Hanging Ten at Hanger One
Letters to the Editor
I Lunch for Living
Bay Crossings Journal
Port of Call: Aqaba, Jordan
Oakland Opens the Door to Its Waterfront
Marin County Supervisor Kinsey to Head Regional Transportation Agency
Bridges, Ferryboats and Gridlock
Oleta Adams to Star at PortFest 2003
Steve Kinsey on Congestion Management in Marin
Ferry News
"Play Ball! Package" At San Francisco’s Harbor Court Hotel
Bay Crossings Cuisine: Barclays
90’ Brigantine Irving Johnson
Working Waterfront
Boasting Calendar
Opening Day Parade 2003 on SF Bay
Pacific Sail Expo 2003
Boat Shows By Boat, Plane or Train
Hotel Housed in Historic 1909 Fisherman’s Wharf Warehouse to Open September 2003
WTA Transit Works
Paving the Way for Buses: The Great GM Streetcar Conspiracy
Bay Crossings Poetry
Sierra Grand Opening
Photo Unrealism

Port of Call: Aqaba, Jordan
Is that Lawrence of Arabia lurking in the hills above Aqaba? This small port town used to have a key role in the region, now it is a figurative and literal backwater.

"We’ve taken Aqaba," mutters a crusty Peter O’Toole when he encounters a tad bit of difficulty ordering a lemonade with ice at the British officer’s club in Cairo because of his turban and robes, filthy and tattered after crossing the Sinai to report his victory. The small port town he had recently conquered was a critical gateway to a large area of southern Palestine and what is today Jordan. It was also the underbelly of the collapsing Ottoman Empire in 1917, and O’Toole’s real-life character, the quirky killer T.E. Lawrence [of Arabia] used the port as a staging area for guerrilla attacks which hastened the downfall of the Turkish side of the Axis powers in World War I. Surrounded by impenetrable desert, Aqaba was defended by artillery that pointed only toward the sea. Lawrence accomplished the impossible by crossing the Negev desert from the north with his Arab comrades who crushed the Turkish troops, mainly because the tassels on their silly hats could swivel all the way around, but their big guns could not. Nuts.

Getting to Aqaba by ship means a long voyage 1,200 miles up the Red Sea until one reaches the Sinai Peninsula. Turn to port and you’re in the Khalij as-Suways, a desert dead end just like its twin, the Gulf of Aqaba to starboard, until 1869 when a French company dug the Suez Canal and made Aqaba a port of much less importance. The final version of the canal, which had been built and then left to deteriorate by both ancient Egyptians and Romans, rendered Aqaba a figurative and literal backwater.

Today the Aqaba region may be the only place in the world where the borders of four nations converge on a small body of water, all of which are within a short ferry ride’s distance of each other. But instead of a vibrant nexus of diverse Arabic and Semitic cultures, the quartette more closely resembles the center of a left over pizza of middle eastern misery, hold the human rights. Consider the toppings: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan--a place where the government can permanently or temporarily close any newspaper or media outlet for publishing anything with which it disagrees; Egypt--a society so deeply divided that southern Egyptians are not even trusted with butter knives in public places up north; Saudi Arabia--a place where the same royal families who are entrusted with guarding the holiest sites in Islam run lucrative black markets supplying the staples of whatever the Koran forbids, and where women are essentially reproductive chattel (but don’t get too excited--women in the U.S. weren’t allowed to vote until 1920); and finally, Palestine/Israel--the beneficiary of the great Zionist experiment, billed as "a land without a people, for a people without a land." The slogan could easily be updated to something like "a land with a people who can be forced out and subjugated through intimidation and violence, for a people who will do so, provided they get a handsome subsidy from U.S. taxpayers."

One thing Aqaba does have going for it is great scuba diving. The crystal clear saline waters have been protected by relatively light shipping traffic and limited onshore development, as well as a clause in the 1994 treaty between Israel and Jordan creating the Red Sea Marine Peace Park. Aqaba, Jordan--you can get there from the San Francisco Bay in just 40 days traveling at 10 knots via the Panama Canal, Europa Point, and the Suez Canal, a mere 9,628 miles away.

Port of Call is a regular feature that takes a humorous historical look at ferry important places around the globe each month, exclusively in Bay Crossings. Tell us what you think- info@baycrossings.com