Fourth and final installment of my trip through the south of Jordan: Aqaba
As we left Wadi Rum that morning, crowded on our tour bus, rolling across the desert to Aqaba, we stopped at the Disi women’s ceramic shop sponsored by USAID. We were supposed to complete some sort of service project but we ended up planting non-desert flowers and moving some gravel, confused as to where we were and why. I have never been a proponent of unsustainable aid and was very unhappy to be a part of such an isolated and elitist project. In addition, the ceramic shop functioned as a prime example of USAID propaganda and the white women’s burden. I wish that such attempts at female empowerment through economic opportunities were more sustainable and provided a skill and service that breaches the tourist industry interested in ogling “village women producing local goods”.
We made our way quickly to Aqaba for some relaxation and indulgence and got just that on board our mini-yachts booked for us by SIT, our school. On board we bumped American music, danced under the blazing sun and watched the dark blue of the Red Sea flash beneath our boat. We reached vibrant corals situated beneath glimmering waves between Egypt’s Sinai, Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. We snorkeled among the coarls, its pale colors shimmering near the surface beneath the crystal clear water. We surrendered ourselves to the blue silence of the open Sea, watching scores of colorful fish dart beneath us, flickering in and out of visibility, merging with the coral and emerging a tiny dart. The fish were every color imaginable, the corals every shape. Some grew tall and spiny, others bulbous and spongy. In place sit was impossible to hover above because they nearly breached the surface. Farther off from the drop off site however, deep below, the gray skeletons of corals haunted the sea floor, a bracing reminder that this environment is a delicate place and the casual acts of humans carry devastating impacts on the earth.
Later we moved to a shipwreck and snorkeled around 25 ft above it, the darkness of the blue swallowing its rusty ominousness deep below our curious fingers. Attempts to reach its history were continuously thwarted by inner ear pressure for all but our boat guide, his deep sea fins and years of sun-beaten experience.
The yachting experience was capped off with diving and jumping off the boat before pulling up to the touristy, sleazy town of Aqaba. And thus our Southern excursion came to a conclusion, a blessing for our worn-down bodies.