The hotel market around the Dead Sea is a bit odd. There are two “sides” from which one can visit the historic sea – the Israeli and the Jordanian. The Israeli side appears to be a bit more built up with a few more hotel options that generally are priced at a higher rate than those located on the Jordanian side. This worked out quite well for my trip to Jordan as I was actually traveling with my partner and two friends and we were really hoping to make this jaunt through the Middle East rather affordable. Being the “experienced” traveler that I am, I was placed in charge of researching and locating our lodgings for the entirety of the trip. We were on a short time line for our trip through Jordan, so unfortunately we were only going to be able to spend a day there. The nicest property on the Jordanian side appears to be the Kempinski Ishtar property. It wasn’t too expensive (about $200 per room for the night, and we needed two rooms) but being the most expensive I was curious about the quality of the other properties in the area. After a bit more research I settled on the Holiday Inn Dead Sea – the pictures available online at the hotel’s website and review sites such as TripAdvisor appeared to show a quality location. The per room fee for the night we were looking to stay was only $115, which would end up saving us $85 per room. Feeling confident about the choice, we booked it.
We had hired a private driver for the duration of our trip in Jordan outside of Amman, which was both rather inexpensive when split between four people and very convenient. The driver had picked us up from the Le Meridien Amman very early in the morning and had taken us to the town of Madaba to visit the Church of the Map as well as swing by Mount Nebo before dropping us off at the Holiday Inn Dead Sea just before noon. The hotel itself is pretty much at the bottom of the major road coming down from Mount Nebo toward the Dead Sea – you simply exit the road and head down toward the shore and it’s only a 3-5 minute drive.
As soon as we pulled up two door men walked up to the car and began to help us unload the quite burdened economy sized car we were trekking through the country within. Upon picking us up in Amman our driver had remarked, “Hmmm, owner tell me you have four people but he not mention that you such …. big travelers.” We weren’t sure whether he meant that we had so much luggage (I travel quite lightly but my less traveled companions had bigger/more bags) or that we were a gaggle of fat Americans, and after a few giggles and side eyes we all silently agreed to not ask him to clarify. Some doors are better left unopened, especially when opening that door might mean finding out you’re a fat foreigner.
We entered the hotel and directly on our left was the check-in desk. We had arrived rather early for the day and the desk was still working on checking out a few individuals at the time. Not being in a rush, we grabbed a seat off to the side in front of a big window overlooking the pool area.
After about 5 minutes the front desk was cleared and we walked up to proceed with check-in procedures. Neither of the agents working the desk were particularly friendly. They were definitely friendly enough to qualify as average hotel employees in the US, but by Jordanian hospitality standards were quite below average. Regardless we were quickly checked in and handed room keys. Apparently the hotel was far from full, so both rooms were offered the opportunity to upgrade to suites for an additional $50, but we all declined as we only had one night and didn’t really anticipate spending much time in the room with the Dead Sea only a few steps away.
The layout of the property reminded me very much of what you find at properties in tropical destinations – a conglomeration of buildings where the rooms are accessed outside in the elements. A “motel” feel that utilizes the good weather to allow the public areas to remain outdoors. Being lightly populated our rooms were assigned to a building that was very close to the hotel’s pool complex and fairly close to the path down to the Sea.
My partner and I entered our room and took in our surrounds. Immediately on the right hand side was a very comprehensive closet area. I’m not sure how long most guests stay at this property, but the storage options are vast.
While the closet made up the majority of the right hand side of the entrance hallway, the left hand side was taken up by the entrance to the bathroom and a small area with a mirror and a coffee/tea set up. The coffee was instant Nescafe, which is quite popular in a large swath of the world. I don’t have a very strong opinion about the product either way, but I do know some folks who detest it. Something to note if you happen to be one of those people.
Underneath the coffee/tea set up was a mini-fridge. Normally this would be considered a “mini-bar”, but we’re in the Middle East. Despite Jordan being one of the more liberal locations in the region, they still do not make alcohol readily available in most locations. We had been informed during check-in that anything within the mini-fridge was complimentary. It contained two bottles of water, two sodas (a 7UP and Pepsi), two milks (one banana and one chocolate), and two juices (orange and pineapple). While it wasn’t very hot at all while we were there, the availability of complimentary cool beverages is likely a great comfort during the hotter days in the desert.
