By Deea Ariana
An hour’s drive away from the Jordanian capital, Amman, exclusive resorts line the Dead Sea coast.But the finest, and priciest, of them is the Mövenpick Resort and Spa Dead Sea, dubbed an “oasis of tranquillity” and one of the top ten best resorts in the Middle East according to Condé Nast Traveler Magazine.
Our cab driver, who specializes in tour drives around Jordan, remarked that with unrest escalating in the neighboring countries like Syria and Egypt, Jordan is bound to see boost is tourists around this time of year.
He was right. We reached the resort in the afternoon and our cab was greeted at the resort’s parking lot by a long queue of other guests getting out of their cars and bellboys scurrying to and from the lobby with carrying luggage.
The entire weekend was packed with not only foreign tourists but also Jordanians. Most usually come to the resort with their families to enjoy the weekend for the lobby was just as packed with guests checking out with us on the day we left.
The reception is grand and elegantly decorated with elaborate wooden frames and warm coloured furnishings. Fresh apples and complimentary drinks were offered to guests upon arrival and I immediately helped myself to a glass of cool karakade while waiting at the long check-in queue.
On the outside, it seemed like the usual hotel with the usual five-star amenities. What I least expected was to encounter an entire village tucked inside, beyond the grand facade.
The sprawling resort is built in an antique village setting complete with stone houses that are actually small private suites, roads, gardens, tall palm trees, and small water fountains. Best of all, it even has its own transportation system. The village, as its called, provides club karts to transport guests to their desired destinations.
In spite of the resort’s Stone Age appearance, the insides of all 346 rooms and suites are lavishly furnished with modern facilities: air conditioning, television, internet, an electric kettle with complimentary tea and Nescafe sachets, a safe, hair dryer, and my favourite, a free mini-bar filled everyday without extra charge. The rooms also have either a private balcony or terrace.The doors and wardrobes are in antique wooden décor with chunky antique metal doorknobs, reflecting the heritage and architecture of the region.
Once unpacked and settled in the room, it was time to venture out in the scorching sun. The sea was calling and there was a club kart waiting outside to take us there.
Off went the kart through the narrow streets and village alleys, while we got an informal tour of the area. Soon enough, we reached our destination amid the mineral rich Dead Sea mud at the private beach, the northern shore of the Dead Sea.
Swimming in the Dead Sea is an otherworldly experience. In fact, you don’t swim at all because it’s impossible. The hyper salty sea water keeps you afloat automatically, and you must grab on to the salt-caked boulders for support if you need.
Unfortunately, we got into the sea during high tide. The strong waves forced us to retreat after a few minutes.
My advice is to hit the beach sometime between the morning and early afternoon when the tide is low, if you can tolerate the agonizing heat. Also, get a pair of goggles to save your eyes.
The nearest swimming pool to the beach, the Infinity Pool, overlooks the beach offering a panoramic view of the Dead Sea. The scenery is simply dramatic when you take a dip in the pool during sunset.In the horizon you can see faint silhouettes of the West Bank and Jerusalem, and together with the setting sun there’s a spectacular view.
A menu offering a variety of snacks, drinks, and fresh seasonal juices are available upon order both at the beach and by the pool. And better yet, the diverse dining options have something for all taste buds, plus live entertainment to keep you company.
All showered and clean, we went off to scavenge for a place to eat.
After minutes of walking through the resort’s alleys and streets at night, we came across what looked like a lively village square. The aroma of shisha and food wafted in the air, and live music played in the background while guests dined at their candle-lit tables.
A waiter from The Grill, a gourmet steakhouse, showed us to our table. We ordered scallops, lamb chops, and a seafood platter grilled to perfection. The night only began as glamorous belly dancers too appeared on stage.
Other dining options include the Italian restaurant, Luigi’s, authentic Chinese cuisine at Chopsticks, and Mediterranean Cuisine served at Al Saraya, all found in the same compound. There are also a host of bars and lounges all over the resort so you don’t have to journey far to sip a drink.
If you’re contemplating pampering yourself in the “ultimate luxury spa” then head to the world class ZARA Spa.
At a hefty cost, the spa offers numerous sophisticated rejuvenation options using therapeutic Dead Sea treatments. It contains 24 treatment rooms, five pools with different saline concentrations, separate thermariums for men and women, and Royal VIP treatment suites. The Therapy Center of the spa acts as a medical unit offering treatments using the Dead Sea’s mineral-rich resources.
There is also a gym right next to the spa, free of charge for hotel guests, with badminton and tennis courts, and the beach is always available for a good game of beach volleyball. A children’s activity center is there to keep the younger guests well entertained.
And for the more adventurous, there is a hiking trail 15 kilometers from the resort in Wadi Mujib, and a little further on the airport road in Amman is a nine-hole golf course, the only one in Jordan. But bear in mind, prior reservations are required.
The resort also hosts important conferences and other events in its huge ballrooms and conference hall equipped with state-of-the-art AV technology.A Charity Opera Ball and Gala Dinner is scheduled to be held on July 19 featuring a performance by the Munich Johann Strauss Orchestra.
Perhaps this is the best thing about this Mövenpick resort, the many recreational activities give something to enjoy for all ages. The staff is also warm and accommodating, despite the weekend rush.
More importantly, if you are planning your next trip to the Mövenpick Dead Sea resort, book your rooms well in advance, and don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen and a pair of goggles.