Leaving Wadi Rum Desert is like leaving behind a treasure that belongs to your Soul. The good news is that I felt like taking with me the taste of the silent sand full of divine grace. And that feeling is so full of meanings and powerful understanding that fuels your body with the curiosity of the new adventure waiting to be lived in Aqaba.
So, we left Wadi Rum with a jeep taking us into the village, and from there we took a cab (25 JOD for 2 people) to Aqaba. This city is not present in the usual organized trips, but was one of my dreams seeing this place. This is the Jordanian seaside, and after so many dry days in Petra and Wadi Rum, taking a swim in the Red Sea, was the best thing to do. The sea in the Aqaba bay is quite calm, salty, and good for swimming. The two bothering things here are the laud music on the boats transporting people in different points of the bay and the fact that the local men are literally staring at the foreign ladies that are daring to go for a swim to the public beach. They have this custom to sit on the beach or in the coffee shops with a beach view, smoking shisha (narghile), drinking tea or coffee and looking at the foreign ladies on the beach.
That’s why the government arrange for a private beach in a 5 starts resort where you can go from the hotel directly paying 11 JOD / person which included the transportation with a hop on hop off bus, plus the entrance fee in the resort. Everything is 5 stars, and you can also book a room and spend some days in there. Is 10 km away from the city, just that is in the middle of nowhere so you feel like closed in there if you don’t have a car to go to the city. And another disadvantage would be the fact that the sea is not that still and calm as in Aqaba bay. Nevertheless, if you want to spend a day there, it’s a good choice as it’s really quiet and deserted.
The city of Aqaba it’s an ordinary city. Big, full of people that are less open-minded than the people in the northern part of Jordan, even less open-minded that the people in Petra or Wadi Rum. Initially I thought it was because of the fact that there are not too many tourists in this city. Then I’ve noticed a lot of foreign people, so there is another reason behind, I was not able to discover yet.
However, there were some nice experiences we had in this place. First of all, the accommodation. We booked a double room for 4 nights at Taj Hotel 3*, and we ended up receiving an upgrade to a suite within the same price (122 EUR / 4 nights / 2 people). And this was not just for us! I must confess that before booking the room, I was reading the reviews and more people were saying the same thing. So, basically, I decided to book this hotel hoping for the same treat. And it proved to be real! 😊 Now, you should not expect a 5* suite, however, having two rooms, a living room and a small kitchen like in an aparthotel, was more than what we’ve expected. Honestly, I think it’s a marketing trick, it’s actually their way of making you choosing this hotel that is up on the hill, not next to the beach as the others. However, if you enjoy a 5 minutes’ walk to the beach, it’s a very good choice and quality for money. We’ve met a Romanian couple on the second day. They booked a 2-3* hotel near the beach for one night, and they told us it was awful. So, I say better uphill, in a suite! 😊
Then, the nicest part of this city was the food. Even if it was very hard to find restaurants serving vegetarian dishes as most of the restaurants and fast foods are selling only dishes with meat, we finally found this place, Al-Tazaj, with an exquisite falafel, and excellent sea food, and we suddenly became their loyal customers. We even took some falafel sandwiches with us when we rented the car to drive back to Amman and visit some other places on the way back.
Another nice thing to see in here is the Aqaba Castle. We were there 15 minutes before the closing hour (4 pm), and we did a quick tour. Then, the man in charge of the Castle came to us and offered us a private tour inside and up on some of the parts of the Castle that were closed. It was a great experience and we enjoyed a lot his way of showing us where to sit to have the best pictures of the place.
If you have a look at the small details around, Aqaba had a great positive aspect to be remembered here: the labels with the real prices of the products in the shops and supermarkets. In Wadi Musa, there were less honest people telling you the real price of the products, moreover the prices were even 3 times bigger than in Aqaba. So, not feeling “rubbed” at each corner was a big plus of this city!
Now, a strange thing happened when we tried to rent a car. We went several times at Avis rent a car office asking for a car and they continuously told us no car was available for the day we were planning to leave. Moreover, they asked us to pay 35 to 50 JOD extra-charge for taking the car in Aqaba and leaving it in Amman. So, I decided to check this on the internet. And I managed to book a car via Ryanair app from the same Avis office without paying any extra-fee for leaving the car in Amman. Briefly, when in Jordan, you may want to book things on different sites and apps than dealing with local people even if they are employed by big international companies. The good news was that again I booked for an small car (Kia Picanto) and I received an almost new big car (Kia Celina), so we were so comfortable driving back and visiting around different places on the way back to Amman.
Going back to the less open-minded people, we faced that again when I tried to visit a mosque. During the last day of our staying in Aqaba, we went to see the mosque we were passing by each day when we were going downhill to the beach. And once I entered the courtyard of the mosque, the men started to fight each other to get me out of there. Some were saying that it was not a problem for me to visit the mosque, others were completely against the idea, and others were trying to make me pay 20 JOD for a hijab (a long skirt plus a scarf to cover my head). At a certain point, when I was about to leave the place, a man came and he was completely willing to help me entering the mosque. So, he asked his wife to give me her hijab and a scarf to cover my head and I was invited inside the mosque.
I sat there quietly thanking God for the presence of this man, and praying for a more understandable and peaceful world. After finishing my pray, I went outside to give them back the hijab and the scarf, and he started to explain me that we all have the same God, just that some people are seeing these things differently and I should understand and forgive them. And we agreed that we are all the sons of the same God, just the way we call God may be different like Allah, and the perspective may change from a mind to another. I thanked him for his way of seeing things and for his willingness to put an end to that fight, and I left the mosque full of hope that men, one day, will stop fighting for and in the name of God.
To be continued…
Check out the begining of the Jordanian adventure here: