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I got off the plane only a few hours ago and I have a couple fairly gruesome travel days behind me, including three flights and a 12 hour layover in Istanbul. I am running on about three hours of sleep and I don’t even have a single coffee in my system. Then, after spending my first day in Aqaba with a city tour and hanging out by the Red Sea, I am abducted for a surprise.
By the time I hop into a car with Salaam, I am kind of hoping the surprise will involve a nap. Instead, we drive just around the corner to the Janna Spa, located on Al-Saada street. This Jordanian beauty temple in the center of Aqaba is run by a couple of lovely girls and offers everything from massages, facial treatments, makeup, a hair salon and even a couple pools, a gym and a hamam.
Spa’s are wonderful, but they are also places that, under any normal circumstances, I probably wouldn’t venture into on my own.
Usually, I can be seen with a layer of dirt on me after having climbed up a volcano, sweaty after dragging my equipment across yet another island, and sometimes with messed up hair after a day on a scooter. While I carry a few basic items with me, make up isn’t usually what I concern myself with while travelling and the occasions to dress up are few and far between. I can only guess that Salaam saw a couple of my sweatier images on the blog and decided, that I needed some good old pampering as well as a full on makeover.
After being welcomed very warmly by the girls at the front desk, I am then pulled into a side room, where I am finally told what they are planning on doing to me. “What kind of make up do you usually wear”, Salaam asks me and gasps, when I answer, that I usually just put on some mascara. More gasps ensue, when the girls learn that I don’t travel with high heels. Jordanian women love their make up and put a lot of effort into looking good – that’s probably why they are so good at it. I assume their expertise is a lot bigger than mine and give the girls free reign to do to me whatever they want. They decide to go for it.
First, I have to choose between three dresses – one of which I am going to wear to a fancy dinner at the Double Tree later on. While the girls are busy trying to organize a pair of high heels for me, I try on the gowns one after the other, all the while wrestling with the trailing sleeves and hems. After putting each of the dresses on, I am then ushered into the mirrored gym, in order to get a good look at myself. On the third one, a white gown with blue and gold embroidery, a girl working out on one of the bikes gives me the thumbs up. I choose to just go with that one, because heck, I haven’t worn anything so pristinely bleached in months.
I am then told to lay down on a massage table. Brushes start covering my face in a myriad of intricately matched colours. Finger- and toenails get painted in dark red and another girl shows up to draw a lovely henna tattoo on my hand. A hundred individual eyelashes get glued to my lids. Salaam, who had planned to go home and cook for her father, decides to stick around instead. She tells me that it is too much fun to watch me being transformed into a completely different person.
Two hours after entering the Spa, I am allowed to get up and blink in wonder at a reflection that is very unlike me. I look really, really nice and for a moment, I don’t even recognize the woman staring back at me in the mirror. All the girls working on me have obviously done a fabulous job. Only the hair is missing now, and that gets taken care of as well. Within another hour, my usually stick straight hair has been curled, teased and sprayed into an artistic, wavy mass, that couldn’t be moved by a hurricane.
By the time I am all done and declared a complete success, someone has found a pair of heels for me and when I finally see Brendan, I’m so tall that I’m suddenly at eyelevel with him. He says I look positively photoshopped, and I guess that’s a pretty big compliment.
I’ve done my fair share of crazy things. However, I’d definitely count being put in 10 inch high heels and a long, traditional Jordanian gown, with three hours worth of make up, a can of hairspray and about a hundred fake eyelashes on me – all of that while not having slept in about three days – as one of the bigger adventures I’ve had during my travels.
So girls, if you’re ever in Aqaba, do something crazy and get yourself a full on Jordanian makeover. It’s fun, and peeling off all the eyelashes and the makeup only takes about half an hour, I promise.