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Getting around

Part 5: Amman, Jerash, Desert castles, Dead Sea, Petra, Aqaba, Sharm El Sheikh

19.12: Munich -> Amman
20.12: Amman
21.12: Amman -> Jerash -> Ajloun -> Amman
22.12: Amman
23.12: Amman -> Desert castle loop -> Amman
24.12: Amman -> Dead Sea
25.12: Dead Sea
26.12: Dead Sea -> Mt Nebo -> Madaba -> Petra
27.12: Petra
28.12: Petra
29.12: Petra -> Aqaba
30.12: Aqaba
31.12: Aqaba
01.01: Aqaba -> Nuweiba
08.01: Amman
09.01: Amman -> Munich

29.12: Petra -> Aqaba
Darna Village resort, in a pleasant setting next to a quiet beach about 10km south of Aqaba. 45 JOD for a rather basic triple room with three beds (hard mattresses), a table with no chair, a cupboard in which you can't hang clothes because there are no clothes hangers, attached bath+shower.  Relatively simple room for which usually you would pay less than 45 JOD. Breakfast included. The resort has a small pool and to reach the beach you have to cross a street. If you stay in this place you will need a car, because it is in the middle of nowhere. Slow wireless Intenet available in the restaurant area, but not in the rooms. Restaurant serving expensive meals (main meals cost around JOD 10, to that add the cost of the drinks and other stuff you may want to order) - it's cheaper to eat in Aqaba.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. Warm enough during daytime to swim in the sea in Aqaba (the seawater is not cold by the way).

We sleep long and after breakfast pack our stuff and check out. By the time we leave Wadi Musa it's almost noon. It takes less than two hours of driving to reach Aqaba. Initially the road is full of curves and passes through villages every now and then, then it joins the motorway and from there on it is possible to drive faster (110km/h allowed). Empty desert landscape all the time.

We arrive at the resort before 2pm and check in, then order some food. After that I have a look at the beach. Long empty beach with sand and gravel, few tourists here and there. Not cold seawater, but strong wind. While I'm there I see a group of divers (wearing full-body diving suits) walk into the sea.

Shortly before 4pm we drive into Aqaba where we spend the rest of the day. Aqaba is a nice city, clean, well kept, with a nice waterfront area with shops and restaurants. The beach is so-so, but the overall setting is nice.

We head initially for some drinks and a snack to a McDonald's restaurant, then walk along the beach to the Chinese restaurant we spotted earlier today. There we have dinner at 6pm. The Chinese staff in the restaurant is surprised when they see this European looking girl (Alissia) speaking Chinese with them.

After dinner around 7pm we walk back to the car. Then we drive to the Swekh mall. This is actually a big department store, next to the Marhaba shopping mall. The Swekh mall turns out to be the highlight of the day, as Shirley and Alissia are thrilled at the huge offering of inexpensive stuff. All stuff made in China, selling at prices around 1/3 of what they are in Germany. We spend more time there than originally thought and buy lots of stuff.

Then we drive back to the resort, arriving there at 9:30pm. The kids will sleep late tonight - after 11pm.

30.12: Aqaba
Darna Village resort, 10km south of Aqaba. Apparently the breakfast is not too great (see below).
By the way, next to the Darna Village two hotels/resorts are being built. Together with the Darna Village there should be in a short time four hotels/resorts in this place.

Weather: mostly overcast today, thin clouds layer blocking the sunlight, only late in the afternoon some direct sunlight. Colder than yesterday. No rain.

I'm in the bed until almost 10am (also Alissia sleeps that long today). Shortly after I wake up Shirley comes in with Natasha. She has had breakfast and is not thrilled. There is no real bread, only the thin disk bread, the breakfast buffet is limited and full of flies. To make matters worse, the staff starts spraying insect poison in the air in the kitchen which is adjacent to the dining hall. All the insecticide gas comes into the dining hall. Shirley tells me she won't eat anymore here.

We get ready slowly and at 11:50am we drive into town. The trip takes only 10 minutes thanks to the fast road. We go to the Formosa Chinese restaurant behind the McDonald's for some lunch. This place is more elegant than the restaurant where we ate yesterday evening, but the food costs 30-50% more. The food quality is exactly the same.

After lunch around 1 something pm we go to the nearby McDonald's for an icecream, then we get to the car and drive to the Egyptian consulate in Istiqlal street. The idea is to get a Sinai visa ahead of time and avoid the immigration hassle when we take the boat to Egypt.

In the consulate after some discussion and filling out of forms the staff tells us that for the Sinai no visa are needed. I hope the staff is right because I have read otherwise on the Rough guide.

It's 2pm when we finally drive back to the hotel. At 2:30pm, while Shirley and Natasha are taking a rest, I go with Alissia to the sea for some swimming. The air is fresh, but the seawater is not too cold, so all you have to do is to stay inside the water while swimming and quickly get dry after you get out.

About an hour later I bring Alissia back to the hotel. While Shirley and Natasha are sleeping I take care of Alissia and take a shower for her. After that Alissia and I head to the pool area with the computer for some email check and computer games.

