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Nickname(s): The Bride of the Red Sea
Motto: Turn Sand Into Gold
Aqaba is located in Jordan
Aqaba in Jordan, on the Gulf of Aqaba.
Coordinates: 29°31′00″N 35°00′00″E / 29.5167°N 35°E / 29.5167; 35
Country Jordan
GovernorateAqaba Governorate
Founded3989 B.C.
Authority Established2001
 • TypeAutonomous authority
 • Chief CommissionerIssa Ayyoub
 • City375 km2 (145 sq mi)
Elevation6 m (20 ft)
Population (2009 est.)[1]
 • City103,100
 • Metro108,500
 Data refers to Aqaba Special Economic Zone
Time zoneJordan Standard Time (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST)observed (UTC+3)
Area code(s)+(962)3
AirportsKing Hussein International Airport
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For the town in the West Bank, see Aqabah, West Bank.

Nickname(s): The Bride of the Red Sea
Motto: Turn Sand Into Gold
Aqaba is located in Jordan
Aqaba in Jordan, on the Gulf of Aqaba.
Coordinates: 29°31′00″N 35°00′00″E / 29.5167°N 35°E / 29.5167; 35
Country Jordan
GovernorateAqaba Governorate
Founded3989 B.C.
Authority Established2001
 • TypeAutonomous authority
 • Chief CommissionerIssa Ayyoub
 • City375 km2 (145 sq mi)
Elevation6 m (20 ft)
Population (2009 est.)[1]
 • City103,100
 • Metro108,500
 Data refers to Aqaba Special Economic Zone
Time zoneJordan Standard Time (UTC+2)
 • Summer (DST)observed (UTC+3)
Area code(s)+(962)3
AirportsKing Hussein International Airport

Aqaba (Arabic: العقبةal-ʻAqabah , "the Obstacle") is a Jordanian coastal city situated at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea. Aqaba is the largest city on the Gulf of Aqaba and Jordan's only coastal city. The city of Aqaba is the capital of Aqaba Governorate. Aqaba is one of the major tourist attractions in Jordan, and famous for its warm water and rich marine life. It is best known today as a seaside and diving resort and also as a home for Jordan's mega projects. However, industrial and commercial activities remain important, due to the strategic location of the city as the country's only seaport.


Map of historical locations in and around Aqaba
The Roman milestone that marks the beginning of the Via Nova Traiana route in Aqaba Archaeological Museum
The Eastern Gate (Egypt Gate) in the ruins of the historic city of Ayla

Ancient history[edit]

Aqaba has been an inhabited settlement since 4000 BC profiting from its strategic location at the junction of trading routes between Asia and Africa. The early settlement was presumably Edomite in ancient times. It was a centre of the Edomites, and then of the Arab Nabataeans, during the first century B.C. who populated the region extensively. The oldest known text in Arabic alphabet is an inscription found in Jabal Ram 50 kilometres (31 miles) east of Aqaba.

The Bible refers to the area in (1 Kings 9:26): "King Solomon also built ships in Ezion-Geber, which is near Eloth in Edom, on the shores of the Red Sea." Eloth (or Elath), which inspired the naming of the present-day Israeli city of Eilat a little further along the coast, probably refers to an Iron Age port city on the same ground as modern Aqaba.

The Ptolemaic Greeks called it Berenice, and the Romans Aila and Aelana.[2] Aqaba reached its peak during Roman times, the great long distance road the Via Traiana Nova led south from Bostra through Amman, terminating in Aqaba, where it connected with a west road leading to Philistia and Egypt. Around 106 AD Aqaba was one of the main ports for the Romans.[3] In the year 410 A.D. Aqaba (known then as Ayla) became the garrison of the Roman 10th Legion of the Sea Strait (Legio X Fretensis). Ayla was the home origin of what came to be known as the Ayla-Axum Amphoras.

