Home' Navy News : December 10th 2009 Contents 16
Experience of a
From LEUT Kelli Lunt in Aqaba
TO BE the first RAN ship to berth in Aqaba, Jordan
in more than 15 years was an amazing experience
and a deployment highlight for the ship's company
of HMAS Toowoomba (CMDR Ivan Ingham).
As the location for a six-day port visit for rest and relaxa-
tion, Aqaba was the gateway to visit spectacular scenery,
ancient wonders and a fascinating culture in a very hospitable
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is home to about 6.3
million people. Geographically, the nation lies in the centre of
the Levant, an area of great interest and significant strategic
importance. This is because Jordan shares its borders with
Syria in the north, Iraq to the north east, Saudi Arabia to the
south east, the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea to the south west,
and Israel and the West Bank to the west.
In the Gulf of Aqaba, just 12 nautical miles separates the
coasts of Egypt and Israel to the west and Saudi Arabia and
Jordan in the east. This was the backdrop as Toowoomba ber-
thed at the Royal Jordanian Naval Base, Aqaba. The impres-
sive scenery comprised towering escarpments and a rugged
coastline with beautiful sandy beaches and crystal clear blue
seas. The climate was perfect.
Twenty-four hours before arriving in Aqaba, Toowoomba
hosted two special guests: Commander Joint Task Force 633
MAJGEN Mark Kelly and the Australian Ambassador to
Jordan Glenn White. Both arrived by helo and spent a rare
night at sea.
The arrival in Aqaba coincided with Toowoomba's fourth
birthday. Built in Williamstown, Victoria and Commissioned
on October 8, 2005 in Brisbane, Toowoomba has travelled
more than 135,000 nautical miles during 12,551 hours under-
way.A magnificent birthday cake, prepared by ABCK Thomas
Hood, was cut by the youngest sailor ABCK Barton and the
CO. Toowoomba's birthday was also celebrated at an official
reception held on board the same night.
Guests attending the reception included the Australian
Ambassador, Deputy Chief of the Jordanian Navy, BRIG GEN
Al Karim Al Fdoul, the Defence Attache to Jordan GPCAPT
Murray Gordon, as well as a large contingent of Embassy staff
and members from the Royal Jordanian Navy.
After the official duties were completed, the ship's com-
pany embraced the opportunity to explore Aqaba and sur-
rounding areas including Petra, the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum and
Bethany Beyond Jordan.
The most popular destination was the ancient city of Petra,
probably best known for a scene in the film Indiana Jones and
the Last Crusade when Indiana enters a monstrous column-
clad building carved into the rock-face in search of the chalice
of immortality. More stunning visually in real life than on
screen, Petra did not disappoint Toowoomba's sailors.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and proclaimed
in 2007 to be one of the "New Seven Wonders of the World",
Petra boasts phenomenal architecture and statues that were cut
into the side of sheer rock faces some 2000 years ago. The area
was originally built by the Nabataeans, but came under the rule
of the Romans, the Byzantines and the Umayyads before dis-
appearing from western civilisation until rediscovered in 1816.
Two of the more significant sites were the Treasury
(Khazneh), where the Nabataean empire kept its wealth and
riches, mainly food and grain, and the Monastery (Deir) which
sits 50 metres wide and 40 metres long at the top of 800 steps.
While some took the opportunity to ride by camel or
donkey through the Siq, the creviced entrance to the ancient
Nabataean city, most were happy to wander along on foot, lis-
tening to the insights of the tour guide.
Visiting the Dead Sea was a unique experience for those
who chose to travel the four hours drive north of Aqaba. At
422 metres below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest place
on the Earth's surface. Its salinity is 10 times that of an ocean
and therefore enables swimmers to easily float.
Visitors relished the opportunity to cover themselves in
thick black mud, which is highly regarded and sought after
globally for its beauty and health enriching properties.
LSCIS Glenn Willats said swimming in the Dead Sea was a
"I was quite sceptical of the Dead Sea 'experience', though
I now firmly believe that it should not be missed," LSCIS
"The chance to cover head to toe in mud and then to float
so effortlessly on the ocean was awesome."
Tours to the Dead Sea also included the chance to visit
Bethany, the historically significant biblical site where Jesus
was believed to have been baptised by John the Baptist in the
The site featured five church ruins at differing stages of
excavation and indicates the geographical separation of two
countries -- just three metres between the countries of Jordan
and Israel at some points.
Another area that displayed an almost mythical beauty was
the area of Wadi Rum, a desert area known as the "Valley of
the Moon" located in the southern part of Jordan. It gets its
name from Wadi (one of the dry valleys) and Jebel Rum (the
highest mountain in Jordan) and is home to local Bedouin
What makes this geographical wonder so special are the
unusual rock forms of granite and sandstone, and the vast
desert which casts an array of colours at different times of the
day. There are also more than 4000 ancient inscriptions to be
found on the rock faces throughout the area.
Wadi Rum is perhaps best known in the modern era for its
connection with T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) and his
role during the Arab Revolt. It was also the site for filming of
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen in 2008.
The ship's company enjoyed their time in Aqaba, making
the most of the coastline by swimming and snorkelling.
ABCD Leigh Wetton said the snorkelling and diving was
some of the best he had ever seen.
"After years of civilian and military diving, I rate the vis-
HMAS Toowoomba has returned
to Australia after HMAS Stuart
took over operational duties in the
Middle East. Before leaving though,
Toowoomba's ship's company
visited Jordan and, by all reports,
had the time of their lives.
Photo: LS Jarr
Photo: LCDR S
XO Simon H
of Petra, Jo
Photo: LEUT K
STUNNING: HMAS Toowoomba's ship's company
recently visited the ancient city of Petra, Jordan.
Photo: LCDR Stan Buckham
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