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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Making the Most of Eid Break

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Written by Brandon Bishop (Washington & Lee University), Student Correspondent for CET Jordan, Summer 2023

Every year, Eid Al-Adha (عيد الأضحى) is celebrated to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to God. As a result of this holiday falling during our time at CET, we were given a week off class. This year, Eid Al-Adha fell on Wednesday, June 28th in Jordan. On Monday, our CET group took a trip to Wadi Rum, and stayed the night in the desert. On Tuesday, we visited Petra, and after dinner departed to our break destinations. Me, along with about 19 other students, departed via Jett Bus to Aqaba, Jordan. Other students departed back to Amman before catching flights to Istanbul, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and more places.

Why Aqaba?

Located on the Red Sea, Aqaba is a common vacation destination within Jordan and the Middle East. Aqaba’s unique landscape, a combination of mountains and the sea, make for beautiful backdrops to admire and beaches to relax on. Initially, I was planning to visit Cyprus over the break to give me a nice beach vacation. However, after the dates were announced and I started researching flights, I realized that prices were heavily inflated due to increased demand due to the country-wide break. As I started talking to other students, both the Dead Sea and Red Sea came up, but we quickly decided on Aqaba due to its good reputation.

The contrasting landscapes. The red sea with mountains behind it


Although some students went to big cities like Istanbul, I wanted to stay away from the hustle and bustle of a big city and relax on the beach for a few days. I often find myself stressed when visiting big cities, as I have a checklist of things to do and sights to see. Aqaba was far different, however, as I went with very little planned besides relaxing on the beach and going for a swim.

Me, my roommate, and two other guys decided to share an Airbnb to save money on housing, as it would be cheaper and more fun than staying in a hotel. Although our Airbnb ended up being quite a way out of downtown or the beaches, Taxi’s often came out to just 2 JOD for a ride to downtown and 7 JOD for a ride to the beach. Split among the four of us, this was very affordable and helped us save a lot of money.

The view from our Airbnb


What is there to do in Aqaba?

As mentioned earlier, there isn’t much to do in Aqaba besides relaxing at the beach – but that’s also what attracted us to it. Thankfully, one of the Jordanian Neighbors is from Aqaba, and was on the same bus as us from Petra. She gave us tips and tricks on how to navigate Aqaba and where to go, such as not going to the beach downtown and that a normal taxi ride within the city shouldn’t cost more than 2 JOD. Since we arrived at night, our first night was very chilled as we decided just to go to dinner together and settle in at our Airbnb’s. The second day, some people decided to head to the beach and others decided to spend the day shopping downtown. My roommates and I hopped on a taxi to go downtown for brunch, then went to the beach afterwards.

Me and my roommates at breakfast downtown


The Beach

After some research and conversations with the other people in Aqaba, we decided to head to Berenice Beach. The beach is about a 10-minute taxi from downtown, and costs 13 JOD to enter, so we were skeptical. However, the beach was well worth the entrance fee. The beach was well-kept, had plenty of seating and shade, and even had a beach volleyball court and a couple pools if swimming in the sea isn’t for you. Additionally, the beach had a small restaurant with great smoothies, some water, and even some food if you’re hungry. While there, I struck up a conversation with one of the workers, who told me about the snorkeling trips they run. If you have a group larger than 10, you can get your own boat on the water for four hours with snorkeling and a meal on the boat all included for 33 JOD / person. Since there were 20 of us in Aqaba, I knew I had to reach out to the group and organize a snorkeling trip for the next day.

The Snorkeling Trip

After communication with our group and the beach representative, I was able to book a boat for all 20 of us the next day. After taking taxis to the beach in the morning, we all met up before going on the boat at noon. Thankfully, the beach entrance fee was included in the 33 JOD, so some of our group came early to enjoy the beach before the boat. We were on the water for four hours, which included snorkeling in two different, beautiful locations. This was my first experience snorkeling, and it was breathtaking. Seeing the ecosystems of fish thriving within the coral was unlike anything I had ever seen before. For the last hour on the boat, we were treated to lunch, which included the common Middle Eastern appetizers and a main course of grilled kebab, chicken, and fish.

Me in the water, with the beautiful landscape behind me


After the boat docked at 4, some people decided to head back to their hotel, and some stayed to play volleyball. After playing a couple games of volleyball, I headed to dinner with some friends before heading to an Airbnb to play cards. After a couple hours of playing cards, we decided to call it a night since we had a 5-hour bus ride the day after to catch back to Amman.

Our group on the boat


Reflection

During the bus ride back to Amman, I reflected on the trip quite a bit. Most notably on how it changed my framing of Amman. Before the trip, I viewed Amman as a vacation destination, and merely a place where I am a tourist and won’t be there for long. However, I caught myself viewing the trip back to Amman as a trip back home. Not only was my trip to Aqaba a fun way to enjoy the Eid break, but it made me realize that Amman isn’t simply a city to me anymore. Instead, it’s my home.

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