Aqaba is where we take the 1 o’ clock ferry to Egypt, and our mini-bus from Petra arrives in plenty of time. 11 am. We saunter to a bus, and excited when it sets us down, stride to the ferry port in the sun’s blaze. It’s industrial-estate-on-sea, container ships, cranes and concrete, and we find out that we’re supposed to have got our visas for Egypt from the consulate in town.
The next hour and a half is a panting, sweaty rush back along the baking road we’ve just walked then the slowest taxi in the Middle East, an agonizing wait at the consulate, if we miss this ferry it sets our whole schedule back by a day, then the second slowest taxi in the Middle East, a sweaty panting rush to the terminal, tickets please quick please.
And then waiting. The ferry is delayed by an hour. The ferry is delayed by another hour. And another.
Our sweaty shirts have thoroughly dried, and I’m about to play Hotel California at the request of a group of Italians, by the time the departure announcement comes. We cram onto a white bus with a convention of aged Muslim men, white robes and the blue bruises of prayer on their foreheads, which takes us into the belly of the waiting Lady. The HSC Queen Nefertiti.
It’s a big, modern ship. Tourists and people of the region segregate themselves immediately; the tourists occupying the seating round the coffee bar at the back, Middle Easterners in the main seating area at the front. We don’t see much through the dusty windows, and there’s no going on deck, so we talk with smiley Korean girls and walk around Nefertiti recording noises.
Six hours late, the Queen docks in Egypt.