The cozy city of Aqaba along the Red Sea Shores. Not only a great destination when you want to simply relax at the beach, but also to get a real taste of local Jordanian life. Not sure what to do in Aqaba? Here are 11 things to do while you’re staying in Aqaba:

  1. Stroll along the Public Beach. Head towards the public beach and simply enjoy seeing the locals having fun. Walk along the public beach from the Royal Yacht club until the Jordanian flag. Take a seat at one of the many local cafe’s, order a lemon and mint drink or sisha and watch the show. Not only you’ll find lots of families enjoying the beach and attempting a swim, you’ll also see young Arabs trying to show off in their boats, going incredibly fast with the latest Arabic hits on full blast from their sub-woofers.
What to do in Aqaba

2.  Take a picture at the Arab Revolt Square to proof that you were there. There’s a big #LoveAqaba sign. From this square, below the big Jordanian Flag, you’ll find locals hanging out, children playing football or other games and fisherman along the coastal line. From here you also are next to the Aqaba Castle which is another ‘what to do in Aqaba”.

What to do in Aqaba

3. Eat fish like the locals do. Continue your stroll along the beach (facing the beach just continue to your left) to find a really local piece of Aqaba than not many know. Take a seat at the Aqaba House, a local restaurant serving nice fish-dishes. Sit down in relaxing chairs and beautiful tents, literally on the beach.

What to do in Aqaba
Fish soup at the Aqaba House Restaurant
What to do in Aqaba
Eating fish on the beach

4. Visit Souk By the Sea. On Friday Evenings you can find Souk By the Sea in the touristic area of Aqaba. What to do in Aqaba? Shopping for numerous of hand-made items such as olive oil soaps, jewelry and local produce. Great souvenirs to take home!

What to do in Aqaba
Souk by the Sea

5. Hang out on a private beach. Next to the 5* hotels and resorts that are directly located at the beach, there are 3 private beaches in Aqaba. The closest beach to the city center is Ayla. Here you’ll find the B12 beach-club, with soft sandy beaches, lazy chairs, hammocks, cabana’s and even a track to go water-skiing or wake-boarding. They regularly organize events in the weekends – check out their Facebook page for more information. The second option is Tala Bay. It’s nice but doesn’t offer that much facilities as the other two. Another option is to visit Berenice Beachclub. Here you’ll find pools, beach, a jetty from where different boat-trips depart, a dive center and other water sports. You can arrange shuttles and entry tickets at the reception of your hotel in Aqaba.

Berenice Beachclub

6. Get lost down town. On the opposite side of the public beach area you’ll find many souvenirshops. Buy your sisha for at home, eat knafa’a or baklava at one from one of the bakeries, visit the mosque and buy spices you can only find in the Middle East such as Sumac or the delicious Za’tar.

7. Play golf at Ayla Oasis. A beautiful golf course includes an 18-hole par-72 championship course, a nine-hole par-three practice course. It’s running on waste water from the city of Aqaba. At their Golf Academy you can also take lessons to know the fine art of playing golf. The 18-hole course, designed by the legendary Greg Norman, is the largest in the Levant region and one of the finest in the Middle East!

Golf in Ayla

8. Help out in the morning at the Local animal shelter. Their small team is completely depending on donations and volunteers. With over 100 dogs to feed and take care for, they have not enough time on their hands.  They don’t have enough people to get the jobs done and are in desperate need of people who want help out and give some love to the dogs in the Animal shelter. Another great “What to do in Aqaba”!

9. Visit the Aqaba Aquarium if you’re not keen on going into the water yourself, or if you just want to see what’s swimming in the Red Sea. The renovated Aquarium is located in the direction of Tala Bay and just behind the harbor. It’s not huge but has beautiful aquariums full of fish. They also have numerous projects in regrowing corals. It’s a very nice excursion with small children.

10. Go on a boat trip. Go local on a glass bottom boat from the public beach area and use it as a water taxi to get yourself dropped of at the south beach area. Take a ride in the Neptune glass bottom boat. Experience an all out and loud Arab disco party and delicious food on the Sun and fun boat or go on the Aladin Yacht during a sunset dinner cruise.

