Place: Aqaba - Jordan
Date: Dec 24-25th/ 2019
Happy Hanukkah and Best Holiday season to you and Family!
The 4 hours drive from the densely populated urban Tel-Aviv, down South through, first, the metropolitan satellite communities, then the less dense green cultivated fields, further south through the semi-arid lands around Beer-Sheva, and through the monotonous yellow arid Negev plains, then further down to the bottom of the spectacular Rimon's Crater, passing by other enchanting dry river beds and dessert floods formations, all the way "diving" below sea level, to the flat linear road along the Syrian -African rift valley, which now its margins are freckled with groves of majestic Palm Trees famous for their delicious black pearl Medjoul soft sweet Dates, reaching finally, via Wadi Araba the "Yitzkak Rabin International land Border crossing" to Jordan -our destination.
Operating since 1994, it is currently one of 3 entry/exit points between the two countries that handles tourists. In 2006, Israel renamed the border crossing Yitzhak Rabin Terminal, in honor of the assassinated Prime Minister.
David and I together with our daughter Inbal , her husband Amit and the 2 grands - Leo - who just turned 4 years old on Xmas day, and Alex almost 4 months old, were all heading toward Aqaba by the Red (Reed) Sea, situated across from the Israel's Southernmost town- Eilath.
This short Hanukkah family vacation, during which all Israeli schools are closed, compels desperate parents (and grands) to search for creative solutions as to keep their offspring occupied and distracted.
Jordan, with which Israel has stable peaceful relations since the 1994 Oslo Accord, is both relatively close by, as well as offers more affordable hotel accommodation by the warm Gulf of Aqaba.
Thus it seemed a natural attractive destination, despite the hazardous four hours car drive from Tel-Aviv. Lives of Israelis from the south ironically, are spared and better shielded from enemy’s shelled missiles, then those tragically inflicted by car accidents. Road collisions collect a higher number of casualties, due to traffic density, road rage, and existential stress. Imposed self- suicidal reckless driving incidents resulted in 350 deaths, this year only, a 10% increase from 2018.
It is a real high life risk driving on Israeli roads, making it a true miracle arriving safely to one’s far destination.
We also managed to arrive ahead of the big season's storm which drooped on Mt Hermon bold head, flaky white traditional Xmas snow covering, had caused the temperature to sharply decline, had severely polluted the air and had showered sheets of rain throughout the country, causing main floods and traffic disturbances.
Making a Visa entry payment of 107 Nis per person- at the border, allowed us the privilege of walking a short distance by foot to the Jordanian a side, where a per-arranged friendly Travel Representative welcomed and picked us up for a short ride to our hotel.
Apparently, several rape horrible incidents of tourists entering from Israel by Jordanian random drivers, compelled the Jordanian authorities to demand a pickup of Israeli crossings only by accountable certified Travel Agents. And of course this demand adds a nice income stream to the Jordanian tourist industry coffers.
This Travel company was recommended by friends :
Mobile : +962-799-326-632 / +962-777-054-835
The Aqaba Saraya Al Manara - a luxury collection spa hotel, recently built by the Marriott chain, is designed in an elegant Levant Aqabian style, and is located at the end of the Hotel Row, right by the water.
We got fantastic ocean view rooms and the Hotel's General Manger -
a wonderful Spaniard from Seville - Pedro Madrigal (a crypto Jewish family decent by name) whom we befriended, had really spoiled us with services, attention, and sugar powered Holiday delights, both Santa Xmas and candled Hanukkah cookies, that attracted Leo's frequent visits to our room for more...
This ancient port city (4000bc) situated against the looming rift mountains , known for its past thriving cooper production, is the only coastal city in Jordan, the southernmost, and is the largest and most populous city on the Gulf of Aqaba.
Aqaba's strategic location at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea between the continents of Asia and Africa, has made its port important
throughout the ages.
It has played a major role in the development of the Jordanian economy, through the vibrant trade and tourism sectors.
The Hotel row area is modern and nicely maintained. The beautiful Kampinski hotel, which is own by Jordanian King Abdalla, is most architecturally Western designed.
But the rest of the small city is a strange middle eastern mix of a Shuk - Market, bazaars, mosques, sea marinas, beaches and side by side modern building in progress, next to quite third world decrepit structures.
Dinning at any of the hotel's 3 restaurants is a much better bet than
experimenting with the town's unremarkable restaurants.
To be continued...