Dollar-Friendly Destinations 2008
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The place: Jordan
It's a poor man's: Dubai
The financial analysis: As the middle-est of the Middle East, Jordan has all the food, culture, and heritage of the region but none of the Vegas-style glitz (or prices) of Dubai. Prices in Jordan are on par with those in Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt, but it's more politically stable.
Price of a beer: $4. Although Jordan is a Muslim country, most restaurants, especially those that cater to tourists, serve beer and wine. Hotels and nightclubs have full bars.
What to do: Petra is one of the seven wonders of the world, but it's swarming with tourists in buses. Your best bet is to rent a car in Amman for the day (about $50), drive the three hours, and explore the site alone—the tour groups move slowly and don't offer any more information than you'd get from a Lonely Planet. Even better, you can arrive before everyone else does and stay longer, too. Jordan's other don't-miss is the Dead Sea, which you can reach by taking the 30-minute, $13 shuttle bus from the Marriott in Amman to the Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa on the lakeshore. A $46 day pass lets you use the beach, pools, umbrellas, and chairs. Cover yourself in the famous mud and float the day away in the world's saltiest body of water.
Hotel: The only boutique hotel in Jordan is the AlQasr Metropol, in Amman's trendy Shmeisani district. It may lack that Ian Schrager touch, but the rooms are big and modern, the location is terrific, and the $140-a-night tariff can't be beat. Besides, no matter how many stars Dubai's Burj Al Arab claims to have, all that garish purple and gold doesn't justify the $1,000-a-night rate.
Cheap eats: Street food abounds in Amman, and nowhere is it better than at Reem Cafeteria. Open 24 hours, it's renowned for its charred roasted-lamb sandwiches served with fresh tomato, onion, and spices. The line can run ten deep at 3 a.m., but it's worth the wait when you realize the sandwiches cost less than 50 cents each.
How to get there: Tickets can be pricey (up to $2,000 on American), but hunt out cheaper flights on Middle Eastern airlines like EgyptAir and Royal Jordanian, where you can find fares for as little as $900.
AlQasr Metropol Hotel
Tel: 962 6568 9671
Jordan Valley Marriott Resort & Spa
Tel: 962 5356 0400
Tel: 962 6464 5725