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Travel: 4 Arabian Nights in Aqaba Jordan, Dec. 2-6/2021

Updated: Jan 6, 2022

The fantastic oriental style El Manara, is our favorite and superb hotel in Aqaba. This is the second time we frequented it, and you can read more about our first stay there, in the post from Dec 2019,

Border Crossing at Rabin Terminal

It is indeed a peaceful functioning corridor in a region infested with bloody turmoil

The crossing-over from Israel to Jordan, with only our oldest Keren and her husband Elie, via the "Yitzkak Rabin International land Border Crossing" (north of Eilat).

Unfortunately our younger Inbal, Amit ( husband) the grand-kids (including Keren/Elie's dog) were compelled to stay behind, since the Corona restrictions, still prescribe , non- vaccinated young kids, for an entire week's quarantine, upon re-entry back to Israel.

Thus working parents with limited vacation days, are forced to stay at home to care for the young. This grounding, policy which traps many families, inside the country, somehow had not raised vocal protest, nor was heard or reported on in the media.

That restriction was not the only hurdle to be considered.. Confusing directives concerning exiting/entry had kept shifting, made our heads spin and required multi phone calls, lasting for weeks, prior to taking off... some tips:

+Open land-border operating schedule (M-Th/ 8:00am-3:30pm and F- until 2:00pm), +Vaccination proof required but unclear requirement for PCR testing in entry to Jordan

+ Definitively 2 PCR tests are required, upon re-entry back to Israel (one prior reaching the border, and one at the border on the Israeli side, which needs to be prepaid at the border, (107 NIS per person) prior to departing the Israeli border side. +Furthermore, 3 quarantine days, are imposed on all booster vaccinated, upon re-entry,

and anther PCR test is required, so negative result can release one from quarantine.

+ Completion of relevant exiting/entry Passenger Deceleration forms,

+Also Visa entry payment to Jordan at the border crossing cost 104 NIS, per Israeli.

+And a PCR test can be easily ordered from BioLab to the Jordanian hotel's room,

24 hours, prior heading to the border, and back to Israel, (for only 25.00 JOD)

Make sure to check all these details prior to going, as they are updated daily!

The border at Yitzhak Rabin Terminal upon our arrival there, in midday, was quite windy and empty.

The weather changed to a much cooler one, just a day prior to our departure, as had the sudden, unexpected unloading commotion at the border.

Despite the arrival of a bus ejecting a group of about 50 Israelis, who headed to a Yoga retreat, at Wadi Ram, and who pushed their way at the terminal, the bureaucratic border procedure, barely lasted half an hour.

Transfere to the Hotel Abdala - the efficient representative from "Jordan Horizons" operating Tour Agency greeted us with a big grin, on the Jordanian side, making sure all the paperwork is properly stamped, so we can depart, as fast as possible, by the pre-aranged official

ride (as is required by the Jordanian Gov) to the hotel, We used Jordan Horizon also on our previous visit, as their service and staff are great! mobile +962 799326632 +962798160464, Andrea - Manger

"Horizon" was the least expensive (50 JOD) and reliable in taking the 4 of us, across the border in a very convenient car, and dropping us in 15 minutes at Al Manara.

They also organized for us a fantastic fair -priced day trip to Petra, on the previous visit that was guided by a scholar we liked. (here to read more)

Horizon also offered to do the same for Keren and Eli, but the kids, preferred a more modest arrangement, and took a ride to Petra with a Green Taxi driver . Samar - Taxi Driver (for all over Jordan) Tel: +962 79 5821 376

Aqaba Saraya Al Manara - a luxury collection spa hotel (207 rooms)

Amazingly, the hotel's staff including the hotel General Manger and Chief Chef

remembered us, especially David, from our 2019 visit, and had welcomed us most warmly and generously.

As the saying confirmed, there are those who can not be remembered,

and others who can not forgotten....

Pedro Rodriguez - - +962 7 7540 5070

the fantastic General Manger- a Spaniard from Seville, of a crypto Jewish family descent, whom we already befriended on the previous visit, had upgraded our ocean view room to a spectacular suite category, with a wrapped around balcony.

The views from our room's huge balcony were spectacular

Pedro assigned his wonderful assistant to welcome us and to cater to all our needs.

Abdallah Abdellqader - Concierge Supervisor Tel: +962 3 202 1000 +962 77099 9202

They both had spoiled us lavishly, with providing special services, dotting attention, and infusing us with sugar powered Holiday delights.

Holiday's Party

On Dec 3rd night, the official lighting of the traditional Xmas Tree took place at the hotel's lobby, opening the holiday's festive season.

