and natural threats to these sensitive World Heritage sites. They chose Petra as its first, and the most important example of threatened landscapes. A book released in 2012, Tourism and Archaeological Heritage Management at Petra: Driver to Development or Destruction?, was the first in a series of important books to address the very nature of these deteriorating buildings, cities, sites, and regions. The next books in the series of deteriorating UNESCO World Heritage Sites will include Macchu Picchu, Angkor Wat, and Pompeii.
24.04.2016 – At Sea
Our sea days are always great. So much to do to keep us busy. Sport activities, lectures, the theatre visits. Never time to get bored. We are having a ball!!
23.04.2016 – At Sea
After our usual sport activities (Paddle Tennis – walking and swimming) Peter started various chores. We decided it would be easier if he did it alone and I took the time to do some washing and clean up our cabin! Paddle Tennis tournament at 2 pm.
We have received an email from Ingrid and Udo. They are doing fine – thank goodness. Udo is making progess and Ingrid is settled into her hotel and coping well under the circumstances.
22.04.2016 – At Sea
Peter and I received some lovelly flowers from Sascha, who is the Cunard German representative on the ship and Naomi who is the Hotel General Manager, as thanks for our help yesterday. A really nice gesture that we appreciate.
21.04.2016 - Salalah, Oman - Queen Elizabeth I´s 90th birthday.
Peter & Linda cycling through the desert in Oman – A new experience!
Udo was taken into hospital here in Salalah in an ambulance. Peter received information about where the hospital is and we got our bikes off the ship and cycled there. The area is very dry and completely desert like. We enjoyed cycling even though it was hot because we had a small breeze. It was a strange feeling to be biking through the desert on a tar macked road. It took us longer than expected to find the hospital but because we enjoyed the bike ride through OMAN – it did not matter!
Another adventure - Linda and Peter cycling through the desert. Well, after 1½ hours we got to the hospital. On the way, Peter popped into a nearby hotel and picked up a broschure in case Ingrid needed somewhere to stay. This proved to be most helpful and she booked a room here. When we got to the hospital Sascha, the German repesentative from Cunard was with Ingrid helping her get organised. Peter helped Ingrid and Sascha while I stayed with Udo translating for the doctors. We were taken back to the ship with our bikes, by the Cunard port agent late afternoon, 30 minutes before the ship set sail.
Udo looked much better and was able to breath much more easily. He has to stay in hospital for a minimum of five days. A Cunard “Customer Care” lady named Amy, rang from Southampton to enquire about the circumstances and said they would be in daily contact with Ingrid. Back at the ship there was a birthday party sailaway for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, with most of the passengers out on deck waving Union Jack flags. We did not go to the main restaurant for dinner and were later told that passengers had received a glass of champagne to celebrate her majesty´s 90th birthday.
I cannot give much personal information on Salalah. The city centre was approx. 10 miles from the port and according to many passengers there was not a lot to see there. If you wanted to see more, you had to go a little further a field. We did not mind. We had enjoyed the stop in Muscat-Oman and seen quite a lot that day. Today we felt we had been able to do a good deed and help new friends in need.
Salalah is the second largest city in the Sultanate of Oman, and the largest city in the Dhofar Province. Salalah was the traditional capital of Dhofar, which reached the peak of prosperity in the 13th century thanks to the incense trade. Later it decayed, and in the 19th century it was absorbed by the Sultanate of Muscat. Between 1932 and 1970, Salalah was the capital of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman under Said bin Taimur. After the latter's death, his son Qaboos decided to move the capital of Oman to Muscat. The city has a hot desert climate, although summers are cooler than in more northern or inland parts of Oman. Salalah is very cloudy during the monsoon months of July and August, even though relatively little rain falls.
The majority of the Omani population in Salalah is Muslim. Like the majority of the Middle East, most people in Salalah follow the Sunni sect of Islam; unlike the majority of Omanis in Muscat which mostly follow the Ibadhi sect. There is also a considerable population of Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Sikhs in the expatriate community.
Arabic is the official language and the most spoken one. The unofficial, unwritten language known as Jeballi is the second most spoken language and the mother tongue of many in Salalah and its surrounding areas. English is the official foreign language.
20.04.2016 At Sea
Today we had a pirate security exercise. Passengers were advised what to do and how to behave in the case of pirates invading the ship. As of today our ship will close all curtains in the evening and shut off outside lights. Deck 3, a lower promenade deck will be closed off after sunset. These precautions will go on for the next 5 days.
Unfortunately today Udo, who has been on several trips with us with his wife Ingrid, has a double lung infection. He will have to leave the ship in Salalah, Oman and go into hospital. Peter and I have offered to help with their luggage so this evening was spent helping Ingrid pack her bags. What a shame for them to have this happen. They were planning to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary on this trip.
We now have new table neighbours and believe it or not, they come from Bremen!