 

11. Go diving or snorkeling. One of the most relaxing, meditative and yet exciting things you can do in Aqaba. Most of the dive and snorkel sites of Aqaba are in relative shallow waters and accessible by beach. The dive sites are concentrated around the South beach area, which is on about a 20-30 minute drive from the town. Local dive centers will take you on either a boat trip or by car to directly access the dive sites. Jordan is unknown as a dive destination yet has so many to offer when it comes to underwater life and dive possibilities. Find out more on what to look out for when going diving in this separate blogpost here.

 

What to do in Aqaba?

Here you have it.  Do you have any tips and recommendations? Leave them down in the comments below! 

Whether you experience a little discomfort or end up with serious trouble… A gluten allergy is always difficult when it comes to traveling abroad. How do you explain your condition to locals? And what can you eat? Learn all about going gluten free in Jordan! 

Maglooba - the upside down one-pot gluten free Jordanian dish!
Maglooba – the upside down one-pot gluten free Jordanian dish!

Gluten free in Jordan

Gluten allergies are not really known in Jordan. It’s better known in the bigger cities such as Amman, where there more and more gluten free menu’s and food are on offer. If you go to the high end restaurants and 5* hotels you will find professionals who know everything about gluten, cross contamination and how to avoid that last one.

But most of the locals don’t know what it is, let stand ever heard about it. Therefore we provide everyone with a gluten allergy, with a document that explains a gluten allergy  in Arabic what you can and can’t eat. You can also show it to the locals when going to any restaurant. We also always communicate your food preferences and allergies to the hotels and restaurants when you pre-book your meals.

Maglooba - Jordanian gluten free dish
Maglooba – Jordanian gluten free dish

Gluten free dishes

It might surprise you but there are many dishes in Jordan that are gluten free! Think about the delicious local mezzes with dips such as hummus*, baba ganouch*, Dawali (Rice stuffed grape leaves) or Makdoosh (garlic and hazelnut stuffed baby aubergines). Another great gluten free starter is Lentil soup, a nice full soup with loads of protein but especially taste.

There is no such thing as gluten free bread in Jordan. You can buy it at select amount of selling points and in Amman only. For example at Crumz or at the “Beat tha wheat shop’ in Cozmo 7th circle. If you’re don’t have the opportunity to go here, it’s better to bring your own gluten free crackers or bread and dip away; going gluten free in Jordan!

Be careful though, some of these dishes contain *tahini (sesame paste), which may be processed in a factory that also processes wheat.

Makdoush : stuffed baby aubergines - Gluten free in Jordan
Makdoush : stuffed baby aubergines – Gluten free in Jordan

Gluten free main courses

You can eat a variety of main courses. Jordan is rich in one-pot rice dishes such as Maglooba. It’s a one-pot upside down rice dish, with veggies, potatoes, chicken, sprinkled with roasted peanuts and parsley. Or go for the traditional Zarb Dinner, the famous Bedouin dish that’s prepared under the ground. It consists of roasted chicken and a variety of roasted vegetables. But also dishes such as Bamia and Mlokhia are incredibly delicious and gluten free. Bamia is made out of okra’s in tomato sauce. Mlokhia is a kind of spinach soup full of garlic. Both are traditionally eaten together with rice.

Dishes to watch out for, they contain gluten:

  • Fattoush salad. Part of this salad is deep-fried bread.
  • Foul: Although this dish is made of beans, they often come from cans before being processed into this dish.
  • Tabouleh: Parsley salad that contains couscous.
  • Any pastry or other types of bread.

Please note that you always should be very careful with what you eat. The above list is just a small one; the Arabic cuisine contains many many dishes and varieties of them, making it impossible to list all of the Arabic dishes that contain gluten.

NOT GLUTEN FREE - Tabouleh salad - parsley salad with couscous. Watch out!
NOT GLUTEN FREE – Tabouleh salad – parsley salad with couscous. Watch out!

Other allergies

Also when you have other allergies, you can come to Jordan. Our travel consultants live in the country and can help you with an advise on what (not) to eat and give you a proper advise on food in Jordan. We also create wonderful itineraries that meet all of your wishes! Contact us any time and we’re more than happy to help.

 

Generous meals in Beit al Baraka
Generous meals in Beit al Baraka
A typical Arabic breakfast – do you know what’s gluten free?