Aqaba fort built by the Mamluks in the 13th century

Soon after the Islamic conquests, it came under the rule of the Islamic Caliphate, and thereafter passed through the hands of such dynasties as the Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids and Mamluks. The early days of the Islamic era saw the construction of the city of Ayla, which was described by the geographer Shams Eddin Muqaddasi as being next to the true settlement, which was lying in ruins close by. The ruins of Ayla (unearthed in the 1980s by an American-Jordanian archeological team) are a few minutes walk north along the main waterfront road.

Some stories in the famous Arabian Nights also refer to Sinbad adventures to take the sea from this port city of Ayla.

During the 12th century, the Kingdom of Jerusalem controlled the area and built their fortress of Helim, which remains relatively well-preserved today. In addition to building a stronghold within Aqaba, the Crusaders fortified the small island of Ile de Graye (now known as Pharaoh's Island, near the shore of Sinai), now lies in Egyptian territorial waters about 7 kilometres (4 miles) west of Aqaba.

By 1187, both Aqaba and the island had been recaptured, for Muslim rule, by Saladin. The Mamluks took over in 1250 and rebuilt the fort in the 14th century under one of the last Mamluk sultans, Qansah al-Ghouri.

By the beginning of the 16th century, the Mamluk dynasty had fallen into decline and the area came under the influence of the Turkish/Ottoman Empire. During the following period, the city declined in status, for 400 years remaining a simple fishing village of little significance. The port of Aqaba quickly regained its importance after the Ottomans built the Hejaz railway, that connects the port to Damascus and Medina.

Modern history[edit]

During World War I, the occupying Ottoman forces were forced to withdraw from Aqaba after a raid, known as the Battle of Aqaba, led by T. E. Lawrence (known as Lawrence of Arabia) and the Arab forces of Sharif Hussein in 1917, making the territory part of the Kingdom of Hejaz, under the rule of Prince Faisal. The capture of Aqaba helped open supply lines from Egypt up to Arab and British forces further north in Transjordan and Greater Palestine, and more importantly alleviated a threat of a Turkish offensive onto the strategically important Suez Canal.

Aqaba was ceded to the British protectorate of Transjordan in 1925.

In 1965, King Hussein attempted to give Aqaba room to grow by trading land with Saudi Arabia. In return for 6,000 square kilometres (2,317 square miles) of desertland in Jordan's interior, the Saudis traded 12 kilometres (7 miles) of prime coastline to the south of Aqaba. In addition to the extra land for expansion of the port, the swap also gave the country access to the magnificent Yamanieh coral reef.

Aqaba was a major site for imports of Iraqi goods in the 1980s until the Persian Gulf War.

In August 2000, the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority Law was passed by the Jordanian Parliament. The law established the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA)[4] as the statutory institution empowered with regulatory, administrative, fiscal and economic responsibilities within the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ).


The city of Aqaba has one of the highest growth rates in Jordan, with only 44% of the buildings in the city being built before 1990.[5] A special census for Aqaba city was carried by the Jordanian department of statistics in 2007, the total population of Aqaba by the census of 2007 was 98,400. The 2009 population estimate is 108,500. The results of the census compared to the national level are indicated as follows:

Demographic data of the city of Aqaba (2007) compared to Kingdom of Jordan nationwide[5]
Aqaba City (2007)Jordan (2004 census)
1Total population98,4005,350,000
2Growth rate4.3%2.3%
3Male to Female ratio56.1 to 43.951.5 to 48.5
4Ratio of Jordanians to Foreign Nationals82.1 to 17.993 to 7
5Number of households18,425946,000
6Persons per household4.95.3
7Percent of population below 15 years of age35.6%37.3%
8Percent of population over 65 years of age1.7%3.2%


Aqaba has a desert climate with a warm winter and a hot dry summer.

Climate data for Aqaba
Average high °C (°F)20.5
Average low °C (°F)8.9
Precipitation mm (inches)4.9
Avg. precipitation days2.
Source: World Meteorological Organization


Coral reefs in Aqaba. The gulf of Aqaba is one of the top diving destinations in the world.