During this cruise we have shared our dining room table with Germans, Australians, Hong Kong Chinese who live in Vancouver, and now Germans again.
On the last segment of the journey we had a table for 4 (the same table since the beginning of our cruise) but were on our own which we had requested. It is sometimes nice to dine alone and not have to make conversation. Our new companions are very nice and we have some interesting conversations during dinner. This evening was formal. Sometimes when we get back late from trips or don´t feel like dining so early because the weather is still beautiful, we dine up in the Lido buffet bar or outside on deck, which we often do.
19.04.2016 Muscat, Oman
Muscat is the capital of Oman. According to statistics, the total population of Muscat Governorate reached 1.56 million as of September 2015. The metropolitan area spans approximately 3,500 km2 (1,400 sq mi) and includes six provinces. Known since the early 1st century as an important trading port between the west and the east, Muscat was ruled by various indigenous tribes as well as foreign powers such as the Persians, the Portuguese Empire and the Ottoman Empire at various points in its history. The rocky Western Al Hajar Mountains dominate the landscape of Muscat. The city lies on the Arabian Sea along the Gulf of Oman and is in the proximity of the strategic Straits of Hormuz. Low-lying white buildings typify most of Muscat's urban landscape. Evidence of communal activity in the area around Muscat dates back to the 6th millennium BCE in Ras al-Hamra, where burial sites of fishermen have been found.
Our tour: Reading up on this stop, we had decided that we would like to visit the nearby ancient town of Nazwa and the Grand Mosque in Muscat. Our main reason for choosing Nazwa was because I, Linda, wanted to see the old fort, ancient city and travel through the desert.
Ingrid and Udo wanted to accompany us on this tour, but unfortunately Udo was not well enough. The three of us took the shuttle bus to the port´s main gates and after haggling a good price with a taxi driver, starting at US$300 and finishing at US$130 for the complete tour, we set off. Our first stop was the Grand Mosque. When visiting Muscat make sure you check on opening times otherwise you could end up seeing nothing. Very important: Ladies – wear trousers, a long sleeved blouse and take a scarf to cover your head. You will not be allowed into the grand mosque if there is any skin showing and if you want to go inside will be forced to rent or buy a gown to cover you.
I was prepared unfortunately Ingrid was not. She was wearing a longer cut dress but with elbow long sleeves. She was forced to pay US$16 for a dress to cover her bare skin.
There is no way she would have otherwise been allowed entry.
GRAND MOSQUE - MUSCAT-OMAN
Grand Mosque – Oman
The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the main Mosque in the Sultanate of Oman. It is in the capital city of Muscat. It is also seen upon as being one of the most important buildings of this country and one of the largest Mosques worldwide.
Sultan Qaboos decided to build this Mosque in 1992 and after opened an architectural competition chose the design that led to the opening of the building in 2001.
300.000 tons of Indian sandstone were required for the building which covers 4 acres.
There is a hall for men only, one for ladies only, and 5 towers that represent the symbols of the 5 towers in the Islamic belief. There is also an Islamic Information centre and a library containing approximately 20.000 books.
The building cost was originally calculated at 18 million Omen Rial. That is approximately 47 million US Dollar. However, the final result cost at least double that amount. The main hall is the men´s hall. Its outside measurements are 74,4 metres x 74,4 metres. There is room inside for 6.500 worshipers. The wooden entrance doors are hand made and beautifully decorated with carvings.
A major feature of the design of the interior is the prayer carpet which covers the floor of the prayer hall. It contains, 1,700,000,000 knots, weighs 21 tonnes and took four years to produce, and brings together the classical Persian Tabriz, Kashan and Isfahan design traditions. It is amazing. It was made in the east Iran province of Razavi-Chorasen. Six hundred people worked on this carpet for three years in two shifts. The carpet had to be made in sections as there is no weaving stool large enough for such a huge size carpet. It consists of 1,7 billion knots. It is the second largest single piece carpet in the world. This hand-woven carpet was produced by Iran Carpet Company. The indiviual sections were sent to Muscat and joined together here. This procedure took another four months. The carpet weighs 22 tons. The actual price for the production of this carpet has not been made common knoweldge, but in the year 2000 it was believed that the costs reached over 5,5 million Euro. Up until the opening of the Schaich-Zayid-Moschee with a praying carpet size 5.624 m², weighing 47 tons, the above mentioned carpet in Muscat was the largest in the world. Non-believers are not allowed to walk on the praying carpet, therefore during visiting hours and in order to also protect the surface at these times, a blue carpet is laid down. Visitors are not allowed to wonder off the blue carpet.
There are amazing huge chandeliers made of Swarovski Crystal hanging from the ceilings which are also highly decorated. The main chandelier in the centre of the mosque, in the dome, above the praying hall, is 14 meters tall and was manufactured in Italy and is one of the largest in the world. It consists of gold plated metal, is 8 x 14 meters in size, has 1.122 bulbs and weighs 8 tons. There are a further eleven smaller chandeliers decorating the room.
