Things to Do in Aqaba, Jordan
Things to Do in Aqaba, Jordan Aqaba, the only coastal city in Jordan, is a base for diving the coral reefs of the Red Sea or heading to the Star landscape of the rocky Wadi Rum. The city landmarks – from ancient ruins to a showstopping mosque – illuminate fascinating elements of Islamic culture and Middle Eastern history. Here’s what to do in Aqaba.
Go diving in the Red Sea
One of Aqaba’s greatest assets lies beneath the surface – the coral reefs of the Red Sea. The gulf’s mild weather makes it a perfect place for a first trial dive, while certified divers can choose from a plethora of sites. Go looking for turtles at the Seven Sisters coral, or swim down to Cedar Pride, a Lebanese freighter wreck that’s accessible from the shore.
Ayla is one of the newer places to visit in Aqaba as it was just constructed in the last few years. It was a multi-use construction project with residential properties, commercial establishments as well as hotels, entertainment, and tourist attractions. The Hyatt Regency is in Ayla and so are plenty of watersports from wakeboarding to cable skiing. Ayla is also home to Jordan’s only Golf Course.
B12 Beach Club is the entertainment hub of Ayla. With white sandy beaches, all-day dining, and water sports, there is plenty to appease every visitor. While Ayla offers visitors entertainment and excitement, its modern vibe is quite different from that of Amman’s downtown.
Take a stroll around the Aqaba Bird Observatory
The Aqaba Bird Observatory is at the northern tip of the Red Sea, close to the Eilat border, and receives flocks of birds from Europe, Asia and Africa every migration season. The forest and wetlands cultivated here create a stark contrast to the surrounding desert and are no less beautiful for being artificially managed. Any given season attracts more than 70 different bird species passing through this bottleneck of global migration routes.
Explore the Islamic city of Ayla
Northwest of the city center, ancient ruins mark the spot of the first Islamic city to be founded outside the Arabian Peninsula. You can see the ruins of an ancient church, arguably the oldest purposely built church anywhere in the world, and sections of the city wall. The site is located right in front of the Mövenpick and Aqaba Gulf hotels, a short walk from the waterfall, and the entrance is free.
Sherif al-Hussein bin Ali Mosque
Named after the leader of the 1916 Arab Revolt, the Sharif al-Hussein bin Ali Mosque is the most remarkable place of worship in Aqaba. It was built in 1975 and enlarged in 2011, the white stone still gleaming on its vast dome, intricate minaret and elegant arches. Wander through the main entrance to explore the mosaic interior, which is adorned with fountains, columns and chandeliers. Come back at night to see the soaring tower illuminated in bright white light.
Aqaba Archaeological Museum
Adjacent to the castle and near the 130m (427ft) high Aqaba Flagpole, the Aqaba Archaeological Museum gives you the best introduction to the rich history of the city. Originally a palace for Hashemite dynasty founder Hussein bin Ali, it houses a collection of Bronze Age artifacts dating to 4000BCE. Among the best-known treasures are Medieval Fatimid coins and an inscription of a Quranic verse that once hung above the eastern gate.
Arab history at Mamluk Castle
A few blocks inland from the Gulf of Aqaba, Mamluk Castle is the site of one of the most famous battles of World War I – a victory for the Arab Revolt. This uprising, which swept through Aqaba in 1916, is immortalized in a memorable scene from the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia. The 16th-century castle was built by the Mamluk sultanate and was used for centuries as a khan, or travelers’ inn, hosting pilgrims on their journey to Mecca.
Enjoy Aqaba Nightlife
Something that you will not find much of in Petra is nightlife, so enjoy the evening atmosphere in Aqaba. Whether it is patio dining, wandering the outdoors, watching sports on an outdoor TV with locals, shopping or watching the sun set, getting out a night in Aqaba offers a different look to this seaside city.
Aqaba is the gateway to the Wadi Rum, south Jordan’s mystical-looking valley of sandstone and granite. Also known as the Valley of the Moon, this natural wonder of remarkable rock formations was made by millions of years of changing weather conditions and erosion. Sunsets here are especially colorful and best enjoyed during a night as guests of nomadic Bedouins.