Kolourful Kochi

DSC09277rI think that every bus in Cochin (Kochi) had been hired for our arrival. This time we didn’t take a ship’s tour because it is just as easy to DIY.

DSC09280rTwo of our friends had decided to join us for a tuk tuk tour of Cochin. Our other two friends where having no end of trouble with immigration, because my other friend’s wife who is Chinese had to be processed differently than the rest of us even though she had an Indian visa issued in New Zealand.

We checked various tuk tuk drivers for their command of English and picked one who had a business card printed in English with a list of the main places to see.

I wanted an English speaking guide so there would not be any misunderstanding about the rate agreed, on our return to the ship.

DSC09283r  There isn’t a lot of room in a tuk tuk for two – make sure you are both close friends.

DSC09284rIt was monsoon season so I took precautions of carrying a pair of flips flops because I didn’t want my shoes ruined in water.

DSC09286rFollow that Ferrari !


View from the back seat – these machines will turn on a sixpence.

DSC09296rFirst call was the dhobi wallah – local laundry – one of them had the contract for all the bedding of a local hotel. The above picture is the main area where the ironing takes place.

DSC09297rThis man was ironing a shirt – the iron was heated by red hot coals in the base of the iron – the whole ironing ‘item’ weighed eight kilos! (nearly 18 lbs). As we watched it looked as if part of the shirt was going to be marked with a burn but it wasn’t and he handled the heavy unit with great dexterity.
We were told that the weight was 8 kilos so I checked on the empty weight (the iron is called a charcoal iron) and the empty weight is 2.75 kilos, but I doubt that it would hold 5 kilos of burning charcoal so perhaps they meant 8 pounds, regardless it was interesting to see him work.

DSC09298rThis man was belting the life out of a piece of clothing – his washing tub was behind him – solid concrete.

DSC09299rAll done by hand – washing tub at the back, soap powders, and a constant wet floor. If it is the same as Mumbai (Bombay) then each ‘cubical’ is an individual businessman rather than part of a larger company.

DSC09301rEven in the monsoon season people were optimistic enough to hang washing out. The washing was not held on the line with pegs – the washing line was made from twisted coconut fibre and a couple of lines were platted so that the clothes could be poked through the platted line and strung between the ‘A’ frame poles.DSC09302r   Behind me is the garden where the clotheslines are located, to my left is the ironing room and on the right is the washing area where people in each cubical / section beat the dirt out of clothes – see below – I should have used a flash.


DSC09306rFlip flop time – it is still raining – I changed shoes after which I didn’t care whether my feet got wet or not.

In our tuk tuk Maureen sat on the right & I was on the left. The right hand side had a heavy plastic sheet to keep the passenger dry from rain & spray of the traffic. The left hand side was the entry / exit point for the passengers so it didn’t have a plastic sheet, but our driver used his customer service skills and obtained an umbrella for me to hold open, while he drove, to try and stop the rain coming in to the cab area and wetting his passengers. I was always concerned that when it was up I couldn’t see what was ahead of us, or if I was going to belt a pedestrian or scratch a car / truck. ‘Elf & safety . . . . wots dat?

DSC09310r.jpgSanta Cruz Cathedral Basilica.

Maureen & I and our friends were not in to sight seeing churches, temples or mosques, but at times a particular place of worship has strong historical link.

 It was built by the Portuguese and became a Cathedral in 1558. When the Dutch arrived  they destroyed many catholic churches, but not this one. When the British arrived in 1795 they demolished the old building (the church), because the Dutch had been using it as a store for their arms.
In 1887 a new building was started on the old site and this was consecrated in 1905, and Pope John Paul 11 proclaimed it a Basilica in 1984.

The day we visited I expected to see Noah gathering the animals because the rain was so heavy.


DSC09312rInside the church – I found the painting in the ceiling interesting, they depict the 12 stations of the cross.

chinese-fishing-netI’d been telling our friends of the Chinese fishing nets, and how unusual there are, but I should have warned them that not everything is as it should be – the above is from an advert.

DSC09316rI took the above in heavy rain while trying to keep my umbrella from blowing away. The rubbish on the beach devalued the whole image.

DSC09317rThe stalls selling fresh fish were also a disappointment, due to lack of shoppers and the miserable weather.

DSC09318rSt Francis was the first European church to be built in India, originally of wood and then of stone in about 1516. Being a church for the Portuguese it was catholic, until the Dutch arrived in 1663 when it was reconditioned and converted to a protestant church. It remained a Dutch church even after the British had captured Cochin in 1795. It was given, by the Dutch, to the British Anglican community in 1804.

Vasco de Gama, the famous Portuguese navigator, died in Cochin in 1524 and was laid to rest in this church. Fourteen years later in 1538, his remains were removed to Portugal and he was reburied in Lisbon.