Men´s Worshipping Hall
The women’s musalla can accommodate 750 worshipers.
Men are not allowed in this room during praying activity meetings. The only similarities in the rooms are the large 14.Karat gold clocks on the walls. This hall also has nine gold plated chandeliers with Swarovski Crystal.
Female Worshipping Hall
The outer paved ground can hold 8,000 worshipers and there is additional space available in the interior courtyard and the passageways, making a total capacity of up to 20,000 worshipers. The Mosque is built on a site occupying 416,000 square metres and the complex extends to cover an area of 40,000 square metres. The newly built Grand Mosque was inaugurated by Sultan of Oman on May 4, 2001.
Our tour continued.....
After visiting the Mosque we headed off to Nazwa. This was a two hour drive through the desert of Oman. Our taxi driver took us to the entrance oft he fort and paid our entrance fee in local currency but unfortunatly forgot to tell us that the Souk (markets) would close around lunchtime.
Overland photos taken through the car window on our way to Nizwa-Oman. I could not open the window because of the sand which was in the air and would have damaged my camera. Also we had the ai conditioning on for the comfort of the other passengers.
Overland photos from Nizwa to Muscat-Oman.
The Nizwa Fort is a large castle in Nizwa, Oman. It was built in the 1650s by the second Ya’rubi Imam; Imam Sultan Bin Saif Al Ya'rubi, although its underlying structure goes back to the 12th Century. It is Oman's most visited national monument. The main bulk of the fort took about 12 years to complete and was built above an underground stream. The fort is a powerful reminder of the town's significance through turbulent periods in Oman's long history. It was a formidable stronghold against raiding forces that desired Nizwa's abundant natural wealth and its strategic location at the crossroads of vital routes. The strong foundations of the fort go 30 metres into the ground, and a portion of the tower is filled with rocks, dirt and rubble. The doors are inches deep and the walls are rounded and robust, designed to withstand fierce barrages of mortar fire. There are 24 openings all around the top of the tower for mortar fire.
After visiting the fort we strolled through some of the side streets and then on our way back to the taxi, stopped off to wander through a part of the Souk that was still open. Dangerous! I, Linda found a lovelly ring which I haggled the price down on and a souvenier thimble for our niece Andrea.
I would like to point out at this stage that it really is adviseable for women to wear trousers down to their ankles, long sleeved blouses and not show too much skin. You should also be aware that you are in a country with a completely different culture. It is not adviseable to be alone – you could get occusted.
The return journey was also most enjoyable. For some members of the group, a good time to take a quick nap, and for me in the front seat an exciting and interesting ride through the desert noting the various villages and small towns on the way.
We had a fabulous day and all three of us were more than pleased with my choice of places to visit in Muscat, Oman.
Back on the ship we had the sail away out on deck followed by a small visit of the MS Defender again, this time with two speed boats shooting past the ship and the helicopter flying by and landing on the ship next to our ship as it had done on the first visit. Very spectacular again and lots of cheering from many passengers accompanied by an exchange of horns from both ships.
I forgot to mention that as we are now in dangerous waters (pirates could be around), 8 well built and very fit marines joined the ship today as extra protection for the next 5 days.
Return Journey to Muscat
17th April 2016 Dubai - United Arab Emirates
Dubai – Vibrant, exciting, incredible and CLEAN!
What a contrast this makes to our last stop – India.
I did not see one single piece of paper on the floor. No rubbish at all.
I think this city must be, alongside with Singapore, the cleanest city in the world.
The emirate's Western-style model of business drives its economy with the main revenues now coming from tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services.
It is located on the southeast coast of the Persian Gulf and is one of the seven emirates that make up the country. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the only two emirates to have veto power over critical matters of national importance in the country's legislature.
By the 1960s, Dubai's economy was based on revenues from trade and, to a smaller extent, oil exploration concessions, but oil was not discovered until 1966. Oil revenue first started to flow in 1969.
Dubai's oil revenue helped accelerate the early development of the city, but its reserves are limited and production levels are low: today, less than 5% of the emirate's revenue comes from oil.
Dubai has recently attracted world attention through many innovative large construction projects and sports events. The city has become iconic for its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, in particular the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
Dubai has been criticised for human rights violations concerning the city's largely South Asian workforce. Its property market experienced a major deterioration in 2008–09 following the financial crisis of 2007–08, but the emirate's economy has made a return to growth, with a projected 2015 budget surplus. As of 2012, Dubai is the 22nd most expensive city in the world and the most expensive city in the Middle East. In 2014, Dubai's hotel rooms were rated as the second most expensive in the world, after Geneva. Dubai was rated as one of the best places to live in the Middle East by American global consulting firm Mercer.
