Sand Stars Camp, Wadi Rum 06-2021

We decided to stay one night in Wadi Rum to see the red desert and think about Lawrence of Arabia. I was tempted to book with the bubble hotels and their private balcony spas, however the price and the reviews suggesting it was just a lot of rich loud people turned me off. Bedouin Village had very few reviews but all were good and it seemed nice to support a newer player.

Our host Suleman met us at the tourist info centre and we followed him eventually offroad through the desert. He told us that he had recently taken over the property and was in the process of upgrading things to welcome back visitors after a very quiet year. In particular a/c units had been installed - however he didn't yet have the power(?) to use them. Sadly this translated to a slaughterous afternoon in 35C desert sun trying to stay in the tent and even worse trying to sleep on a sweaty bed. Nonetheless we were the only guests that day and we appreciated the cheap accommodation, the trying times for hospitality, and his passion to bring his dream alive.

Lunch was nice potatoes, tomato salad and bread although the canned tuna seemed an odd thing to serve. It made me a little sceptical, but after a long tour through the afternoon desert and special sunset, dinner was upon us when we returned and made up for the lunch. It had been cooked in an oven made under the earth. Although I had secretly hoped for goat or lamb, instead we were served an enourmous plate of charred chicken, simple in flavour and still quite moist. The potatoes and vegetables had absorbed some of the meat flavour and smoke and it was all complemented by excellent pilaf, a tomato stew and some fresh salad. Of particular note was the outstanding smokey mutabal, truly the best eggplant dip I've ever tasted. 

After a warm night, breakfast before our camel ride had some good dips and a nice omelette.

A pleasant stay which would be nicer (if there is a next time) when the a/c works. However after 2 trips to Wadi Rum, I don't think this lifetime will see me making a 3rd.

The Turkish Restaurant, Amman 06-2021

Once settled into our (near) airport hotel, it was time for the final meal in Jordan. I really wanted to go somewhere for traditional dishes like mansaf ( but really just couldn't find anywhere online during my search. I suppose we could've gone into Amman proper, but I suppose a bit of laziness and also many reports of driving there being hectic (I wasn't too worried, probably just the lazy part mainly) kept us more local. A restaurant online (Arabic name only) showed pictures of beautiful pieces of chicken sitting on top of a massive amount of rice and that inspired me. Unfortunately the restaurant was closed (or absent - I can't remember which) despite walking up and down the street a few times.

This neon green building nearby seemed popular and lots of tables of young men were there. I wonder if they were workers finishing late or not. It did seem like the sort of place that taxi drivers would go and eat cheap and merry.

 The Turkish Restaurant is what it was called (although didn't know that from the outside). Google maps has over 1400 reviews so it must be alright. It felt as though tourists may not commonly be seen there, I guess with an Arabic only name online wouldn't help that. But they had a simple English menu so there must be some at least.

Half-Turkish chicken JD2.25, mashawi (kebab, meat) JD2.35 and lentil soup JD0.55 came. It was served with this paper thin bread that had been lightly touched with a red (not too chilli) oil. I also saw every other table get a plate of redness so I wanted one too. It was diced tomato and onion topped with I think I remember a mild chilli or harissa (or maybe it was tomato paste...).

Cheap, tasty and local (even if it is Turkish rather than Jordanian).

Albasha Restaurant, Aqaba 06-2021

Before the long drive from South Garden toward the hotel near the airport, we needed fuel. Food fuel that is. After one final morning Red Sea dip and snorkel, we decided the short detour to Aqaba for a decent lunch was worth the effort. Luckily even though it was the middle of the day, traffic wasn't too bad and we found a parking spot very near the falafel joint I had noted on Google Maps. Even though there weren't many reviews (4.7* from 11 reviews) it seemed like a nice spot a bit further away from the main road areas just to make access a little easier.

The cafe in a wall sits near a bunch of shops and locals (I assume) were about their day wondering why were there - maybe a combination of summer, Covid and the less central part of Aqaba.

The menu at this place is completely in Arabic. Unfortunately the owner (I assume) who was the falafel maker didn't speak English either. There was a man sitting at the door who helpfully translated for us. I thought he might have been an employee or cashier, but in the end realised he was a regular customer just helping us and the shop out.

I suppose being in a falafel place means you know what you're going to order anyway.

Bread, fol, falafel which were lightly crisp with a strong chickpea flavour, hummus, tahini salad. Everything had a lot of oil (hoping it was EVOO). A tasty meal washed down by their homemade ultra fermented ayran. And the price was JD4.

I can't say it was the best falafel I've ever had (probably at this point it's between this mysterious one I remember in Amman in 2009 although no idea where it was now, London's pilpel or my most recent local discovery Tahini in Fitzroy was phenomenal) but it was a good one and a great overall meal.

Khubza & Seneya, Aqaba 06-2021

After a hard afternoon of snorkelling against the strong Japanese Garden current (worth it though), we freshened up at the accommodation. Given the real limit of food places here, a trip to Aqaba and to watch the sunset was on the cards.

Aqaba traffic was so busy compared to what we were used to (ok, not that bad, but the main roundabouts are a pretty mess). We wanted to go to the beach promenade to see the sunset but there is nowhere to there. Every bit of strip is occupied by restaurants and their tents, only allowing guests to sit. It really makes it quite unpleasant for the casual stroller. It didn't take long to leave that area and head to my choice of restaurant (using Google for inspiration).

Although others have reported difficulty getting a table, the quieter summer meant we had an immediate table outside near the sidewalk. Large outdoor airconditioning units (what's the point really?) hummed away in the background without any real noticeable cooling. And that menu with those prices - I wanted to try it all...