For those interested in researching their family history this church has the Doop Book, which is a record of baptisms and weddings from 1751 to 1804. Many Dutch who are interested in their family history visit the church, because visitors are able to study the Doop Book records. The original book was sent to London in 1932 to be repaired by experts, and rebound in the original way. Due to the importance of the original book the copy available for research is a facsimile.

The Minister or Predikant of the church, Peter Cornelius kept the Doop Book up to date in his own hand writing for forty years.

The Church of South India, which has 22 dioceses across four States of southern India, and Sri Lanka, currently owns the St Francis Church in Cochin (Kochi). The church holds regular services each Sunday, and is open the other six days for tourists and visitors.

DSC09324rSince the arrival in Cochin of the Portuguese the reason the trade began was due to spices, and it hasn’t changed in centuries.

DSC09325r.jpgThe latest trader was Maureen as she bargained for a bag of cinnamon – it was offered at USD $7, we offered $5 and they were happy. Considering the price in Sydney USD $5 was cheap, but the transport from Cochin to Sydney was free :-o)
Australian quarantine checked the bag and its contents, before returning it to Maureen, and allowing it in to the country.

DSC09326rThe smell of the spices was pure magic – I did ask about the small brown seeds that can bee seen, but can not remember the answer.

DSC09327rHow about spices in liquid form.

DSC09328ror powder form – your choice.


The Jews in the early days had a lot to do with the trading.

DSC09332rJew – Town Road

DSC09343rInteresting shops from jewellery to clothing to souvenirs and more colours than you can shake a stick at  . . .

DSC09337rPerhaps for the festival of Holi – which is The Festival of Colours – Lord Krishna is thought to have loved jokes and would drench girls in water and colour.
fesitval of colourI obtained the above & below pictures off the net

ladiesThe dhobi wallah must love this ceremony.


 We were never too far from spices

DSC09341r Even elephants had to have a doze in the monsoons season.

Back to the ship for a late lunch and a dry wine – the only dry bit of the whole tour.




Abu Dhabi and all that . . .


Abu Dhabi 2017 – the Emirates Palace Hotel – I didn’t have any friends in Abu Dhabi so I was unable to fix a visit, but I did check the rates – on special the cheapest room is AUD $365 / night (USD $290) but couldn’t find out if this included a ‘free’ breakfast. The most expensive being the Palace Grand Suite at AUD $16,845 (USD $ 13,332), which isn’t bad when you compare this to the Dubai hotel cost for their most expensive room.
Palace Grand Suite  I added the 10% service charge & the 6% room tax to the Grand Palace Suite costs – check the links for pictures.

1962__Abu_DhabiAbu Dhabi 1963 during my first visit to this town. In the early 60’s going ashore was by a boat to a local beach.

landaura1Dhows would come out to us, (after we’d anchored), and we would work cargo using our own derricks etc.

Check below as to how we stepped ashore during our recent visit.


DSC08366rI took the above as the Majestic Princess manoeuvred alongside – you can see the disturbed water from our side thrusters pushing us bodily alongside.

Maureen & I decide on a basic tour of four hours or so, which included a visit to the new (opened in 2007) Sheikh Zayed Mosque.

DSC09103r Doesn’t matter where we go we end up in a fish market . . . without chips.

DSC09105rI can’t remember what type of fish this chap was showing us, but I’m sure someone will tell me. I liked the colour and wondered if it retained its colour once it was cooked, and on the plate.

DSC09124r Presidential Palace

DSC09131rHeritage village – I found it a disappointing place that had been ‘recreated’ and had little resemblance to the Abu Dhabi that I remembered.

DSC09132rThe above gives you an idea of what Abu Dhabi was like in the early 60’s. The shops  didn’t sell post cards the last time I went shopping in Abu Dhabi, but Japanese electronics, which are now collectors items. The person with the umbrella is protecting themselves from the sun, not rain.

If you do visit this ‘village’ make sure you have all the necessities if you wish to use the bathroom, better still – DON’T! use the bathroom.

DSC09142rFront area of the Presidential Palace.

DSC09143rThe guide did mention that each of the wives of the Sheik had their own entrance to the living quarters, so as not to meet each other I suppose.

DSC09145r I think this is the bridge to nowhere – a private island that is empty, so I suppose that makes this a private bridge . . . didn’t see any vehicles on the bridge.

DSC09150r A short time after the ‘bridge to nowhere’ the Sheikh Zayed Mosque came in to view. According to what I have read in the ship’s blurb for the tour of Abu Dhabi, the mosque is the 8th largest mosque in the world, but according to the internet it is the 9th, but who’s counting? Enough to say that it is big.

