I had a spectacular stay at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea in Jordan, a lovely and tranquil resort just an hour southwest of Amman.
Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea Review
This was booked via American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts at a cost of $222 per night (three nights). Room rates vary from about $170-350/night during the late winter / early spring. Booking via AMEX also came with a space-available room upgrade, $100 spa credit, and complimentary breakfast.
The hotel is in a compound along the Dead Sea with a cluster of other resort hotels like the Marriott and Mövenpick. I checked in at the front desk at about noon and was informed my room was ready. The main lobby is spacious and offers indoor seating as well as a terrace overlooking the Dead Sea.
At the outset, let me say that I felt this was a very nice four-star hotel rather than a five-star hotel (it was a bit too large and impersonal to be five-star, in my estimation). But beyond that lack of intimate personal service, I really had a lovely stay here.
Guest Room (Ishtar Superior Room)
After checking-in, I was driven to my room, 1509, via golf cart. Although I booked the cheapest room available (superior room), I was upgraded to an Ishtar Superior Room, which was bit larger and had a partial view of the Dead Sea.
I had an immense amount of privacy around my room, with a large terrace overlooking the Dead Sea with a table and two chairs.
Here’s a view of my outdoor terrace from the adjacent building:
Inside, the room was clean and bright, though not particularly memorable in terms of character. The king-sized bed, desk, and chair were functional, but the bed was on the hard side.
Rather than an espresso machine, there was simply a water kettle with bottled water, tea, and instant coffee…good thing the hotel offered nice coffee in its restaurants.
More water was available in the refrigerator (the other drinks were not complimentary).
But from the balcony, there was a lovely view of the Dead Sea:
The bathroom included a separate shower and bathtub and a water closet with bidet. Shower products were from Trinitae, which is known for its use of Dead Sea mud in its products.
Wi-Fi internet access is complimentary and speeds were reasonably fast in the room.
Each morning I began my day at the fitness center, located in the hotel’s main building. The gym included a comprehensive set of strength training and cardiovascular equipment such that I enjoyed a challenging workout as if I was in my own gym.
One totally unrelated sidetone. I am a YouTube Premium subscriber because it bypasses ads and can background play on my phone. In Jordan, for whatever reason, the background play did not work in YouTube.
Indoor Pool + Spa
I spent hours each day in the spa, which included an indoor pool, a separate Dead Sea salt soaking pool, a sauna, and steam room.
A beautiful gesture: one morning I was just sitting outside enjoying the morning sun and a spa worker proactively brought me a cup of ginger tea with a cookie.
One afternoon I got a massage (using my spa credit) and enjoyed a full body massage by a well-trained Thai massage technician named Thida. The spa staff are Thai and experts in massage. Special thanks to Rashid and Sultan at the spa who managed my appointments and were amazingly gracious.
Before my treatment I was offered a cold towel and water and after I was offered tea and fruit.
The spa also has a hammam and offers a body scrub with mud from the Dead Sea.
There’s also a full-service salon, where I got my hair cut…that was a mistake. I’ll cover that in a separate post, since it involved a contractor and not a hotel employee.
In addition to the indoor pool, the hotel has a trio of outdoor pools including an infinity pool. I generally prefer to swim indoors, but went out once to catch the sunset from one of the outdoor pools.
Tennis never really appealed to me, but the hotel has tennis courts and rents equipment out.
As a large resort, the hotel offers many dining options.
Breakfast At Obelisk
I do intermittent fasting for 16 hours a day at home, but when I travel this is not an option unless I am willing to give up breakfast. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, especially in the Middle East, so I would show up for breakfast as late as I could each morning, usually around 10:40 am (the buffet closed at 11:00 am).
When you’re at Obelisk, look for Ivan, pictured below.
He was not only a gracious host, but a great barista as well. There’s a “real” coffee machine in the kitchen and you certainly want your espresso drinks made there.
The buffet was quite expansive and included freshly-squeezed juices, lovely Arabic and Persian mezze items like hummus and mast-o khiar, salads, a huge selection of baked goods, and pre-made hot items like foul mudamas, scrambled eggs, and halal breakfast meats.
Furthermore, you can order off an a la carte menu (scan the QR code at your table) and order omlets or other egg specialty dishes.
There was even knafeh!
If you did not book a breakfast package, the breakfast costs 17JOD. Obelisk also offers a lunch (27JOD) and dinner (29JOD) buffet.
Errol also took great care of me at breakfast. The dining area includes both indoor and outdoor seating.
Inside the main lobby is a small bar, where I enjoyed a signature cocktail, which appeared to be some pomegranate juice with a touch of vodka.
Sumerian Bar Lounge + Terrace
The Ishtar Lobby is a separate lobby with a beautiful olive tree out front and a small bar inside.
There’s also a terrace that overlooks the Dead Sea.
Here, I enjoyed a nice cappuccino (though not as nice as in Obelisk) as well as a glass of fresh-squeezed apple juice.
Blu Mediterranean Flavours
One night we ate out at Blu, which focuses on Mediterranean cuisine. I ordered lamb chops with risotto (delicious) and grilled vegetables. The fresh-baked bread and cozy atmosphere were an added touch.
Two nights I ordered dinner in my room. Once, I had mansaf, which is something like the national dish of Jordan and one of my favorites foods in the entire world. Mansaf is made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served with rice. I’ve been spoiled with homemade mansaf on several occasions so I won’t say this was the best mansaf I’ve ever had, but it was still quite delicious.
The other night I ordered a mixed grill, which included some lamb, beef, and chicken served with vegetables and a salad and grilled vegetables. It was also very good, though it could have been juicer.
Akkad Pool and Grill
Cocktails and international cuisine are available near the infinity swimming pool. We had a drink here one afternoon. Cocktails were fairly watered down.
Rehan Lebanese Cuisine
Finally, the hotel offers a Lebanese restaurant called Rehan that we did not eat at.
The Dead Sea Experience
Perhaps the most memorable part of the trip was my Dead Sea experience at the hotel’s private beach. This was not my first time visiting the Dead Sea on either the Jordanian or Israeli sides, but it was my first time actually swimming. What a unique sensation to float to the top!
Hotel staff are waiting to give you the full experience, including mudding you up with Dead Sea mud and then providing an invigorating neck and shoulder massage.
This is complimentary, but do tip them well (10JOD each was appreciated).
Overall, I enjoyed a near-flawless stay. There was one incident, which I will save for the next installment of this trip report, since I don’t want to overshadow this review with the suspicious conduct of one contractor.
This was my second stay at a Kempinski Hotel, the other one being in Accra, Ghana and I have nothing but good things to say about both properties (overall). I will certainly return to this hotel with my family and will look to other Kempinski properties in future travels.