Trip to Aqaba

This past weekend, some of the CLS participants and I went to Aqaba for the weekend. Aqaba is a city in Jordan located at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea. In fact, from our hotel, we had a clear view of both Palestine and Egypt on the other side of the Red Sea! Our trip was amazing as Aqaba’s beaches are gorgeous.

We left for Aqaba Thursday evening after school and got there by bus from Amman. The bus that goes this route is actually quite nice, with air-conditioning and a few TVs from the ceilings. As it was Ramadan, people did not eat until the sunset, so it was such an interesting experience to break the fast with everyone on the bus (they even sold some food on the bus). A passenger on the bus walked around to give each person a date (one eats a date at the start of iftar), so it was such a pleasant group experience.

We got there in the night (it’s about a 4 hour drive to Aqaba) and went to a restaurant to eat some dinner before going to our hotel. Our hotel was quite cheap, and the accommodations reflected a bit of the price, BUT we had a wonderful view of the beach, as we were situated right on the beach! We hung out on the beach a bit before going to bed.

The next morning, we made some phone calls and got a deal at another hotel with a private beach. We made a few stops at some local shops to pick up some breakfast (as nothing is open during the day during Ramadan– the main souk was completely deserted!) and then headed to the beach.

The beach was so beautiful! There was a pool that overlooked the beach so we switched between swimming in the sea and pool. The water in the sea was so clear; it was amazing! In the afternoon, we went snorkeling which was so so so amazing because once one swims father out, the floor suddenly drops, and one can just see bright blue deep water as far as one can see. It was overwhelmingly beautiful.

The next day, we went to a public beach and got snorkeling gear once again. We went to see the “Japanese Gardens”, which is along the coast. It has its name because the floor is covered with different plants and fish, so it looks just like a garden. This was absolutely stunning as well. Some Jordanians started talking with us and then gave us a tour of the poisonous fish in the Red Sea (I guess good to know..?) as well as showed us a sunken tank. Not only did we also get to see an eel, but they dove down to pick different things deep in the sea and I touched various fish as well as snake skin. The craziest part was when they brought an octopus and I held it and put it on my head!!! The weirdest (and of course most fashionable) hat I’ve ever worn!

We finished the evening by eating iftar at Lebnani Snack (a Lebanese fast food place). Outside of the restaurant they were giving out free juice for people to take to break the fast and the policemen were even handing out little boxes of dates!

All in all, I love Aqaba. It is very walking-friendly as the main roads have sidewalks that are not broken or have trees planted in the middle of them (unlike the obstacle courses in Amman) and the people were so friendly. An overall great trip!!

Pretty view and unexpected kindness

First off, can we all just all just admire the beautiful view that I was looking at yesterday while doing my homework?

As today is the first day of Ramadan, getting to school today was quite a process since there are very few taxis running in the morning (because since people are fasting, they tend to sleep late). After walking about 30 minutes on our way to school (it would take a little less than 1.5 hours if we tried to walk to school) and having no luck with finding a taxi (even though we live near a main road!!), a woman drove by us and asked where we were heading and then offered to give us a ride. She was so sweet! It turns out that she lives in our neighborhood and saw us walking and was afraid that we were going to be late for school or exams. We got to practice some Arabic with her and it was just such a good example of how friendly and welcoming Jordanians have been with me so far. Though Inshallah, we will find a taxi on Sunday because I don’t plan on walking to school every morning for the next month!

On another bright side, today as part of our weekly “culture club” activity, a woman came to our school to show us how to make the colored sand art that one can buy at stores in the souk! It was such a fun experience; we each got to make our own piece (the writing in it spells out “Rachel”) and I loved getting to see the process of how it’s made. It basically uses different types and funnels and sticks to create the different swirling designs.

Otherwise, Ramadan Kareem (Happy Ramadan) to everyone! Can’t wait to experience my first Iftar (breaking of the fast at sundown) today!