To comply with the requirements of the mosque Maureen had on a long sleeve blouse & slacks down to her ankles, and I had long pants with a short sleeve shirt. Being a mere male I wasn’t bothered, but our guide on the coach became upset that Maureen’s pants were not long enough and said that the religious police might not allow her to visit the mosque. She offered to return to the cabin to change in to yet longer slacks that dragged on the floor, but the guide said that we didn’t have time to wait. We had a number of ladies on our tour in the same situation. Maureen and a few others accepted that they would not be visiting the mosque due to the clothing problem.

We parked outside the mosque and the guide suggested that the ladies try and enter and to see what happens. As we walked towards the main entrance Maureen was pulled to one side with some other ladies off our bus.

Maureen insisted that one of us should see the mosque (me) and that she will wait in the bus with the other ladies.

I passed through security and started the tour of the building.

DSC09154r.jpgMain entrance after security.

DSC09156rArea to the left of the main entrance with the pool.

DSC09161rThe inner courtyard after passing through the main entrance of the mosque. A minaret is at each corner. The courtyard is 17,000 sq mtrs (180,000 sq feet).

DSC09162rIt is thought to be the largest example of marble mosaic in the world.


After viewing the courtyard I returned to the front of the building and walked down the columned walk way so as to turn right down another columned walk way to the main prayer hall. The walk way to the prayer hall can be seen on the left of the above picture.

DSC09159rThe start of the walkway.

DSC09168r  With the breeze blowing through it was not unpleasant walking along the columned passages.


The water helped to cool the breeze as it wafted through the corridor.

At the end of the corridor there were seats and racking system – visitors had to remove their shoes. As I was removing my shoes I was accosted by a lady in black.


DSC09190rThe lady turned out to be Maureen – she’d been offered an abaya from our coach driver.

DSC09180rOnce inside the main hall we could see the carpet – 5,627 sq mtrs (60,570 sq feet). The largest carpet in the world, at 35 tons, it took 1200 to 1300 carpet knotters around two years to tie 2,268,000 knots to create the carpet, which is mainly wool from New Zealand & Iran. Apparently some of the carpet is slightly higher than other parts. This is to help worshippers, when on their knees, to face the correct way. The direction indication of ‘correctness’ can not be seen when standing.

The mosque can handle 40,000 worshippers, and the main hall over 7,000 men – the ladies have a smaller hall for their use, large enough for 1500 worshippers. There is also another smaller hall for men, which can handle a further 1500 worshippers. The 96 columns that can be seen in the main hall are clad with marble and inlaid with mother of pearl.

DSC09175r       There are seven chandeliers imported from Germany and they contain millions of  Swarovski crystals.



I tried to get all three chandeliers in to the same picture.


Indicators for prayers. The Gregorian calendar starts at zero based on Christ’s birth, (BC/AD) whereas the Muslim calendar starts at Gregorian 622 (AD) is based on Muhammad’s arrival at Medina.
His journey was during the year of the Hijra (which means Permission to travel), so the Islamic calendar was dated from the Hijra year , which is why it shows as 1438 AH (Anno Hegirae – Latin – for ‘in the year of the Hijra’) for the current Islamic year.


The various names indicate the prayers e.g ISHA is the night time prayer of the daily prayers and is the fifth prayer. Faja is the dawn prayer, Dhuhr is the mid-day prayer, each name has a different meaning for the faithful.

The visit to the mosque took about 90 minutes. I found it interesting from an architectural point of view, because my knowledge of the Islamic faith is limited. The cost to build the mosque, which was started in 1997, was USD $545 million in 2007 ($652 million in today’s money).

As our coach left the parking area I couldn’t help but think of the $545 million dollars for a project that focuses on the faith of the people. When I got back onboard the Majestic Princess I checked a few facts on the net.

In 2004 the world had the tsunami that destroyed hundreds of homes and thousands of lives, in 13 countries, particularly in Indonesia, which is the largest Muslim country in the world. The world rallied around to help the Indonesian, Sri Lankans, Indian, Thais etc who had suffered huge loss of life and infrastructure. A total of 226,000 people died of which 74% were from Indonesia.

A call went out across Australia for help, particularly as Indonesia is our nearest neighbour. Like many other countries Australia dug deep and contributed cash and food to the extent of USD $66.38 / person via direct giving or government giving, making a total contribution of $1.322 Billion USD.
In comparison the UAE (which includes Dubai as well as Abu Dhabi) gave $7.92 per person, a total of $20 million dollars of citizen direct giving, and government contributions.
In comparison Kuwait gave USD $44.3 / person ($100 million), Qatar USD $23.80 / person ($20 million), Saudi Arabia USD$1.16 / person (USD $30 million).

I’m not being judgemental just pointing out the difference in priorities – a building (how ever beautiful) and five million people homeless, and without access to food & fresh water.

I tried to take a decent shot of this building on the way back to the ship.


The Aldar Building – downloaded from the company’s web site – this is the picture that I was trying to take . . .

DSC09199rAbu Dhabi is expanding with the reclaiming of land from the Persian (Arabian) Gulf.

