From as far back as five and half thousand years ago Aqaba has played an important role in the economy of the region. It was a prime junction for land and sea routes from Asia, Africa and Europe, a role it still plays today as a port. Because of this vital function, there are many historic sites to be explored within the area, including what is believed to be the oldest purpose-built church in the world and a 13th century fort. Some stories in the famous Arabian Nights Tales also refer to adventures Sinbad had that started by leaving from the port city of Ayla (former name of Aqaba). TE Lawrence (also known as Laurence of Arabia) also had his fair share of exploits here when he fought the Battle of Aqaba (1917). However these sights and the Archeological Museum are not the only sights of interest…
With its wealth of other attractions it is surprising that Jordan’s splendid Red Sea Resort is often overlooked by modern-day visitors. The stunning newly built white Mosque sits on the waterfront and is open to visitors (make sure you have long sleeves and trousers/skirt on). There are markets where you can mingle with the locals buying vegetables, fresh fish and souvenirs (see below). The local restaurants serve traditional favourites like mansaf, falaful and knafeh as well as tasty fish straight from the sea. During the summer there are regular live traditional music concerts on the seafront and Aqaba cohosts the Distant Heat Dance Festival with Wadi Rum. There are bars to quench your thirst after a hard days diving.
There are many other watersports available here such as waterskiing, kite surfing and windsurfing. Or if you wish to relax when you are not diving the Marine Park has long public beaches for you to enjoy the sun on.
Aqaba International Airport is situated just a 20-minute drive from the town center and services regular flights from Amman as well as from several European cities. From the town center, the borders of Israel, Egypt’s Sinai and Saudi Arabia are no more than a 30-minute drive.
One of Jordan’s main priorities is to ensure the local people benefit from the country’s burgeoning tourist industry. With this in mind, they are encouraged to produce ecologically-friendly traditional items that are attractive to visitors.
As with all major tourist sites within Jordan, Aqaba not only offers a great selection of hand-crafted souvenirs, such as the traditional Bedouin jewelry, sand bottles, etc., but also excellent modern and traditional jewelry in gold and silver, at exceptionally good prices. The Queen Noor Hussein Foundation, which supports local craftspeople, supplies several outlets in Aqaba with a stunning selection of handmade clothing, carpets, cushion covers, wall-hangings, pottery and glassware.
Aqaba also has many modern boutiques where you can find the very latest in imported jewelry, watches, clothing, accessories and leather goods. Stroll through Aqaba’s largest retail and entertainment complex, the Aqaba Gateway, or take advantage of Aqaba’s Free Zone and shop in style without having to pay any duties on the goods you purchase from certain shops.
How to Get Here
Royal Wings and Jordan Aviation both offer regular flights from Amman to Aqaba; flying time is about 45 minutes.
Several companies offer charter bus tours and regular tours between Amman & Aqaba, including JETT: tel: +962 (06) 5664141 and Alpha Daily Tours: tel: +962 (06) 585 0430.
By car or taxi:
Aqaba via the Dead Sea road is about 3 hours drive from Amman, along the Desert Highway 4 hours and the scenic Kings Highway 5 hours.