Tourism is an important part of the Dubai government's strategy to maintain the flow of foreign cash into the emirate. Dubai's lure for tourists is based mainly on shopping, but also on its possession of other ancient and modern attractions. As of 2013, Dubai was the 7th most visited city of the world based on air traffic and the fastest growing, increasing by a 10.7% rate. Dubai is expected to accommodate over 15 million tourists by 2015. The emirate is also the most populous of the seven emirates of the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai has been called the "shopping capital of the Middle East". Dubai alone has more than 70 shopping centres, including the world's largest shopping centre, Dubai Mall. Dubai is also known for the traditional souk districts located on either side of its creek. Traditionally, dhows from East Asia, China, Sri Lanka, and India would discharge their cargo and the goods would be bargained over in the souks adjacent to the docks. Dubai Creek played a vital role in the sustaining the life of the community in the city and was the resource which originally drove the economic boom in Dubai. As of September 2013, Dubai creek has been proposed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many boutiques and jewellery stores are also found in the city. Dubai is also referred to as "the City of Gold" as the Gold Souk in Deira houses nearly 250 gold retail shops.
Dubai Creek Park in Dubai Creek also plays a vital role in Dubai tourism as it showcase some of the most famous tourist attractions in Dubai such as Dolphinarium, Cable Car, Camel Ride, Horse Carriage and Exotic Birds Shows.
Our tour: On arrival at the port we could see the QE2 from our dock. She is waiting to
be refurnished and made into a 5* Restaurant.
We decided that the HOP ON HOP OFF was a good way of travelling around the city and seeing a lot of the architecture such as the Burj Khalifa also known as the Khalifa Tower, which is presently the world´s tallest building at 829 mtr. (2,722 ft.)
The price for the Hop On Hop Off ticket seemed high at US$66 per ticket but after haggling we got them for US$62 (not really worth haggling about!) and then included far more than just the bus ride. The buses start at 6.30 am so if you have the possibility, it is adviseable to get up early and use them. Unfortunately, we did not start our tour until 9.0 am. There are three lines which you can take: the red, blue or green lines. These lines tour various districts. The green line covering the central area, the blue line the harbour and „Palm“ area, and the red line the old town. One seated on the open air double decker bus upstairs or downstairs in the air conditioned seats, you plug in your ear phones and have a choice of 9 languages. The information provided is excellant.
Various entry tickets, such as the museum or a one hour boat trip, are included in the basic price of the ticket. We noted that there was a three hour safari drive into the desert in the evening and decided to finish our day with this. All buses meet at the bus station outside the huge Shopping Mall. Cunard had a shuttle bus service to and from this mall. Our Hop On Hop Off bus ha actually started at the cruise terminal and took us to this starting point where we chose to go on the green line which took us first throough the streets with the tall high buildings. After an hour we arrived a tour first stop which was the Burj Al Arab hotel. This hotel looks like the sails of a sailing boat (See notes on this building). We were not allowed inside. You can only get in here if you have a reservation.
We got back on the bus tot he next stop where our commentary advised us to walk through the Souk (market). This we enjoyed. We then proceeded with the tour of the
Palm district and again got out of the bus at the Atlantis hotel to see the huge aquarium in the middle of the hotel. The entry fee for the aquarium was not included in the 24-hour bus ticket. It is however included in the 48 Hop On Hop Off ticket.
The aquarium is beautiful and in the middle of the hotel. A big tourist attraction.
By this time we were already around lunchtime and had to make decisions of what we could fit in. We decided to get the green bus line back tot he city centr and change for
the red line heading out tot he old city, This was also the route fort he boat trio and the meeting point for the three hour evening desert trip which weh ad decided to do and was included in the ticket. Unfortunately the touring of the streets takes muh longer than expected and we had to miss iut on the boat trip and arrived at the metting point fort he 5.30 p.m. evening desert tour just 15 minutes ahead of departure time.
The trip was a 45 minutes bus ride out, the same return journey and unfortunately only a 30 minute stop. It was an open top double decker bus. On arrival we were greeted with a welcome drink of local coffee and a specialtely of the region, a date. There were three camels available for free short rides, a young man with a falcon on his arm which guests were invited to hold on a gloved hand, two Arabian horses in a small enclosed area, a small narrow Souk (shopping area) and a large open air restaurant and buffet area including a stage for the evening show. After 30 minutes our journey back tot he city centre started. One should be aware that it gets cooler in the desert in the evening and the journey back in the open air bus was windy and cool.
Our final sightseeing event was the Khalifa Tower at night. Again, only being in Dubai for one day it is difficult to fit in everything and we had the concern of finding the shuttle bus to get back to the ship so even though I took photos of the area we missed the light display which comes on every 30 minutes. We were not aware that this would happen where we were standing and consequently had just arrived after it had taken place.
We arrived back on the ship at 10.45 pm and had had a busy and long day (nearly 14 hours) in Dubai. Our ship departed around midnight.