DSC09203rNew homes built on reclaimed land – they did look nice.

Overall the tour was interesting, even if we did get a lecture / chat about Islam on our return journey to the ship.
We had a very similar lecture by our guide when we returned to the ship in Aqaba, Jordon, which makes me wonder if this type of lecture / friendly chat is a deliberate plan to get a certain point across to westerners.
I had the feeling that the delivery and content of the ‘friendly chats’ had been agreed in advance, between whom, I don’t know. If I am wrong then the delivery of the two ‘chats’, within nine days, and so very, very, similar, yet so far from each other (Jordon & UAE), was a remarkable coincidence.


A rich man’s world


oneA friend of mine that I used to work with in BOAC in the 1970’s, heard that Maureen & I would be sailing in the Majestic Princess, and that she would be visiting Dubai for a day on the way to Singapore.
He suggested that we should meet so as to catch up on the last thirty nine years. I jumped at the idea at seeing him again, and ‘catching up’.

He’d left BOAC in 1978 to work for an airline in the Persian Gulf.
boac                  For those who can remember BOAC  :-o)

Over the years his life had changed, and he now ran his own company in Dubai.

During our e-mail chats he asked what we would like to see while in Dubai, and as we had seen a number of the popular sights during our visit last year,  we asked if it was possible to see inside . . .


without actually staying there?

My friend picked Maureen & I up from the cruise terminal in his chauffer driven car – he hates driving – and took us to the Dubai Museum.


DSC09018r.jpgI was able to read more about Lawrence of Arabia. The museum was cool (as in climate) and very interesting. I took a number of photos of various items on display, but for some reason only the above picture registered on the camera. At least the outside pictures worked.


Leo & I meet again after nearly forty years.

Next stop was the 321 meter high  Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel, voted as the world’s most luxurious hotel. Leo had fixed everything.

DSC09025rThe main reception area where Leo introduced himself to the receptionist and a young lady came over to meet us and show us various areas of the hotel.

On the left of the above picture is the start of the wow factor.


Computer controlled mini-fountains pointing upwards.

Escalators on each side of the water feature, but so as not to get bored in your travels the management have put in an a fish pond.

DSC09024rThere is another escalator & aquarium on the other side of the of the mini-fountains.

There is a reception on each floor and check-in takes place in your suite.

DSC09023rDifferent colours for various floors.


More fountains as we reached the top of the escalators.

DSC09030rMaureen & Leo walk quietly to the lift.


Reception at the restaurant as we step out of the lift.

DSC09032rWalk through the tunnel to the restaurant. The colour gold is everywhere.

DSC09034r We are in the Al Mahara restaurant and the whole wall is an aquarium – not sure if we are supposed to pick our fish for eating as it swims passed or do we just admire the view.


DSC09036rPrivate dining room – I am not sure if the aquarium at the end is part of the restaurant aquarium.

DSC09037r The private dining room – view taken with my back to the aquarium.


Close-up of the wall of water.

DSC09040rView of outside from the reception area.


Shopping ??

DSC09043rCorridor to where, I don’t know.

DSC09044rLooking down on to a tearoom come bar area and below the bar area is the main entrance.


Design of the various floors.


DSC09046rThe walk area towards ‘our’ suite.

DSC09047rEntrance area of the suite – two floors, dining room, sitting room two double bedrooms each en-suite.
This bedroom suite has a gold iPad – who doesn’t? A 21 inch iMac, floor to ceiling windows, wide screen HD TV and don’t forget the 24 hour butler service. Nothing has been left out.

DSC09048eLeo & our guide in the reception area of the suite.

DSC09067rLeo felt quite at home, with his gold computer . . .

DSC09049rSitting room

DSC09050rDining room.

DSC09054rGeneral view back towards the reception area.


DSC09056rMain bedroom

DSC09057rEn-suite bathroom.

DSC09059rDressing room for main bedroom.

DSC09060rSecond bedroom

DSC09062rSecond bedroom en-suite (also with dressing room)


Both bedrooms are upstairs, but as you climb the stairs you can check the time, which is an image that is cast on to the wall of the staircase so that it doesn’t intrude. As you see we were there around lunchtime –  the clock was accurate.


Sitting room , small bar & large TV.

DSC09051rView from the sitting room window. A little hazy due to sand in the air.


As we left the hotel I saw the ‘sister’ hotel across the beach area, and noticed that the Rolls Royce’s engine was still running even though the car was empty – one doesn’t wish to climb in to a hot car.


If I start saving now, and live long enough, the suite that we saw is on ‘special’ for just over AUD $6,000 a night, but it does include a free breakfast.

It’s only money after all, and that’s what I want  if I plan staying at this hotel.

The hotel opened in 1999.

