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With its balmy winter climate and idyllic setting, Aqaba is Jordan's year-round aquatic playground. In winter, while Amman shivers around 5 °C (41 °F), the temperature hovers steadily at about 25 °C (77 °F) in Aqaba. The thriving underwater marine life and the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Aqaba make diving conditions there among the acknowledged best in the world. Snorkeling, water skiing, windsurfing, fishing and other water sports are also popular.

For the history enthusiast, Aqaba contains sites reflecting human habitation back to 4000 BCE, resulting from the city's strategic location at the junction of trading routes between Asia, Africa and Europe. According to the Bible, "King Solomon also built ships in Ezion-Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shores of the Red Sea". This verse from the Old Testament (1 Kings 9: 26) probably refers to an Iron Age port city on the same ground as modern Aqaba. The name Elath refers to the Israeli town of Eilat. The Queen of Sheba (ancient Yemen) traveled from Jerusalem to the port city of Ezion Geber to visit the splendorous court of King Solomon in the tenth century BCE (1 Kings 10: 1-13).

In one of the most exciting discoveries in recent times, archeologists working in Aqaba have unearthed what they believe to be the world's oldest church. Dating from the late third century CE, the 26 x 16 meters structure is thought to be the oldest building built specifically as a church. It is slightly older than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, both of which date from the fourth century. The church is found on a plot of land east of Istiqlal Street, near the parking lot of the JETT bus station.

Trading routes developed connecting Aqaba with southern Arabia and Yemen, and the town grew into a thriving city. The Nabateans populated the region extensively, drawn by the strategic trading location of Aqaba. In Roman times, the great Via Nova Triana came down from Damascus through Amman to Aqaba, where it connected with a west road leading to Palestine and Egypt.

The early days of the Islamic era saw the construction of the city of Ayla, which was described by the geographer Shams Eddin Muqaddasi as situated next to the true settlement, which was lying in ruins closeby. The ruins of Ayla, unearthed in the mid-1980s by a American-Jordanian archeological team, are a few minutes walk north along the main waterfront road.

The Crusaders occupied the area in the 12th century and built their fortress of Helim, which remains relatively well-preserved today. The Aqaba fort was rebuilt in the 14th century under one of the last Mamluk sultans, Qansah al-Ghouri, and has been substantially altered several times since then. The Hashemite Coat of Arms was placed above the main doorway during the Great Arab Revolt of World War I, after the Turks were driven out of the city. The fort is open daily and entrance is free.

In addition to building a stronghold within Aqaba, the Crusaders fortified the small island of Ile de Graye, now known as Pharoah's Island, about seven kilometers offshore. The island, which is now in Egyptian territorial waters, can be reached via tour excursions which leave from the Aquamarina Hotel.

By 1170, both Aqaba and the island had been conquered by Salah Eddin. The Mamluks took over in 1250, but by the beginning of the sixth century they had been overtaken by the Ottoman Empire. The city then declined in status, and for 400 years or so it remained a simple fishing village of little significance. During World War I, however, Ottoman forces were forced to withdraw from the town after a raid by Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab forces of Sharif Hussein. The capture of Aqaba helped open supply lines from Egypt up to Arab and British forces afield further north in Transjordan and Palestine.

In 1965, King Hussein traded 6000 square kilometers of Jordanian desert to Saudi Arabia for another 12 kilometers of prime coastline to the south of Aqaba. This gave Jordan's only port room to expand and added the magnificent Yamanieh coral reef to the Kingdom's list of treasures.

Marine Life and Coral Reefs

The Gulf of Aqaba is renowned worldwide as a tourist's paradise overflowing with wildlife and adventure. It hosts about 110 species of soft corals, 120 species of hard corals and over 1000 species of fish. Sting and manta rays, clown, angel, butterfly and lionfish, and occasionally turtles, eels, sea cows, and dolphins are spotted amid the resort's exquisite coral reefs.

The absence of stormy weather, along with the mild water currents contribute to clear waters, one of Aqaba's exceptional environmental conditions.

Warm, clear waters provide a hospitable environment for the growth of corals, and favorable salinity levels provide an environment for myriad varieties of marine-life forms.

Contrary to what many people think, corals are not plants but very delicate animals. Due to their slow rate of growth (about 1 cm/year), the corals that are seen today in the Gulf are centuries old.

