Sunday, 17 February 2019

Hilton Dead Sea Hotel and Spa (Dead Sea, Jordan)

Was up early to meet Mamoot at 7:30. Showered, packed, ate breakfast, checked out and met Mamoot shortly before 7:30. Good to see him one last time before I leave Jordan.

We arrived at the airport on time and was through all of the airport processes in a little over 45 minutes. This gave me time for a small snack before walking to the gate. I was first planning to visit the Starbucks but the line was so long. Next to Starbucks was a smaller coffee shop with only one person in line, so I went there.

I decided not to have coffee but rather fresh orange juice and an oat snack. Yet the chocolate muffin looked awfully good. Even though I’ve been through many airports in my travels, it still is somewhat stressful to go through a new airport, not knowing what to expect. So it was good to have a little quiet time and collect my thoughts.

The gate was easy to find and I made myself comfortable while waiting for boarding to start. I saw a long line and knew that I had time to sit before joining the line. It was about 10 minutes later when I realized that the line I was looking at was for the next gate and that the people on my flight had pretty much already boarded! Glad I figured that out before it was too late.

I was seated in the last row, which was a first for me. But I wasn’t in any rush. A young woman sat in the F seat next to the window and I was in the D seat next to the aisle. We started to talk and continued talking through the whole flight. She was Japanese and worked int he Japanese consulate in Beirut. She had studied for a year in Arizona and her English was perfect.

We talked a lot about travel and about my visit to Japan in the 80’s. (Probably before she was born.) She seemed impressed that I still remember many Japanese words from when I took Japanese during my first year of college (1972-73). We parted ways when we approached Passport Control.

At Passport Control I had a question about where to receive my visa for Lebanon. What I read via the Internet was confusing. It turns out there is no visa. The Passport Control agent just needed my passport and the landing card I filled out while on the plane. He just stamped my passport and I was on my way.

I realized that the free Internet offered by the airport had expired. I only received 30 free minutes and I had forgotten to research the various transportation services to the downtown area of Beirut. Many airports have “free agent” or unlicensed taxi drivers that generally cost much more than licensed drivers. I saw a travel office nearby and inquired there. They suggested I go to the lower level of the parking garage and there I would find licensed taxi drivers. I found out his information was out-of-date when I went down there.

While at the ATM to get money. I learned from a guy who was also getting money that US currency is commonly used in Beirut. He also suggested I go up to the departure level and catch a taxi there. I could find someone who was being dropped off and ask the driver if they would take me into the downtown area. We talked for at least 15 minutes and he asked if I would be willing to test an application that his company offers to travelers. I said I would. He also recommended how much money (US$) to withdraw and how much I should pay for a taxi. As I’ve said before, I seem to meet the right people at the right time.

On the way to the departure level I met someone who worked at the airport and he was able to find a taxi for me and explain where I wanted to go. And before I knew it, I was on my way to the hotel.

When I arrived at the hotel I was greeted by name by the person at the reception desk. (How she know who I was?) I was impressed. They upgraded me to a junior suite free of charge. I also met the hotel’s general manager and the head of the hotel’s concierge. I mentioned that I use the Luxor Hilton as my standard of service. They said they would be willing to meet or exceed the service that I’ve received at the Luxor Hilton. I said that I would meet later with the concierge after I had a nap in my room.

After I arrived in my room I noticed that even when I turned up the temperature in my room, the room was still very cool. The temperature remained around 17 degrees, even though the thermostat was set to 26. I thought maybe it would take time to warm up so I bundled up and took a nap. I also had a problem connecting my laptop to the free Wifi. Someone from the hotel came up and got it to work. I had to ask a couple of times how they did it. He said he put in the URL for CNN, a stronger website. I suggested that the hotel’s instruction include that helpful hint.

After my nap, and still cold, I asked for an engineer to investigate my heating issue. After he arrived and did some work he said the temperature would increase in about 10 minutes. Having that fixed, I visited with the concierge to arrange for a drive outside of Beirut for tomorrow. When I returned to the room it was still cold. This resulted in another call and two engineers were able to provide a permanent fix. At last the room was getting warm.

While they were working on the heating I ordered room service. Most everything on the menu was Lebanese food, though the roasted chicken looked good. When it arrived it smelled terrific. There was a generous portion of chicken on the plate and I was very full after this meal.

I was still very tired. I spoke with Hussein to arrange some final details of our visit to Cairo and went immediately to bed. It was just around 9:00. I didn’t wake up until sometime around midnight.

My driver tomorrow arrives at 11:00 a.m. This will give me plenty of time to have breakfast and rest in the morning. The tour is expected to take around 6 hours. It will be a full day indeed!

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