Sitting at work looking out at the rain outside, feeling completely deflated by the drizzling October weather I decided to take matters into my own hands. That’s it – I must find sunshine! I quickly fired off an email to my close friend and fellow adventurer Annie. As usual we were on the same page and wanted to leave the grim North European weather to seek warmer climates. After a few days of searching for places / countries to visit, to my great surprise I managed to obtain a great deal for a week on the Red Sea in Aqaba, Jordan at the end of November. As the Dutch (or as I lovingly call them – the Dutchies) would call it a goedkoop. Finally, something to look forward to. Time quickly flew by and the next thing I knew I was packing my new fabulous backpack to go on this adventure.
I am currently residing in the Netherlands so Annie had to meet me in Amsterdam where we were going to get our flights to Aqaba. As I was leaving my apartment to make my way to Schipol, I got a lovely phone call from her telling me that she was already at the airport and had ALREADY managed to lose her purse. I should have been surprised – but I wasn’t. Annie is renowned for having “things happen to her”. Yes, yes, she is a magnet for disasters! You would probably want to ask me why would I travel with someone who has a long list of disastrous trips under their belt. Well, this only means she has experience and (having first hand knowledge) can handle any type of stressful situation with total composure. She is no novice – but an expert solution finder.
So anyway, I rushed to the airport to meet Annie. We had agreed that she will walk around the vast number of Schipol shops to pass the time or wait at the gate. What I had completely forgotten was that we still had to obtain our boarding passes. Panicking, I had called Annie around 25 times to get her to come out of the secure area in order to get the boarding passes. Of course, as luck would have it, the phone calls remained unanswered. Left no other choice, I checked both of us in on the machines and went through security. I ran towards the gate, keeping fingers crossed that she was there…and what did I find??? A sleeping beauty….a very hungover sleeping beauty at that. Apparently there were a few pre-christmas drinks the night before. Phew…at least I found her. I woke her up and gave her a stern talking to in front of the other amused passengers. Although I must admit, threatening murder might have taken it too far.
So here we were, together at last and ready to board the plane to sunny. I hadn’t been on a package holiday flight in about 15 years, so had completely forgotten that the level of service on board was different. We had to wait a good hour before they served any type of beverage. I am not even talking about the wine that I was hoping to start my holiday with – but there was even no water! When we pressed for the flight attendant, she not so politely advised us that the button above you is for emergencies only and not for beverage delivery. Annies come back was absolutely legendary – “But in the picture she holds a tray and a glass”. Booyaa! Yes, yes pat on the back!
After near dehydration and a very sore bottom from the uncomfortably small seats we had arrived in Aqaba. The airport itself was nothing special. Just a box standard little airport. Having already arranged the immigration documents through our travel agency we quickly made it to the big bus outside that was to take us, along with the other passengers from the flight, to our respective hotels.
Mövenpick Aqaba is situated near the city centre of Aqaba itself, but with a very convenient private access to the hotel beach. The hotel is big and luxurious, with many facilities. We were lucky enough to get a room with the sea view or to be more specific with the view of the Israel.
Our first night we stayed in the hotel ordering room service. I think neither of us had the energy to venture out in search of food at midnight in a new city. The morning after, with our energies up we were ready to investigate this new place. I have to admit at this stage though that this was my first proper time in the middle east and therefore I was very concerned about appropriate dress. However looking back on it I really should not have. Jordan is much more modern and accepting than I had expected it to be. Of course you still have to be considerate and not parade down the streets in mini skirts and cropped tops, however as long as the knees and shoulders are covered you can be much more relaxed.
We had a quick look around in the vicinity of the hotel and then returned back to the hotel. The plan was to book some tours / schedule some sight seeing for the whole week and then lazy about on the beach for the rest of the day.
We had a quick meeting with our tour rep who gave us some key information about the city and the tours that the tour company offered. Now I have to explain – Annie and I are NOT tour people. It is something that we both despise, having experienced some horrible tours in the past. The most hilarious one was when we had some spare time in Peru and went on a half day tour of the desert. What we didn’t realise was that the tour was primarily in Spanish and the guide would have to translate. After listening to him describe the desert for a good 20 minutes in Spanish he then turned to us, pointed and simply said “There is some sand”. Yeah mate, I didn’t realise that at all. There was also that time with the geysers – but I will cover that at some other time!
So being the anti tour people that we are, it really did take a lot to finally agree to sign up to some tours with our rep. Being two young females we decided to keep on the side of caution and go with the masses. The schedule looked as follows:
Sunday book tours and laze on the beach
Monday a visit to Petra
Tuesday to recover from all the walking at Petra
Wednesday a tour of the Wadi Rum (desert)
Thursday diving in the Red Sea
Friday visiting the Dead Sea
Saturday lazy day and departure in the evening
“It was quite a good plan – until it all went wrong!”