 

A special thanks goes to Mariangela, our favorite Chef in Jordan and Italian Chef the Cuisine of Hilton Dead Sea for the extra tips and tricks about going gluten free in Jordan! 

 

 

Salt is located only 35 km outside of Amman and has recently been nominated as UNESCO world heritage site. This ancient town was once the most important settlement between the Eastern Desert and the Jordan Valley. We figured this small town is definitely worth a visit when in Amman – here are the top 10 things to do in Salt on a day trip!

 

1. Stroll down Hamman Street and Al Ein Plaza

You should not miss a stroll down Hammam Street. With plenty of small shops lining up next to each other and full of locals, there is lots to see (and taste!). Vendors offer everything: local food and produce, clothing, household goods, handmade perfumes, delicious sweets from bakeries, old Arabic beddings, traditional crafts, more clothing and more food. Back in the days, the lower half was sued to sell cattle and horses, while the upper half was filled with shops selling fruit and veggies.

Al Ein Plaza is considered the heart of the city. Here you’ll see the local old men playing a traditional game called Manqala and you’ll hear the Islamic call for praying. Most people from As-Salt come here every day to talk to others, pray in the surrounding churches or head to the markets, as part of their daily routine.

2. Eat at Salaam (Peace) Restaurant

The perfect place for lunch on a day out in Salt! Head to Salaam Restaurant, which is located close to the Archaeological Museum for some good and local food. We ordered half a chicken with bread, cucumber salad, tahina salad and pickled vegetables – very delicious!

 

3. Head up to the mosque on top of the hill for amazing views

Climb up the hill towards the mosque on top, and you can enjoy nice views over As-Salt – in every direction! Just head towards the tower of the mosque on the hill from the Al Ein Plaza, which will also lead you through characteristic, small alleyways.

Photo by: Vadim Skorobogatko

4. Check out Salt’s museums

In Salt, there is the Historical Old Salt Museum and the Archaeological Museum that are well worth a visit. The Historical Museum has free admission and is located right next to the visitor centre. In the visitor centre, you’ll also find plenty of useful brochures and maps for walking tours through As-Salt. There is also a nice cafe with a terrace, and you can buy local produce from there. The rather small Archaeological Museum is 2 JOD per person and filled with old artefacts from the surrounding region.

5. Dinner with a local family

The perfect finishing touch for a day out in Salt: Have dinner with a local family. You’ll meet them at their home, help prepare the food and learn how to prepare a traditional dish. And then, of course, you’ll eat dinner together. This is a great way of meeting locals, learning from them and discovering new food! Get in touch with us, we can organise it for you[email protected] 

6. Empower locals by buying handmade products

The ideal place to get some souvenirs for your loved ones back home! The shop is located right next to the visitor centre and sells local products made by the people in As-Salt. It is a community project which aims to give locals the opportunity to display their items. That way, they can sell their products directly and without intermediaries, ensuring a fair price. You’ll find things like soaps, oils, jewellery, homemade jams and other produce or bags and paintings.

7. Go on a city walking tour with a local guide

A great way to get to know As-Salt is by going on a walking tour through the city with a guide, who will be able to tell you about the history and personal stories of local people. There are also several different routes, depending on your interests. The first one focuses on religious harmony in As-Salt and will take you to various mosques, churches and heritage buildings. The second trail is called Daily Life trail and is all about tasting new foods, buying unusual products and speaking to locals. Finally, you can choose to do the Educational Trail, where your guide will tell you more about the educational buildings in As-Salt, and you will pay a visit to the secondary school there. Click here for more information: http://www.saltcitytour.com/

8. Visit the churches in Salt

There are three churches you should visit in Salt: the Al-Khader Orthodox Church was built over the remains of an old chapel and Muslims as well as Christians come to pray at this church. There is also the Dormition of Virgin Mary Orthodox Church, constructed in the 16th century. The local community funded part of the refurbishment of this church. Last but not least, you should visit the Latin Church. It was designed by an Italian architect and back in the days, the basement of this church was used for storing supplies of the Turkish Army and local citizens.

