Much has been said about the scorching sun and the red desert of Jordan but then even a desert has an oasis. And it is here that all comes to life, as we experienced at Aqaba, Dead Sea and Ma’in Hot Springs
Words, photographs and videos: Ambica Gulati
The elixir of life, the one thing that has been sustaining the universe, water is what attracts civilizations. Even though a lot of Jordan is desert, there is a coastal belt too which is fantastic. And in the little country, you actually get to see the water bodies amidst stark surroundings, the practically treeless land and an infinite sky.
Here is the exotic ocean. Its strategic location at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea between the continents of Asia and Africa, has made it an important port. So on a boat ride to see the corals, we crossed the famous port. While we watched some people playing on the beach, there were some on our boat who braved the strong current and went deep into the Red Sea to see the corals. We were told that there is scuba diving and fishing too on offer. With the azure waters calming the head and the breeze flowing through the hair, we gorged on the freshly grilled fish on the boat. The food was fantastic and the company even better. Even as we turned back to the shores, we heard some loud music coming from another steamer. And lots of motor boats whizzed past.
The town is an economic free zone, so it’s added a lot to the economy of the country. The evenings are worth a walk around with glittery shops, eating out places and a handicraft fair too. We stayed in Mövenpick Resort & Residences Aqaba and dined at the Royal Yacht Club. The sunset here is as exciting as the sunrise and a late night walk on the beach could just be the therapy you need to let go of all that weighs you down.
From Aqaba to the Dead Sea, this is a drive which makes you feel on top of the world. The best thing about Jordan is that you don’t get to see a lot of traffic. Though I was told weekends around the Dead Sea area are packed. We landed at the Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and Spa after a stop at the point where the Dead Sea shone emerald green.
Among the most famous places on earth, the Dead Sea is bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and Palestine to the west. As the lowest elevation on earth, it is 429 metres (1,407 ft) below sea level. It is 304 m (997 ft) deep and has a 34.2 per cent salinity (in 2011). Due to this, plants and animals cannot flourish here. And it makes for an amazing floating experience. All you need to do is ensure the water doesn’t go into your eyes. After a long float, some even take a Dead Sea mud bath.
The healing properties of this place were enjoyed by King David too from the Biblical era. Herod the Great also came here. And a wide variety of products from here were used in Egyptian mummification such as asphalt and potash as fertilizers. The salt and the minerals from the Dead Sea are now sold as cosmetics and herbal sachets.
So the evening was spent watching belly dancing at the hotel, eating Italian food and the departure was after a lavish buffet breakfast. You can even read your calories here before deciding what goes on your plate.
Oasis named Ma’in Hot Springs
These come right out of the movies. This place is located between Madaba and the Dead Sea. Going back to Biblical times, it is said that King Herod visited the healing springs at Ma’in (when these waters were known as Baaras) and built a villa at nearby Mukawer. Folks say that it was at that villa that Salome danced and John the Baptist was beheaded (Matthew 14: 1-12).
Looking up at the rocky mountain from the first floor of the Ma’in Hot Spring resort, the eyes go to the place of origin. You can even see some birds there, which is surprising, considering hat the temperature ranges from 40° to 60° C (104-140° F). This resort has flowers and trees and in that area you see water and greens. The resort has its own hot spring pool and those who dived in claimed it took away all the pains. Even the mist from this is as warm as it can be. There is also an area where you can stand under the hot gush.
Even though, we just stayed a night at the resort, the Chef was an Indian and prepared some yummy dal and rice for us. He even spoke in Hindi! And the cosy ambience of this resort is like a balm to the soul which simply wants to leave behind the clutter of the concrete world.