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View of Kempinsky hotel and pook and dead sea

The Dead Sea area of Jordan is filled with luxury resorts but one stands out. Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Resort welcomed us, refreshed us, fed us and made our stay memorable.

We arrived at Kempinski Hotel Ishtar at the end of a very busy 10 day press trip. What a refreshing surprise to discover the Hanging Gardens of Babylon awaiting our pleasure. Well, not the real Hanging Gardens but close. The Ishtar is modeled on the Hanging Gardens of Babylon theme.

Bright red flowere blooming agains the sand collored walls of Kempinsky Hotel by the Dead sea
Some of the color of the hanging garden theme

We entered the main building.  We met the manager out on the back balcony and could see the gardens as they descended though the three main buildings of the hotel to the Dead Sea in perfect view beneath us. I later discovered that from below the view is equally spectacular. Standing at the shore of the Dead Sea, I was looking up at three sand colored walls with brightly colored flowers and greenery rippling downward. Three is a magic number here; there are three sections, the hotel, the spa and the villas.

Hotel suite at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea
My suite

My suite reinforced their five-star rating. I found myself in the lap of luxury; comfortable king bed, private dressing room with a huge mirror, a bath with shower and tub, comfy sofa, table, fridge and microwave. They even sent up a large platter of fresh and dried fruit.  The color scheme and art were Babylonian and set the mood. But my favorite was the private enclosed balcony courtyard. It had a seating area and couch lounging area and a lovely Moorish-style openwork shutter to offer privacy. Since I was on the second floor the palm fronds of trees below rustled pleasantly right at my window level.

portion of balcony courtyard  at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea
This is only half of my balcony courtyard

The art work inside the hotel complements the beauty of the grounds. One of the owners is an art connoisseur and it shows in what hangs on the hotel's walls.

Guests seated at akkad Pool Restaurant  at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea art  at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea
The Akkad Pool Restaurant Some of the artwork at Kempinsky Ishtar

Since we arrived at the Ishtar around lunchtime, food was our next option. We dined on a selection of well prepared Arabic dishes at their Akkad Pool Restaurant.   Our appetizers gave us a vast option and our main course was a luscious set of shish kebabs including lamb, chicken and beef. The chicken especially was melt-in-your-mouth good. As the name implies, the Akkad Pool Restaurant is adjacent to the hotel's Infinity Pool so naturally we dined outdoors. 

Appetixers at Akkad Pool Restaurant  at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea
Some of the appetizers at the Akkad

The Ishtar has nine pools including the Infinity Pool, Lazy River, a pool with a bubble fountain the kids seem to love, a pool with an ever-burning fire at the ends and others. If the pools and the Dead Sea aren't enough water for you there are also waterfalls and lagoons mingled with the resort's gardens.

One of the pools is adults only but it is equalized by not only  a kids pool but an entire Kids Club with programs for the little ones so parents enjoy their own activates knowing the little ones are not only safe but having a great time.

Kids Club  at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea
The Kids Club

Then there is a whole new range of pools at the Resense Spa. The spa is the largest in Jordan with over 10,000 square feet of treatment space. Even the elevator there is a view. Seema Lodi, spa manager, showed us through the spa. There is a private "ladies only" section where celebrities and those desiring privacy can utilize. She showed us the whirlpool and sauna and a unique outdoor massage center when you can lie in a pool and receive a treatment. She explained one of their specials called "From Home to Heaven."  Many local people use it. She said, "We have a Mercedes pick them up from home in the morning. Bring them here for a massage, use the facilities have a healthy three course lunch,. After lunch, relax, use the facilities again in the evening and we have the Mercedes take them back home. They are happy bunnies."

pool at spa  at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea
One of the spa pools

As you can imagine the spa is popular. Visitors from all over as well as locals visit the spa. Seema confined, "even our queen comes here."

