Last Updated on July 3, 2022 by Helen E. White
In this article, we will look at what to see in Aqaba. You will be offered the 4 best places according to Info-travels. But first, a little about the city:
It is the country’s only seaport and a thriving tourist city. Due to its strategic trading location, the area has been inhabited since 4000 BC. And it is mentioned in the Bible as the port city of Ezion-Geber.
It continued to play the role of a port city throughout most of history. Including during the Roman occupation and the Islamic era. At the beginning of the Islamic era, the construction of the city of Ayla began, but the city did not survive. Its ruins are now a tourist attraction. Ayla, however, is mentioned in the famous stories of the Arabian Nights as one of the ports visited by Sinbad.
A Little About Aqaba
After passing through the hands of several Islamic dynasties, Aqaba eventually came under Ottoman control in the 16th century. Prior to the First World War, the city had evolved from an important seaport to a simple fishing village. During the Arab Revolt, forces led by Sharif Hussein and Lawrence pushed the Ottoman Empire out of the region. Aqaba was then incorporated into Jordan and once again became a bustling harbor.
This sun-bleached city now receives nearly all Jordanian imports and exports. It is also famous for its stunning coral reefs and numerous water sports. Aqaba currently has six universities. One of which, the Red Sea Film Institute, offers the only master’s program in fine arts in the entire region of the Middle East and North Africa.
The city is also home to the Aqaba flagpole, the third largest free-standing flagpole in the world. It was erected to commemorate the Arab Revolt and currently carries the flag of the uprising. Standing at a height of 130 meters, this flag can be seen from Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt.
Tourists love Aqaba for its fun, sunny culture and beautiful resorts. Aqaba offers several dive sites and underwater excursions to explore the coral reefs and colorful marine life. Or you can take a ride on a glass-bottom boat to peer into the depths of the sea while staying dry.
There is really something to see in Aqaba. Here are our top 4 must-see places:
1. Coral Reef
Scuba diving is the best way to explore the bottom of the Gulf of Aqaba and its amazing coral world. The water temperature of the Red Sea is ideal for swimming and diving.
You may think that you are in a tropical aquarium. The life in the local aquatic environment is so beautiful and diverse. The bottom of the bay is both colorful and lively and will give you the perfect snorkeling experience.
For those who want to go diving, contact the Royal Yacht Club. Guests can book scuba diving or snorkeling activities, including equipment rental and BBQ lunch on board.
All diving centers are based near the shore, so access to beautiful reefs is within easy reach. There are 25 different dive sites in the area. Most of them are located in the Aqaba Marine Park.
2. Mamluk Fort
The Mamluk Fort, also known as Aqaba Castle, is a partially restored castle located on King Hussein bin Talal Street. The castle includes a prison, a fearsome execution chamber, stables and a roost for carrier pigeons. Climb up to the second floor for a better view, but be careful as there are no railings.
Also, stop by the Archaeological Museum and Sharif Hussain bin Ali House to learn about the history of the castle. The ticket price for both directions is 1 JOD (about 90 rubles). Visitors can also enjoy coffee or tea at one of the cafes around the giant flag, or take a ride on a camel or horse.
3. Islay Ruins
During its heyday, Ayla, built-in 650 AD, was the first Islamic city outside the Arabian Peninsula. Today the city lies in ruins. It can be visited and explored for free.
Information signs can be found throughout the ancient city. They provide visitors with additional information about the city wall, mosque, towers and other buildings within the complex. Children will love the nearby valley, which was originally used to divert flood waters to the sea. Given the extreme heat, it’s somewhat hard to believe that Aqaba has ever experienced flooding.
4. Wadi Rum Desert
Wadi Rum, is also known as the Valley of the Moon. It is a stunning desert about an hour south of Aqaba that resembles the rocky surface of the moon.
