Come along with me on my first excursion outside of Amman!
After my first week of classes, my friends and I decided to spend the weekend in Aqaba, a town in the southernmost part of Jordan (about a 4-hour drive from Amman). We took a bus that left early Friday morning that cost 8JD each way. Since we left so early, I slept most of the way, but I did get a chance to see some of Jordan’s landscape outside of the big cities.
We arrived in Aqaba a little before noon, and after eating lunch, we took a taxi to our hotel. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Aqaba Ayla Resort, which was a few miles away from the city center. The hotel was part of a bigger compound called Ayla; the whole compound will have a golf course, multiple hotels, and shopping within the next ten years, according to the hotel concierge.
Aqaba was HOT. Walking outside meant immediate sweat. Even the breeze was warm! Therefore, the first thing we did after exploring the hotel was go to the pool. This pool was gigantic, and it looked onto the Red Sea. I could have stayed there forever!
The pool was visible from almost every window in the hotel, and they had music from a DJ blasting all afternoon. While men and women could be in the same pool, there was a family section with its own pool available next to the larger infinity pool.
That evening, we decided to take a sunset cruise on the Red Sea. To get there, we took a van provided by the hotel to the dock in Aqaba proper. As we drove there, I was enamored by the murals all over the city like this one.
At the docks, there were boats of all shapes, sizes, and colors, but I like ours the best because it had indoor seating, outdoor seating, and an upper deck. Our boat was full of people from all over. While I think my friends and I were the only Americans, there were tourists from all over the Middle East and Germany also on the boat.
This is a view of Aqaba from the boat before we departed. The city is tourism-focused, but I was able to see from here where the approximately 188,000 residents live. In my conversations with some of the employees at the hotel and in the city, young people will move from places like Amman to come and work in the tourism industry. Sometimes, they come from even farther away; while this may have been a translation mistake, I think our snorkeling guide was from South Africa!
For 25JD each, we got more than just a 2-hour boat ride at dinner: we also got dinner! Here, my friend Laurie was helping with the grilling. The total meal was a delicious mix of salads, meat, bread, and fish!
Aqaba has a great location because from the Red Sea, you can see 4 different countries: Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel/Palestine. I couldn’t see much other than the bluffs of Saudi Arabia and Egypt, but we clearly saw the Israeli bank. After looking at map after the cruise, I think the city we saw was Eilat. While I couldn’t capture the differences between the Jordanian bank and the Israeli bank with a picture, one could clearly see the differences in development.
My friends and I asked the chef to take this picture and then he took about 15 pictures of us at different angles. It’s like I was retaking my senior pictures!
After an amazing dinner, one of my friends and I went to the bridge of the ship to watch the captain pilot the ship. We would have been fine with watching, but he put the boat in park and allowed us to pretend to steer the ship. We then made it back to the dock, but instead of getting off and taking the bus back to the hotel, the ship’s crew delivered us to the hotel by boat! My friends and I felt like VIPs, and in the process, we met a family from Saudi Arabia and conversed with them in a mix of Arabic and English. This picture is our hotel from the back.
The next morning, we decided to go snorkeling in the Red Sea, so we got to drive through the city again. I am still in love with the colors and artistry along the streets of Aqaba.
While we only snorkeled, the place we went to also offered diving, water sports, and day trips to diving spots outside of the city. The employees were super helpful and transported my friends and I to and from the hotel for no charge.
There are cats everywhere in Amman, but in Aqaba, the cats are much more friendly, like this one. He meowed the entire time we saw him, posed for pictures, and jumped all over our stuff before we left for the Red Sea.
The best snorkeling is outside of the city, so we drove about half an hour to get to the public beach south of Aqaba.
Our pre-snorkeling excitement! I had never snorkeled before, so I think I accidentally ingested some Red Sea while I was learning how to use the snorkel. However, once I figured it out, the sea was so beautiful. I couldn’t take pictures in the water, but we saw coral, fish of all sizes and color, and even a sunken ship! We swam around for hours, but we were really saddened to see all the trash in the water. Every time we returned to shore, my friends and I had our hands full of wrappers and plastic bottles. We asked our guide about how the area was being preserved, but he just said parts of the shore are closed to the public and some aren’t.
When we were done snorkeling, we drove back through the city center and I was surprised to see how similar this area seemed to Amman with all of its cafes, cell phone providers, and indoor-outdoor markets.
After a half day of snorkeling, my friends and I were hungry, so we took our guide’s advice and went to a small shop called Falafel Bas (bas means only or enough). This was the first Jordanian falafel I tried, and I fell in love—it was SO GOOD.
I hope I can return to Aqaba again. I had such a fun time!
Last photo before I started studying my new vocabulary on the bus for my 8am class the next day- thanks for an amazing weekend, Aqaba.
Caroline Moriarty is a sophomore at the University of Missouri- Kansas City double majoring in political science and music. Caroline is spending the summer semester abroad with the AMIDEAST Intensive Arabic Program in Amman, Jordan. At UMKC, Caroline is a Trustees’ Scholar, member of the Honors College and Mortar Board, and the Vice President of the UMKC College Democrats. She hopes to attend graduate or law school in order to pursue a career in international relations, diplomacy, or public policy.
Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.