Thursday, May 7, 2009

Come take a ride with me to a distant shore...

Our next morning in Aqaba began in the hotel dining room where Mike and I both noticed the large window flush with the floor, 2 1/2 stories up that was open, and were in the process of pointing it out to one another as a safety hazard for the kids while we utterly failed to notice the other one Thomas was making a beeline towards. We got him just before he made it over the threshold and into oblivion...

There was Arabic music playing as we sat down and tried to calm our nerves...having your three year old nearly plunge to an almost-certain death wakes you up and gets you jittery almost as well as a strong cup of coffee. We were the only people there in the dining room, and the young man waiting on us quickly went and turned on the lights. (He turned them off after we'd finished eating and were on our way out.) Then he switched the music to something along the lines of Limp Bizkit, possibly thinking that as Americans that was what we'd like.

Breakfasts thus far had been very similar each place we went and this was no exception; boiled eggs, some sort of Arabic flatbread or toast, coffee, sometimes juice, cucumbers and/or tomatoes, and sometimes a cereal. Occasionally something crazy like really salty vinegary cheese. I was seriously beginning to crave a Denny's Grand Slam. (Not that there is one available within this hemisphere.) I complimented our waiter on his very good English, to which he confessed he had learned by watching Mel Gibson movies all the time, especially the Lethal Weapon series.

I was more than half tempted to ask him to act out some of his favorite scenes, but with the children present, well, not so much.

Our slightly guilty goal for the day was to change our address to somewhere else. The Movenpick was beautiful and full. The Intercontinental, however, was willing to accomodate us. It cost nearly 5 times the hotel we'd just left, but what an awesome place. Huge, gorgeous lobby, incredible pools and view...I loved that the kids got to enjoy room service pizza on the balcony, overlooking the Red Sea. Now, that was more like it!

New hotel view. An improvement, don't you think?

In our room we had the biggest shower we'd ever seen, neatly bracketing our experience in Amman with the world's smallest one. Bethy went into the spacious bathroom and came careening back out, exclaiming "Mom! Dad! There's a shower on one side and a bathtub on the other! That's the coolest ever!" It was pretty cool. I spent about an hour with the extremely tolerant and helpful concierge at the Intercontinental rebooking the rest of our vacation into 5 star hotels. Pricy, yes, but no more surprises. We'd decided it would be well worth it.

We spent the time relaxing in comfort, in the pools, trying out the Red Sea, eating well and just...relaxing.

Mike and I even went crazy and got ourselves a baby sitter one of the nights we stayed there, though, alas, it turned out that Mondays were a day for the best restaurants to be closed for some reason unfathomable to American tourists.

In the days we were there, we visited the ancient remains of Ayla, an archeological site of medieval mosque and ruin, where we wandered under the sun and tried to imagine a life long past. Then we explored the other historical attraction for us, Aqaba castle, a relatively well-preserved site built by the Crusaders and later the Mamlukes and Ottomans. I bought a beautiful ceramic pot with petroglyph-like markings from the nearby local arts center, made by local women, a real treasure.

Aqaba Castle

Mike and the Red Sea, towards Egypt

Bethy in the ruins of Ayla standing on a fallen column

The kids got to play with opportunistic cats stalking tidbits every morning at breakfast, which was extensive and completely overwhelmed and cured any cravings I had for Denny's, and we left Aqaba refreshed and ready to drive the Dead Sea Highway up the Rift Valley along the Jordan-Israeli border.


*Paula* said...

well that sounds MUCH better than the last place :) All good info to know should I ever take a trip around the world ;)

Sariya Rashid said...

Oh no!!! I'm so sorry about your "hotel" experience when you first arrived in Aqaba! I feel somewhat at fault ... I should have convinced you to go 5-star from the beginning, especially since neither I nor my husband (or his entire family, LOL) had heard of the other ones you had planned to stay at!
You guys are troopers ... I don't think I would have faired as well ... (((HUGS!)))