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What to do in Aqaba?

Being in Jordan, it’s worth going to the city of Aqaba, a settlement in the south of the country located on the Red Sea for at least a little. In addition to some great historical monuments, we will find here beautiful beaches and fantastic coral reefs to watch during snorkeling or diving. In this post we collect tips about what to do in Aqaba.

Aqaba history

The history of Aqaba dates back to the 10th century BC. There was a copper smelting center as well as a small fishing village and port called Wzion-Geber. Also the whole area ruled by the king of Israel – Solomon.

From the 2nd century BC these areas conquered by the Egyptians. Furthermore when the African country from the Nile began to lose its importance and power, the territory of Aqaba taken over by the Nabataeans. They are builders of the famous Petra (rock city in Jordan). At that time, the town known as Aila.

old city in aqaba city

During the Roman Empire, the city changed its name to Ailana. Also it was known mainly as a trading center on the route from Damascus to Palestine and Egypt. Around the 7th century CE Aqaba port was again conquered. This time by the Arab Umayyad dynasty, serving as a hub for pilgrims who traveled to Mecca. The city was renamed Aila again. This state lasted until 1024, when Aqaba conquered by local tribes. After this, 44 years later, most of the city destroyed by an earthquake.

As for more modern times, in the 20th century in the entire region abounded in numerous armed conflicts. Mainly with the newly formed Israel (Israeli-Arab Wars). Only the end of the century brought relative peace. Finally in 1994 even the border crossing between Jordan and Israel was opened. It was then that Aqaba began to emerge as a tourist resort, attracting tourists from around the world.

Tourist attractions

Aqaba is known mainly for tourist attractions. Typically for active people or those who like to relax. But in the city there are also several interesting historical places and museums.

Mameluk Fort

Mameluk Fort is one of the most important monuments in Aqaba. The fortress originally built in the 12th century by the crusaders, and after its destruction it rebuilt by the Sultan of the Mameluk people. The fortress also played a significant role during the Arab Uprising, led by Lawrence of Arabia.

Mameluk castle. what to do in aqaba
what to do in Aqaba

Archaeological museum

The Aqaba Archaeological Museum locate in Hussein’s former residence. He was the leader of the anti-Turkish Arab uprising. Also he had his home here in 1917 after his army captured the city.

Among the museum collections we will see various smaller finds related to the Nabatean Kingdom (around the first century CE), as well as Egyptian and Iraqi coins. In the museum we will also see Byzantine reliefs or, surprisingly, Chinese ceramics.

Byzantine church ruins

During the Byzantine Empire, a lot of construction work took place in Jordan. All major Roman era cities continued to flourish as the region’s population increased. When Christianity appeared here in the fourth century, churches built all over Jordan.

It was then that in Aqaba, Jordan, one of the most interesting archaeological discoveries of recent times was built. This church is even older than the churches of Bethlehem or Jerusalem, which dates back to the 4th century AD.

ayla old city in aqaba
sunset in aqaba

City center

Not all interesting places and things paid. A walk around the old city and the center of Aqaba will provide a lot of impressions. It’s worth walking the streets of Aqaba, buying something in shop windows or exchanging a few words with the residents. (and even if we don’t want to, we’ll probably have to do it anyway – Jordanians are quite a talkative nation).

Ayla settlement ruins

Ayla was the first settlement founded in today’s Aqaba and the first Islamic city built outside the Arabian Peninsula. Unfortunately, the settlement destroyed by various attacks, first Crusaders, later Bedouins. The remains of the ancient city discovered only in the 80s. After which the ruins of the Ayla settlement became one of the most interesting places in the whole of Aqaba.

The ruins of the Ayla settlement locate just outside the city center of Aqaba. You can still see the remains of the mosque, marketplaces, city gates or houses here.

old city of aqaba
Man dive in shallow water

Diving in Aqaba

Although Jordan has a small coastline, Aqaba has over 25 dive sites. Each of them significantly differs from shallow coral reefs (perfect for snorkeling) to deep canyons and shipwrecks.

In Aqaba, hot water remains throughout the year, providing great visibility. Thanks to the wide range of diving spots, it is a perfect place for both beginners and experienced enthusiasts of underwater travel. Aqaba is also great for diving in search of shipwrecks, with the most popular being the Cedar Pride shipwreck.

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