The smallest room is 169 sq mtrs – & I thought the E & O in Penang had large rooms at 53 sq mtrs. It costs about AUD $1300 a night for the smallest room.
The largest room is 780 sq meters – the Royal Suite costs about AUD $37,000 a night. It was listed as the 12th most expensive suit in the world in 2012.

There are only 28 double story floors, to create 202 bedroom suites. The shape of the hotel represents the sail of a dhow. The owners wanted an iconic design to show place Dubai in the way that the Opera House does for Sydney, Big Ben for London or the Eiffel Tower for Paris.

The idea of using hotels as symbols of a country seems to be growing with Dubai’s  Burj Al Arab Jumeirah hotel,


and also Singapore with

sin  Mariner Bay Sands Hotel

There is still talk of converting QE2 in to a Dubai hotel, but will she ever make the grade.

DSC09017rAs the Majestic Princess docked I took the above picture of a grand old lady alongside in Dubai – she has been in Dubai since 2008.





Peace & quiet


Hollywood Pool Club – I took these pictures during our time at anchor just off Santorini in Greece. The bulk of the passengers were still ashore so Maureen & I had the place mainly to ourselves. If you look closely at the green figures above, you can see someone hiding as I took the picture.

DSC08678rQuiet and peaceful and only at night does it come alive as a nightclub. The roof over the pool keeps the temperature steady, regardless of the outside temperature.

DSC08679rIn addition to the swimming pool there are hot tubs, and quiet spots over looking the ocean.

DSC08681r Peace & quiet

DSC08682rThere is also a bar, but most people just sat & read during the day.


If you wish to watch TV in a quiet private alcove – you are able to pull a curtain over to make it more private.
Picture below is the other end of the same private alcove.



Maureen tried different sized xylophones to practise her musical talent.



Being tone deaf, I was more interested in a game of chess.


Cane basket chairs and a good book . . .

DSC08692rOr one could sit just outside to add to the suntan – waiter service for a cold beer, I didn’t want to break out in to a sweat after all . . .

DSC08556rFor those who trusted the ‘see through’ floors (decks) on the Skywalk, you could watch the water flow under your feet. Your brain told you that it would be safe, but many still walked with one foot on each side of the reinforced glass area.




The main pool area was always popular, and during an Australian sporting match that was broadcast via satellite from Australia, many passengers just floated in the pool with drinks in hand, and watched & listened to the large screen broadcast. For such a large screen I didn’t notice any problems due to sunlight or distortion. Obviously the sound was quite loud, but once we moved from the pool area it fell away and didn’t bother us.


Being a shore day the pool was relatively empty.

DSC09248rWhen we sailed close to the Indian coast, on our way to Cochin (Kochi), we experienced a heavy downpour, due to it being the monsoon season, which cleared everyone from the pool area.
Odd really that people left the pool because they were getting wet due to the rain . . . :-o)


Footsteps of Seven Pillars

DSC08824rSunrise over Aqaba

DSC08827rIn the distance Israel, behind us Saudi Arabia, and further to the left of Israel is Egypt as we came alongside Aqaba.


Aqaba is in the Kingdom of Jordon, and Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein is their King, having become King on the death of his father, King Hussein, in 1999.

Princess Cruises offered a number of shore excursion in and around Aqaba, from scuba diving in the warm waters of the gulf, to an all day tour to Petra, which would be over nine hours. Knowing our limitations and having read about some of the problems due to the heat of visiting Petra, we chose to do the shorter tour of Wadi Rum, which was about five hours.
Wadi Rum is also known as The Valley of the Moon, and considering the next suburb of where we live in Sydney is called Jannali, which is an Aboriginal name for Place of the Moon, our choice was obvious.
Wadi means ‘valley’ & Rum mean ‘elevated’.

Wadi Rum was the area where the film ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, with Peter O’Toole, was partially made, as well as the recent film ‘The Martian’ with Mat Damon.

For me, the dominant feel of Wadi Rum was Lawrence of Arabia – I’d seen the film and read of his exploits.

lawrence-of-arabiaThomas Edward Lawrence, 1880 – 1935

DSC08838rIt wasn’t long after we had driven out of Aqaba that we came across camels.

DSC08839rWe stopped at a small railways station for a ‘photo op’ and the single line reminded me of the film, and when I turned around . . . the train engine fitted the scene, because it was used in the film.

DSC08840rc  if Peter O’Toole had stood on the roof of the train I wouldn’t have been surprised.


As I took the photograph of the engine I thought the area was deserted, until I turned and saw a modern train coming towards me – it was a working line!


DSC08847r.jpg  It was real, not a film set.

DSC08852rThe meeting area for our desert transport was more upmarket than the railway station, with a few shops and toilet facilities. The large rock face in the background is called the Seven Pillars, which was the inspirational name that Lawrence used when he wrote The Seven Pillars of Wisdom’.

DSC08854rNothing flash about our desert transport – the utes made the Aussie’s feel at home. I whispered to Maureen to grab one with a roof covering, how ever flimsy, to keep us in the shade. Each truck carried six passengers in the back – hanging on was the object of the trip once the truck started to move.

