A Homey Refuge Amid the Ruins of Jordan’s Glorious Past
Driving from Amman, with several not-to-be-missed stops along the way, Simon, Otto and I were headed for our long-anticipated visit to the magical ancient city of Petra. But by the time we arrived in the charming restored historic town of Wadi Musa, all we wanted was a hot meal and a comfortable bed. The accommodation at Candles Hotel not only met our needs, but exceeded our expectations.
Candles Hotel is located within easy walking distance of Petra’s main gate. This three-star accommodation offers its guests a casual, comfortable atmosphere in which to relax following an intense day of taking in the magnificence of one of the new 7 Wonders of the world.
Our room was ideal for our needs. It provided us with a comfortable sitting area, a desk for working and fast, reliable wifi.
To our delight, the shower was hot with excellent water pressure. To Otto’s delight, the room was carpeted.
The atmosphere was cozy, while giving us plenty of space in which to move around. The bed was tucked into an alcove with a window overlooking the hills surrounding the historical site of Petra. We enjoyed four restful nights with a gentle breeze drifting through the room’s two large windows, and our morning wake-up alarm was the beautifully haunting Muslim call to prayer from the small mosque adjacent to the hotel.
Housekeeping not only kept our room neat and spotless, but placed a decorative red cloth, arranged in soft folds, in the center of the bed. It was this, as well as other small touches, that made us feel as though our presence mattered.
Although capable of serving burgers and other western food, the restaurant at Candles Hotel truly shone in the preparation of traditional Jordanian fare.
Breakfast, – included with the room, – consisted of a buffet of humus, pita, as well as a selection of warm and cold salads. In spite of the tempting array of foods we love, we had to be mindful of how high we piled our plate. A hot, freshly made plain omelet was placed in front of us shortly after we sat down. In spite of all the walking we did exploring Petra, this flavorful meal, along with some fruit in the afternoon, held us until dinner.
Candle Hotel’s owner and general manager, Abdallah Halalat, invited us to experience a traditional Jordanian dinner. The main course was Upsidedown Chicken. A one-pot meal consisting of layers of chicken, vegetables and rice. When the dish had finished cooking, the pot was brought to the table, and turned upside-down on to a large platter. Once inverted, the chicken was on top, and the rice was on the bottom. The vegetables included eggplant and cauliflower, and the entire dish was seasoned with coriander and other traditional middle eastern spices. This is one dish I plan to try preparing at home.
During our stay, we also enjoyed small tarts filled with fresh orange and pineapple pieces. A plate of fresh fruit that was brought to our room on our first night, and a hot. bread-like pudding with raisins and warm spices that was delivered on our last. The cuisine of Jordan was well represented at Candles Hotel.
Abdallah Halalat once owned a horse riding business catering to tourists visiting Petra. Since tourism is the primary industry in the area, he and his family took the plunge and expanded their future prospects in 1995 by building and opening Candles Hotel. Perseverance and hard work paid off, and today, Candles Hotel is a successful family-run business.
From the beginning, tourists, primarily from Germany, France and other parts of Europe have made Candles Hotel part of their Petra experience. According to Abdallah, Chinese and American visitors are now becoming more frequent.
Tragically, the ongoing carnage in Syria continues to hurt tourism throughout Jordan, including outstanding historical sites such as Petra. “There used to be high season and low season,” noted Abdallah sadly. “Now, high season and low season are the same.”
In a country such as Jordan, where tourism represents a large sector of the economy, it’s the family-owned hotels, restaurants and shops that feel the blows of hard times first and hardest. Since we make an effort when we travel to support locally-owned businesses, we were able to see the effect of the wars in Syria and the unrest in Iraq first hand. It was like seeing a good family being tainted by the actions of their neighbors. “People shouldn’t be afraid to come to Jordan,” Abdallah emphasized. “Jordan is very safe. Syria is close to Jordan, but nothing is happening here. We have good security in Jordan.”
Abdallah’s confidence in Jordanian security forces appears to be well placed. At no time during our visit did we feel unsafe, or under any kind of threat. On the contrary, we felt welcome everywhere we went.
“In Jordan, we welcome everyone from everywhere,” Abdallah said. And he and his family have worked hard to make Candles Hotel a fine representative of the warm hospitality to be found in Jordan
Note: Although it is not against the law in Jordan for a business to exclude service dogs, Abdallah, his family and staff welcomed Otto with warmth and enthusiasm. All three of us are truly grateful for the gracious hospitality we experienced at Candles Hotel.
Wadi Musa, Petra – Jordan
P.O. Box 181, Amman, Jordan
+962 3 215 6954, +962 3 215 7311