I really lapped up the views and my photographic eye saw hundreds of motives which I did not have the time to capture. Peter too was amazed at the city.
Dubai "Hop On Hop Off Tour"
Evening Desert Excursion
Dubai at night
16th April 2016 – At Sea
We had a surprise visit from the MS Defender today.
It was exciting for most passengers and the railings on deck 9 were packed with spectators. As you can see, I had fun again taking photos. It was a great experience for both passengers and crew of the MS Defender.
15th April 2016 – At Sea
Today in history:
RMS Titanic was a British passenger liner that sank in the North Atlantic Ocean in the early morning of 15 April 1912, after colliding with an iceberg during her maiden voyage from Southampton, UK, to New York City, US. The sinking resulted in the deaths of more than 1,500 passengers and crew, making it one of the deadliest commercial peacetime maritime disasters in modern history.
Just under two hours after Titanic foundered, the Cunard liner RMS Carpathia arrived on the scene of the sinking, where she brought aboard an estimated 705 survivors.
14th April 2016 – At Sea
We received another cocktail party invitation from our new captain for this evening. Formel dress was required.
A really nice evening. Peter and I decided not to dine beforehand as very often there is some nice finger food offered at these affairs. There was. Champagne, wines and cocktails are served at the invite of the Captain, who is a very nice and social person. We have had three Captains up to now and he is our favourite. So every time the Captain has changed, we have received invitations to a cocktail party to meet the new one. This Captain obviously likes to socialise with his passengers, as this is the second invite from him since he came aboad in Singapore. I have never been to so many cocktail parties in my life before joing this ship on 8th January. We must have already had 8 cocktail parties for the World Traveller guests.
Captain´s "World Traveller´s Cocktail Party"
13th April 2016 – Cochin/India
For those of you that have not read my story on India under 10th April – Chennai, you should do that before reading this report.
As previously mentioned we had booked our first shore excusion with Cunard today „The Backwaters of Kerala“ from 8.30 am till 2.30 pm, and I must say it was extremely well organised and we enjoyed it. It gave us an opportunity of seeing life on the river banks without any hassle. We started 45 minutes late but that was of no concern as we got back 45 minutes later. No problem.
First of all – notes on Cochin: Kochi, also known as Cochin, is a major port city on the south-west coast of India and is part of the state of Kerala. This area is said tob e a much more prosperous area than Chennai with a much higher standard of living. There is more production here and spices have made this area wealthier. We were able to see some of this, and we did not see as much poverty as in Chennai, but we still saw a lot of rubbish lying around on the roads, streets etc., and rubbish as we know attracts....... and that means ........! No more to say there.
Known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea, Kochi was an important spice trading centre on the west coast of India from the 14th century. Occupied by the Portuguese in 1503, Kochi was the first of the European colonies in colonial India. It remained the main seat of Portuguese India until 1530, when Goa was chosen instead. The city was later occupied by the Dutch and the British, with the Kingdom of Cochin becoming a princely state. Kochi ranks first in the total number of international and domestic tourist arrivals in Kerala. Kochi has been ranked the sixth best tourist destination in India according to a survey conducted by the Nielsen Company on behalf of the Outlook Traveller magazine. Kochi was the centre of Indian spice trade for many centuries. According to many historians, the precursor state to Kingdom of Kochi came into existence in early 12th century.
The city of Cochin has more than 2,3 million people. The most import export products are still spices.
Our tour: We left the ship 45 minutes behind time. There were 48 buses parked on the quayside to take passengers on tour. We have not had this many coaches before so it was obvious that passengers did not feel safe or secure enough to travel alone. The ship had given warnings out at both Indian stops advising people to take organised Cunard tours and be very careful when travelling alone.
We had a 1½ hour bus drive to get to the boats which would take us on our river tour. Our first impressions were that this area really does have a higher standard ot living and that there is far less poverty in this area BUT we still saw a lot of rubbish lying around. Unfortunately my street photos are nearly all taken through the bus window. Not ideal but I could not do better under the circumstances. On arrival to the river side boats we got our seats and started off on our cruise. It was interesting and comfortable. See photos. After this tour our we went to a hotel for a cup of tea or coffee before driving 1 ½ hours back to the ship.
On returning to the ship area we walked past the stalls where local people where trying to sell their goods. I found an unusual ring and matching pendant which I liked. Yes, I actually said liked! Not a word which I have often used in India. When listening to some fellow passengers, we still find their comments ridiculous, but of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion and thank goodness we all have a different perspective. When looking out of the bus window and seeing piles of rubbish everywhere, then hearing someone say „Isn´t it all lovelly“, then I have to ask myself if I come from a different planet or do they? Sorry guys, but I think Peter and I are too down to earth for such luxurious comments. Perhaps my photographic eye allows me to see more than the average person.