We are back in the room at 5pm. Shirley is still sleeping but Natasha wakes up now and with her also Shirley. Later in the evening we head back into town and have a dinner in the Pizza Hut restaurant. Alissia refuses to eat all healthy food such as vegetables for instance, but will gladly fill her stomach with junk food. Natasha stubbornly insists to have one hot&spicy chicken wing and manages to finish it completely - tough small girl.

After dinner at 7pm we head to the Marhaba mall. There we spend over two hours shopping and buying "cheap Chinese rubbish" as one of the Chinese salesmen with whom we talk puts it. The entire Marhaba and (adjacent) Swekh malls are devoted to the sales of cheap Chinese things. If you take your time and carefully screen the offering you get some very good deals on things which otherwise would cost a multiple in Germany.

At 9:30pm we are back in the hotel. I check the Internet and find out that the Aqaba-Sharm ferry only leaves on Thursdays and Sundays. But we are leaving on Saturday, so we'll have to take the Aqaba-Nuweiba ferry and find a way to get from Nuweiba to Sharm (170km). A taxi would be the most logical option, but I read that the taxi drivers in Nuweiba will happily charge four times or more the standard rate. Otherwise there is a bus, complicated with a family of four, or I might rent a car in Nuweiba.

The kids will again sleep after 11pm. For what concerns me I have some fever (38C) perhaps caused by the swimming today.

31.12: Aqaba
Darna Village resort.
Weather: Mix of overcast and sunny, no rain.

Sick the whole day with fever between 39C and 40C. The whole day in bed, temperature won't sink, even after taking paracetamol.

01.01: Aqaba -> Nuweiba
Darna Village resort.
Weather: Sunny blue sky the whole day. Strong sun.

Still sick, but in the morning probably due to this stronger Panadol (2x500 mg Paracetamol + some coffeine) the temperature drops to 37C so I'm able to leave the bed. Around noon we drive into town, check with Arab Bridge Maritime what ferry service they have. Surprise, no noon ferry tomorrow, only the midnight slow boat (3h, leaving at midnight). No ferries to Sharm el Sheikh tomorrow. The ferry to Taba can't be taken one-way. We have lunch in the Chinese restaurant and then head back to the hotel. Back there I check my emails. In the meantime the fever is already again above 38C, so I take a rest in the bed.

At 5 something pm I get up again and drive into town. Over the next two hours I will purchase the ferry tickets (120 JOD for the four of us, =60+60+50 USD - Natasha doesn't pay, quite a high price for such short trip), refuel the car, buy some food at McDonald's and buy some groceries. All this with 38C fever. It's almost 8pm when I'm back in the hotel. There I have some food, take a shower and pack my stuff.

We leave the hotel at 9:45pm. I drive to the ferry terminal (scary place to leave a wife with small kids), drop off Shirley + the kids + all luggage, drive into town to the hotel Alcazar where Alamo car rental has its office, return the car and get back to the ferry terminal by 10:30pm.

Here starts the odyssey. Initially we are wondering where to go and what to do. It takes a lot of asking to figure out that you have to walk to a certain place. No luggage service whatsoever, so it's quite complicated to get us with our luggage to the right place where to queue up to get on the boat. No problem for a single passenger with a backpack, but quite complicated for a family with three big suitcases, two small kids (one in a baby stroller), a baby car seat and other stuff. People telling us to put our luggage on a big truck with all other luggage, but we get no receipt, so how to retrieve our luggage? We stubbornly insist that the luggage stays with us and will only drop it off later in the boat.

Then I'm told to chop out the passports and pay the departure tax of 5 JOD/person, again lots of queueing up, time lost due to queueing up to the chopping counter without having first gone to the departure tax counter. Finally at 11:30pm I'm back with Shirley, they put us on a bus which brings us to the boat.

I'm glad I did not plan to take a ferry for the return leg to Amman (we'll fly directly from Sharm El Sheikh to Amman). This boat trip is quite an ordeal for a family with small kids.

By midnight we are in the cabin (15 JOD for a cabin with attached bathroom, two berths, one bigger one smaller) and we can start sleeping. The boat trip should take three hours, in practice the boat stays until almost 4am in the harbour in Aqaba.


08.01: Amman
Hotel Ibis, Amman.
Weather: Sunny day, spotless blue sky. Not cold.

Around noon we leave the hotel and take a taxi to the King Abdullah mosque. This is a modern mosque with a nice blue-green cupola. There is the Friday noon prayer and we are not allowed to go in (entrance only possible after the prayer at 1:30pm).

At 12:40pm we get into a taxi for the City Mall, arriving there at 1pm. Today is Friday afternoon and the mall is full of families with children, spending the weekend together here. We are in the mall until almost 4pm, then head back to the hotel.

09.01: Amman -> Munich
Home, sweet home.
Weather: Sunny and warm in Amman, freezing cold in Munich.

Early morning wake up at 6am. Shortly after 8am we leave with two taxis to the airport. Everything proceeds smoothly and the Royal Jordanian plane leaves on time at 10:15am. After landing in Munich around 2pm we head back home.

Copyright 2010 Alfred Molon