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For the town in the West Bank, see Aqabah, West Bank.
—  City  —
Aqaba in Jordan, on the Gulf of Aqaba.
Coordinates: 29°31′00″N 35°00′00″E / 29.5167°N 35°E / 29.5167; 35
Country  Jordan
Governorate Aqaba Governorate
Founded 400 B.C.
Authority 2001
 - Type Autonomous authority
 - Chairman of Board of Commissioners Husni Abu Gheda
 - Total 375 km2 (144.8 sq mi)
Population (2008 est.)[1]
 - Total 95,408
  Data refers to Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority
Time zone Jordan Standard Time (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) observed (UTC+3)
Area code(s) +(962)5

Aqaba (Arabic: العقبة‎, Al-ʻAqabah) is a coastal town in the far south of Jordan. It is the capital of Aqaba Governorate. Aqaba is strategically important to Jordan as it is the country's only seaport. The town borders Eilat, Israel, and there is a border post where it is possible to cross between the two countries (see Wadi Araba Crossing). Both Aqaba and Eilat are at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. The town is best known today as a diving and beach resort. However, industrial activity remains important to the area, and the town is an exporter of phosphate and some shells. The town is also an important administrative center within the far south of Jordan.



Aqaba fort.
Lawrence of Arabia led the Arab revolt force in the Battle of Aqaba

Aqaba has been an inhabited settlement since 4000 BC profiting from its strategic location at the junction of trading routes between Asia, Africa, and Europe. The early settlement was presumably Edomite in ancient times. It was a center of the Edomites, and then of the Arab Nabataeans, who populated the region extensively.

The Bible refers to the area in (1 Kings 9:26) "King Solomon also built ships in Ezion-Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shores of the Red Sea." This verse probably refers to an Iron Age port city on the same ground as modern Aqaba.

The Ptolemaic Greeks called it Berenice, and the Romans Aila and Aelana.[2] During Roman times, the great long distance road the Via Traiana Nova led south from Damascus through Amman, terminating in Aqaba, where it connected with a west road leading to Philistia and Egypt.

Egypt Gate (Bab el Msir) in the ruins of Ayla

Soon after prophet Muhammad's conquests, it came under the rule of the Islamic Caliphate, and thereafter passed through the hands of such dynasties as the Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids and Mamluks. The early days of the Islamic era saw the construction of the city of Ayla (fr), which was described by the geographer Shams Eddin Muqaddasi as being next to the true settlement, which was lying in ruins close by. The ruins of Ayla (unearthed in the 1980s by an American-Jordanian archeological team) are a few minutes walk north along the main waterfront road.

Some stories in the famous Arabian Nights also refer to Sinbad adventures to take the sea from this port city of Ayla.

During the 12th century, the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem controlled the area and built their fortress of Helim, which remains relatively well-preserved today. In addition to building a stronghold within Aqaba, the Crusaders fortified the small island of Ile de Graye (now known as Pharaoh's Island, near the shore of Sinai), now lies in Egyptian territorial waters about 7 kilometers west of Aqaba.

By 1187, both Aqaba and the island had been recaptured, for Muslim rule, by Saladin. The Mamluks took over in 1250 and rebuilt the fort in the 14th century under one of the last Mamluk sultans, Qansah al-Ghouri.

By the beginning of the 16th century, the Mamluk dynasty had fallen into decline and the area came under the influence of the Turkish/Ottoman Empire. During the following period, the city declined in status, for 400 years remaining a simple fishing village of little significance.

During World War I, the occupying Ottoman forces were forced to withdraw from the town after a raid, known as the Battle of Aqaba, led by T. E. Lawrence and the Arab forces of Sharif Hussein in 1917, making the territory part of the Kingdom of Hejaz, under the rule of Prince Faisal. The capture of Aqaba helped open supply lines from Egypt up to Arab and British forces afield further north in Transjordan and Greater Palestine, and more importantly alleviated a threat of a Turkish offensive onto the strategically important Suez Canal.

Aqaba was ceded to the British protectorate of Transjordan in 1925.

