Aqaba - the bluest water and coral town

There were multiple suggestions on staying closer to South Beach but we decided on staying in the center of Aqaba. And if we wanted to go to the South Beach we could always get a taxi. 

Our hotel room is great - finally there is AC and the room gets fully dark because even when you open the blinds, the only thing you see is the opposite house which is like 30 cm from the window. At least will be able to sleep well and it’s important because we’re starting to feel the exhaustion coming.

We have gotten used to Jordan's pollution and the fact that they throw everything on the ground. They drink their tea and drop their cup right there. But the beach gave us a new wave of shock. The beach sand was full of cigarette butts, sunflower or pistachio shells, bottle caps and plastic pieces.

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And the locals are really enjoying the sea. The central beach is quite small and full of boats of different sizes. Then one of the boat owners convinced us to take a boat ride. His boat had a glass floor through which we could see the corals, fishes and even sunken ships and a tank.

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We realize we were not going to swim here so we grabbed a taxi and went to the famous South Beach. When we got there from the city we felt as if we were in an abandoned beach because there were only a few people around us.

Time to try out snorkeling. Believe it or not I had never done that before and it wasn’t so easy since I prefer breathing through the nose and I feel like under the water I am always short of air, because I don’t know how to breathe only through the nose. I practiced a couple minutes above the water and when I felt confident I went underwater. Now I feel more confident about it! It was beautiful, the corals and the fishes.

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We hadn't read that the Red sea was one of the saltiest seas. Our eyes and lips are burning, but at least finally our bodies can refresh themselves because the water was nice and cool. As I went into the public showers I have gotten in between a couple of local women. Of course, I was different and it was fun for them - they kept saying something and smiling, and then laughing. Nice. I didn't really understand what was it that made them laugh, but it felt like there was no negative undertone to them laughing. I would've wanted to understand, but oh well!

We stayed at the beach the whole afternoon and it finally wasn't so hot since we were swimming a lot. Only later in the evening the mirror showed us the footprints of being in the sun all day.

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Before heading to bed, we took a little lap around the city. It felt like all of the men of the town had crawled out of their caves. There were two TV's attached to a building outside and in front of them - chairs, as if it was a theater. Everyone was sitting, drinking tea, smoking hookah and watching football. They were fans of Real Madrid. We sat for a while as well. I am the only woman between around 70 men. And there were a lot of places like these! All around!

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Later in the evening, while talking to a local, we found out that the women go to a fancy restaurant with their friends and in these restaurants there are mostly women. That's how the men protect their women, so other men don't talk to them. 

The next day, in the afternoon, we went to the beach furthest from us. There was a suggestion on going to Japanese Garden beach, but the taxi driver said that it was a paid beach and he dropped us off like a kilometer further, because there was no entry price here. Later we found out that it was not true and that both of the beaches were free of charge. But we felt so comfortable in this beach, that we didn't even go to the other one. This beach felt like it was abandoned at first - no one in the cafes or by the water. We occupied a hovel, a table and chairs, because our plan today was to stay out of direct sunlight. In a short while an owner of a cafe crawled out and offered us drinks. Another tiny culture-shock when the employee of the cafe brings out hookah and then drops the plastic packaging of the tobacco on the ground. It's not someone who just passes by, it seems weird to me that an employee of a cafe wouldn't do everything to make it more appealing for the customers. And the garbage bin really is 10 meters away. We picked the piece up at threw it out.

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There were volunteers from Clean Blue at the beach all day as well. They were snorkeling and collecting the trash from the sea. We too found a full bottle of a drink in the water. 

I don't know where the time went but we realized the sun was setting now and that we could not see anything under the water now, and that it would be dangerous to go swim because there are not only corals in the bottom of the sea but sea urchins as well. We said goodbye to the sun and were grateful for another beautiful day. These magical moments as the sun is setting, really make you feel grateful and hopeful for another beautiful day tomorrow.

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We thought the evening was over but the people of Jordan add a nice spice to our trip. Two young guy started chatting with us, they were at the beach to fish and have a picnic. They had a pan and food with them and the cafe gave them a grill. They had caught 4 fish in their net, but all of them were let go since they were very small. They invite us to have dinner with them. The food looked amazing, but it had meat in it. But I enjoyed the nice company and the stories they had to share. I hadn't laughed like that in a while, I literally was rolling of the ground and laughing till tears started coming out of my eyes.

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We had a good time and amazing laughs and now it was time to get a taxi to get back. The taxi driver was funny too - he gave us sunflower seeds, showed us a youtube video of a local wedding, put on Bedouin music and drove like a maniac. All of that is normal here. 

The price difference between the towns is noticeable. Aqaba is winning in terms of being cheaper. We found Petra beer for 1.60 JD (in a restaurant in Petra it cost 5 JD and in the stores - 3 JD), hookah here also cost only 2 JD (3-5 JD elsewhere).

But the kindness of people is the same everywhere. We went into a store for juice and another local started a conversation with us. While we're waiting for our juice, he wanted to share his food with us. It made me think about how much I share with others. Not only to the closest and dearest. But to those who have nothing. To those, who are not even asking. To see it, to feel it, to predict it and to give. 

Our time in Aqaba is done and it's time to go to bed, because we have an early bus to catch again tomorrow. We'll be going back to the capital - Amman. To rent a car and drive around the north of Jordan for the last 4 days. I told my boyfriend to set an alarm since I tend to just turn it off and not wake up. The bus is at 7 AM and we have to be there 15 minutes before. I open my eyes, the time is 6:44. “Matīs, wake up!! Did you set the alarm?” - “Yes!” (as then there is an alarm playing in the background). An hour late. We have not packed. For two minutes we were just looking at each other trying to understand if it was worth the rush. Yes, we'll try. We threw our stuff in the bags and we ran. Got a taxi. Drove for 2 kilometers. We got to the bus at 6:58. The bus departs on time - at 7 AM. We didn't even brush our teeth or go to the toilet. How did we manage to do it in 14 minutes? Impossible? Possible. I sat down and hoped that we'll stop to go to the bathroom halfway there.

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We've spent a week and a half in Jordan and the country has left its marks on me - a tan line from shorts from Wadi Rum, a tan line from my bathing suit from Aqaba, bruises from climbing into the bunk beds at the Petra Capsule hostel, corals and rocks have bruised my knees. A little like beaten up, but happy that I continue to walk this beautiful land.

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