Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Flights 20141019-20 - The Aqaba Trip

Sunday 19th
Much forethought and planning had gone into this two-day trip by David and Becc so it was doubly disappointing that Becc was stricken by a bug and couldn’t join us, and the weather had turned decidedly autumnal. However Don agreed to join us for a boy’s trip to the Red Sea. Low pressure, low clouds and poor visibility meant our first attempt to fly south was thwarted, and after 45 minutes we returned to Marka. We were told the weather would get worse, but indomitable as ever we pressed the case for getting to Al-Jafr (many miles south-east and it is always clear there). So after a delay we set off for a very successful (if long) day. David has already written up two of the highlights (see post for Flight 20141019) - the Via Nova Traina; and the ancient Aina fort overlooking the Wadi el-Hasa, with stunning views and a truly commanding position. We both wondered why we had never photographed this very well preserved and important site before?
The Gharandal Roman Fort. © APAAME_20141019_DLK-0418.
The cold was beginning to have its effect, and we were grateful for the re-fuelling stops at Jafr, but not much re-fuelling for the pilots and crew; luckily Becc had provided us some dates, chocolate biscuits, nuts and Werther’s Originals (the later being a staple on these flight over many years). The final leg of the day was very rewarding as we descended into the (warm) Wadi Araba to photograph the Roman fort at Gharandhal and then land at Aqaba. There was just time for the quickest of dips in the Red Sea before an early meal and early night.
Ayla - ancient Aqaba. © APAAME_20141020_RHB-0033.

Monday 20th
Threatening clouds to the west, including some rain, greeted us at take-off (despite the cold) – even this far south – but our first targets were of ancient Aqaba, the original city being called Ayla, and now a heritage park, well watered and surprisingly green.

Transfixing landscapes east of Aqaba. © APAAME_20141020_RHB-0094.
We were then transfixed by the landscapes we were flying over; a geological tour de force and a wonder to behold; impossible to capture the scale and enormity of this wind-sand-blown desert with teeth-like pillars of rock randomly placed.
Landscape west of Mudawwarra. © APAAME_20141020_RHB-0119.
As we flew on the landscape changed to a darker basalt rock where the formations were like fingers spreading out into the desert. All testament to millennia of erosion and change.

The ghost line of the Hedjaz Railway. © APAAME_20141020_RHB-0170.
From there we approached the Hedjaz railway, and some stunning ancient hill-top enclosures, forts of as yet unknown date, but very well preserved. At this point the railway there is only a ghost of the track and sleepers – the station and platforms deserted and almost covered over with sand. Then a huge loop in the system as climbs up a steep gradient, and new track, and a real railway; presumably in use by a mining company to shift huge quantities of minerals. On the summit another stunning defended hill-top enclosure- Fassu'ah Ridge Fort; the pilots commented that it looked like looters “were looking for gold”, but we have been informed that the collapsed trenches are from former fieldwork by the Great Arab Revolt Project.
Fassu'ah Ridge Fort above Mahattat Hitiya. © APAAME_20141020_RHB-0236.
Detail of Fassu'ah Ridge Fort. © APAAME_20141020_RHB-0249.
By now the strong westerly wind was affecting our schedule, and the longer time taken to return to Jafr for refuel meant fewer targets were photographed than we hoped; let’s hope for more flying time next year. Even at Jafr the cool wind meant we had to find a wind break, and a snack lunch in the helicopter, before a final foray to look for a group of sites in a landscape never visited before in the far east of the country. We knew that locating them (in the midday sun) would be difficult but only on arrival did we discover just how ephemeral these particular “kites” would be. We saw all but two of the sites, but only just.
Huey lunch with Don Boyer and David Kennedy. © APAAME_20141020_RHB-0325.
A final re-fuel and the long slog back to Marka and (my) farewells to the crew and squadron commanders “until the next time” – there is one more flight planned for this season for David and the team in Amman.

2 comments:

  1. Hi. Would you guys be willing to take a trip from Aqaba to Mt. Jabal Al Lawz in Saudi Arabia? I think the wall and gravesite structures that appear to be on the east side of that mountain might be related to the circular walls that have been documented in Jordan. The link being that these are walls built of stacked stones, not very high, in the middle of the desert. Though there are some military sites near Jabal Al Lawz that I'm sure you'd have to avoid, the archaeological sites at Jabal Al Lawz are fenced off not as military sites, but as archaeological sites. Yes, I'm hinting that these sites may have been the work of the ancient Israelites, at least the ones in Jordan. Perhaps nomadic communities with large amounts of people, sheep, and cattle, that might settle for a year or two in a particular location.

    Here are the specific locations I am referring to. You can see the structures from the satellite view:

    http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=nrxd6ckygm5b&lvl=18&sty=b&q=jabal%20al%20lawz&form=LMLTCC

    http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=nrxqh8kyfdqb&lvl=19&sty=b&q=jabal%20al%20lawz&form=LMLTCC

    http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=nrxk46kyg71s&lvl=19&sty=b&q=jabal%20al%20lawz&form=LMLTCC

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    Replies
    1. We are not able to conduct aerial photography in KSA at the moment but do investigate sites remotely using satellite imagery. Thank you for your suggestions.

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