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sail from Egypt to Jordan, discovering the treasures of the Red Sea

Since this winter, a brand new route will sail on the Red Sea, from Egypt to Jordan. An atypical mix of culture and relaxation. But above all a fabulous journey between Africa and Asia, to meet two of the most fascinating ancient civilizations.

Winter is undoubtedly the best season to travel to the Red Sea. First cruise company to have dared these mythical waters – it was in 2008 -, CroisiEurope reconnects with an original route, crossing the border. At the start of the afternoon, a warm breeze caresses the sun deck of the MV/La Belle de l’Adriatique. December is approaching and even the most cautious do not hesitate to treat themselves to a bath of light above the waves. The boat has just cast off the moorings and is moving on a calm sea, heading for Jordan. In the distance, the imposing white silhouette of the great mosque of the port of Hurghada dwindles second by second. Below the surface, the turquoise tones and the palette of blues betray the presence of coral fields and clear sandbanks. On board, less than a hundred travelers will be pampered for a week by 51 crew members.

Desert on the big screen

Around 7:30 a.m., the boat is approaching Aqaba, Jordan’s only outlet to the sea. From the open sea, the vision is surreal: the small town appears embedded. On one side, Israel and its port of Eilat which itself borders the birth of the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. On the other side, Saudi Arabia. Aqaba provides access to the wonders of southern Jordan, starting with the Wadi Rum desert for a first day of excursion. A desert perched more than 1,000 meters above sea level. From the port, the road, a real furrow dug in the volcanic rock, climbs continuously for two hours. On the high plateau, the show does not disappoint: huge ocher and orange rocks emerge here and there from the red sands. “Directors love to plant their cameras there,” says Khaled, a talkative guide. Starting with that of lawrence of arabia, whose mountain “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” bears the name of the autobiographical work. More recently, Matt Damon wandered “alone on Mars” in those same red sands and among alien settings that also pleased the creators of Star Wars Episode IX or of Dunes.

The Belle of the Adriatic crosses breathtaking landscapes.© eric vancleynenbreugel

It is hard to imagine that under this sterile sand, an immense fossil groundwater supplies a good part of a country classified as the second poorest in water on the planet. Wadi Rum also conceals innumerable rock carvings that we approach in 4×4, but also a Nabataean temple, arches, narrow canyons, natural pools or the fort serving as HQ for the desert patrol which travels on the back camel. Mythical, the place has kept its spellbinding power intact. Back on the boat, the fatigue of the road quickly fades around the cocktail served by an always attentive crew, a prelude to a bistronomic dinner where oriental dishes alternate with excellent French cuisine.

city ​​of the impossible

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Petra, the ancient city of the Nabataean people, is another marvel that this cruise allows you to discover during a second day of excursion to the Hashemite Kingdom. This time again, you have to climb a tormented relief, in this region subjected to enormous tectonic constraints, chopped with faults. From the heights overlooking the canyons of Petra, we can better understand the immense valley of the Great Rift which scars a good part of Africa over thousands of kilometers and extends to the Jordan River via the Dead Sea.

‘Ingenious, the Nabataeans shaped the environment to make the most of it and build a fortress.’

But what is striking on approaching is the place chosen to set up this extreme city: as Khaled points out, “ Petra is one of the worst places to build a city“. And that’s what makes the place even more fascinating. 2,000 years ago, it was a crossroads of caravan tracks through which frankincense, myrrh and spices passed. Ingenious, the Nabataeans modeled the environment to make the most of it, exploiting its relief to build a fortress, digging the rock to divert rainwater, boring tunnels and chiseling dwellings, temples, tombs and other dazzling monuments. “Forgotten by the outside world from the 7th century AD, the city was jealously guarded for hundreds of years by the Bedouins who methodically kept all foreigners away,” explains Khaled. Besides, they are still there, steadfast sentinels turned temple merchants. Petra remains a marvel, where the natural beauties of the sandstone canyons intertwine with those of its chapels, necropolises and palaces of red stone.

The fascinating city of Petra.
The fascinating city of Petra.© Getty images

The next day, it is Egypt, a promise of new emotions, which awaits the hundred passengers. All morning, the boat runs along the parched and tormented coasts of the Sinai, towards Sharm el-Sheikh, the gateway to Ras Mohammed, one of the most emblematic national parks of the peninsula. The region has suffered an unprecedented drought for several years, without any precipitation for two years. This shows with what joy the Bedouins welcomed the torrential rains which fell at the beginning of November, making the pastures green again. The highlight of today’s excursion: a life-size aquarium. An explosion of colors and life that we approach closer with flippers, mask and snorkel, a few meters from the desert shore. A navigation in a glass-bottomed boat is offered to those who wish to admire the corals without getting wet. To celebrate this return to Egypt, the evening will be… Egyptian, from the meal to the show during which musicians, whirling dervishes and belly dancers will set the lounge bar on fire.

Fantastic cruise: sailing from Egypt to Jordan, discovering the treasures of the Red Sea
© eric vancleynenbreugel

Back to Africa

At the start of the night, La Belle de l’Adriatique sets sail again to reach Africa and Hurghada. For the majority of passengers, there is no question of missing the other event of the trip: Luxor and the River of the Gods. A quest that has to be earned with a departure at dawn and more than four hours by bus but, as a reward, the privilege of first entering four tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Lunch by the Nile later, the immersion in history continues in the temple complex of Karnak. If the time of the hierarchical and organized civilization of the pharaohs is long gone, one can only remain in admiration in front of this Nile valley dotted with meticulously cultivated and irrigated fields.

In barely a week of navigation, the itinerary thus offers an astonishing confrontation of key sites and stunning landscapes. Comfortable as you wish, since you never have to change rooms, unpack or repack your suitcase. Around us, some passengers confide in the almost therapeutic aspect of the getaway. Be pampered from morning to night, think only of relaxation, go on an excursion or take a nap under the caress of a light wind. Make some friends, maybe. Take advantage of the time which suspends its flight at the time of an interminable sunset, a glass of bubbles in hand. Small pleasures that take on an even stronger dimension in this period of forced withdrawal on which we have been sailing for too long…

In the heart of the Valley of the Kings.
In the heart of the Valley of the Kings.© eric vancleynenbreugel

In practice

Ask about

Formalities

Passport valid for 6 months after the date of return. Multiple-entry Egyptian visa (70 euros) directly via the visa2egypt.gov.eg website or the paid service offered by CroisiEurope. In addition to a complete vaccination for both countries, entry into Jordan requires a PCR test carried out on board (for 35 euros). Obligations which can of course evolve.

Go

This 8-day cruise “Between Egypt and Jordan, the work of man and nature” operates from November to March. The price (from 1,409 euros) includes the stay with full board and includes drinks (even alcoholic), transfers, two excursions, repatriation insurance/assistance, port and airport taxes. Possibility of a 3-day pre-tour in Cairo.

Good to note: CroisiEurope itself offers direct flights Brussels/Hurghada.

Reservations: croisieurope.com or in a travel agency.

Fantastic cruise: sailing from Egypt to Jordan, discovering the treasures of the Red Sea

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