Pedro the manger was kind to send to our room his personal beautiful Hanukkia

(a gift gotten in Israel), along with very elegant candles, he could find and bought in Aqaba, as well as a plate full of fantastic chocolate decorated Sufganiot (donuts), the best we tasted so far, specially baked for us by the hotel's superb chef.

The Tefilin which Pedro also lovingly offered, we politely declined, yet we were all deeply moved by the gestures, and Pedro's amazing caring for his Jewish guests.

Lightening Xmas Tree representing the Christian tradition, at an Arabic speaking country with a Muslim religious culture, at most secular liberal hotel's lobby, where guests from

all 3 monotheistic religions, from all over the globe had congregated to party, was quite a spectacular.

Despite Covid-19 and the new Omicron threats, the hotel carried 65% occupancy, and yes

we encountered and loudly heard more Israelis who spent the Hanukkah vacation here.

The hotel filled up the out-door's terrace with creative food stands, offering at the party, free for all, gorgeously presented most delicious festive treats, accompanied by atmospheric and rocking "Jingle Bell" traditional Xmas music ..

The corn served with fire roasted chestnuts, ice cream towers, cotton candy, colocate fountain fondue, chocolate covered strawberry, candied apples, Ginger Bread house, creamed cupcakes, and cookies, which we all sampled, had infused us a sugar rush.

The hotel's other Xmas decorations all throughout the hotel were visually stunning.

Kubba Levantin Restaurant

Although we worried about how, despite the earlier massive sugar consumption, would we mange to tackle the shoulder of Lam, which David especially pre-ordered from the Eyad Ammouri -master-chef, at the hotel's excellent Kubba restaurant, to be cooked in deep long underground bone -fire, we did manage to overcame the challenge...

The beautifully presented and most tasty, made to perfection, piece of meat, was heroically, devoured.

The hotel's has several restaurants, but Kubba is the most dramatically elegant, and

the food is the best you can dine on in Aqaba , Definitely worth the experience.

Also the hotel's breakfast which is served daily on the hotel's terrace, facing the sea and Eilat, is aspirationally great.

At the Hotel's pool Overdosing on the previous night's sweets and huge meal, compelled us to swim extra laps, at the hotel's beautiful warmed exterior pool..

It definitely, miraculously worked for our gorgeous daughter Keren

While others can just sit at the pool's edge, and still look exotic....

Venturing out 2 evenings, surprised us with another great dinner experience, at

a Sea Food restaurant, located only 15 minutes walk away, from the hotel.

"Royal Yacht Club Marina"

On the way to the restaurant, at the "Royal Yacht Club Marina" - a popular spot, which hosts a mix of Mediterranean, Arab and Asian, out-doors dinning, establishments,

some archeological ruins of early Islamic Ayala settlement come into full view.

Early Islamic Ayala at Aqaba

Ayla, the first Islamic city, outside the Arabian peninsula, was built around 650 AD. and referred to as the Door to Palestine. It was rediscovered and excavated in 1989

Built in the traditional urban form which included a congregational mosque, a governor's residence, and tribal quarters, it was inscribed in fortified stone walls surrounded by 24 towers that were positioned around the city in a u-shape.

The remains of the city wall, its towers, gates, and ruins of the mosque, are in view.

Ayala was vital as a trade post on a route connection between the Mediterranean Sea and Arabian Peninsula and served as a station for pilgrims heading towards the Holy cities and Mecca. Several earthquakes and raids caused the city to decline, and it then fell under the crusader`s rule, left as a fishing and commerce small center.

Mirawas Sea Food Restaurant (here)

A huge inflated doll marks the entrance to the 2 floors very good sea food restaurant

which offered a large selection of freshest fish to pick out from. Directive on the style of cooking, is given at the first floor entrance, just before climbing up, to enjoy eating a great meal on the 2nd floor .

And this how the fish was served by the lovely Mustafa Egyptian waiter, after the treatment given by the restaurant's chef,

The night view of Eilat across the bay, from the restaurant's 2nd floor's terrace, definitely added to the ambiance, at the relatively simply furnished place, yet which served

very tasty food for a good value.

,All good things come to end and so also our wonderful mini-vacation.

We were sad to depart this little plot of heaven, and hope to return much sooner

then it took us this last time.

We were told that next to the El Manara , a more affordable Westin Spa Resort hotel complex of 300 rooms, is being built and is due to be opened in about 2 years, also be run by Pedro.- the amazing al Manara's manager.

We were the only passengers at the border crossing from the Jordanian side reentering the deserted terminals, back to Israel, at 3:00pm on Monday Dec 6th, completing the

crossing, including the PCR testing, in half the time it took us on the way there.

We were told, that on the previous day, at least 500 Israelis had returned back via

the terminals, so Sundays' crossing at weekend's end, should be avoided, if possible.



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