Coming to the conclusion of our Middle Eastern trip, we decided to end it with a fantastic beach day in Aqaba, Jordan. We pretty much had to go to the beach for our son Dylan, age 3. As I've said before, Matt and I so prefer city trips over beach trips, but Dylan absolutely LOVES the beach; the sand and playing in the water. I'm sure most of you can relate; we love seeing our kids so happy... we will do almost anything for them! And of course, going to the beach for Dylan isn't really that hard for Matt and me. ;-)
We stayed at Intercontinental Aqaba which we loved! When we were traveling around New England in the US last summer, we stayed at the Intercontinental Boston and really enjoyed our stay; you can read my New England post here. We do love the Intercontinental brand, however, the main reason Matt booked this particular resort was because of the amazing playground they had right on the beach! Hotels with cool play grounds are sure to be kid friendly, and boy was he right! We were so impressed with all of the kid activities provided- an indoor kids club, toddler pool area, playground, beach toys, etc. I loved how stress free the whole day was for us. First, we headed down to breakfast to eat from one of the biggest buffets I've ever seen, while sitting on their gorgeous outdoor patio. French press coffee was continuously sent to our table and we enjoyed a looong meal with our two goofy boys who were excited to eat all the fresh fruit and pastries they could fit in their little bellies. Matt and I enjoyed a variety of foods, from made to order omelets, to falafel wraps and hummus. Next, we headed out to the pool/beach area, first stopping at the little beach stand to pick up our towels and cooler filled with ice-cold water bottles for the day. We walked out to the beach to find a number of lounge chairs, each with a cover to provide relief from the sun. Seriously, every detail is thought of and executed at this resort! We were so impressed!! Back in the pool area, we found a number of kid events going on such as ball water games, face painting, music and dancing! It really was so much fun, even for Matt and me! ;-)
Our room was to DIE for! Literally, I don't think we have ever stayed in such beautiful accommodations! Our room(s) included a sleeping area, living area, fridge and snack counter, a bathroom bigger than some hotel rooms we've stayed in, and a patio the length of the two rooms over looking the beach and sea. It was sooooo wonderful and we definitely took advantage of the room, even taking afternoon naps during the heat of the day, which we NEVER do while traveling.
I have to say I was really uneasy when we first arrived about going into the town. I wasn't sure if it would be safe and I am definitely more cautious now that we have our two kids traveling with us. Our hotel assured us that it was fine to walk around after dark and suggested some great restaurants for dinner. I'm glad we were able to get out because Matt and I get a little stir crazy being stuck in one place for too long and we love going on walks and exploring the city we're in. Also, the food was dirt cheap and it was so fun to try authentic dishes from the area! (However, we totally caved to our toddler and let him order a McDonald's happy meal for dinner because he wasn't feeling the ethnic food that night! lol) It's all about compromise, am I right!? ;-)
One thing I would definitely suggest to any westerner heading to Jordan for travel is to be sensitive to the culture and your attire. Muslims make up 92% of the population in Jordan and the women are completely covered from head to toe. I definitely felt out of place in western clothing and didn't want to attract too much attention. It is respectful to keep your knees and shoulders covered when you are in the town.
Border CrossingAqaba is only a ten minute cab ride from the border between Jordan and Israel so it makes sense to vacation there if you want to visit both countries. However crossing the border between the two countries was pretty intense... like nothing I've ever experienced. I posted a bit about the logistics of getting from Jerusalem into Jordan in my Petra post which you can read here. It was definitely a bit crazy. We couldn't just take a taxi into the country, so we WALKED across instead, carrying all our luggage and pushing the boys in the stroller. We went through at least eight different security check points: customs, metal detector for luggage, passport & visa checkpoints... it took WAY longer than we expected! **Matt had prepaid for our visa to get into the country buying "Jordan passes" which were $100 for adults (kids free). The passes included a visa to get into the country as long as you stayed for a minimum of three nights. As I said in my Petra post, if anyone wants to go between countries with their children, I would definitely recommend booking a tour to cross the boarder, which may make the whole process a little less stressful. :)
I am so happy we ended our Middle Eastern travels relaxing in Aqaba! It was so nice to have that rest day before our big flight home and we would definitely suggest Aqaba as a great place to visit before or after your trip to Petra!