Is the only coastal city in Jordan and the largest and most populous city on the Gulf of Aqaba. It is situated in southernmost Jordan.
It’s strategic location at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea between the continents of Asia and Africa, has made its port important over the course of thousands of years.
Aqaba is a fun place. It is a microcosm of all the good things Jordan has to offer, including a fascinating history with some outstanding sites, excellent hotels and activities, superb visitor facilities, good shopping, and welcoming, friendly people, who enjoy nothing more than making sure their visitors have a good time.
Aqaba’s long history dates back to pre-biblical times, when it was known as Ayla. According to the Bible’s Old Testament, King Solomon built a naval base at Ezion Geber, just 3km from where the modern town of Aqaba stands today. From 106 AD, the Romans, who ruled the region from their base in Syria, also used Ayla as their trading sea port. Its strategic location and proximity to copper mines, made it a regional hub for copper production and trade in the Chalcolithic period.
Ayla came under the control of the Byzantine Empire in the early 4th century. The Byzantines appointed Christian Arabs from south Arabia to rule the port city on their behalf.
The Middle Ages were turbulent years for Ayla. In the 12th century, the crusaders captured the city. They built a fort on Far’un Island, known then as Ile de Graye, 7km offshore. Ayla was then retaken by Saladin and the fort became known as Saladin’s Castle. In a counter-attack, the notorious crusader, Reynald de Chatillon, took the island, but lost it again to Muslim forces the following year.
When the Mameluk Sultans of Egypt took control of the region, they renamed the city Aqaba and, in the 14th century, built the town’s famous Mameluk fort. The Mameluks were followed by the Ottomans, who ruled Aqaba for 4 centuries. Aqaba was taken from the Ottomans in 1917 by Arab forces together with T. E. Lawrence. At the end of World War I, the British secured Aqaba for Jordan.
Aqaba’s location next to Wadi Rum and Petra has placed it in Jordan’s golden triangle of tourism, which strengthened the city’s location on the world map and made it one of the major tourist attractions in Jordan.
In 2006, the Tourism Division of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) reported that the number of tourists visiting the Zone in 2006 rose to about 432,000, an increase of 5% over previous year. Approximately 65%, or 293,000 were Jordanians. Of foreign tourists, Europeans visited the Zone in the largest numbers, with about 98,000 visiting during the year.
Aqaba is a fusion of history, nature, and city life surrounded by picturesque mountains and blue sea. Bathing in its year-long warm sun, Aqaba invites you to relax on its beaches, partake in the exhilaration of its water sports, and explore the coral reefs of the Red Sea, home to hundreds of different types of corals and sponges with their wealth of colored fish.
With its wealth of other attractions, Jordan’s splendid Red Sea resort is often overlooked by modern-day visitors. But apart from being a delightful place for discerning holidaymakers, this is actually a great base from which to explore various places of interest in southern Jordan.
As a result of its nature, location, and its history, you can experience many different activities In Aqaba. Such as:
Swimming, snorkeling and diving.
Adventure seekers visiting Jordan will be in their element when they visit Aqaba. The southern part of Aqaba is situated on the coast of the Red Sea and offers a wide range of sports and activities of an aquatic nature including: scuba diving, windsurfing, waterskiing, jet skiing, snorkeling, and sailing.
The temperate climate and gentle water currents have created a perfect environment for the growth of corals and a teeming plethora of marine life. Here you can swim with friendly sea turtles and dolphins as they dart amongst the schools of multi-colored fish. Night dives reveal the nocturnal sea creatures, crabs, lobsters and shrimp, as they search for a midnight snack.
Diving in Aqaba is spectacular and goes on all year round, with different species to be seen in the different seasons. In June / July there are whale sharks, while in February one can often see Mantas.
Furthermore, Great efforts are being made to ensure the protection of the Red Sea marine life, particularly from the impact of tourism. Derelict ships and military vehicles have been sunk in some cases to create artificial reefs. These wrecks provide permanent places for corals to grow and offer marine life a safe refuge to set up residency, not to mention some exciting diving for non-aquatic visitors. The Aqaba Marine Science Station showcases the marine life of the Gulf of Aqaba and the many steps that are being taken to protect it.
There are several dive centers in city. All offer well-maintained diving equipment, professional instructors, and transport by boat to a variety of dive sites.
For those who prefer to keep their feet dry, all the deep sea wonders can be viewed through a glass-bottomed boat or by submarine, or you can just relax under the sun on the resort’s sandy beaches. Plus, of course, there are plenty of other water-sport activities available, as well as an extensive and interesting Marine Park.
