Tip #472: The Sad Saga of My Time in Aqaba
“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” Henry David Thoreau
Then, on to Aqaba. Again I dozed, really too tired to try to communicate with Ahmed. We went through desert, saw tents and long flat homes of the Bedouins, lots of mountains, and then, as we began to enter Aqaba, lush foliage. We drove for miles along the Red Sea, which had huge ships (Aqaba is a port city), beaches, all through the city itself.
The streets were jam packed with cars and people were everywhere, there were lots of shops and restaurants- just like a major seaport resort city.
Coral Bay Hotel was just 5 kilometers from the Saudi Arabia border and far out of town. We had to pass through two armed checkpoints.
Here is where my adventure took a sad dive. First, it took forever to get checked in. Then they apologized and said they had not kept my reservation (for a sea view room) and brought me to the farthest point from the reception area. The room was filthy and had no lights (they had to bring in two light bulbs). These were two wall lights that cast very little light, certainly not enough to read by. The view was of a concrete wall. There were two twin beds, no desk, no phone, no internet. Okay, I could live with that, because I was absolutely exhausted.
Before he left, the person who led me to the room turned on the TV. When I went to turn it off, I couldn’t. Finally, I went back to reception (since there was no way to call the front desk) to ask for someone to turn the TV off. When I got back to the room, I COULD NOT UNLOCK THE DOOR!!!
I had visions of continually being locked in or out of the room in this isolated place. By the time someone came, I had made the decision that I would NOT stay there. I packed up, called Lina about alternative transportation back to Amman (because Ahmed was exhausted from the 4.5 hour drive). Then I went to check out, where they promised to do whatever I wanted to make it better. I told them that there was no way they were going to replace the door and the lock- and insisted on checking out.
Then I waited outside for perhaps 2 hours, reading, while Lina first tried to find another room in another hotel (not possible), and then a driver to take me the 4.5 hours back to Amman. Finally, at 8:30 pm., Ahmed drove up with his friend, Ari. Ari had taken the Jet bus from Amman to Aqaba, where he found that they had given away his reservation. Neither young man had a place to sleep, although Ahmed had planned to sleep on the beach!
Ari spoke perfect English and was also quite a hunk and very sweet. He asked if it would be all right if he got a lift back to Amman with us, and I was delighted to have him along.
First, I told them that we needed to get some dinner. It was 9 p.m. by the time we sat down on the sidewalk at a restaurant (under a full moon). Right next to us was a camel!!! At first I thought it might be fake, but nope, it was just sitting there calmly, with different people taking pictures on and next to it.
We had a lovely meal, sharing food. Then Ahmed went to get me (and them) some water for the trip back. I found out that Ahmed is 30, left school after 8th grade, and lives with his mother and sister.
Ari is 25, works out at the gym and looks like my son, Seth, in terms of lean muscle and height, and is studying German because he plans to go to Germany in the summer to study architecture and interior design. He taught himself English and speaks with people every day to keep it up. Languages apparently come relatively easy to him.
I told them both that I can’t remember having a dinner date with two young handsome men and they got a kick out of that. I really had a lovely time with them.
On the ride back, Ari and I discussed culture, education, philosophy, politics, religion, dating, Facebook, movies, family…and I dozed a lot. I sat in back, so Ari had enough room for his long legs in the front and I could stretch out on the seat in back (still in my seat belt).
We stopped several times for Ahmed to get coffee, go to the bathroom, and smoke (he never smoked with me in the car). At one place, I got out to go to the bathroom. I walked in, saw one filthy toilet, and then saw another place in the bathroom with four stalls that each had a hole in the floor. I walked right out again and decided I could hold it until we got to my hotel.
Oh, probably not a coincidence in a city where everyone knows everyone, but Ari is friends with a hairdresser in the hotel- who turned out to be the man who cut my hair!
May your learning be sweet.