My dear travellers and lovers of unusual trips, I hope you are well and ready to continue our adventure in Jordan! Today’s post is special and a bit sentimental as this is the last travelogue in the series of posts Letters from Jordan. This post will wrap up my Jordan adventure and I would like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the wonderful messages and numerous questions about the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I sincerely hope that I managed to solve all your doubts and that your next destination will be this unusual country!
For all my dear travellers and fashionistas who didn’t get to read my previous travelogues and fashion stories from Jordan on the Mr.M blog or want to remind yourself of some details, take a few minutes of your time and visit the post on the following links:
- The story about Amman and Jerash (travelogue)
- The story of Petra (travelogue)
- The story from Wadi Rum with Fratelli Rossetti (fashion story)
- The Fashionable Royal Blue adventure in Aqaba (fashion story)
- The story of Wadi Rum, the Moon Desert Princess (travelogue)
- The story of Petra with Loro Piana (fashion story)
Today I will share with you my experience in Aqaba and Dead Sea and I would like to thank the Visit Jordan for the kind invitation and the amazing experience to get to know Jordanian culture and customs.
Aqaba is the only seaport in the Kingdom of Jordan, as well as the largest and most populated city in the Gulf of Aqaba. Located in the southernmost part of Jordan, Aqaba is the administrative center of Aqaba Governorate. Today, over 150,000 people live in the city. Aqaba plays a major role in the development of the Jordanian economy, through vibrant trade and tourism sectors. The port of Aqaba also serves other countries in the region. Aqaba’s ideal strategic location on the northeastern part of the Red Sea between the continents of Asia and Africa has made its port important for thousands of years.
The ancient city that was located in the area of today’s Aqaba was called Elat, adopted in Latin as Aela and in Arabic as Aila. Its strategic location and proximity to copper mines made it a regional hub for copper production and trade in the Chalcolithic period. Aela became a diocese under Byzantine rule and later became a Latin Catholic titular see after the Islamic conquest around 650 AD, when it became known as Ayla. The name Akaba appears in the Middle Ages. The Battle of Aqaba in the Great Arab Revolt, depicted in the film Lawrence of Arabia, resulted in a victory for the Arab forces over the Ottoman defenders.
Aqaba, next to Wadi Rum and Petra, is located in the famous golden Jordanian tourist triangle, which strengthened the location of the city on the world map and made it one of the main tourist attractions of the Kingdom of Jordan. The city is governed by the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, which has turned Aqaba into a low-tax, duty-free city, attracting several mega projects such as Aila Oasis, Saraya Aqaba, Marsa Zayed and the expansion of Aqaba Port. It is expected to turn the city into a major tourist center in the region. However, industrial and commercial activities remain important, due to the city’s strategic position as the only seaport in the country. The city is located just across the border from Eilat, also Israel’s only port on the Red Sea. After the 1994 Israeli-Jordanian peace accord, there were plans and hopes for the establishment of a cross-border tourism and economic zone, but few of these plans came to fruition.
Since I know how much you love to read interesting historical facts, I made sure to find out how the only seaport in Jordan got its name. The name of the city was anciently Elat, Ailat. The name is probably derived from the Semitic name of a tree from the genus Pistacia. Modern Eilat (founded in 1947), located about 5 km northwest of Aqaba, is also named after an ancient settlement. In the Hellenistic period it was renamed Berenice, but the original name survived, and under Roman rule it was reintroduced in the forms Aila, Aela or Haila, adopted in Byzantine Greek as Aila Aila and in Arabic as Ayla, while the Crusaders called the city Elin.
The current name of Aqaba is shortened from ʿakabat Ailah – “mountain pass of Ailah”, which was first mentioned by Idrisi in the 12th century, at a time when the settlement was mainly reduced to a military stronghold, exactly referring to the pass northeast of the settlement.
Aqaba has a number of luxury hotels, including Tala Bay Resort, that cater to those who come to have fun on the beaches as well as to dive. It also offers activities that take advantage of its desert location. Its many cafes offer mansaf and knafeh and baklava desserts. Another very popular place is the Turkish bath (Hamam) built in 306 AD, where locals and visitors come to relax after a hot and tiring day.
Aqaba has been chosen as the site of a new waterfront construction project that would renovate Aqaba with new artificial water features, new high-rise residential and commercial buildings, and more tourism services to put Aqaba on the investment map and challenge other centers of waterfront development throughout the region. Aqaba was chosen as the best Arab tourist city in 2011.
During the five-day holiday at the end of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha, Jordanian and Western expatriates flock to the city with numbers reaching up to 50,000 visitors. During that time, the occupancy rate of most hotels there reaches as high as 90% and they are often fully booked.
The fact that Aqaba is the only coastal city in Jordan has successfully created a distinctive cuisine compared to other Jordanian cities. Main dishes include Saiadeiah, a combination of rice, fish and spices, a dish common in Arabian coastal cities. Kishnah is a famous dish that includes fish, tomatoes and onions cooked together. Bukhari dish consists of rice, meat, hummus beans, ghee and spices popular in wedding ceremonies. Treats in Aqaba include Al-Hooh, which consists of layers of pastry filled with nuts or dates that are then fried in ghee and dipped in sugar syrup. Dates and ghee, which consists of fresh dates dipped in ghee, is a simple dessert that is also commonly presented to all tourists.