DSC08856rIf I’d have heard John Wayne shouting ‘Head ’em up move ’em out’ I wouldn’t have been surprised.

The Seven Pillars right in front of us.


We are off – how fortunate that we had picked the lead truck so that we didn’t have to worry about sand in our wake.

DSC08862rThe scenery was spectacular as we bounced over the ground – they didn’t have any roads across the desert.

DSC08870rcWe reached a sand hill and were told that if we climbed the hill the views would be magnificent.

DSC08872rIt didn’t look all that hard so I started to climb, Maureen stayed with the trucks.

DSC08876rIn the very soft sand each foot step was energy sapping – and my new pacemaker started to work overtime.

DSC08877rNearing the top – gasp, gasp, keep pumping  . . .

DSC08879rcMade it ! and the driver was correct the views were just great.

DSC08880r Looking back to our convoy of trucks.

DSC08881rI tried to capture the distances and the depth of beauty – the isolation, the quiet and as Lawrence himself said, the desert is clean.
Gazing across the desert reminded me of the book ‘The Phantom Major’ by Virginia Cowles, about the creation of the British SAS during WW2 and how the Long Range Desert group ferried the SAS to their targets. Maureen’s uncle was a member of the LRDG, so our desert ride gave us a very small idea of what he experienced. At least nobody was trying to kill us – well, not with bullets.

DSC08885rOff again until we came to a camp with camels. The offer being USD $15 per person to ride a camel to the next stop (about twenty minutes by camel). Quiet a few took them up on the camel owner’s offer.

DSC08892r        The rest of us climbed back in to our trucks for a more ‘comfortable’ ride.


I couldn’t stop taking photographs as we bounced along.

DSC08898rA cup of tea at a Bedouin camp – as you see the latest addition to the Bedouin camel is blue (on the right of the picture).

DSC08900r  Small glasses of tea were offered – brewed using the open fire. Cardamom seeds were added to the drink after it had been brewed. The seed gave the drink a distinctive taste which was not unpleasant. Of course they had various articles for sale.

DSC08903rcOutside carved in to a rock was a sculpture of the King of Jordon and also Lawrence.

DSC08906rI don’t think the artist had seen Lawrence . . .

DSC08907rThe rest of our group arrived safely and the camel handler started back for the next load of tourists.
Once we were all together and the ‘camel’ group had tried the tea we were off again at high speed so fast that as we shot over to tops of sand hills we were nearly airborne. It was quite exciting as long as you didn’t think of H & S, lack of seatbelts, lousy springs and teeth shattering landings, and of course there wasn’t anyway that I could take photographs. Both hands were busy being ‘white knuckles’ as we hung on to our truck.

DSC08913rBack on the flat ground again and we suddenly came to a tent hotel – welcome, cold drinks, tea, biscuits, and local music.

DSC08914rDining area


Lights for an evening show.

DSC08919rBackground Arabic music.

The whole experience was stimulating and enjoyable, and I am glad we picked the five hour tour because that was enough for us with the heat and the ‘bounce’.

As much as I enjoyed the film Lawrence of Arabia the actual attack on Aqaba is – to be kind, artistic licence – because the attack shown in the film is untrue.

The main battle for Aqaba took place at a small block house called  Abu al Lasan, which is between Aqaba and the town of Ma’an. The Arabs captured it, and few days later the Turks recaptured the blockhouse.
Later the Turks attacked an Arab camp and killed several Arabs.
Auda abu Tayi heard of the Turkish attack on the Arab camp and lead his own attack against the Turks. Lawrence was with him during this attack.
The attack was a success and three hundred Turkish soldiers were killed before Auda could control his troops. A further three hundred Turks were captured. The Arabs lost two killed and a few wounded.

While this battle was going on the Royal Navy arrived off Aqaba and began to shell the town.

A combined  force of about five thousand, which included the troops under Auda abu Tayi (leader of part of the Howett tribe)  &  Sherif Nasir (Faisal’s cousin), again with Lawrence advising, infiltrated the defence lines of the Turks around Aqaba, and approached the gates of the town, at which point the garrison surrendered without a struggle.

Regardless of the true battle, I do like the film’s attack of Aqaba, even if it was made in a Spanish riverbed, rather than Wadi Rum. The town of Aqaba, shown in the film, was recreated by the film company exactly as Aqaba was in 1916 – 300 buildings, the army camp, including parade ground, a quarter of mile long sea wall, etc all of the ‘real’ towns that were considered were too ‘modern’ for 1916.

If you get a chance to visit Jordon, visit Wadi Rum.


Suez Canal Transit


We entered the Suez Canal at first light, and with camera in hand I started photographing our transit.
The canal had been built by Ferdinand de Lesseps between 1859 and 1869, and was opened in 1869.

