On our recent trip to Jordan, Dan and I spent some time in Aqaba (yes, we continuously called Agraba!), and Aqaba turned out to be my favorite stop on our trip through Jordan. Which is kind of crazy given that we almost skipped it. As luck would have it, our flight was moved back by more than 24 hours and we had some extra time in Jordan, so I slotted in Aqaba on a whim. I recommend others making time for Aqaba even if you only have 1 day!
Unknown to me prior to this trip, Aqaba is a beach town on the Red Sea in the very south of Jordan. Aqaba shares a border with Eilat, Israel (another popular Red Sea spot) on one side and Saudia Arabia on the other, and Egypt is just across the Red Sea. You can actually see all four countries on a clear day! In terms of a city, Aqaba is much smaller than capital Amman, and consists of a many hotel-chain resorts right on the water, lots of duty free shops, restaurants, and a very few tourist sites. It’s easy to walk around.
For purposes of Jordan tourism, Aqaba is an approximate 4 hour drive from Amman, 2 hour drive from Petra, and 1 hour drive from Wadi Rum. Aqaba is also home to one of Jordan’s two international airports (other in Amman). We slotted in Aqaba right after Wadi Rum, and drove to Amman on departure. Both drives were super easy.
Visitors should also note that Aqaba is also a Special Economic Zone, resulting in low taxes and duty free stores, as well as a bit of a more relaxed vibe than other cities, such as Amman. That being said, you will still run into lots of conservatively dressed people, but tourists wear whatever without much issue. I would note that since Aqaba is so far south, it can get extremely hot, averaging about 100 F when we visited in May. Be warned.
As many Aqaba tourists do, we spent most of our time at our resort, the new, gorgeous Al Manara! Al Manara is a new Marriott property that only recently opened in Aqaba. Since its part of the Marriott family, my status worked here and we received all of the standard Platinum Elite status perks during our stay, including a room upgrade, early check-in and late check-out, a welcome gift, and free breakfast.
I really loooooved the Al Manara. It is decorated fabulously and really makes you feel like you are on vacation in Jordan. The property itself is situated right on the Red Sea with 2 beaches accessible to guests. Al Manara also has a stunning infinity pool, a children’s pool, and several on-site restaurants and bars. If this isn’t enough for you, you can reach the center of Aqaba by walking about 5 minutes.
Due to our Marriott Platinum Elite status, Al Manara upgraded our standard room to a Prestige Penthouse suite, which was AMAZING. The Prestige Penthouse includes a huge bedroom with king size bed, a lovely sitting area, 1.5 bathrooms, with separate bath and shower, and a Red Sea facing balcony that spread over two rooms. It was an absolutely magical room, and we loved everything about it! Here are some pictures if you are planning to stay at Al Manara.
WHAT TO DO AT AL MANARA
The lovely infinity pool occupied most of our time in Aqaba. Despite being crowded (with children, UGH), the pool was lovely and a nice break from the heat. I would note that there is a very nice, covered children’s pool on site, that no children were using. Dan and I took a break there at one point (probably after I was scolded for taking my drink into the pool!).
We also spent a bit of time on the beach and swimming in the Red Sea. When we visited in late May, the water was super warm and a nice respite from the 100 F heat!
There is an activities desk on the beach selling various water excursions; we did not partake in these. There is also a small shop at the resort selling resort necessities and Jordan souvenirs. Prices were surprisingly reasonable.
FOOD AND DRINK
Al Manara has numerous food and drink options, with the goal that guests do not need to leave the resort. We did not try them all, and a few were closed due to COVID on our visit. I will highlight the ones we did visit, all of which we quite tasty!
Our first order of business on arrival at the Al Manara was a cocktail from the Pool Bar, as our room was not quite ready. Alcohol is freely served at the Al Manara and they even offered a 2-for-1 happy hour visit during our stay! One note however, you cannot take drinks into the pool… In any case, we promptly ordered the Watermelon Daquari, as it was watermelon season in Jordan. The drink was surprisingly strong and tasty.
On our first night in Aqaba, we dined on premises at Amwaj. Amwaj is sort of an upscale dinner restaurant/night club/lounge. Due to COVID, all tables were outdoors with great views over to Eilat, Israel. On our visit, Amwaj only opened for dinner and offered two meals: a mixed grill of meat or seafood. Both Dan and I opted for the meat, which was amazing and tons of food. It was even served on a little grill with charcoal so it stayed warm while we ate! An Arabian dancer also performed during our dinner. She was quite good.
We also enjoyed Al Manara’s lavish breakfast buffet during our stay! The breakfast buffet was pretty large and COVID-appropriate, with either single serving dishes or a staff member serving guests. The buffet offered both Western and Middle Eastern foods and everything was delicious.
Finally, we also ordered room service during our stay. I neglected to take a photograph, but it was tasty and came up fast and hot. I did, however, take a picture of a treat the Al Manara left for us!
As I mentioned above, we spent most of our time at the Al Manara resort and did not explore too much of Aqaba. The one thing we did do was walk down to the center or town to visit Rover’s Return Bar, which is a bar based on a famous Jordanian soap opera! I had hoped they would have my beloved Guinness but alas, they did not. We still enjoyed lunch, which was pretty decent Western bar fare.
STEAL OUR TRIP
Al Manara, a Luxury Collection Hotel: Al-Hashemi Street, Aqaba 1968 Jordan. T: +962 3 202 1000. Parking available on site.
Rover’s Return: K. Hussein St., Aqaba 77110, Jordan. Open daily 12:30 1:00. Deceptively, no Guinness when I visited. There is also a branch in Amman.