Aqaba and Our First Steps in Jordan

Contrast. That’s the word that was on my mind as I was crossing the borden from Israel into Jordan. On the Israeli side, everything was neat and efficient. A machine scanned my biometric passport. After facial recognition, it flashed some lights and printed a little piece of paper. Another machine scanned it and let me out of the country. On the Jordanian side, a long queue of people were waiting in front of an old shack. Inside it, the borders officer was going over each passport, manually typing the tourist’s info onto his CRT screen.

Outside, we got to the taxi mafia. They were the only ones allowed to take tourists downtown. After some negotiating, I got the price down from 15 JD (or 21 USD) to the official one, 11 JD (Jordanian Dinar), printed right there in front of us with big letters. A taxi back would be 7 JD. Welcome to Jordan 🙂

We were entering the city of Aqaba. This is the southest point in Jordan and their harbor to the Red Sea. Just across the border is the Israeli resort of Eilat. Our flight landed on the Israeli side, on Ovda Airport. We left Bucharest’s snow and -20 degrees for some sun, sand and 25+ degrees.

So what’s to see in Aqaba? Well, pretty much nothing. There is one public beach, which is very narrow and full of locals much too dressed for my understand of “going to the beach”. There are some ruins, I think. There is also a museum (every city has a museum, right?). We were just using Aqaba as our base for exploring the rest of the country.

Q&A on logistics and the sorts:
Q: Is it safe?
A: I felt safer there than in London or San Francisco. Despite the machine gun jeeps we’d see at highway checkpoints.

Q: How are the people?
A: Friendly and curious. If they’re in tourism, they might try to give you higher prices. Knowing how to negociate helps.

Q: How’s the food?
A: I’m glad you asked. Let the hummus flow! Let the falafel roll! I really enjoyed everything I ate. If you want some pork and beer though, you’re better off visiting Germany instead.

Q: Do I need any vaccines?
A: No.

Q: Seriously now, is it really safe? No holy wars on the streets? No kidnapping by the Beduins?
A: Could you please dial down your prejudice level? Thank you.

Q: What are the costs?
A: Here’s a breakdown:
– our flight to Ovda Airport was 20 USD round trip pp
– the minivan from Ovda to the Israel – Jordan border was 12 USD one way pp
– exiting Israel – 31 USD pp
– entering Jordan + entry fees for Petra and Wadi Rum – 100 USD pp, via the Jordan Pass
– exiting Jordan – free, as we stayed the minimum 2 nights there
– an average hotel room 35-40 USD per night
– meals 3-15 USD pp, depending on the restaurant

Q: Is Aqaba a nice place for jogging?
A: Uhmm:
– all locals wear long clothes; a lot of tourists don’t and that’s not a problem, but being foreign and wearing running shorts will probably have you drawing stares
– I haven’t seen anybody running, so I guess this will just increase the stares
– the city is pretty polluted; many locals drive old cars and you can feel it in the air
– the city is not very runnable; there are no wide sidewalks, no large parks, no greenery
To conclude, you can run if you really want to, but it might not be as enjoyable as you’re used to.

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