AMMAN (Rahnuma): Palestinians from the West Bank as well as Palestinian citizens from Israel have arrived in large numbers in Jordan this holiday season.
Abed Ismael, a taxi driver at the King Hussein Bridge, told Arab News that on the second day of the Eid Al-Adha holiday more than 50 buses carrying Palestinians crossed the Jordan River into Jordan.
“There are a lot of JOD90 ($120) holiday packages per night that were very attractive to many to go to the Dead Sea and Aqaba.”
Sharhabil Madi, economics and tourism development commissioner in the Aqaba Special Economic Zone, told Arab News that Aqaba was appealing because it was not merely a holiday resort but also a thriving city, which was attractive to many, including Palestinians.
“There is a discernible increase in the number of Palestinians coming from Jerusalem, the West Bank and especially from Palestinian citizens of Israel.”
Madi said that many were coming by the Wadi Araba crossing, which is less hectic and bureaucratic than other crossings.
“The crossing point is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and in the first two days of Eid we had 3,500 people arriving in the Aqaba area.”
The Aqaba tourism official said that not only were relatively inexpensive packages being offered to Palestinians but those coming to Jordan meet relatives, do shopping in a tax-ree zone and enjoy the beautiful Red Sea shores. Tourism figures for Aqaba and Petra reflect record numbers this year.
Most hotels in Aqaba as well as the Dead Sea have been fully booked for the holidays.
Loya Ayyoub, head of internal tourism at the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism, told Arab News that some of the cultural and entertainment events were also bigger attractions in Jordan.
“This weekend many Palestinians are coming to attend the Kazem Al-Shaher concerts, which are on for both Thursday and Friday nights at the Dead Sea hotels.
A call to the Movepick Hotel at the Dead Sea said all rooms were full but that after the Kazem Saher concerts rooms were available for as much as JOD 350 ($500) per night. Once the holiday season is over, Jordanian tourism officials are hoping to cash in on the warm shores of Aqaba in the winter months.
Warm weather and sun seekers in the UK will have a new travel destination, as easyJet launches the first nonstop scheduled link from the UK to Aqaba in Jordan this fall. The maiden flight from Gatwick to the resort takes off on Nov. 10.
The once-a-week link will also provide access to the ancient city of Petra and the desert landscapes of Wadi Rum. Jordan’s Tourism and Antiquities Minister Lina Annab said:
“This collaboration will contribute toward increasing the number of tourists to Jordan’s ‘Golden Triangle’ — Aqaba, Petra and Wadi Rum — and we’re working together to increase the number of routes into Aqaba with easyJet over the next few years.”