Aqaba puffs up over the North-eastern tip
of the Red Sea like pastry leavening. Her streets
score crescents into the land and curve

down to the market. Shopkeepers spruik
souvenirs and lavish meals: Aladdin’s shoes,
Sinbad’s dhow, shipwrecked amphorae,

gold oil lamps, and bottles of Petra’s Treasure
– sand funnelled and sifted into desert scenes –
sprinkled between cups of Turkish coffee,

grounds-covered copper cezve, flakes
of baklava soaked in ziziphus
honey, mansaf lamb steeped

in yoghurt and bulgur, kenafeh
saturated in sweet syrup and rose water –
then wrapped around nabulsi cheese, and sahlab

fragrant with vanilla and coconut and peppered
with chopped pistachios. I choose a store
to have a taste and, with strained

English, a plump local man says: “Aqaba
means the obstacle”. I tell him
my only obstacle is where to start.