I wish our tour allowed us to stay longer in Aqaba, because the beach was gorgeous. We only had a half day there so unfortunately we did not get to do very much except take a quick peek at their local public beach.
Something unique about beaches in Jordan is that there is a large distinction of ownership. The beach is basically divided up between various hotels – and to access the beach you would need to be a guest at the hotel or pay some sort of entrance fee. We had a similar experience to visit the Dead Sea where we paid to enter a private beach.
Given our short time in Aqaba, our tour guide only brought us to the (free) public beach. Which is I’m sure just as gorgeous as anywhere else along the shoreline. However, the main flaw with this activity in our itinerary was our Aqaba visit happened to fall on a Friday, which is the main weekend day off for locals – and as such the beach was packed.
A beach being packed is just a bit of a nuisance to find your own spot, but the main problem we had was many locals (from nearby smaller cities that travelled as a weekend activity to the beach) enjoying the beach were not accustomed to seeing foreigner females. And that caused us to be some sort of tourist attraction to them, which I have to say made me feel quite uncomfortable. And it’s a very different feeling than being stared down when you’re at the club, it was like being watched as if you were some kind of zoo animal. The male to female ratio at the beach was highly uneven and other than Alicia and I, I think all other females were dressed very culturally and if not very modestly (which we fail at doing because the weather is way too hot for us) and stayed in groups on the shore under umbrellas. We did see one woman go in the water in her full abaya though which is quite impressive.
The strongest memory I have from this day was the extremely awkward walk down a long bridge to get to the end of the dock for a more unobstructed view of the sea. The bridge was packed with probably over 60 men/boys whom were downright gawking, but thankfully do part way for us to walk through. It was uncomfortable enough at the end of the dock where the majority of the people flocked at, that after a few minutes of waiting for Alicia to take videos, I had to return to an area with less people. She crossed a fence to a more broken end of the bridge so her area was not as crowded.
I’m actually also quite thankful that other than staring there was never any remarks or cat calling made. We only experienced some very pre-teen boys trying to talk to us and ask for selfies together….which they took a bit far afterwards by trying to put their arms around our shoulders – which I also promptly flung off : /
Overall though, the experience of being stared at was not as prominent at any other city and I think it was mainly due to us being at a public beach on Friday. We had a few occasions of people asking to take pictures with us at various different sites…but that was mostly it. There were other locals whom were friendly to us without trying to take photos with us of course 🙂
Anyway lesson learned from this story is:
1) go to a private beach in Aqaba, that is probably where the other tourists are at as we did not see anyone else that looked foreign
2) if you must go to the public beach, don’t go on a Friday ESPECIALLY if you are female
3) additional note: try scuba diving in Aqaba, it’s supposed to be very nice!
Culturally you aren’t allowed to swim in a bikini or even a one piece in the public beaches…but honestly given the amount of stares, you wouldn’t even want to.