Besides being a main tourist attraction, the coral reef plays an important role in supporting the survival of various life forms. Thousands of marine creatures coexist in a complex ecosystem ranging form almost invisible species to huge fish and mammals.

The warm waters of Aqaba provide a perfect habitat for an array of unique and dazzlingly colored fish. Due to Aqaba's transparent waters, this rainbow of colors can be experienced without even having to enter the water! The shores of the Gulf are also frequented with friendly sea turtles that spend their time swimming amongst the swirling schools of fish.

Corals, coral fish, reptiles and mammals are only a few to be named of the countless marine creatures living in the waters of Aqaba. Nocturnal animals such as the crab, shrimp and lobster come alive in search of food in the dark hours of the night.


Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

The Gulf of Aqaba is a world known diving area and a natural haven for scuba diving, snorkeling and scientific exploration. It offers eager divers a great chance to experience virgin coral reefs, rare marine life forms, and encounters with friendly sea animals like turtles and dolphins. The Gulf's average water temperature of 23 degrees Celsius allows water-activity oriented tourist to enjoy the sea year round.

The Red Sea's unique marine ecosystem includes about 110 species of soft corals, 120 species of hard corals and countless varieties of brightly colored fish and other invertebrates, some of which are unique to the region, creating a colorful kaleidoscope. This, combined with the Gulf's depth and its isolation of sea currents, which minimize turbulence and improve visibility, make it one of the most rewarding scuba diving and snorkeling spots in the world.

Aqaba's climate makes it a refreshing location for year-round diving. The water temperature averages 22.5°C (72.5°F) in winter and 26°C (78.8°F) in summer. The prevailing northern winds from Wadi Araba keep the water surface shimmering clean, and the flows within the gulf ensure transparent waters.

Aqaba's Royal Diving Center and several other qualified dive operates offer complete diving services including PADI and BSAC courses, equipment rental and fully supervised dives. For those who prefer to see marine life at arm's length, glass bottomed boats can be easily rented.


Aqaba Special Economic Zone

The Government of Jordan has embarked on an aggressive reform strategy to position Jordan within the global economy. A key initiative in this strategy was the establishment of Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ) in January 2001 as a liberalized, low-tax, duty-free, and multi-sectoral development area.

The Zone covers approximately 375 km2 and includes the land borders of Israel and Saudi Arabia extending to the territorial waters of Egypt. The Zone, which incorporates the City of Aqaba with a population of approximately 70.000 people, has all the physical and social infrastructure and utilities to serve as a flourishing city.

Strategically situated at the crossroads of four countries and three continents and encompassing Jordan's entire coastline, the ASEZ is served by both a deep-water seaport and an international airport. The existing deep-water port can accommodate ships handling a wide variety of cargoes, including dry bulk vessels of 75.000 DWT and container vessels of Panamax size.

The port also has a separate passenger terminal servicing cruise and passenger ships. Aqaba International Airport is one of three airports in Jordan and can accommodate all classes of commercial and passenger aircraft. A network of modern highways connects Aqaba to the surrounding region.


Investment Opportunities

Potential investment opportunities are available in industrial sector, services (location-based services as will as professional services) and tourism and cultural experiences to the visitor, investor, and resident alike.

Aqaba forms an integral part of Jordan's Golden Tourism Triangle, highlighting the natural and man-made wonders of Petra, the magnificent desert and cliffs of Wadi Rum, and stunning coral reefs of Aqaba. In shorts, Aqaba's natural endowments make it an attractive destination for tourism, thus an ideal location for investment in this sector.


Recreational Facilities

With its tranquil, clear waters and thriving marine populations, Aqaba is ideal for divers as well as casual water sports enthusiasts. As the Gulf of Aqaba is an inland sea with few strong currents, its waters remain warm and clear throughout most of the year. Conditions are ideal for underwater photography, and a lavish array of exotic fish and plant life makes for excellent snorkeling and diving. Over 140 species of coral have been identified in Aqaba's waters.

There are several diving centers in Aqaba, the most prominent of which are the Aquamarina I Hotel (tel. 03-201-6275), the government-run Royal Diving Center (tel. 03-201-7035), and the Seastar Watersports Center in the Al-Cazar Hotel (tel. 03-201-4131). The Aquamarina I also offers a number of other aquatic activities, including windsurfing, waterskiing, and, for the less adventurous, paddle-boats. A new diving area is being developed near the Saudi border near the world-famous Yamanieh coral reef. This complex, known as the South Coast, will have an assortment of hotels, parks, restaurants and watersport facilities.

