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Things to Know
Located in the southernmost point of Jordan, Aqaba has all the makings of an ideal beach holiday destination. It is Jordan’s only coastal city with near year-round sunshine as well as a special economic zone status that has allowed the city’s tourism to flourish. Its crystal-clear waters and beautiful coral reefs are a popular draw for experienced divers and casual snorkelers alike, while the city’s proximity to Wadi Rum and the ancient city of Petra make it an ideal jumping-off-point to begin exploring the golden triangle of Jordanian tourism. Yet despite experiencing substantial tourism related growth in recent years, Aqaba is still characterized by a relaxed, small-town atmosphere and a strong local culture, complete with delicious cuisine that is unlike anything you’ll find in mainland Jordan.
Things to See
Sherif al-Hussein bin Ali Mosque
First built in 1975, this grand mosque is one of the most impressive pieces of architecture in the city.
The Ruins of Ayla
While not as impressive as some of Jordan’s other archaeological sites, the city of Ayla holds a special place in the history of the Islamic world as one of the earliest cities of the faith. Entrance to the site is free of charge.
The Arab Revolt Flagpole
Standing almost 450 feet tall with a flag that measures 65 by 131 feet, this is quite possibly Aqaba’s most easily spotted landmark. The flag itself is the banner of the Great Arab Revolt and it commemorates the capture of Aqaba in 1917 – a decisive moment in the Arab fight against Ottoman rule in the Middle East.
Aqaba Bird Observatory
Located near the border with Eilat, the Aqaba Bird Observatory functions as an interim home to several species of birds that migrate between Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Things to Do
Walk Around Aqaba’s City Center
Spending some time around Aqaba’s city center is a great way to get a feel for the city and explore its various shops, markets, and souks. As part of Jordan’s special economic zones, prices in Aqaba are lower than most other places in the country, making your time in the city a good opportunity to splash out on some shopping while getting the most bang for your buck. A good place to start are the winding streets around Sharif Al Hussein bin Ali Mosque, which are replete with all kinds of shops selling anything from clothing and souvenirs to local herbs, spices and teas. Some interesting souks you can visit include the Souk by the Sea on Nahdah Street, the fruit and vegetable markets on Raghadan Street, and the Souk on Zahran Street that specializes in spices.
Enjoy Some Down Time at Berenice Beach Club
Located a short drive away from the city center, Berenice Beach Club is an ideal place to enjoy a leisurely sun kissed afternoon by the water. Occupying a stretch of 0,3 miles along the Red Sea Coast that boasts some of the best waters in Aqaba Marine Park, this private beach club is equipped with swimming pools, restaurants, and plenty of shaded sunbeds where you can relax and soak up the sun, while there is also the option of engaging in several on-site activities like snorkeling, jet ski rides, and a range of water sports.
Explore Aqaba’s Nightlife Scene
While Aqaba is far from the world’s most active city at night, there are still plenty of restaurants, cafes, and bars near the beach that remain open after sunset. The city’s most unique nightlife experience is arguably the Souk by the Sea. Hosted every Friday evening, this local festival draws locals and travelers alike with a mix of live performance art, homemade souvenirs made by local artisans, and plenty of food stalls to sample some authentic local flavors.
Journey to Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum is vast, strange, and beautiful. Also known as the Valley of the Moon, Wadi Rum is credited with kick-starting Jordan’s tourism industry when shots of its extraordinary landscape where featured in the 1962 film – Lawrence of Arabia. Since then, otherworldly Wadi Rum has been used as a film set for a variety of films including The Martian and some of the Star Wars movies to name a few. Aqaba is the main entrance into this great sandstone valley, so there’s no better place to start your exploration of this extraordinary landscape.