Surrounded by black granite mountains, the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Visitors can find evidence of the early inhabitants of Wadi Rum, and study petroglyphs or rock paintings and pictograms. Which are scattered throughout the territory. The origin of some of them dates back more than 2500 years ago. They show scenes of people hunting antelope.
The main valley is now home to the Zalabiya Bedouins. They run a thriving eco-tourism business in this scenic wilderness.
Movie lovers can also recognize the scenery from several films. Including “Lawrence of Arabia”, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”, where the desert disguises itself as Egypt, and “Red Planet”.
Upon reaching the entrance to the Wadi Rum Visitor Centre, visitors will find themselves in a welcome pavilion accompanied by other tourists preparing for a day of sightseeing.
As soon as you leave the pavilion, be sure to pay attention to the famous rock formation Seven Pillars (seven pillars). Which is a mountain with seven deep vertical ridges.
Next, you will need to find an SUV with a driver/guide to drive deeper into the black mountains. Along the way, you will pass by a large number of incredibly large orange sand dunes, which are strewn with strangely shaped rocks. You may feel like you have entered another world.
None of these striking features can be found in the nearby Sahara desert. This makes Wadi Rum a truly unique place not to be missed.
After a short jeep ride, you will come across a group of black Bedouin tents. Here you can buy tea, souvenirs or ride camels, which are a convenient way to travel through the desert.
Next to one of the large Bedouin tents, you can see a carving of the face of Lawrence of Arabia.
Friendly and knowledgeable Bedouins are the hosts of this place. They run tents, ride camels and sell souvenirs. Their culture and heritage are so intricately linked to the desert that their presence will make your experience in Wadi Rum authentic and unforgettable.
Back at the welcome pavilion, you can grab a bite to eat at the restaurant, which serves traditional Jordanian dishes such as lamb with rice, fried fish, and kebabs.
It is recommended to pay for camel rides in Wadi Rum and/or Petra. They may not be cheap, but conquering this magnificent desert on the back of a camel led by a local Bedouin guide will leave an indelible impression on you.
We advise you to book the best tours in Wadi Rum in advance.
If you want to challenge yourself, you can arrange an overnight stay at a traditional Bedouin camp with meals included. The price is usually between 25 and 30 JOD per person per night.
Aqaba is a small coastal city and the only seaport in Jordan. From here you can cross the border of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
This small town is easy to explore. Its center is a great place to stop and enjoy tea and shisha, as well as buy souvenirs.
Visit the ruins of the city of Islay and enjoy the historical view of this ancient city. Be sure to visit the flag located next to the fort, which is one of the largest flags in the world.
Shopping in Aqaba
Aqaba is a duty-free zone, so here you will spend less on knick-knacks and souvenirs than in the rest of the country. You’ll find sweets, books, gold, nuts, spices, handmade jewelry, and plenty of local produce. Many shops and pharmacies sell face and body products made from Dead Sea salts.
At the bazaars, you can chat with traders and plunge into the local atmosphere. You can haggle, but don’t expect more than 30 percent off.
If you see the store owner praying, wait until he is done before asking him any questions. As a rule, the richer you look, the higher prices you will be called. Therefore, it is better to leave expensive items in the hotel safe. Keep a close eye on your belongings.
Beware of some sellers who will lure you into their stores and then charge you double or triple the price. Feel free to enter, but don’t feel obligated to buy anything.
The Best Way to Get Around Aqaba
Walking is the easiest and best way to get around Aqaba. You will find that there is a lot to see in Aqaba. The nice thing is that many of the places worth visiting are within walking distance.
Taxis and buses are also available. If you are taking the bus, be aware that men and women do not sit next to each other.
It is best to take a taxi or rent a car. Please note: white taxis have fixed routes, and the fare depends on the distance.
Yellow taxis are private. While most taxis are metered, it’s best to negotiate the fare beforehand. Women should not sit in the front seat of a taxi. Tipping is not required but is always appreciated.
Now you know what to see in Aqaba. Of course, these are not all attractions. Share in the comments what you would recommend seeing in Aqaba.