In 1965, King Hussein attempted to give Aqaba room to grow by trading land with Saudi Arabia. In return for 6000 square kilometers of desertland in Jordan's interior, the Saudis traded 12 kilometers of prime coastline to the south of Aqaba. In addition to the extra land for expansion of the port, the swap also gave the country access to the magnificent Yamanieh coral reef.

Aqaba was a major site for imports of Iraqi goods in the 1980s until the Persian Gulf War.

In August 2000, the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority Law was passed by the Jordanian Parliament. The law established the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA)[1] as the statutory institution empowered with regulatory, administrative, fiscal and economic responsibilities within the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ).

On August 20, 2005, an early-morning rocket attack nearly struck a U.S. Navy ship docked there causing damage to nearby facilities in the city; the attack hit the neighboring Israeli port-town of Eilat. Al-Qaeda, or an affiliate, claimed responsibility. [2].


The census of Aqaba city that was carried by the Jordanian department of statistics in 2007, the results of the census are indicated as follows:

Demographic data of the city of Aqaba (2007) [3]
Aqaba City (2007) National (2004 census)
1 Total population 98400 5,350,000
2 Growth rate 4.3% 2.3%
3 Male : Female ratio 56.1 : 43.9 51.5 : 48.5
4 Ratio of Jordanians : Foreign Nationals 82.1 : 17.9 93 : 7
5 Number of households 18425 946000
6 Persons per houshold 4.9 5.3

Panoramic View

A Panoramic Photo of Aqaba as seen from Eilat- Israel. The Aqaba Flagpole has dramatically changed the skyline of the city.


Aqaba in Jordan.

Aqaba is well known for its beach resorts and luxury hotels, which service those who come for fun in the sand as well as watersports like windsurfing and 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 306AD, in which locals and visitors alike come to relax after a hot day.

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. The division has financed tourism advertising and media campaigns with the assistance of the European Union. [4]

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 has been chosen for the site of a new waterfront building project that would rebuild Aqaba with new man-made water structures, new high-rise residential and office buildings, and more tourist services to place Aqaba on the investment map and challenge other centers of waterfront development throughout the region.

The Distant Festival held at Aqaba on the last Thursday of July and the following day at Aqaba and Wadi Rum which features the world's most famous trance and electronica dancers.


Aqaba's economy is skyrocketing because of the economic zone. New resorts are being constructed, but most are still on its leveling stage. New projects like Tala Bay and Saraya al Aqaba are well under construction which will provide high-end vacation and residential homes to locals and foreigners alike.


Over twenty billion dollars have been invested in Aqaba since 2001 when the Special Economic Zone was established. Along with tourism projects, Aqaba has also attracted global logistic companies such as APM Terminals and Agility to invest in logistics, which boosted the city's status as a transport and logistics hub.

The Red Sea Summit in Aqaba in 2003

There are numerous hotels that reside in Aqaba but new hotels are also under construction.

Aqaba is the only seaport of Jordan so virtually all of Jordan's exports depart from here.

Over $20 billion worth of investment is pouring into Aqaba by Gulf and European investors which overshadows Eilat, the prosperous Israeli Red Sea resort only several miles away. By 2006 the ASEZ had attracted $8bn in committed investments, beating its $6bn target by 2020 by a third and more in less than a decade. The goal was adjusted to bring in another $12bn by 2020, but in 2009 alone, deals worth $14bn were inked.[5] Some projects currently under construction are:

