Located in the Gulf of Aqaba, in the south of the country, Aqaba is Jordan’s only port. As a notable and historic port, Aqaba has served much importance to the country of Jordan for over 5’000 years.
Today, the popularity of this port is flourishing, with monumental efforts underway to transform the destination into one of the most popular upscale resorts in the Red Sea. As developments continue, Aqaba remains a popular port of call on many Middle East and World Cruise itineraries thanks in part to its ideal proximity to the ancient lost city of Petra. Carved out of Mount Hor’s rose-coloured rock face by Nabataeans in 3rd century BC, Petra is truly breathtaking and thoroughly deserving of its title as one of the 7 new wonders of the world. Visit at sunrise or sunset for a magical sight as the sun turns the stone the most spectacular ruby shade.
As well as serving as a base for explorations of Petra, Aqaba is also famous for its world-renowned diving. Beautifully preserved coral reefs and startling marine life have led to Aqaba’s waters being considered the best in the Red Sea when it comes to diving, and you will find endless species making their homes amongst reefs and wrecks just off the coast. There are dozens of dive sites along the coastline and a huge choice of dive centres accommodating all abilities, from snorkelling beginners to advanced deep divers. Aqaba attracts thousands fewer divers than nearby destinations including Sharm El Sheikh and dive schools are dedicated to preserving the quality of the reefs and marine life that call it home.
If you would rather keep your feet dry, opt for a glass-bottomed boat trip. You’ll get an insight into the underwater world below, whilst at the same time taking in some fantastic panoramic views of the port approach and desert landscapes.
Nearby Wadi Rum was made famous by T.E. Lawrence, with him describing the flat, otherworldly desert area as “vast, echoing and God-like”. The landscapes of this desert valley certainly stir the senses and it is easy to see why the area was chosen as the backdrop for scenes in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Like Petra, Wadi Rum is within close proximity to Aqaba and excursions run regularly. While the parched scenery is largely uninterrupted, visitors will find a handful of restaurants and vendors offering traditional Bedouin jewellery.
Traditional wares can also be found at the bustling Jerusalem Bazaar, where locals gather amidst a cacophony of noise and colours. If you’re looking for souvenirs unlike the usual magnets and shot glasses, you will certainly happen across something here, with Bedouin jewellery, rugs, soap and spices on offer at prices waiting to be haggled. Break up time spent shopping with plates of mezze and pots of thick black coffee.
Aqaba is a city steeped in history and you will come across centuries-old architecture at every turn. Plan a visit to the 14th century Aqaba Fort and be sure to look out for excavations taking place around the city; recent archaeological digs east of Istikal Street unearthed what is thought to be the world’s oldest church, dating back to the late 3rd century.