We flew from Tel Aviv to the Ramon Airport near Eilat, and from there took two taxis until the Rabin terrestrial border pass, where we passed to the Jordanian territory. A person organized by the Arkia tourism service was waiting for us to help us go through the Jordanian border bureaucracy (5 minutes is all is took, in contrary to the Israeli side which was much more complicated) and accompany us until the hotel. It is compulsory to have some kind of "babysitter" waiting for you at the border to take you to the hotel. Probably a way to give more work to more people. You can arrange it personally (through recommendations on Facebook groups that regard Aqaba) or let the travel agent arrange it for you. Many of them are tourist guides that you can later contract for trips.
Aqaba reminds me of Eilat from 30 years ago. Not for the bad side, since those were the last years that I really enjoyed travelling to Eilat. The city is old, quite flat (except for the hotels, which have around 7 floors), and most of it is like a big middle-eastern market.
We stayed at the Movenpick Aqaba hotel. There are two Movenpick hotels in the area, one at Tala Bay, 18Km from the center of the city, and one at the center of Aqaba. We chose this last one, which is supposed to be less luxurious (and thus less expensive) then the Tala Bay one, and also closer to the city and all the movement of the city, in order not to be depending on taxis every time we want out.
The hotel was gorgeous. A very beautiful and well treated set of buildings, with three swimming pools, two jacuzzis, a private beach, and a SPA which was closed due to COVID. The only thing is that we arrived at 9:30 and they only give you the rooms at 15:00... and yes, they get late. So we decided to spend the day at the swimming pool, and there we went. We changed to swimming suits, enjoyed a great day at the pool, and ate at the beach restaurant.
In the evening, we went out of the hotel, first of all to do our COVID tests for the return. Then we walked through the market area of the city, which is nice in the evening, and then went to eat at a restaurant which I heard a recommendation from a friend - Khubza & Seneya.
The restaurant was very interesting; all the tables were outside in the walkway, inside there was only place for the kitchen. But the food was marvelous. Definitely fits the description that my friend gave me, "if you are in Aqaba this is a restaurant you can't miss".
Wadi Rum is what the name says - a Valley (wadi in arabic) which a million years ago was completely underwater, and in which time, water and wind built a very big set of interesting rock formations which you can visit and enjoy. It is also the place where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed, and we can see there the cave that was home to Lawrence - one of the only two things that are man-made in all the area.
In the middle of the tour, at the middle of the desert, suddenly a bedouin tent, where you can drink tea with the old man sitting there, buy some products, and he also plays and sings bedouin songs to the groups that pass by.
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There are other places to go from Aqaba as well - Petra is only 2 hours away, and same with the Jordanian side of the Dead Sea, which is said to be gorgeous. And if you want to go further, in 3.5 hours you can be in Aman. We didn't have time for all that. My wife and me had already been in Petra, and the youngsters decided to leave those options for a follow-up trip in the future.
Most of our third day was spent at the swimming pools of the hotel. In the afternoon we went for a walk at the old market, then had dinner in a very special restaurant called Alshinawi, where we ate the best dishes in this whole trip. It was a great choice that we made.
From there, we decided to visit the roof bar of the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton, which we heard that was very nice. We sat there, had drinks, heard a music show, and took pictures of all Aqaba from above. A very nice evening to finish our Aqaba experience.
Never mind, it was a great vacation, and it was worth the money and the mess to cross the border. We knew a new place, and did it 6 people for 3 nights for the same price that it would cost to be 2 people for one night in Eilat. So, why should I complain? I can only remember and miss it. Waiting for the next time.