The Egyptian / French plan for the opening was to allow the Imperial Yacht L’Aigle, with the French Empress, Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III,

Eugénieas guest of honour on board, to be the first vessel to transit the canal.

Imperial Yacht L’Aigle

The second vessel was to be the P & O liner Delta, which was full of society people and passengers from Great Britain.
Unfortunately for the French & the Egyptians a British Royal Navy vessel HMS Newport,

300px-S_S_Yacht_BlencathraThe picture shows her later in her life.

captained by George Nares, was the first vessel to transit the canal. Captain Nares on the night before the canal was to open, navigated his ship in the dark, and without lights,  through the various anchored vessels waiting to enter the canal at daylight, and positioned his vessel in front of the French Imperial Yacht in such a way that HMS Newport could not be passed.


 Admiral Sir George Nares, 1831 – 1915

When dawn broke the French and Egyptians were quite ‘upset’ (to say the least) at the position of the Royal Navy vessel..
Captain Nares was reprimanded by London, but unofficially congratulated by the Admiralty. He rose to the rank of Vice Admiral later in life.

In 1875 the Khedive of Egypt (ruler of Egypt as Viceroy, under the Sultan of Turkey) offered nearly half the shares in the canal for sale.
The PM of Great Britain, Benjamin Disraeli, bought them for Great Britain against the advice of his senior ministers, but with the support of Queen Victoria, because he wanted to control access to India and the Empire East of Suez.
The cost at the time was £4 million, and the canal remained under British control until Nasser nationalised it in 1956, although there was a lease on the canal, given to Ferdinand de Lesseps, for 99 years, which would end in 1968.

The view from the Wake Bar from the Majestic Princess’ stern area was of green and pleasant land on the starboard Egyptian side, but on the other side, a desert that has been fought over for generations, from Lawrence of Arabia in WW1, to the Israelis in recent years.

The Majestic Princess being a passenger ship on her ‘maiden’ voyage to China, was given the lead position in the southbound convoy. You can just see the next ship, which is a black dot well astern of us. The tug just astern of us followed in our wake all the way through the canal – I presume ‘just in case ‘ anything went wrong.


It was far more pleasant to be a passenger, when transiting the Suez Canal this time, than a deck officer on the bridge of a cargo ship, which I was in the mid 1960’s. The guy in the red shirt is Will, our New Zealand friend who was on the Conway with me from 1960 to ’62. Will has memories of being blockaded in the canal during the Six Day War in 1967.

The Mubarak Peace bridge across the troubled waters of the canal. The bridge was built with the help of the Japanese government and opened in 2001. The height of the two main pylons support the span at 154 mtrs (505 feet) above the water allowing for a clearance under the bridge of 70 mtrs, so the largest any vessel can be is 68 mtrs above the water level.



Some very nice-looking homes on the starboard side of the canal as we approached the town of Ismailia.



 Car ferry waiting for us to pass – plenty of horns sounding and much waving of arms from those on land as well as the passengers onboard.

Shortly after we entered Timsah Lake, which appeared to be a holiday area.

DSC08753rBeach front of the Mecure Hotel

DSC08752rI saw the above blue building in the distance, but have not be able to find out what it is . . .

DSC08757rOn our port side a striking difference to the holiday feel of Timsah Lake.

The original canal was 164 km long, and over time with various expansions became 193 km long, and its depth grew from 8 meters to 24 meters. Even with these expansions it was realised that a second canal or further expansion would be required. Under the old system ships would anchor in the Bitter Lakes and wait until the opposite convoy had passed before continuing their transit. In certain areas of the canal, when I used to sail between Asia & Europe in the 60’s, we used to tie up alongside the canal bank in wider areas of the canal, to allow the opposite convoy, north or south bound, to pass.
The new part of the canal, which is 35 kms long, took just a year to build, see the right hand picture



The occasional cut over, but I should think for only small craft.


Warship passing from the Bitter Lakes to the Mediterranean via the new expansion – she didn’t fly a flag of nationality that I could see, so I presume she was Egyptian, with the canal being Egyptian water.


Ships that pass in the day, as we entered the Bitter Lakes – the container ship is sailing north in the ‘new’ canal.


The Bitter Lakes – there are two linked to the canal, the Great Bitter Lake and the Small Bitter Lake. Before the canal was opened in 1869 there used to be a dry salt valley, which after the canal was opened became the Bitter lakes – the valley flooded. The ‘lake’ is used as a passing area for the north & south bound convoys. When I was at sea we would anchor in the lakes while waiting for our convoy to be ready to resume the transit.

This time Majestic Princess just steamed very slowly passed the various waiting ships.

