November 5th: Sitting here on deck while at sea we have time to reflect on our visits to Luxor, Egypt and Petra, Jordan. Though Petra is listed as one of the 7 wonders of the World we must confess that although it was incredible and the Nabatean culture was very advanced for 75-150 A.D. with their irrigation technology and their construction in to the sand stone cliffs, we have to say that Luxor should have received equal recognition as a wonder of the world. We realized why Luxor isn’t now, and that is that Petra and the other 7 Wonders of the World are one place, and Luxor consists of so many that are spread over a very large area that includes — The Temple of Luxor, the Temple of Karnak, The Avenue of the Sphinxes, the Valley of the Kings, The Valley of the Queens, The Valley of the Nobles, and Carters home, n which is now a museum.
We would now have 4 days at sea cruising down the Red Sea through to the Gulf of Aden to our next stop in Salalah, Oman. Basically Salalah is a fueling stop for 5 hours. It’s incredible to think how big the Red Sea is as we were cruising at almost top speed of 20kts for 2-1/2 days before we reached Bab el Mandeb the exit of the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden (Yemen). Bab el Mandeb means the gates of grief. Not for the pirating risk, but for the dangerous earthquakes. During a lecture we were informed that during this cruise we will have done 3 of the world’s strategic maritime choke points. #1) Bab el Mandeb #2) the Straits of Hormuz (rounding the corner in to Dubai) and #3) Suez Canal.
Upon our return from Petra there was a letter from the Captain in our cabin about “Operation Safe Haven” that would be in effect onboard from November 6th (tomorrow night) through to the 11th of November when we arrive in Muscat. Basically the ship would be running dark (no exterior lighting whatsoever) and all our curtains in our cabins and in public rooms must be drawn at sunset. The promenade and exterior decks would be off limits at night for all passengers. The crew rigged fire hoses on the stanchions of the promenade deck, and large steel pieces were placed on the side bridges. There are 22 crew members that are standing 6 hour watches round the clock while we are transiting this area.
Then at the captains noontime announcement he said that we would be slowing down at 2:15pm today to “take on provisions”. Hum, in the middle of the Red Sea? At exactly 2:15p we saw this freighter on the starboard side and a dinghy came speeding toward us and came alongside our pilot board door. They hoisted up 4 heavy black bags and 3 very large hard cases that looked like they held rifles. So apparently what we can piece together from the information the captain was ok to share with us, there’s a transiting procedure and it involves these extra security personnel that boarded probably in Aqaba and will get off in Muscat. The arms probably needed to be loaded like they were for customs reasons. One passenger joked that he thought the boxes were probably not cucumbers for provisions. I laughed and said they may be organic ones.
Photos of the “provisioning” and a map with our location:
The next four days were spent relaxing during the day on the promenade deck (which was important for Joe and his healing), attending cultural and destination lectures, doing laundry and generally recovering from the fast paced week behind us.