We had 36 degrees today and a very high humidity. We won´t be sorry to be leaving India, the heat, the mouldy smell that is caused by the high humidity. We have met many friendly people during this short trip but always have the feeling of a lot of corruption, which our ship warned about. It is a horrible feeling to have that everyone wants to pull you over the table. It is part of their culture here in India but for us Europeans, who are used to making a deal and keeping to it, very difficult to handle.
It has certainly been an experience visiting India, but one we don´t want to repeat. We cannot imagine that it will be possible for this country to introduce dustbins and actually use them and empty them. Even in the city and surrounding area, which is said to be one of the prettiest areas in india, there was far too much rubbish lying around. This World Tour has been marvelous and we are so glad we have had the opportunity to do this. The ship and crew have been fab. It really is a „Lifetime experience“ and a wonderful way of travelling the world and getting the opportunity of visiting these countries which we certainly would not have done otherwise. We have however, firmly decided that in the future we want to explore more of Europe and some of the lovelly countries we know of such as New Zealand, Tasmania etc. Europe, on our doorstep, has so much to offer. No more 3rd World countries for us.
We don´t want to change the culture and way of life in such countries like India, which they are quite happy with, but we do not want to visit countries like India in the future that are so filthy.
We have seen a lot of poverty compared to the Eureopean lifestyle, but happy people with wonderful cultures on this tour. There is however, so much corruption and mis-use in India, poverty and filth. Until changes are made from the leaders and people with money and authoritiy in this country, nothing will change.
PHOTOS TAKEN OUT OF THE BUS ON OUR 1 1/2 HOURS DRIVE TO THE "BACKWATERS OF KEROLA" TOUR
THE BACKWATERS OF KEROLA - INDIA
11th April 2016 – At Sea
It is very interesting this morning talking to other passengers and listening to some of their experiences. Some very positive admiring the colours on the streets and ignoring the poverty and filth that they saw, others shocked by what they saw. One story was of a lady who took a guide and first walked the beach, which we had seen was full of people. She told us that many of these people actually live on the beach. She said that the old fishermen´s huts, which were more or less destroyed in the last sunami, now ruins, are still on the beach and people still live in them with their livestock, cows, dogs, goats etc. She said the filth and poverty on the beach was incredible. People just sat down and did their toilet business on the beach where ever they stood. She said it stank everywhere and was unbearably filthy. After the beach her guide took her to the fish market. I had heard from other guests that this must have been horrific. She said the dead fish lay there open in the heat of 35 degrees celcius with all the dust and dirt and no shade. She even saw and took a photo of a dog that urinated over some fish.
Another couple told me they had had a wonderful day with no haggle with their taxi driver who took good care of them. Others said they had a great day just walking the streets looking at the people and the vibrant colours around them. These must be some of the ingrediants that attracts people to India. I really don´t know how people can look at the vibrant colours and make such a fuss about how nicely the fruit is stacked up when there is SO MUCH poverty, rubbish and filth all around.
We have today listened to the talk on our next stop Cochin/India and supposedly this will be a much cleaner place. We have booked a backwater tour with Cunard which will show us the evryday life of a waterway. The trip will include a 1 ½ hour drive there and the same back and a two hour boat trip along the backwaters of Kerala. Kerala is the region. Hopefully, I can confirm what we have been told when I update my blog after 13th.
Early this morning Peter and I played Paddle Tennis and had a relaxing swim. This afternoon the crew held a Sports Day on deck 9 which is an open deck. They did various activities like the egg and spoon race, tow rope pulling, sack jumping and not only did they have a good time but so did the passengers cheering them on. We are still up in temperatures around 35 degrees with a slight breeze today.
12th April 2016 – At Sea
Enjoyed a wonderful relaxing day. Today our ship is transiting the coast of Skr Lanka, before altering course tot he North West later today, heading back towards India Waters and our nest port of Cochin.
10th April 2016 – Chennai (Former Madras)/India
As some of you might know, India is NOT one of our highlights.
However, we really consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have this „One in a lifetime experience“.
I cannot think of a better way of visiting these 3rd world countries to get a short but valuable insight into their world and way of lives. This probably sounds a bit pompous or stuffy, but it is at the moment a huge relief to get back on our beautiful ship and our clean and cool cabin after every excursion. Pure luxury!
When you see the photos of Chennai, I am sure you will understand.
When we had our wholesale business we dealt with a few Indian companies and neither of us have very positive feelings. We did not really want to visit this country and had thought of staying on the ship. We decided to keep an open mind and not judge a place before actually seeing. However, our negative expectations were completely met and apparantly we did not even see the worst.
You must have a visa for India and they are not cheap. Peter paid 120 Euro and I, being British, had to pay 160 Euro. It is not easy getting a visa. We both thought this price was a rip off.
Talking to various passengers on the ship they all felt the same about the visa prices.
The immigration officers came on board and we had to have a „face to face“ interview. Even the shuttle bus was inspected and we had to show our visitors passes invidually. As if anyone of us from this ship would want to smuggle ourselves into India and stay there!
