When you think of Jordan, what do you see? Aqaba, Petra, Wadi Rum? All fine places with generations of rich history. And then what? Although we admire Amman’s efforts to reshape itself as a modern and design-led metropolis, we’re simply not big fans of the city. So, any visit to Jordan involves a hop, skip and jump through the rather impressive Queen Alia International Airport, before diving in to a taxi and heading directly to our seafront hotel of choice.
Over the years we’ve curated a short list of our favourite destinations in Jordan. Yet, as good as they are, they all lack a sense of place. Fine, luxury hotels each and every one – but we’d almost given up hope of finding a true home-from-home in the Hashemite Kingdom until we stumbled upon the Al Manara Hotel in Aqaba.
The new Al Manara is inspired by charming Middle Eastern tales and embodies sophisticated luxury and rich heritage. Nestled between Aqaba’s rose-red mountains and overlooking the pristine Gulf of Aqaba, the hotel’s unmistakable architecture features arabesque motifs, invoking the unique and colossal beauty of the country. The hotel’s interiors, in particular the manor house, echo the strong Arabian influence in the architecture.
Each of the 207 rooms at Al Manara, including 43 suites and two villas, feature inviting balconies and floor to ceiling windows with views of the Red Sea and striking mountain ranges. Vibrant soft furnishings showcase local weaving skills reflecting family traditions that have been handed down through generations. Guest rooms, set with dark wood furniture accented with mother-of-pearl, combine local elements such as a brass-topped coffee table and other decorative items, along with plush Luxury Collection beds and relaxing bathrooms with rainforest showers.
Dine like an Aqabite
The main dining venue Taybeh Al Manara, serves northern Mediterranean cuisine with an international flair, with talented chefs preparing fresh specialties at live cooking stations, alongside an efficient a la carte service. Kubba Levantin, a casually elegant Middle Eastern restaurant, offers a journey of flavors from the Levant with an emphasis on local fresh produce and spices. The outer terrace overlooking Saraya Aqaba’s lagoon is sure to become a favourite spot for hotel residents and discerning Aqabites alike, drawn by highlights such as the charcoal grill and traditional bread oven and special tasting menus with paired beverages. Al Manara’s waterfront bar and restaurant Amwaj will serve the freshest seafood from the Red Sea alongside an international fish selection unrivalled in Aqaba, with a special smoked fish menu with cocktail pairings.
Set against the rugged backdrop of an expansive granite mountain range, guests seek out this opulent seaside escape, taking advantage of year-round sunshine over the hotel’s private beach and boutique pool. Being the only coastal city in Jordan, Aqaba offers variety of water sports discoveries such as scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing, parasailing and paragliding.
It’s always spa time
Overlooking the picturesque and serene Saraya Aqaba Lagoon, the spa at Al Manara is a hidden sanctuary of discovery and transformation for body, mind and spirit. The spa offers an extensive sensory experience, a diverse range of treatments and a comprehensive array of alluring facilities. Inspired by local traditions and enhanced with the latest techniques, the spa presents the world’s finest skincare products by Subtle Energies, Terres d’Afrique and Sodashi.
Those who simply can’t visit Jordan without calling in on the unchanging face that is Petra will be reassured to learn it is no more than a dusty 90-minute drive away, and Wadi Rum is an even shorter journey.
On the other hand, you might prefer to do what we did and simply arrive at the hotel with a lengthy reading list, a good companion, and make the most of Al Manara’s fine hospitality. Possibly the best in the country.
Al Manara in Saraya Aqaba is a Luxury Collection Hotel, the group’s first hotel in the Kingdom of Jordan.