For up-to-date information on where to go to enjoy your favorite aquatic activities in Aqaba, the Aqaba Visitors Center (tel. 03-201-3731) is located behind the Aqaba fort by the waterfront. The office is open daily from 08:00 to 16:00, and closed on Tuesday. Located in back of the Visitors Center, the Aqaba Museum displays a number of exhibits and plenty of information on the old city. The museum was once home to Sharif Hussein bin Ali, great-grandfather of King Hussein.

The Gulf of Aqaba

AQABA

Greatly prized as Jordan's window to the sea, Aqaba brings a refreshing release from the rose-coloured 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 pleasures more by day than by night.

Indigo-coloured deep water lies just off shore in Aqaba, bringing kaleidoscopic marine life within easy reach. Exploring means a leisurely drive to a private spot and a 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 sea grass.

 Aqaba boasts some of the world's best scuba diving by day or night, and a Royal Diving Club. Many other places will organise water sports for you. There is snorkelling, fishing and sailing to pass the time, or glass-bottomed boats for those who prefer their marine life at arm's length.

There is a Mamluk 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 from the Ottomans in one of the most dramatic victories of the Arab Revolt.

Aqaba basks in balmy weather nine months of the year, in winter, 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.

WHAT TO SEE
Information on Aqaba and its attractions is available from the Visitors' Centre near the Mamluk Fort, tel. (03) 2013363. Opening hours 08:00-14:00 in winter, 08:00-17:00 in summer.

Aqaba Marine Science Station. Aquarium showcasing the marine life of the Gulf of Aqaba. Hours 08:00-16:45 daily, tel. (03) 2015144. Admission ½ JD.

Museum of Aqaba Antiquities. Near the Mamluk Fort, tel. (03) 2019063. Displays from excavations in Aqaba and Wadi Rum. Hours 07:00-19:00, closed Fri. and Sat. Admission 1 JD.

Mamluk Fort, ticket for the Museum of Aqaba includes admission to the Fort.

WATER SPORTS
Aqaba boasts some of the world's best scuba diving by day or night. Many hotels organise fishing, sailing and other water sports, as well as trips in glass-bottomed boats.

Aquamarina Diving Centre (Aquamarina I Hotel), tel. (03) 2016250 fax (03) 2033292. Snorkelling, diving, equipment hire, windsurfing, fishing, boat and marine camera hire and boat trips.

Movenpick Water Sports, tel. (03) 2034020 ext. 1153 fax (03) 2034040. Water sports and yacht trips.

Red Sea Dive Centre near Aqaba Gulf Hotel, tel. (03) 2022323 fax (03) 2018969.

Royal Diving Club just outside Aqaba, tel. (03) 2017035 fax (03) 2017097. Snorkelling, diving, marine photography, equipment hire and instruction.

Sea Star Water Sport (Al-Cazar Hotel), tel. (03) 2014131 fax (03) 2014133. Diving, instruction and equipment hire.

WHERE TO EAT & STAY

*****  Phone(03) Fax(03)
Movenpick Resort 2034020 2034040 

 **** Phone(03) Fax(03)
Aqaba Gulf 2016636  2018246
Golden Tulip 2031901  2032845
Radisson SAS 2012426  2013426

 *** Phone(03) Fax(03)
Aquamarina I 2015166  2033631 
Crystal 2022001  2022006 
Domina Aquamarina II  2015166  2033631
Domina Aquamarina III  2015166  2033631
Petra International  2016255  2014270 

Additional Restaurants

Resturant Phone(03)
Al-Far  2013740
Ali Baba  2013901
Captain's 2016905
Chinese Restaurant 2014415
Floka 2030860
Lasagne Restaurant (079) 5008005 (mobile)
Mina House 2012699
Royal Yacht Club (Romero) 2022404
Silk Road 2033556

HOW TO GET THERE
By air: Royal Wings, a division of Royal Jordanian, tel. (06) 5678231, offers regular flights from Amman to Aqaba; flying time is about 45 minutes.