Our tour and new adventure: (All of the „general impessions photos“ were taken out of a moving car – we did not walk the streets except when visiting our sights of interest!)
Arrival time in Chennai-India was planned for 8.0 am and we were punctual.
Udo and Ingrid from Cologne, had asked us if we could get together on a trip again. There are experienced travellers in India and they like the fact that I am English and can talk to people fluently and haggle out a good price. We all have fun together. On leaving the ship together we met up with Jana and Luda who did not have any plans. We have done excusions togther on this ship also. Jana and Luda come from Czecholovskia. We offered for them to join us if we could find a taxi big enough for 6 passengers. The more the merrier and the more we get together, the cheaper the trip becomes and in India the safer we get. They were more than pleased.
Ingrid had done her homework and made a list of where we wanted to go and what we wanted to see. On getting off the shuttle bus I saw a jeep large enough to take us all and as Peter was already getting off the bus I also told Luda to make a jump for the jeep before anyone got it before we did.
It did not take long to come to a good price for the day trip. A total of US$80 for the jeep for the day. We all agreed that this was okay as we had a vague idea from several sources as to what to expect. We set off for our destination of 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Our driver had another man with him who got in the car. Of course there were protests from everyone because we were then really squeezed in. I complained and told the driver this was not accepteble. He told me that he was only giving his friend a lift home. We all agreed that this would be okay. After 10 minutes the driver pulled over into a shop´s car park and we were asked to get out and go into the shop. We refused. I told the driver that we had not intentions of shopping nor even going into a shop and he should immediately start the car again otherwise we would all get out and find a new driver. We continued our journey with the guy still with us. I again told the driver that this man had to get out of the car as there was not enough room.
He just waved his hand and said that his friend was going to accompany us for the day. When he did not react in stopping the car I demanded that he stop the car and told him he must send his friend out of the car immediately. Our group of people were getting quite aggrivated by this time because Luda and Jana in the back were really squashed in. The driver and his friend looked at me as though I was the devil himself and then the man got out and the driver gave him some money to get back. It was now obvious that they had been lying to us from the start and their intentions were that this man should be in the car for the day.
I hate this feeling of continually being lied to or people trying to take you for a ride. We have not experienced this in any oft he other countries until reaching India.
Now we were able to continue more comfortably. Our destination was going to take approx. 2 hours to reach. Ingrid told us that the driver and the man obvioulsy did not understand why the man should get out of the car because where we sit 6 passengers they sit 12, but they had experienced such behaviour on their previous visits. A different culture and way of thinking.
It was not long before the next incident occured. The driver pulled into a petrol station and said he needed petrol, but had no money. I kept very calm but told him that was his problem and not ours. Ingrid and Udo had just told me in German, that they had experienced this continually on their travels. The drivers try and pull you over the table. They take money for petrol on the way and at the end oft he journey forget that you have givn thrm any money at all! When we did not give him any money, he did not put any petrol in the car and carried on driving telling me that his brother would meet us and bring him some money for petrol. We kept our eye on the petrol guage and when he pulled over to the next petrol station and said he really needed to put some fuel in, Peter gave him US$10. However, I saw that he only put fuel in for 300 Ruppees which is approx. US$5.
We then continued to our first stop which was the temple of Mahabalipuram. This temple is situated on the Coromondel coast, 58 kms to the south of Chennai. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 for its stunning range of monuments, dating from the 6th to the 10th century AD.
On arrival we were greeted by crowds of people trying to sell us their goods. A guide approached us and informed us that there were 5 sites to visit and he could help us and tell us the history at each site. We did not have any local money so he helped Peter get some US$ changed to pay out entrance fee to the monuments. He did not say anything about payment, so I asked what he charged. He told me US$20 for 6 people, which I told him was far too expensive and offered him $10. We haggled a bit and I wanted to finalise before we moved forward but he just kept saying come on, follow me. I told him we were only prepared to pay $10.
We looked at all of the sites which were amazing. The first site was the five Monoliths which had been carved out of one solid rock. The first part of the building was carved out in AD535 – 580.
See my photos below. The area was quite crowded so it was difficult to get photos without people in the scene. This group of five figures and buildings is near the beach and had been hewn out of solid rock to form these five monolithic free-standing temples. The temples, like many monuments all over the land, are associated, without any historical basis whatsoever, with the Pandavas of the Mahabharata. They were excavated in the 20th century and are the earliest monuments of their kind in India. When the last big Sunami hit India this area was swamped. The wave hit the temples but because they are Monoliths and carved out of solid rock, they withstood the pressure of the wave. The other visitors, India people touring were very friendly and wanted to have their photos taken with us. Just like in China we felt like film stars.