I had every intention of going back to the spa after our tour there but got sidetracked by all the rest of what the Kempinsky Ishtar offers. Like the Villas section of the hotel. The manager had already told us that these rented from $20,000 per night or so. Way past my budget but obviously lots of celebrities could and did use them.

villas  at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea
The Villas really are fit for royalty

I wandered through and saw many of the villas occupied and caught a few glimpses of some of those privileged guests relaxing in their private pool. The villas were set a bit off to the side former the main section of the hotel. More privacy that way. A pathway led through the villas down to the beach.  Near one of the villas I saw the neatest golf car made to look like an old model T Ford. Then I passed one other unique feature of this hotel. Considering the antiquity I saw all over Jordan, it's not surprising to see an ancient resident that had remained on the hotel grounds for 700 years. It's a beautiful olive tree that is still very healthy looking.

Golf cart decked out like model T  at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea
I was told this magnificently decked out cart belongs to one of the owners

The reason this hotel and others are located at this spot was my main purpose of the trek to the beach, the Dead Sea..The lowest point on earth and a body of water so salty than the only living things which can survive in it are a few bacteria and microbes. It has been a health resort since the days of Herod the Great and a refuge for people seeking relaxation since the biblical King David.  

700 year old olive tree  at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea
Imagine this tree being old before Columbus even sailed for America!

One other boon of the Ishtar Resort is their private beach on the Dead Sea. I have been told the public beaches become quite crowded sometimes.  Here, there were no crowds, just attendant with towels, a huge vat of mud or if you wish buckets of it.  I had been told about the floating and salinity so I entered the sea carefully. One helpful hint here; bring boating or water shoes you can wear into the water. Not flip flops as they will come off when you are floating.  I didn't and my tender feet paid the price. I waded out about thigh deep and let my feet come off the ground. Presto, I was on my back. No matter if I exhaled or inhaled, I could not sink. In fact, I had to struggle to get my feet back under me and stand when I wanted to leave the water after about twenty minutes.

pool at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea
One of Kempinsky's pools with the Dead Sea in the background

Back on the beach, my friends and I all slathered ourselves with the mud until we looked ready for an old-time minstrel show. I could feel it hardening on me. It is a strange feeling; not painful just sort of tingly. I hoped it was tightening my no-longer-young skin. After it dried and I washed most of it off in the Dead Sea and finished up with a shower, another benefit of that private beach, I really did feel like the skin was younger. Yeah, I know, you're saying "wishful thinking" but until you try it yourself how do you know? On the way back, one of my friends and I took a dip in the Infinity Pool. It really feels like you are swimming directly out into the seemingly endless sea.

People covered with mud on the banks of  Dead sea
Playing in the mud

At our day and a half at Ishtar, I got to sample several of the other restaurants. All lived up to way above standard. Breakfast and dinner at The Obelisk offer more choices than any one person can sample. If you plan an early lunch it serves breakfast until 11:30 and the breakfast menu will more than double for an early lunch. There is the Ishtar Lobby Bar which was quite handy to grab a quick drink on my way up to my room.

I didn't get to sample the other restaurants and bars but there are several others; Sushi Bar in the main section; Kish Bar with a view of the Dead Sea, Sumerian Bar; and Codes, a smart Thailand cuisine restaurant overlooking the Dead Sea.

The final evening we all dined at the Ashur Restaurant. It's Italian with a Middle Eastern twist. The food was superb but it's always bitter sweet saying goodbye to new friends with whom you have shared a trip.  The restaurant serves wine and cocktails. Friends who ordered the wine were happy and my cocktail was perfect. We again dined outdoors next to the flickering flame reflected in the pool.

Man and woman at  at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea Dish of food  at Kempinsky Hotel Isthar by Dead Sea
We bid goodbye to our wonderful Jordan
Tourism Bureau hostess, Janine Jervas, and
our knowledgable guide, Mohammed Quamhiya
One of our delectable delicacies
served at our farewell dinner

Conde Nast Traveler rated Kempinski Hotel Ishtar as one of the top five resorts in the Middle East so for your trip to the Dead Sea discover the secrets of Ishtar and see what is beyond five-star luxury.

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