My long chow report from Jordan continues, hopefully with photos this time (scroll down the board just a bit for Part I):
After out time in Petra and Wadi Rum, we headed further south to the port town of Aqaba. It was still off season and a bit cold to visit a beach resort, but I am a scuba diver, and couldnt see coming that close to a supposedly world class diving spot, and not fitting in a few dives. We chose the Jordanian Royal Dive Center and its newly opened hotel as our basis for operations: a good choice if one is there primarily to dive, but probably not the best choice for the average traveler, since it is located about 17 kilometers south of the actual town of Aqaba.
As it happens, Id rate the diving as almost, but not quite world class, (compared to other places Ive dove around the world, but it was interesting and fun, and well worth the several days we spent there. However, even if the diving hadnt been good, I would have been happy we went, as it was in Aqaba that we had our best meal of the trip!
I had mentioned that our driver, Ahmed, had the heart of a Chowhound. When we drove into Aqaba, he asked if we would like to have lunch in town at his favorite restaurant, before heading south to the Dive Club and hotel. Of course we said yes, since by now we had figured out that Ahmed appreciated good food.
Unfortunately, once again, I didnt get the name of this restaurant. (I promise to have names of all of the places in part III, Amman!).
Indeed, I never saw a sign and I am not sure the place *has* a name. But at least I can give reasonably good directions: find the street in downtown Aqaba with all of the fish markets and vendors (I imagine that any taxi driver can direct you), and the place we ate at is the first fish vendor stall on the left hand side of that street as you face south.
It really isnt a restaurant, more like a stand or shop with a few tables and chairs in an open but covered patio room. Lined up next to the street are a number of white boxes: these contain the days catch on ice. The fish really was fresh: we got there just after the fisherman unloaded the catch. We chose our fish (a type of snapper), then went to a small grocery across the way to buy bread, lemons, tomatoes, green peppers and watercress btw, all of the vegetables were delicious: given the cold weather I was surprised to find ripe tomatoes, but these were much better than youd find in California in February (indeed, better than most youd find in California in August!). Later, we passed tomato fields in harvest, and innumerable tomato trucks, on our trip via the Dead Sea Highway back to Amman, so clearly the season starts earlier than we are used to here
But meanwhile, back to our lunch: the fishmonger fried the fish, whole, in a deep fat fryer, along with some of the flat bread we bought, and French fries. Both fish and fries were seasoned with cumin and other spices, and then served immediately with all the mentioned trimmings. Wow! It was an outstanding meal. The three of us (me, my daughter, and Ahmed) stuffed ourselves beyond silly while the fishmonger looked on with approval, for a total cost of about $14, including several sodas and bottled waters. It was probably enough food for five people.
None of our other meals in Aqaba were as good as that one, so just a few more comments:
We ate one night at the hotel at the Royal Diving Center: good, not outstanding, and somewhat pricey. However, the freshly squeezed orange juice that we enjoyed while lounging on the beach was delicious. Breakfasts, which were included in our hotel rate, included lovely breads and pastries (I never had bread that wasn't first rate, anywhere in Jordan), fresh fruits, hard boiled eggs, and hummus.
Our second night in Aqaba we headed into town, and ate at Silk Road, a restaurant across the street from the Golden Tulip Hotel. My copy of Lonely Planet rates it as one of the best restaurants in Aqaba, but Id have to disagree: despite some of the most genuinely friendly service we found in Jordan, the food was mediocre. Jess had overcooked pasta; I had overcooked lamb chops, and overdressed fattoush. Their lemonade is quite tasty, however.
That is it for Part II. Stayed tuned soon for Part III: Chow in and around Amman!