Jordan is a great destination for bird-lovers, its remarkable variety of habitats, from rugged mountains and evergreen woodlands to scrubby steppe and hot dry deserts provide perfect environments for many species of indigenous birds. Furthermore, its location at the crossroad of Europe, Asia and Africa means that migrating birds from these three continents can sometimes be seen together in the same general area within Jordan.
The green areas of Aqaba, particularly the relatively dense vegetation and open ponds at the waste water treatment plant, attract hundreds of thousands (possibly millions) of migratory birds every spring and autumn comprised of more than 350 different species. Migratory birds flying from Europe to Africa in autumn visit suitable habitats in the region to make final preparations for the long journey across the Sahara desert. In the spring, migrants tend to land at any suitable habitat in the region, Aqaba being the first station they encounter after a long journey over the deserts of North Africa.
Visiting historical sites.
Visit the ruins of ancient Islamic city of Ayla then check out the Aqaba Castle and the Museum next to the iconic great flagpole. From the flagpole you can walk back to the downtown via the seaside promenade.
This Mamluk Fort, known as the Aqaba Castle, was built in the reign of Qansuah Al Ghuri (1510-17). The fort served as a caravanserai for pilgrims traveling to Mecca as well as a military site. This site overlooks the public beach.
The Aqaba Archaeological Museum .
The Aqaba Region Archaeological Museum is located in the Aqaba house of Sherif Hussein Bin Ali next to the Aqaba Castle. The museum was opened to the public in 1990. Presently it houses an important collection from the Islamic site of Ayla, dated to the Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Fatimid periods, thus representing the Islamic periods from the mid-7th to the beginning of the 12th century AD.
However, don’t worry; there are not so many of them, so you can pay your duty to the old stones pretty quickly and then move on to the fun things!
Historical churches in the region.
In addition to many of the world’s earliest known churches that have been recently discovered in different places of Jordan, There is some remains of a mud brick building at Aqaba that may be the world’s oldest known purpose-built church. The Aqaba building dates from the late 3rd or early 4th century AD.
The American archaeologists who excavated it believe it was a church because of its unusual layout, its many decorative glass lamps, its association with an adjacent Byzantine cemetery, and its parallels with similar early mud brick churches in Egypt. The Aqaba region is also mentioned in the Exodus journey. The first site in southern Jordan mentioned is Ezion-geber (Numbers 33:35). Ezion-geber and Elath (or Eloth) were port-towns located at or near Aqaba. They are best known in the Bible for their roles during the Iron Age, a few hundred years after the time of the Exodus. They are associated with Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, and wars between the kings of Judah and Edom (Deuteronomy 2:8, 1 Kings 9:26, 2 Kings 14:22).
Camping and Hiking.
To the north of the city, visitors will find the majestic landscapes of Wadi Rum, which can be reached by camel, 4×4, or a car. More intrepid adventurers may like to take a week-long camel trek through this beautiful landscape to the Visitors’ Center at Wadi Rum or jump in a 4×4 and drive cross-country.
Camping is also a favorite activity in Aqaba especially during the cooler seasons between May – July and September – November.
Rem.: “Anyone wishing to drive, trek or camp in the deserts north of Aqaba should be sure to take a guide with them. The desert is vast and uninhabited and very easy to become lost in. Do not attempt this without a professional who knows the area well.“
Aqaba has a stray of luxury hotels, including in the Tala Bay resort 20km further to the South, which service those who come for fun in the sand as well as Scuba diving. It also offers activities which take advantage of its desert location. Its many coffee shops offer mansaf and knafeh, and baqlawa desserts. Another very popular venue is the Turkish Bath (Hamam) built in 306 AD.
During national holidays, Jordanians from the north, particularly Amman and Irbid, flock to Aqaba’s luxury resorts and sandy beaches. During these holiday weekends, hotel occupancy reaches 100%.
Aqaba International Airport is about 20 minutes 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.
Royal Wings offers regular flights from Amman to Aqaba; flying time is about 45 minutes.
Several companies offer charter bus tours and regular tours between Amman & Aqaba
By Car or Taxi:
Aqaba via the Dead Sea road is about 3 – 4 hours drive from Amman, while the drive takes 4 hours along the Desert Highway and 5 hours on the scenic Kings’ Highway.
When visiting Aqaba make your first stop at the Aqaba Tourist Information Centre (TIC). It is on Al-Hammamat Al-Tunisyya Street downtown.
TIC’s knowledgeable, friendly and welcoming team is on hand to ensure that you get the most of your visit.
It will help with any enquiries you may have, about accommodation, attractions, places to eat, events and much more.
It opens daily, all year round
08:00am till 06:00pm (Oct – Mar).
08:00am till 08:00pm (Apr – Sep).