The water flows freely between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean and many Red Sea creatures have migrated to the Mediterranean and colonised their new home. North of the Bitter Lakes the water flows with the seasons – it flows northwards in winter and southwards in the summer months. South of the Bitter Lakes the water is tidal and influenced by the tidal flow of the Red Sea. Due to the salt in the original valley, the salinity of the Bitter Lakes is very high, about twice as high as normal sea water.

DSC08773rDuring the Six Day War in 1967 the canal was closed and fifteen ships were locked in the Bitter Lakes. They became known as the Yellow Fleet because of the sand blown from the desert that covered their decks in yellow sand. The crews cooperated with each other and created their own post office and stamp. The Yellow Fleet stamps have become a collector’s item. The canal didn’t reopen until 1975.

Our friend from NZ, Will, spent some time in a Blue Star ship, Scottish Star, marooned in the Bitter Lakes.


I was looking for an example of the stamps used by the Yellow Fleet and came across this envelope, which is addressed to a home in Birkenhead (UK). The address is quite close to where I used to live in Tranmere.

At 144,212 gross tonnes the Majestic Princess was not the largest passenger ship to transit the canal – this honour is held by Quantum of the Seas at 167,800 gross tonnes when she transited the canal in 2015.


Heading northwards . . . . .fully loaded.

DSC08783rMore and more sand on the port side . . . .


Trucks waiting for the ferry to cross the canal . . . I think the ferry only accepted two at a time.

DSC08793rThe queue for the ferry went for quite a long way.


The southern end of the canal is quite near – Port Tewfik – which used to be spelt Taufiq in the 60’s.

Port Tewfik at the Southern end of the canal as we passed the final point and entered the Red Sea.


The pilot has left us – full ahead in to the Red Sea.

Edible Art

I’m sure half the crew working in the galley are frustrated artists of one kind or another.


We saw their work when on a galley tour, but on certain days they produced fancy cakes.



Not having sweet tooth, I was happy to photograph, but not to eat, because once I started to eat I was bothered that I might not stop . . .


Someone had already started . . .

Fortunately, I managed a few pictures before the cakes were all eaten . . .

DSC09417rA fresh lot of cakes came out . . . along with

DSC09418rChocolate fountain.


More and more came out  . .






I enjoyed window shopping, but not eating, because I prefer a non-sweet bitter taste . . .

beerThe ship also carried Newcastle Brown ale on tap . . . a well balanced meal is a glass in each hand – Boddington & Newcastle ale.


F & B

Food & Beverage always helps to make a holiday.

Dining in the Symphony Dining room – breakfast, lunch or dinner. Maureen and I started having our breakfast in the restaurant, but ended up on deck sixteen at World Fresh Marketplace – the choice was larger, but each evening we had our dinner in the Symphony restaurant.

Breakfast in the World Fresh Marketplace, which was very good with a huge choice of food from around the world. On one side, we had a darker décor (see above pic) and on the other side of the ship we had a lighter décor. (see pic below)

The darker area concentrated on hot dishes – roasts, curries, Chinese spicy dishes, and the lighter area on ‘cool’ dishes – salads, puddings, cakes etc. It was a joy to wander around and check all the dishes, which for me made choosing what to eat, without overeating, the decision of the day.


A colourful spread of puddings, jellies and sweets, some sugar free, others gluten free, they did their best to satisfy as many people as possible.


A wide choice of food from around the world – hot or cold.



Smoked salmon for breakfast or lunch . . . just help yourself.


I had read comments on the lack of bars for such a large vessel, and the difference in the western and Chinese culture of visiting bars. As soon as we had settled in we investigated which bar was going to be our favourite. The above picture shows Bellini’s, which concentrates on Champagne.


Or was it the Fountain Pool Bar, near the pool area.


Seaview Bar near the pool was popular, particularly on hot days.

Sitting at the bar we could watch the passing desert as we moved gently along the Suez Canal.

For those who are TT, a fruit and veg bar- drinks produced by blending / crushing various fruits & vegetables.
But, for us The Piazza Bar replaced the Crooner’s Bar on other ships.

Maureen & our friends at the Piazza Bar for a pre-dinner drink.


Same bar area of the Piazza bar

This bar was close to the main ‘entertaining’ area of the dance floor, which was also used as a centre of offbeat entertaining.


Specialty acts


Jazz band

The female acrobat returned a few nights later with a double wheel.


Plus of course we could dance or in my case crush Maureen’s feet.

Another popular bar was the Wake Bar


This was a favourite place for many to have their breakfast – the World Fresh Market was just for’d of the Wake Bar, and the day could start with a Bloody Mary and fried eggs if this was to your liking.
There was a ‘day starter’ menu available at the bar if you wished for a breakfast cocktail. This menu changed to lunchtime cocktail menus around 11.00 am.

Additional bars were Crown Grill (part of a small restaurant) –


and there was a bar inside the casino, which we didn’t use.



I bet (excuse the pun) the casino will be popular with the Chinese during the Majestic Princess’ year long China contract.


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