Petra (tours from Aqaba), Jordan cruises
Your guide to Aqaba.
Aqaba is Jordan’s only coastal city, its location between Asia and Africa providing a vital trading hub for thousands of years. Today the city has a unique feel - with bustling souks and burnt orange mountains more typical of inland Jordan, alongside all the charm of a seaside town. With neighbors that include the Mars-like landscapes of Wadi Rum and the UNESCO City of Petra, Aqaba completes the 'golden triangle' of tourism in Jordan. Restaurants are lively with fresh fish and beautiful coastal views while shopping in the Old Town’s souks provides ample opportunity to flex your bartering skills.
Magnificent sandy beaches and fabulous coral reefs may be Aqaba’s calling card but the town’s incredible heritage and archaeological significance means there's no shortage of history to discover. The majestic Sharif Hussein bin Ali Mosque, Aqaba Castle - originally built in the 12th century - and the Great Arab Revolt Plaza, commemorating the revolt against the Ottoman Empire, are among the cultural highlights. Elsewhere, a visit to Aqaba Bird Observatory offers a chance to glimpse hundreds of native Jordanian birds, while venturing a little further afield reveals the ruins of Ayla - the first Muslim city outside of the Arabian Peninsula.
Eating and drinking.
Old-style spots serving up traditional Arabic coffee and Jordanian pastries stand side-by-side with cool modern cafés in Aqaba. Choose from an eclectic mix of restaurants offering refined Jordanian and European cuisine, or simply sit back and enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif, freshly-pressed juice or shisha in one of Aqaba's many lounges and bars. A selection of hot and cold mezze (small sharing plates) such as hummus, tabbouleh and foul (pronounced fool) make an ideal light lunch or starter. For something more substantial, the local delicacy Mensaf (lamb stewed in fermented yogurt) will reward your palate with an authentic taste of Jordan.
With its lively markets and atmospheric souks, shopping in Aqaba is an experience to savor. If your port call keeps you in Jordan late, be sure to visit Souk by The Sea – a vibrant evening market that takes place seasonally on Fridays. Over fifty artisan producers showcase their wares here alongside vendors selling food and drink. Bargaining is practiced, so don’t be shy about negotiating the seller down (the first price offered is rarely final). Gold and silver shops are also common in Aqaba; the exquisite workmanship is typically done by hand. At such stores, purchases are priced according to weight, and each shop should have a set of finely-balanced scales accordingly.
From Wadi Rum to Petra, beyond Aqaba you’ll find some of Jordan’s most celebrated sights. The salmon-tinged Wadi Rum, famously used by Lawrence as a base for his Bedouin tribes during WWI, is just 35 miles from the city. The mountain-fringed desert is spectacular, with Roman fortifications, a Patrol Post and countless temples. Traveling 80 miles brings you to the UNESCO world heritage site, Petra, one of the most visited places in the Middle East. Entry to the red-rose city, famously described as “half as old as time” is via a mile-long winding gorge known as the Siq, and once inside the experience of walking the carved sandstone buildings is simply otherworldly.