By bus: Several companies offer charter bus tours and regular tours between Amman & Aqaba, including JETT, tel. (06) 5664146 and Trust International, tel. (06) 5813422 every two hours. (Further details under "Getting Around / Buses" chapter in this brochure).

By car or taxi: Aqaba via the Dead Sea road is about 3 hours drive from Amman, along the Desert Highway 4 hours and the scenic King's Highway 5 hours.

The Dead Sea Resort is a wonderful ending for the southern route between Amman, Madaba, Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba.

The coastal city of Aqaba communicates to the visitor both its striking beauty and grace. Touching the Red Sea are a series of peaceful mountains and a riveting desert reflecting onto the clear blue waters. The northeastern arm of the Red Sea, called the Gulf of Aqaba, measures a length of 180 km and expands to a width of 25 km with 27 km of the shoreline belonging to Jordan. The rest of the shoreline is shared with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. A boat ride to the centre of the Gulf provides a visitor with an outstanding view of all four shoreline countries!

The Gulf of Aqaba is renowned worldwide as a tourist's paradise overflowing with wildlife and adventure. It hosts about 110 species of soft corals, 120 species of hard corals and over 1000 species of fish. The city of Aqaba itself is a natural haven for scuba diving, snorkelling or scientific exploration, and is bound to keep any visitor busy. Aqaba's average water temperature of 23 degrees Celsius allows the water-activity oriented tourist to enjoy the sea year round.

Marine Life

The absence of stormy weather, along with the mild water currents contribute to clear waters, one of Aqaba's exceptional environmental conditions. Warm, clear waters provide a hospitable environment for the growth of corals, and favourable salinity levels provide an environment for myriad varieties of marine-life forms.

Spectacular Coral Reefs

Contrary to what many people think, corals are not plants but very delicate animals. Due to their slow rate of growth (about 1 cm/year), the corals that are seen today in the Gulf are centuries old.

Besides being a main tourist attraction, the coral reef plays an important role in supporting the survival of various life forms. Thousands of marine creatures coexist in a complex ecosystem ranging from almost invisible species to huge fish and large mammals.

The warm waters of Aqaba provide a perfect habitat for an array of unique and dazzlingly coloured fish. Due to Aqaba's clear waters, this rainbow of colours can be seen without even having to enter the water by looking down from a boat.

The shores of the Gulf are also frequented with friendly sea turtles that spend their time swimming amongst the swirling schools of fish. Harmless whale sharks, dolphins, and sea cows are also often spotted visiting the gulf.

Corals, coral fish, reptiles and mammals are only some to be named of the countless marine creatures living in the waters of Aqaba. Nocturnal animals such as the crab, shrimp and lobster come alive in search of food in the dark hours of the night.

Preserve Aqaba

Although the Gulf of Aqaba provides the perfect habitat for more than a thousand fish species, the existing marine ecosystems are fragile and in danger.

Over fishing, industrial activities, improper diving attitudes like stepping on coral and feeding fish, and careless anchoring create a threat to the natural balance and sustainability of the reef's ecosystem.

Concerned divers, tourists and even the everyday beach goer can chip in and do their bit in protecting this natural treasure created of centuries. By simply abiding to general common sense rules, one can help preserve the marine life of Aqaba for generations to come.

Getting there:

Aqaba via the Dead Sea road is about 4 hours drive from Amman, along the Desert Highway also 4 hours and the scenic King's Highway 5 hours.
Organized bus tours as well as daily flights to Aqaba are available. You can also take a service taxi from Wihdat Station at al-Sharq al-Awsat circle in south Amman. These taxi trips are not scheduled. Taxis start their trips as soon as they are full with passengers.

 IMPORTANT SITES

1- ASEZA
2- Radisson SAS Hotel
3- Aquamarina I Hotel
4- Old Church
5- Movenpick Aqaba
6- Golden Tulip Hotel
7- Aqaba Gulf Hotel
8- Royal Yacht Club
9- Aqaba Municipality
10- Domina Aquamarina II Hotel
11- Jordan National Shipping Lines
12- Princess Haya Hospital
13- Health Directorate
14- Fire Department
15- Domina Aquamarina III Hotel
16- Petra International Hotel
17- Police Station
18- Crystal Hotel
19- Aqaba Mamluke Fort

 

  
 

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