  • Saraya Aqaba, a $700 million resort with a man made lagoon, luxury hotels, villas, and townhouses that will be completed by 2010.
  • Ayla Oasis, a $1 billion resort around a man made lagoon with luxury hotels, villas, a 18-hole golf course. It also has an Arabian Venice theme with apartment buildings built along canals only accessible by walkway or boat. A water park is part of the project. This project will be completed by 2017.
  • Tala Bay, a $500 million resort with a manmade lagoon, luxury hotels such as the Hilton and villas. It is already completed. It also has a beach club that hosts the annual Distant Heat Festival, a rave held August 1.
  • Marsa Zayed, a $10 billion marina community that is the largest real estate project in Jordan's history, which maximizes frontage on the Gulf of Aqaba to create a vibrant mixed-use community. Part of the Jordanian government's initiative to double its tourism economy by 2010, Marsa Zayed is designed to help fuel the country's growth by providing more than 300 yacht berths in a luxury marina, a cruise ship terminal and a mix of hotels, apartments, villas and townhouses for more than 50,000 people. This project will be completed by 2017. [3]
  • Port relocation. Aqaba's current port will be relocated to the southernmost part of the province near the Saudi border. Its capacity will surpass that of the current port. The project costs $5 billion, and it will be completed by 2013.
  • Aqaba will be connected by the national rail system which will be completed by 2013. The rail project will connect Aqaba with all Jordan's main cities and economic centers and several countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria.
  • The Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) handled a record 587,530 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2008, an increase of 41.6% on the previous year. To accommodate the rise in trade on the back of the increasing popularity of container shipping and the stabilising political situation in Iraq, the Aqaba Development Corporation (ADC) has announced plans for a new port. The port relocation 20 km to the south will cost an estimated $600m and will improve infrastructure, while freeing up space for development in the city. Plans for upgrading the King Hussein International Airport (KHIA) and the development of a logistics centre will also help position Aqaba as a regional hub for trade and transport.[5]
Marina city in Aqaba


The Hejaz railway system no longer functions for travellers, therefore the popular routes in and out from Aqaba are buses from Amman (and other major Jordanian cities), taxis (to the city of Eilat, Israel, through the Wadi Araba Crossing), boats to Egypt (down the Gulf to the city of Nuweiba or Sharm el-Sheikh) or by air via Aqaba Airport. Direct flights to Aqaba are now available from Amman, Sharm el-Sheikh, Dubai and Alexandria.

Bus services are plentiful between Amman and Aqaba. JETT and Trust International are the most common lines.[6] These buses use the Desert Highway, which features particularly beautiful scenery in the Wadi Rum region and in the descent into Aqaba.

An Abu Dhabi consortium of companies called 'Al Maabar' has won the bid to relocate and manage the Aqaba Port for 30 years and expand the existing ferry terminal which receives about 1.3 million passengers and thousands of trucks and cars coming from across the shore in Egypt.

See also



External links

Coordinates: 29°31′N 35°00′E / 29.517°N 35°E / 29.517; 35

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Asia : Middle East : Jordan : Aqaba

Aqaba (العقبة al-ʿAqabah) [1] is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan's only port city, located on the Gulf of Aqaba at the southernmost extremity of the kingdom.


Aqaba is Jordan's window on the Red Sea. Historically the same city as Eilat on the Israeli side of the border, plans for a shared international airport and other forms of cooperation have cooled down in the past few years during a period of political tension. Aqaba has seen a lot of development in the last few years. This has improved the infrastructure and facilities. Be prepared for road maps to be incorrect/out of date.

Get in

By boat

Ferries run regularly from Aqaba across to Nuweiba on Egypt's Sinai peninsula, bypassing Israel and the sometimes complicated border arrangements. Generally there is no visa fee for entering Jordan through Aqaba since it is a part of the free trade zone. The line to Nuweiba is operated by ABMaritime, see their website for the 'official' timetable and current prices.

There are two ferries that leave Aqaba for Nuweiba, Egypt. The first is the slow ferry (US$50, about 3 hours). Departure is generally in the evening (anywhere from 5pm to midnight). Expect delays. There is a company office in Aqaba town center that sells the ticket. Immigration procedures for Eqypt are initiated on the boat and completed by paying the US$15 visa fee on arrival at Nuweiba (and then finding the immigration counter to get your passport back). If at all possible, avoid putting your bags in the "cages" in the hold: try to take them with you. This way you can avoid the violent free-for-all when you arrive and try to collect your bags.

The second ferry is the fast catamaran (US$70, about 1 hour). Departure is generally at midday except on Saturday when it does not run.