On our way back to the car we got swamped again by local people trying to sell us model elephants, necklaces etc., and lots more. It got so overpowering that we had to fight our way back into the car. Everybody was relieved when we drove off. After we had visited all the sites our guide asked for payment. We gave him $10 and $5 tip. He complained and said he wanted $20 per person. MAD MAN. At first I stayed calm and Ingrid said they were all glad they had me with them to clrrify matters and do the haggling but after a few minutes when he called me a cheat, I lost my calmness and nearly told him
to P.... off. I was so mad. In the meantime, Peter had given him another $5 to make the $20 which he originally wanted. I tried to take the money back off him and told him I would call a policeman because he was getting very insulting. I advised everyone to get back to the car and told him to leave us alone otherwise I would find a policeman. That would probably not have helped anyway, because they all seem to be corrupt in India! Wait for the end of my story and then you will understand what I mean. Peter told me to calm down and did not move 1 inch from my side. I finally just waved my hands indicating that the discussion was finished. We left, but everyone was hot and bothered and extremely dissapointed at the behaviour of this man.
After this scene we asked our driver to take us to a nice hotel as we were now all in need of a cool drink and some shade, 35 degrees heat and high humidty, we were all wet through and after this scene in need or somewhere to cool down. Our driver did not have any idea where any of the hotels or cafes where that Ingrid had made a note of, so driving along Peter saw the entrance to a nice hotel driveway and we went there. Peter got a coke for the driver and took him this while we all sat on the veranda where there was a lovely refreshing breeze and enjoyed our cool drinks. We finally managed to laugh and joke about the scene which Ingrid said they had experienced often when touring India in earlier years.
Everyone agreed that we had seen enough and that we should head back on our 2 hour return trip to the ship. We wanted to get back too early than too late!
At this point I would like to add, that we have never seen so much filth and rubbish lying around in all our life. We have seen a lot of poverty on this tour but here was poverty, rubbish everywhere and filth. It did not matter where you looked, it was filthy, with the exception of places like the high class hotel we had just been too. I was later told that it was even worse in the back streets in town and at the fish market.
I really do not know what the magnet is made up of, that attracts people to India. I can understand the attraction to the history and the vibrant colours but this country has so much wealth, so many rich people but SO MUCH poverty and filth. In the city of Chennai, approx. 80-90 % of the local population are illiterate.
Back at the harbour we had exactly the same game with the taxi driver. On our way home he had asked me if I had something to eat for him. I emptied our picnic bag giving him sandwiches, crackers and fruit. He took it without a „Thank you“. I could not really believe the situation as he was cleanly dressed and had appeared to have good manners. We had already given him $20 for petrol by now, so on arrival, Peter gave him $60 plus $10 for a tip. Then the whole haggle started again. He said we had agreed on $80 each way and wanted $180 from us. ($80 each way = $160, he even tried to cheat on that statement). We all got mad and I refused to discuss this with him, waved my arms to indicate the end of the discussion and walked off. So did the others until Peter got surrounded by about 5 men wanting money from him, so we all went back and left the scene together. Back on the ship I told Peter I needed to cool off in the pool. Relaxing in the pool with about 12 other guests, someone suddenly asked aloud „Who else was asked to pay the petrol bill because the driver did not have enough money?“ Almost everyone raised their hands. Next question „Who had a problem when making payment on the agreed price because the driver said the price was per person instead of the price for the taxi?“ Everyone raised their hands. What a rip off. They obviously try it on all tourists. It really spoilt our day. I don´t usually use bad language but I got more than tempted this day.
I don´t see any attraction in visiting a country like this and our negative expectations have been met to the full. At least in countries like the Philippines, where people are poor, they are clean and very friendly. Even places like Rabaul where they really have so little, people were friendly and tried their best to keep clean. What I do know is, that this was the first and last time that Peter and I ever want to visit this country. Unfortunately we are in Cochin in two days time and we have booked a half day tour with Cunard. At least I won´t have to haggle and argue with anyone then. We did have a fun day together in the group except for these two negative occurances. More on India on 12th April!!
The whole group got together in the evening on the back open deck with two more guests Ullrich and Heinz. Peter and I opened a bottle of red wine that we had purchased in Hong Kong. Two others brought sparkling wine with them. We had a great time together and killed the red wine but kept the sparkling wine for a later event. We all discussed the day, laughed a lot about other events and went to bed after midnight. We have a really nice group of people around us sharing various activities and all thoroughly enjoyed this evening.
Chennai: Is the capital of the Tamil Nadu state and is one of India´s largest cities in terms of population. Chennai is the gateway to the town of Mahabalipuram, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the town of Kanchipuram, both home to magnificent century old temples and sculptures.
Introducing Chennai: Chennai, formerly Madras, is India´s fourth largest city. It is situated on the shore of
the Bay of Bengal´s Coromondel coast and maintains the region´s rich religious and cultural traditions.
European seafarers arrived on the coast in 1522 and Portuguese and Amenian traders established a settlement. India has a population of 1,251,695,584, making it the second most populated country in the world behind China.