Tuesday, June 1, 2010

We've Made it to Jordan!

Monday morning we packed up and loaded our suitcases onto the bus. We crossed the border into Jordan later on in the day.
Monday morning we packed up and loaded our suitcases onto the bus. We crossed the border into Jordan later on in the day. Our first stop was to Kibbutz Solan. We visited their solar energy plant. The breakthrough in AORA's concentrating power technology comes from years of research at the Weizmann Institute of Science, which we visited earlier in our trip. Unlike most solar thermal applications that power a steam turbine engine, a unique technology was developed to power a gas turbine engine on solar energy. This technology enables to position an industry-standard 100 kW micro turbine on top of a 30 meter tower. Radiation is concentrated onto the tower by reflecting sunlight from an array of sun-tracking mirrors into a unique, proprietary Solar Receiver, where it heats compressed air that drives the turbine. Fuel combustion is used only when solar input is insufficient. This system operates at temperatures reaching up to 1000 degrees Celsius.
We also toured the rest of the Kibbutz. It is basically a socialistic society where everyone's income gets put into one purse of which everyone has a credit card with access to the money. Everyone gets a certain amount of money each month. They also have a few internal forms of income such as their organic dates and a small technology company called Crystal Vision who invented a date harvesting machine.
Our next stop was to a different Kibbutz for lunch. This Kibbutz had a more capitalistic approach to life. They were also a much wealthier Kibbutz than the others we visited.
After lunch we journeyed to the border to cross into Jordan. The bus dropped us off at the gate where a border patrol agent checked to make sure we all had passports before he let us in. We then went to an Israeli building to check out of Israel and pay the exit tax. Finally, we officially left Israel as we passed through a medal detector. However, we were not in Jordan yet. We had to walk across no-man's-land, which was about a quarter of a mile of road with all of our stuff. This area came to be because it is the thickness of a pencil line on a map and neither side knows who is in charge. So for about 5 minutes we didn't belong to any country. Once we reached Jordan, we got through security fairly quickly and met up with our new Jordanian tour guide. He helped us get our stuff together and he drove us to Aqaba.
In Aqaba, we met with Peter Marji. He was in charge of the Aqaba Economics Zone Authority. We were welcomed with water and tea and he explained to us what the future holds for Aqaba. He talked about a lot of things, but I'll try to shortly summarize his speech. Basically, the city is trying to build a tourist and business area. We saw sketches of what the city will look like in the next 10 years and it will be pretty amazing when it is done. The hotels will very luxurious and will trump those across the Red Sea in Eilat. They are trying to market to Europeans for the most part, however others are obviously welcome. Seaports and airports are being built up to handle the high traffic.
Peter also took us on a tour of an eco-friendly guesthouse and the University of Jordan in Aqaba. The guesthouse was designed to still be fully functional and fits our current standards of living, however, it uses far less electricity for cooling. It uses grey water fountains to help bring cool air in the house. It has gardens to block the sun from hitting the house and it also faces in a direction that keeps the bedrooms in the shade most of the day in order to keep it as cool as possible. It does have solar air conditioning when the heat does get to be too high. The University of Jordan was founded in April 2009 so it is very new. It only has 350 students currently but is looking to increase it up to 5,000. To our surprise, we learned that approximately 80% of their students were women.
We left Aqaba at around 5 pm to drive to Petra. We stayed in a hotel that overlooked Petra. The view was gorgeous. We arrived just in time to watch the sunset.