Photo by: L’esc Photography

9. Go paintballing at the Mountain Breeze Resort

You can also combine your day in Salt with an overnight stay or visit to the Mountain Breeze Resort. Here you can do all sorts of exciting and fun stuff: Go paintballing (the only paintball field in Jordan!), unleash your inner Robin Hood and do some archery, play volleyball or football, hire a bike, ride ponies or go on a hiking tour! Follow this link for more info: http://www.mountainbreeze.jo/about/

Photo by: Mountain Breeze Resort

10. Get Lost

You can discover many characteristic alleyways in Salt. Most likely you will get lost, which is not as bad as it sounds: You will find small local shops, old and abandoned houses, stunning architecture and lots of friendly people who are more than happy to help you to get back on track again!

Photo by: Adeeb Atwan

Hubbly bubbly, Sisha, hookah or in Arabic: “Argilah”, the water-pipe is a common tool to smoke different flavors of tobacco in Jordan. What is it and where can you smoke the best Sisha in Jordan? 

Preparing the Sisha

How do you prepare the best sisha? Learn from the locals in Jordan and use the following tips and tricks:

  • Fire up! Get some coals from your BBQ or put some on the fire. In the meanwhile you can continue with prepping your pipe.
  • Fill the bottle with cool water. You can also add ice-cubes, slices of lemon or some mint to the water for an extra fresh taste.
  • Fill the head of the Sisha with the tobacco of your taste. Put a piece of foil on top and prick small holes in there so the air can go through.
  • Make sure all pieces are well connected. Put some small coals on top of the foil and suck the air through the tube. You’ll see smoke coming into the bottle above the water.
  • While smoking, sometimes it becomes ‘very heavy’. Instead of leaving it, you can go another round by taking the head off and blow in it from the other side.
  • If you’re sitting outside, you can protect the coals from blowing off by either wrapping some foil around the head of the water-pipe or use the little wind-shield that came with the sisha.
  • Drink a small cup of Turkish coffee along with your sisha like a real pro.

For this blog we went out and captured the process with a how-to photoguide:

 

Buying a sisha in Jordan

There are many shops to buy your sisha in Jordan. If you are looking to take this souvenir home, consider buying a full set so you can enjoy it at home. A complete set contains:

  • The sisha itself
  • A good tube and some plastic mouth pieces if you are planning to share it with others
  • Spare parts such as rubbers and ceramic top-pieces
  • Tobacco – keep in mind the regulations of your home country (or next destination) to prevent hassle at the airport!
  • The big tweezers to handle hot coals.
  • A rag to clean it after use
  • A small metal basket so you can burn your coals on the fire.
  • A bag that fits the sisha and all parts exactly, perfect when you want to take it to the beach or on a picnic!

Another tip to clean the tube: put a bit of water inside and sling it while holding both ends. Blow out the water and there you go, ready for the next round!

Shop for tabacco and sisha in Jordan – Picture by Marre

Types of tobacco

The most common enjoyed flavor is double apple. You’ll find it available everywhere. But there’s also the Zaglool – a cigar like taste where the coals are put directly on top of the tobacco (without foil.) But there’s a range of other flavors as well. The tobacco shop can even mix your favorite flavors. Some popular combinations are lemon and mint or watermelon that tastes like sweet sweet bubblegum. But you can also go for something more tropical, for example with a combination of coconut, mango and peach flavor.

"tombac" sisha in Jordan - Photo by Carmen Scholten
“tombac” sisha in Jordan – Photo by Carmen Scholten

Where to smoke a sisha in Jordan:

Almost everyone has a sisha at home in Jordan. In most restaurants in Jordan the water-pipe is part of the menu. But also Bedouins in the most remote places can prepare it for you. In Papaya Restaurant in Aqaba (Pizza street) you will find a beautifully crafted sisha with different and unique flavors.  Sisha Way in Amman – the name already says it, serves different kind of sisha’s. Or visit [email protected], LEMON Jordan or just hop in where-ever you see other people smoking their sisha’s!

Looking for a customized program with visits to beautiful places, good restaurants and the highlights of Jordan? Contact our Jordan destination experts for a custom-made trip! 

Disclaimer: don’t smoke tobacco if you are too young to do so, or if you have an addictive personality. It can become a first step to smoking real cigarettes! 

 

Do you have a sisha yourself? Did we miss any tips and tricks? Comment below!