Through the door directly to the left of the front door was the bathroom which I would describe as clean but utilitarian. There certainly wasn’t much to look at in here as it was very much your run of the mill bathroom. The material used on the walls was rather sterile and hanging above the vanity was one of those classic hotel hairdryers that look just like every one used in the musical montage scenes in 80s movies where everyone is teasing their hair higher and higher as the hairspray goes off and their bangles clank.
The shower was also rather bland but presented sufficient space to get the job done. Clean towels were stored inside the shower on racks at the back of the shower wall – which is a huge annoyance for me. I always feel like I’m at risk of completely drenching the only items within arms length of the shower that can dry me off. I realize that for the most part I’d have to thrash about while showering pretty thoroughly in order to achieve that, but it still makes me a bit uncomfortable. I much prefer hotels that store the towels outside the shower.
The room featured two beds. Normally we’d have a single bed but again, being in the Middle East, staff just assumed we were friends that were traveling and assigned us a room with two beds. We had discussed this issue prior to arriving and had agreed to work with whatever they ended up giving to us. The beds were adequately sized for us and were separated by a night stand that featured a lamp, telephone, and outlets for both local and international plugs.
The artwork that was selected for the room actually looked pretty great in my opinion. One of my hotel room quirks is that I genuinely take the time to look at any art that the hotel has chosen to display in the room. Most of the time it’s some generic black and white photograph that vaguely alludes to the location you’re visiting (Oh you’re in Dallas? Let’s put up a black and white photo of an abandoned hacienda! Ohhhh or a barrel full of water!). The abstract color swatches featured in the room might actually fall into that category as well but this time I felt like it brightened the space a bit in what would otherwise be a rather bland room with a boring color scheme.
The room itself was sufficiently spaced but overall not very large. While a standard hotel room would usually have a bit of space between the bed(s) and the lounging chair, this room wasn’t large enough to do that so it was actually adjacent to the bed closest to the balcony. It was brown suede without arms. Spacious and a bit firm. I ended up setting up shop there later in the evening when I accessed the free wifi to catch up on social media.
Across from the beds and lounger was the desk. A large portion of the desk top was taken up by the television, leaving the remaining half open for work. The television was Web TV enabled, allowing you to surf the internet through the television if you just happen to have been robbed of any other more convenient device for accessing the web. In addition to the table there was a small bench for luggage storage.
The last remaining space for the room was the balcony area. I say balcony but it was really a patio since we were located on the first floor. The patio featured a table and a chair (One. Uno. Single. I found this odd) and was situated just a few feet away from the pool complex that runs along the entire length of each of the major sections of the hotel complex.
Overall the room didn’t reach the fancy levels that we likely would have enjoyed had we stayed at the Kempinski Ishtar down the shore a bit, but it was more then adequate for the single day we were spending in the area. Even if we were staying for a bit longer, I think that the amenities offered (free mini-fridge items, free wifi, pool access) are great incentives to consider making a return trip (or a first trip for anyone reading this and considering it).
Of course the primary reason we had come to the area was to have easy access and enjoy the Dead Sea. I’m going to be discussing our time at the Dead Sea in a separate post, but will post a few images here to close our the review to give you an idea of the view of the sea and easy access to the shore provided by the hotel. It has very easy access to its own private section of the shore. The area has loungers set up for hotel guests to use as well as several lifeguards on duty to watch out for any children or even adults who don’t follow the rules of swimming in the Dead Sea. We were able to get space for all four of us together for the day, though if this was how crowded it was during a low occupancy day I would imagine you’d want to wake up early and stake a claim to your real estate at the shore on a busier day.
The area of shore by the Holiday Inn was beautiful. It provided an area for swimming and also an area for people to apply mud to their body to engage in the healing properties (not a believer) associated with the act. Or just to have a fun time smearing mud on yourself and friends.