Greatly prized as Jordan's window to the sea,
Aqaba brings a refreshing release from the rose-
colored desert to the north. Its sandy beaches and
coral reefs are the most pristine on the Red Sea,
and Jordanians hope to preserve them through
careful planning with several first-rate hotels,
restaurants and shops, Aqaba caters to a tourist
crowd that is tranquil and relaxed, seeking its
pleasure more by day than by night.
Deep colored waters lie just off shore in Aqaba,
bringing kaleidoscopic marine life within easy
reach. Exploring means a leisurely drive to a private
spot and short swim out to the reef. Unusual
vertical currents and sea breezes make diving cool
and pleasant, even in the heat of the summer.
Aqaba's reef is healthy and thriving, adorned with
untold variety in its coral and fish. Common
species are branch coral, fungia, and montipora,
and the rare archelia, a black tree-like specimen
found at great depths and first discovered by King
Hussein himself. Darting through the reef are
clownfish, Picasso triggerfish, goby sea-anemone,
parrotfish, pipefish, and countless others. Two of
the most intriguing are the harmless, plankton-
eating whale shark, the largest fish in the world,
and the willowy garden eel, almost invisible in the
Aqaba boasts some of the world's best scuba
diving by day or night, and is home to the famous
Royal Diving Center. Many other places will
organize water sports for you. There is snorkeling,
fishing, and sailing to pass the time, or glass
bottomed boats for those who prefer their marine
life at arm's length.
Aqaba's appeal lies in its watery beauty, but like
everywhere else in Jordan, it has more than its
share of history to tell. In Biblical times it was
called Ezion-Geber, a prosperous town where King
Solomon's ships set sail with their store of copper.
For centuries north-bound goods from as far as
China, Arabia, Africa, and India made their way to
the port and were transported overland via caravan
There is a Mamlouk fort at the end of the corniche,
and on an island in the middle of the Gulf, the
castle of Saladin, foe of Richard the Lion Heart and
Reynald de Chatillon.
In this century, Arab forces with T.E. Lawrence
wrested the port form the Ottomans in one of the
most dramatic victories of the Arab Revolt.
Aqaba basks in balmy weather nine months of the
year, in winters, spring and fall. Summer is hot, but
you can pace your activities and adapt to the
climate, slowing down in midday, and reviving in the
cool of the evening.