After spending two glorious and exhausting days in Petra, we left the comfort of the Al Rashid hotel ($24 per night, including breakfast for two!) to move on to some real R&R. (The Al Rashid is actually the #1 hotel in Wadi Musa, despite its budget price – I wouldn’t say it’s luxurious by any means, but it’s comfortable and has air conditioning. It also inspired several rounds of jokes between Jolyn and me, such as, “I splurged on the Al Rashid for you, honey” and “Romance at the Al Rashid!”)
The prototypical trip to Jordan would absolutely include a several-day trip to Wadi Rum, one of the country’s most recognizable attractions. It is essentially a massive valley cut into Jordan, resulting in some spectacular land formations and colored rocks and sand. We had fully intended to put Wadi Rum on our itinerary. However, with the constant hiking and adventuring of the first eight days of our trip, combined with the daily 95-100 degree heat, we wanted nothing more than to do nothing for two days. I know, I know – we skipped Wadi Rum. This may be blasphemous to any Jordan tour guide or travel enthusiast. But we wouldn’t have enjoyed it. I promise. We really wouldn’t have, not in our state.
Instead, we hopped a local bus to Aqaba. We were joined by a Jordanian woman and an Australian bloke. Since the bus only runs if the driver can get enough people on board to make it worth his while, we all were charged 7 JD instead of the going rate of 5 – still much cheaper than a 65 JD taxi. (Transportation in Jordan is pretty much a DIY affair – ride a local bus with no air conditioning or hire a taxi. Hiring drivers for several days is not uncommon, but it will cost you.) We were getting on quite nicely with our mate from down under, as we shared traveling experiences. We stopped at a rest stop, and to my amazement, ice cream sandwiches were a mere 0.25 JD (about 30 cents USD). Upon realizing the price, I realized that this occasion must be celebrated, so I became struck with a wave of minimalist generosity and bought ice cream sandwiches for the whole bus.
In case you weren’t aware, Jordan actually has some beaches. All of Jordan’s beaches border the Gulf of Aqaba, which flows into the Red Sea. The city of Aqaba is as close as Jordan has to a beach resort town, and it actually functions relatively well as such. During the hot summer and it being Ramadan to boot, Aqaba was desperate for visitors, so we scored a deal at the Doubletree for a king room with private beach passes for $80 a night. (You would think the heat of the summer would be the preferable time to visit Aqaba’s beaches, but the high season is actually spring and autumn.) They gave us cookies upon check-in, so on top of the two ice cream sandwiches I had already consumed, I more than made up for my lack of beer and wine intake on this trip (no liquor for sale during Ramadan, and it’s hard to find even during other times; devout Muslims don’t drink).
Aqaba was just what we needed. Two days of sleeping late, swimming in the pool, and being shuttled to a private beach 15 minutes away (and about five miles from the Saudi border). As per our usual vacation tradition, we found a McDonalds (which we never eat at home) and broke our fast a bit early compared to the rest of the folks in town (it’s not easy finding food in Jordan during Ramadan’s daylight hours). Mickey D’s served food, but you had to take it with you, but apparently all Aqaba hotels have a “no outside food allowed in” policy and they WILL find your covert burger and fries as you go through their x-ray machine. (It’s an absolutely absurd law meant to force you to buy from their overpriced restaurants.) Fortunately, we were able to talk the doormen into letting us enjoy our golden arches up in our room. Success!
The harbor in Aqaba and its beaches are really pretty nice! The water was so cold, which was so awesome. It was so hot out, so getting in that ice-cold Red Sea (who knew?) was such a welcome feeling.
So that did it for Jordan. Tomorrow, we’d be on to the Israel to “see the good land.”