Last Tuesday, the air felt pure, my mood was good, and I my spirits were high. It was the first day of my long awaited vacation and me and my friend were on our way to Aqaba. Things couldn’t have been better, because for once in my life, I really felt I needed a break. My plan was to go to Aqaba for three days, suffer from severe memory loss, and come back, and that I did.
The fun began on the VIP bus there. In Jordan I believe this is one of the best travel deals we have. 17 JD’s grants you a luxury bus ride with comfy seats, a stale sandwich, a TV screen in front of you, and four hours of comfort. That couldn’t be bad at all.
Four hours later we arrived to the hotel we had booked at. Although the advert on booking.com said Five-Star Hotel, we were met at the door with a smell that wasn’t five-star at all. The smell hit my nostrils at the reception area, but I tried to ignore it because nothing was going to ruin my good mood, not even the stench of sewage and damp towels filling the air. We arrived to our rooms, and to my surprise the bathroom had no towels, no garbage bag, while the mini fridge they advertized was empty. Still in my good mood, I called the housekeeping and told them what I was missing. They arrived fast enough to fix the issue, and It was then that I learned the power of a smile and a five JD tip, That simple gesture from my side granted me three days where nothing ever went missing from my room again.
Starving from the bus ride, we went to a place called Route 55 for burgers. I can safely say that there I had one of the best burgers I had ever tasted in my life. The burger was juicy, beefy, and messy. Such a meal would not be the greatest option for a business or romantic lunch , but with friends it’s fine. I personally made a mess and I even felt that I bathed in sandwich sauce but that’s ok. I figured that I’m on vacation so I am allowed to be a slob in the name of a good burger.
That evening, we watched the sunset where, the overwhelming calm of the sea and sea breeze made me want to stare at the site in silence for hours on end. But, as the sun set over the horizon the shades of red, purple, and orange eventually turned to black. So, it was time for us to leave. From the sense of calm the sunset offered, we then went to the vibrant markets of Aqaba and that to me was more like a channel change.
With its streets lined with neon store signs and its pavements lined with shoppers, the market was a playground for the shopaholic. But to me, the scene reminded me of the markets of Amman in the 1990s , i.e. during the pre-mega mall era, but that was only my first imprecision. As I walked further, the quaint displays of manikins, cassettes, strange articles of clothing, and stranger store names made me feel that I was even transported further back in time than the 1990s but rather to the 1980s and to the markets of Salmeeya in Kuwait which I remember walking through as a child each time I visited my grandparents.
The smell of freshly grounded nuts filled the hot summer air, children’s clothes were on display in the street on manikins standing in a row saluting victory, other manikins displaying women’s lingerie were hanging from stair railings, and carts selling corn and beans were parked on the side of the road. Blankets of all sizes, colors, and fabrics were on offer, and shoes, slippers, and sandals were stacked in rows at store entrances. After walking for hours and taking in the sites and smells the market had to offer, I felt exhausted. So, it was time for me to get back to the hotel.
For the rest of that evening, we sat through a performance at our Hotel’s pool side. The singer was singing in Ukrainian and Russian, but she had a voice powerful enough to keep us entertained and at some times amused. Personally, I couldn’t understand why we were listening to songs we couldn’t understand but hey we are on vacation and I guerss anything goes.
Before I tell you what we did on the second day of our vacation, I have to confess that I love hotels. To me, they are an important part of the vacation. I love hotel rooms. I love hotel lobbies. I love hotel restaurants, and I of course love hotel breakfasts.
So, it was no wonder that I arrived early to the restaurant to enjoy the great breakfast our hotel had to offer. The restaurant was filled with families and some not-so -well behaved kids, love birds, and some loners, so I just took in the scene and enjoyed my meal. Later that day, we decided to take in a bit of History. So, we went to the Aqaba Castle. To fill you on the history, the castle was originally built by the Mamluk Sultan Qansweh Al Ghuri in the 14th century. Its fort is located next to the Aqaba Flagpole which carries the flag of the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans. Next to the fort is the Aqaba Archeological Museum. The museum was said to be the home of Sharif Husain. Unfortunately, we were not able to see much of that because the Castle was under maintenance. So, we had a brief photo moment in front of the gate and we decided to battle the hot sun and go on a glass boat ride instead. Surrounded by the sea breeze, we saw the different land marks Aqaba had to offer. Whether it was the yachts parked at the yachts club, the flag pole, the southern beach, or even the close boarders we shared with the occupied Palestinian Territories, the sites were enough to keep one entertained. Below us , the sea painted an artistic mural of chorals as the depth of the ocean also revealed the remains of a sunken tank.
The trip was relaxing, as the sea offered the smells of freshness, a vitalizing breeze, and the sounds of the rolling waves, making one feel small in the laps of nature.
Having had enough sun for one day, we opted to go indoors next. So, we went to the Aqaba Aquarium. The aquarium was a large dark oval dark room lined with softly lit built-in fish tanks. It was home to all kinds of fish including: the lion fish, the stone fish, sharks, and fish that glowed in the dark. Together the fish drew an artistic display in motion, as their colors and shapes blended to offer a sense of serenity to the space.
Still on the theme of fish, we had seafood for dinner in Al Falouka restaurant. To me, the restaurant’s decor and outdoor seating area reminded me of one of those sea food taverns one would find in Greece. The smell of cooked fish filled the air, offering an accurate preview of the delicious meal awaiting us. Surely enough the meal fit the preview and I would definitely recommend the restaurant to anyone who likes seafood.
Now day three of my vacation, was all about the water. We took the bus to the Tala Bay Beach club where we swam in the sea and the pools and I tried my first Banana Boat ride. That, to me was the highlight of the day. I was terrified throughout the ride as I assumed I was going to fall off at any minute. But, fortunately I didn’t and this confirmation makes me feel that I would try that again. When I was not shaking in terror, I actually enjoyed the water splashing in my face. I enjoyed the wind in my hair, and the sunshine, but mostly I was too terrified to appreciate it as much as I should have.
However, there is always a sense of achievement when you try something new. It is not in the difficulty of the task itself but rather it is in the choice you made to get out of your comfort zone. I loved the Adrenalin rush, and now I am more open to new adventures.
On the personal level, this vacation allowed me to put things into perspective. It was a good time to switch off from the day-to-day hassle, and to just relax and have fun. After all, there is more to life than work, deadlines, and problems and it is when you are far away your problems seem so small .
I guess it is good to disconnect and Jordan offers a great opportunity for us to do that , only three and a half hours away south of the capital.