The Dead Sea, also known by other names, is a salt lake bordered by Jordan on the east and Israel and the West Bank. It lies in the valley of the Jordan River, and at the same time its main tributary is the Jordan River.
The lake is located about 430 meters below sea level, which makes the shores of the Dead Sea the lowest altitude on Earth. It is 304 meters deep and is the deepest hyper-saline lake in the world. With a salinity of 342 g/kg, or 34.2%, it is one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world, almost 10 times saltier than the ocean and has a density of 1.24 kg/l, making swimming akin to floating. This salinity creates a harsh environment where plants and animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The main, northern basin of the Dead Sea is 50 kilometers long and 15 kilometers wide at its widest point.
Since you know that I can’t swim, you must be wondering how I dared to enter the lake, since we know that lakes can be quite deep… After reading numerous articles in which scientists claimed that it was simply impossible that due to the salinity of the lake itself a man drowns, I decided to see for myself.
There are rules that you must follow if you want to feel the beauty and healing of this lake in a healthy way. Staying in the water is limited due to salinity.
What does it actually look like to have a Spa relaxing day on the Dead Sea? When you get to the lake you can stay in it for between 10 and 15 minutes, don’t get the area around your eyes and mouth wet because of the salt! After that, you can apply a layer of healing mud from the Dead Sea, which has many positive properties that can help people who have problems with some skin diseases. It is recommended to leave the mud on the body to dry for up to 20 minutes and after that period you can re-enter the Dead Sea to remove the mud more easily with the help of salt from the lake and take a good shower with plain water. It is recommended to do this once, maximum twice a day. If you have sensitive skin like me, my honest recommendation is to do this once a day or once every 2/3 days due to the salinity.
The interesting thing is that it was the Dead Sea that attracted visitors from the entire Mediterranean basin for thousands of years. It was one of the world’s first spas and supplied a wide range of products, from asphalt for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizer. Today, tourists visit the lake on its shores in Israel, Jordan and the West Bank.
The Dead Sea area has become a location for numerous health researches and a place for potential treatment of some diseases. The mineral content of the water, the low content of pollen and other allergens in the atmosphere, the reduced ultraviolet component of solar radiation and the higher atmospheric pressure at this great depth can have specific health effects. For example, people who have reduced respiratory function due to diseases such as cystic fibrosis benefit from increased atmospheric pressure.
The climate and low altitude of the region have made it a popular center for certain therapies:
Climatotherapy: A treatment that uses local climatic characteristics such as temperature, humidity, sunshine, barometric pressure and special atmospheric constituents
Heliotherapy: A treatment that uses the biological effects of solar radiation
Thalassotherapy: A treatment that uses bathing in the water of the Dead Sea
Climatotherapy at the Dead Sea can be a therapy for psoriasis by prolonged sunbathing in the area due to its location below sea level and the subsequent result that UV rays are partially blocked by the increased thickness of the atmosphere.
Patients with rhinosinusitis who received nasal irrigation with Dead Sea saline showed improved symptom relief compared to standard hypertonic saline spray in one study.
Dead Sea mud therapy has been suggested to temporarily relieve pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. According to researchers at Ben Gurion University, treatment with mineral-enriched mud packs can be used to augment conventional medical therapy.
In the picture above, you can see a family enjoying their vacation at the Dead Sea and what the drying period of the mud looks like when applied to the skin. Today, the Dead Sea has become an ideal tourist destination for generations because everyone wants to experience the healing properties of the Dead Sea.
My dear travellers, we have come to the end of the last special fourth travelogue about the Kingdom of Jordan where we had the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the only sea port of Aqaba and the lowest point on Earth – the Dead Sea. This series of travelogues would not be possible without the selfless help of the Jordan Tourism Board – Visit Jordan in cooperation with local partners who allowed me to feel the spirit and beauty of Jordanian culture and tradition. Of course, as always, I tried my best to convey to you my impressions of this unusual experience from Jordan.
I would like to especially thank the staff of the Kempinski Aqaba and Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea hotels for their warm welcome and having me in their incredible hotels. The stay in their hotels was exceptional, where I felt the warmth of my own home! Top full service that can be expected in 5* star hotels, pleasant staff, exceptional food, I have to put a special emphasis on the sweets! 🙂
Time always flies when a person is having a good time! A person is rich in soul if he has managed to explore the world and I am glad that I always manage to find partners of my projects who help me to discover new and unusual destinations in a completely different way during this global health crisis of COVID-19.
I am honoured to have the opportunity to cooperate with companies that are the very top of the tourism industry and I would like to thank them for this incredible adventure and for allowing me to experience the beauty of this unusual country in Western Asia in a completely different way.
How did you like my story about Aqaba and the Dead Sea? Have you had the chance to visit Jordan so far?
If you have any question, comment, suggestion or message for me you can write me below in the comments. Of course, as always, you can contact me via email or social networks, all addresses can be found on the CONTACT ME page. See you at the same place in a few days, with some new story!
With love from Jordan,
This post is sponsored by the Visit Jordan, as well as other local partners. This post is my personal and honest review of the destination experience.