By bus or car

The Desert Highway terminates in Aqaba. There are frequent buses to Amman and other points along the highway. Fare is currently 7 JD each way.

Amman to Aqaba is about 350km using the Desert Highway. It will take about 4 hours to travel this distance at a reasonable speed. Do remember that service/fuel stops are not very frequent on this road.

The Israeli border at Arava (for Eilat) is only a short hop away. The Saudi Arabian checkpoint is also visible on a clear day, but visitors without a visa can only look.

By air

Royal Jordanian operates 2 daily flights between Amman and Aqaba, one in the morning and one in the evening. Duration of the flight is approximately 1 hour and costs 20 JD + tax one-way (price updated 14 May 2008).

The King Hussein International Airport is located north of Aqaba, about a 20-minute drive.

By taxi

Minibus rental with driver from Petra costs 45 JD and it takes about 2 hours to get from Petra to Aqaba.

By taxi

Taxis are easily available in the city. A ride within town should cost no more than 2 JD. A ride outside town (to a beach near by or to any border crossings) costs around 5 JD. However, if your hotel calls you a taxi, you may end up paying double for it as they receive a kickback (this is especially true if you are staying on the South Beach).

While taxis are yellow all around Jordan, early 2008 Aqaba taxis have been painted green and blue: the logo colours of Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ).

When negotiating the price of a taxi, make sure to determine whether the final cost is the total or "per-person" price, as you may otherwise receive a surprise at the end of the ride.

Note that at the border with Israel, the Jordanian guards will try lead you to taxis they are "friendly" with as soon as you get out. These taxis will try rip you off - ignore them, or negotiate for the fair price.

By local buses

Local minibuses connect residential areas with downtown. The fare is 17 Piasters (170 Fils or 0.17 JD) regardless of the length of the journey. Passengers can get on and off at any point of the route. The central bus station is located in front of the Police station.

  • Aqaba Fort. Originally dating to the 14'th century, although the present structure was built by the Mamluke sultan Qansawh el-Ghawri (1501-1516) and has been revised many times since then.


Scuba diving is the most popular sport

  • Int Arab Divers Village, Aqaba South beach, 009623031808, [2]. A professional operator with fairly new equipment and decent prices. Introductory dives, for those who've never gone before, can be arranged for 25 JD. A similar refresher dive, if you're certified but out of practice, is 30 JD  edit


One of the finest, if not the finest restaurant in town is The Royal Yacht Club. It is situated next to the water in an upscale neighbourhood. They serve exquisite fare (mostly seafood fresh from the sea) for prices that are reasonable by Western standards. Service is fast and courteous.

In the center of the city one can find very good hummus, Falafel and Showarma (lamb meat in pita bread) places in many local restaurants. Prices starts form 1.5 JD for a Showarma dish.

  • Dune Village, 00962 (0) 78 8378 914, [3]. Is located 12 km east of Aqaba's center, and offers singles\double\shared rooms with breakfast included. The places also offers scuba diving equipment and guided dives. The place organizes transportation for guests to/from airport and border crossings. 7.5-17 JD PP.  edit
  • Dweik Hotel (1) has small rooms, but bathrooms are in good condition. Some rooms have TV, with access to satellite channels, but you do have to get the front desk to tune the satellite for you. JD20/night.
  • Nairoukh Hotel - Singles JD10 Doubles JD15 Triples JD20.
  • Jordan Flower Hotel - Singles JD10, Doubles JD12, with bath JD14, triples JD16. (as of May 2009)
  • Radisson Blu Tala Bay, South Beach (Head South from Aqaba), +9623 209 0777, [4]. New luxury hotel south of Aqaba. Has very nice swimming pools, restaurants and beach. All the services to be expected at a 4/5* hotel.  edit

Get out

Aqaba is relatively close to both Wadi Rum and Petra. Public buses go to both. Alternatively, there are a lot of tour companies around town who would happily arrange excursions, in particular to Wadi Rum. Petra will take 2.5 hours by car.

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