- Hommus with meat (topped with ground beef & almond) JD2.85 - deeply savoury hummus with almonds crunch and tasty mince beef;
- Tabulle salad (chopped parsley, tomatoes, bulgur wheat mixed with olive oil & lemon) JD1.85 - well balanced tangy tabbouleh;
- Tahini salad (chopped parsley with cucumber, tomato & tahini sauce) JD1.65 - decent;
- Lamb with vegetables (well spiced lamb with garlic, onion, carrots, oven baked) JD5.50 - tender lamb pieces and baked potato and vegetables in a salty meaty sauce, with some tangy sweet tomatoes for contrast;
- Fresh orange juice JD1.75.

I could have (given an extra stomach) gone for mutabal, eggs with mix cheese, and araayes.

Next time... (altough a third time in Aqaba this lifetime seems unlikely. Then again I probably thought a second time was too).

Bedouin Garden Village, Aqaba 06-2021

After the amazing Red Sea experience in Egypt, we weren't intending to go see the Jordan side of it as we thought it might just be too much time to drive down and then back up toward Amman/the airport. However during the enduringly hot afternoon in Wadi Rum spent indoors keeping cool and reading about it, we decided one last bucketlist swim and snorkel (hopefully won't be the last regardless) was worth the trip. Although not in Aqaba itself, the South Beach area is known for the best snorkelling in the area, particularly the Japanese Garden.

Our accommodation nearby was one of a few located directly across the road which triple as accommodations/resorts, dining facilities and dive centres.

We ate a nicely grilled fish with local savoury spices and crisp crinkle chips, and a local dish (can't remember the name now) of tomatoand  chicken mix with bread which was decent. It did take a while to cook, but probably because an American family with a very large number of children with large appetites were there just before us. In any case it gave us fuel to spend the next few hours on the beach, snorkelling against the relatively strong current, seeing the miracles of life there. Afterwards a quick dip in the pool to refresh was a nice touch.

Petra Moon, Wadi Musa 06-2021

Petra Moon hotel was the closest hotel to the entrance to Petra other than Movenpick (which was much too expensive for us). It was a very nice room at an affordable price, and had a lovely rooftop complete with a pool to escape the nearly 40C afternoon temperatures we were experiencing. The other side of the rooftop overlooked Wadi Musa and the sunset and meant for a pleasant dinner setting.

The hotel had set menu dinners on offer, essentially paying for a large amount of shared salad and then a main. The hamour white fish (Googled to mean grouper) was so delicate and soft. The mixed platter contained a lamb chop, lamb kebab, chicken kebab, and kofte. All of the meats were good with probably the kebabs being the best. The grill plate was partnered with parsley salad, grilled zucchini, tomato, hot chilli, peppers, blanket bread, and baked potato. Salad was fresh with mild cheese, and also was served some very bitter leaves which were a strong acquired taste.

Breakfast was quite expensive for the quality given - the dips were ok, antipasto a bit weak and the breads not fresh (which should be the easiest thing to get right). Fine for the very early start before Petra but not worth paying for going forward.

That evening two of us shared one dinner menu and it was enough food for 2.

An excellent hotel, setting, facility and dinner. Next time I'd probably stay a little closer to the main part of town for better/closer dining options but this would be a fine option to go back to also.

Sanabel, Wadi Musa 06-2021

After several weeks in Egypt I was still yet to find a place that made kunafa freshly. After ordering food at Rainbow Restaurant, I went for a walk across the road to the general store just to see what they sold (yes, it's what I enjoy). Turning back across the road I noticed a little bakery/sweet shop just a few shops down from Rainbow.

I saw the round metal tins on a table outside and I knew I had finally found it.

After our meal we sat at the sole table outside and had our dish made fresh to order. It was a nice sweet version, crisp on the shell, although not as cheesy as I was expecting. Still the only one I found and the it hit the spot.

This little outlet isn't on Google Maps (another one seems to be) but just around the right hand corner from Rainbow Restaurant.

Rainbow Restaurant, Wadi Musa 06-2021

Staying down toward the Petra end meant it needed a drive (and a really detoured one also considering the main road was closed off for works) and finding street parking which was lucky to be in a quiet season. I actually wanted to primarily try Bahia Rooftop to see the sunset from high up, but it was closed. Rainbow was the second choice and only 1 minute walk away. I did mentally note that the restaurant directly across the roundabout Beit Al-Barakah was really busy - maybe a sign to try it next time.

But Rainbow was a little hole on the roundabout with a bit of outdoor seating to see the sunset down the descending road and get a bit of street atmosphere.

They seem to be best known for the kebabs and shawarma. But the reason I chose here was because they had local dishes that I wanted. I recall eating mansaf at a restaurant in Amman back in 2009, and it was the best food I had in Jordan maybe also because it wasn't part of the tour group restaurants.

- Jordanian mansaf (lamb cooked in yogurt served with rice, local bread & nuts) - reasonably tender lamb in a rich creamy yoghurt served with additional slightly tangy sauce to drizzle over and soak into the rice. Delicious;
- Mandi (chicken & rice with special blend of spices & vegetables cooked in a pit underground) 7JD - grilled chicken with mildly seasoned but nicely coloured rice.

Both meals were topped with a very thin paper bread. If I was cynical, I'd say that after ordering the young waiter went out down a lane and brought some takeaway boxes back. Just being cynical. At least the food was authentic and delicious and I would definitely go back.

There is also a fresh kunafa place just around the corner called Sanabel for a fresh dessert.