“Yella! You are in charge!” yelled Mo as he headed towards the door. “If anyone stops in, tell them that we have 2 rooms available and have them wait here until I get back.” I looked up from my laptop, my eyes met his, and realized he was talking to ME. Cheryl the bubbly employee from the Philippines was putting on her coat and they were getting ready to leave the hotel. “Whoa…wait a minute…you are leaving?!” I said somewhat panicked.
Mosleh was the owner of the Cleopetra Hotel in Wadi Musa and it slowly dawned on me he was indeed walking out and leaving responsibility for the hotel with myself and the two other people in the common area; we were ‘in charge’. He said he had to drive Cheryl home and that he’d be back shortly. The other 2 people in the common area were just as dumbfounded as me. Mo and Cheryl disappeared through the door and the three of us looked at each other in amusement. I had been in Wadi Musa for a few hours and I was in charge of a hotel….cool.
Luckily on ‘our watch’ there were no customers or crisis situations; and Mo was back in about 15 minutes with a big smile on his face and ready to make us tea for our hard work. Clearly Mo was the energy of Cleopetra – he made the place hum. As the three of us sat around the heater and talked, I started to ask the French couple about their travels. They were at the beginning of an 8 month trip and had a very impressive and varied around the world itinerary. Then they slipped in, as if it was an afterthought, “This is our honeymoon.” I gave them the obligatory congratulations and learned they had just been married last weekend.
Mo walked up to the heater and I told him about the newlyweds and he immediately jumped up, clapped his hands together once and said, “We have to celebrate!” He walked over to the windows at the front of the hotel and started to close the blinds. The couple and I looked at each other in complete confusion wondering what clandestine celebration was coming next! He came back and rifled through the televisions channels until he found the one he was looking for, pumped up the volume as high as it could go, and said “We dance!” and started moving his hips and arms to the music.
The Arabic music was blaring, we looked at each other, shrugged, put down our laptops, and got up and started dancing. I was amused by the whole situation and think I probably spent more time laughing than trying to move my stiff hips to the lose Arabic music. I started peeling off my layers of sweaters as dancing was clearly the best way to stay warm! The four of us danced for about 20 minutes, as patrons walked into the lobby we’d scoop them up and have them join in the dance party fun. It was one of my most memorable nights I’ve spent in a hotel in all of my travels.
As the evening died down Mo taught me how to play Arabic backgammon; a version I had never been exposed to before. Finally, I was full of tea, thoroughly entertained, and exhausted. I had to retire to my little room as I had a big hiking plans in Petra the next day.
If you are going to stop at Petra, then you must go through the town of Wadi Musa. Actually, it’s the place most people stay in order to get to Petra and Wadi Rum; it was blessed with the perfect location for tourism in Jordan. The town seems to mainly be hotels and they come in every shape, size, and cost. I had decided upon Cleopetra since it was a budget option and I knew the ticket to Petra was expensive. I had decided to spend my money on Petra, and not a hotel – after all, I would hardly be spending any time there except to sleep .
However, surprisingly my experience at Cleopetra was one of the key things that made my whole trip to Petra so enjoyable. I wasn’t expecting much, but I got a lot – especially as a solo traveler.
Cleopetra has longevity – it’s been in operation for 16 years. When I arrived, it had just gone through a remodel, so the rooms were very small – but new, very clean, and functional. You couldn’t ask for much more for $25USD + breakfast and shuttle to Petra Gate. However they provided much more than a room; they provided a fun community atmosphere that as a single traveler I appreciated. Cheryl cooked up group meals each night and they served about 16 people in their small little dining room each evening. The meals were huge for $6 plus a drink and a fresh, warm, ‘to die for’ desert from the local bakery. It was a great chance to meet other travelers, learn about where they were from and more importantly where they had already been. The dinners were a wealth of information providing tips on Petra, Wadi Musa, transportation, things to do, places to stay…I chucked my guide book and simply took the advice of my fellow travelers.
The common area was also small, but because the rooms were so small, people tended to hang out on the couches and continue their travel conversations. I felt like it was a hostel type environment – but with private rooms. Mo was also constantly acting as the concierge setting up transportation, tours, and activities for people around the area; and occasionally he’d orchestrate a dance party or backgammon tournament.
In the morning the breakfast was included in addition to a free shuttle to the Petra entrance. I found the whole place to be a great value for what it offered me as a traveler, and the socializing it offered was an unexpected bonus. I’m not the only one who feels this way as Cleopetra is consistently ranked in the top 2 or 3 hotel options in Wadi Musa; where there is some tough competition from big players in the hotel industry. I’m convinced the key to their good reviews is the heart and soul of the place – Mo. I was impressed as he seemed to singlehandedly organize people’s itineraries around the area, ensure the guests were happy, and seemed to be the social director of the place. At the end of my stay he gave me his business card – it read
Helpful and honest advice as you need it.
If you are heading to the tourists sites in Jordan – then be sure to stop by Cleopetra and tell Mo hi. Give him my best, have a glass of tea with him, share a dance, and attempt to beat him at backgammon (Good luck at that!).