The City of Aqaba is famous for its luxury hotels and beach resorts. Visitors come for sunbathing, swimming, windsurfing, scuba diving, and bathing in the 306 AD Turkish Bath we well as a variety of desert-based activities. They also enjoy the many coffee shops that offer mansaf, knafeh, and baqlawa desserts. Here are some of the places you will want to see while you’re in the Port of Aqaba.
The 12th Century Aqaba Fort (also called the Aqaba or Mamluk Castle) has been changed many times since it was built by the Crusaders. In the 14th Century, the Mamluk sultan Quansawh el-Ghawri built the fort that stands today. Still relatively well-preserved, the fort is open every day. The Crusaders also fortified Pharaoh’s Island, which can be reached by tour excursions leaving the Aquamarina Hotel.
The Aqaba Marine Park contains a popular beach with umbrellas, seating, showers, and toilets. The Park includes the exquisite Yamanieh coral reef that supports about 500 species of fish, 127 of hard coral, and 300 of soft coral. This is the northernmost coral reef in the Indian or Pacific Oceans. The Port of Aqaba’s Marine Park was created in 1997 to protect the endangered ecosystem, a seven-mile strip on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aqaba. The Park contains the vast majority of the Port of Aqaba’s scuba diving sites as well as a campground. The Visitor’s Center offers much useful information and exhibits of the fragile coral reef environment, and the Park also contains a collection of rare shells from all over the world.
Scuba diving is one of the most popular activities in the Port of Aqaba. The Aqaba Gulf Divers, a professional service, offers new equipment at reasonable rates. They give diving instructions and refreshers for out-of-practice divers. Despite its popularity, diving poses a threat to the marine environment. Therefore, the Aqaba Marine Park follows a strict dive management policy to protect underwater habitats. The Royal Diving Center, about 18 kilometers from the center of the Port of Aqaba, offers access to the beach. Also available is the new Coral Bay Hotel with pools, sundecks, and a restaurant.
The Aqaba Marine Aquarium contains over 30 species of hard and soft corals, 30 invertebrates, and around 45 species of reef fish. The 40x3 meter roof-less tank simulates the coral reef and is used as a teaching and research tool by the universities as well as an entertaining activity for visitors to the Port of Aqaba.
The Port of Aqaba’s walled city of Ayla was built in the early Islamic period around the 7th Century. The city’s remains can be found along the main waterfront road near the hotel district. Islamic Ayla was on the route of pilgrimage to Mecca and prospered into the 12th Century.
The Aqaba Archaeological Museum resides in the former home of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, grandfather of King Abdullah II. The museum contains artifacts from the ancient Islamic site of Ayla, representing Islamic eras from the middle 7th Century to the 12th Century.
The Aqaba Gateway is a relatively new retail and entertainment complex with as many as 33 retail outlets, many restaurants and cafes, and recreation facilities. The complex includes a three-dimensional cinema.
The most famous attraction nearby the Port of Aqaba is Petra, the rose-red city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The entrance to Petra is near the town of Wadi Musa, about 100 kilometers northeast of the Port of Aqaba, where the tourist facilities are located. Created by the Nabataeans over two thousand years ago, the tombs, temples, theaters, shops, and houses were carved from the rose-colored sandstone cliffs. At its height, Petra was home to more than twenty thousand people. Set deep within a narrow desert gorge, visitors walk between cliff walls up to 80 meters tall where ancients carved chambers and whorls into the sandstone. These breathtaking sites are best viewed at dawn or sunset.
Travelers who want to visit the Port of Aqaba can find a comprehensive list of scheduled cruises on the Cruise Compete website.