Aqaba is well known for its beach resorts and luxury hotels, which service those who come for diving, fun in the sand as well as watersports like windsurfing and Scuba diving. It also offers activities which take advantage of its desert location. Its many coffee shops offer mansaf and knafeh, and baqlawa desserts. Another very popular venue is the Turkish Bath (Hamam) built in 306AD, in which locals and visitors alike come to relax after a hot day. Aqaba and Wadi Rum are the sites of the annual Jordan – Middle East Distant Heat Festival, an annual electronic dance festival. It takes place on 31 July and 1 August. DJs from Jordan, the Middle East and around the world participate in this unique dance festival. Some famous artists who participate in the festival are Armin Van Buuren, Ferry Corsten, Above & Beyond, and Josh Gabriel.

A beach in Aqaba.

In 2006, the Tourism Division of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) reported that the number of tourists visiting the Zone in 2006 rose to about 432,000, an increase of 5% over previous year. Approximately 65%, or 293,000 were Jordanians. Of foreign tourists, Europeans visited the Zone in the largest numbers, with about 98,000 visiting during the year. The division has financed tourism advertising and media campaigns with the assistance of the European Union.[6]

During national holidays, Jordanians from the north, particularly Amman and Irbid, flock to Aqaba's luxury resorts and sandy beaches. During these holiday weekends, hotel occupancy reaches 100%.

Aqaba has been chosen for the site of a new waterfront building project that would rebuild Aqaba with new man-made water structures, new high-rise residential and office buildings, and more tourist services to place Aqaba on the investment map and challenge other centers of waterfront development throughout the region.

The Distant Festival held at Aqaba on the last Thursday of July and the following day at Aqaba and Wadi Rum which features the world's most famous trance and electronica dancers.

Aqaba has been chosen as the Arab Tourism City of 2011.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14]

View of cityscape


The Aqaba Flagpole and the port of Aqaba

Benefiting from its location and status as Jordan's special economic zone, Aqaba's economy is based on the tourism and port industry sectors. The economical growth in Aqaba is higher than the average economical growth in the country. Under the special economic zone status some investments and trades are exempted from taxation, as a result, new resorts, housing developments, and retail outlets are being constructed. New projects such as Tala Bay and Saraya al Aqaba are constructed aiming at providing high-end vacation and residential homes to locals and foreigners alike.

Over twenty billion dollars have been invested in Aqaba since 2001 when the Special Economic Zone was established. Along with tourism projects, Aqaba has also attracted global logistic companies such as APM Terminals and Agility to invest in logistics, which boosted the city's status as a transport and logistics hub.

The Red Sea Summit in Aqaba in 2003.

There are numerous hotels that reside in Aqaba but new hotels are also under construction.

Aqaba is the only seaport of Jordan so virtually all of Jordan's exports depart from here. Heavy machinery industry is also flourishing in the city with regional assembly plants being located in Aqaba such as the Land Rover Aqaba Assembly Plant. By 2006 the ASEZ had attracted $8bn in committed investments, beating its $6bn target by 2020 by a third and more in less than a decade. The goal was adjusted to bring in another $12bn by 2020, but in 2009 alone, deals worth $14bn were inked.[15] Some projects currently under construction are:


Port of Aqaba

By land[edit]

The city is connected to the rest of Jordan by the Desert Highway and the King's Highway. Aqaba is connected to Eilat, Israel by the Wadi Araba crossing and to Haql, Saudi Arabia by the Durra Border Crossing. There are many bus services between Aqaba and Amman and the other major cities in Jordan. JETT and Trust International are the most common lines.[18] These buses use the Desert Highway. Taxi services are also available between Aqaba and Eilat.

The Aqaba railway system is only used for cargo transportation and no longer functions for travellers, with the exception of the route to Wadi Rum.

By sea[edit]

The Arab Bridge Maritime company vessels connect Aqaba to the Egyptian ports of Taba and Nuweiba. More than one million passengers travelled between Aqaba and the ports of Nuweiba and Sharm el-Sheikh by ferries. An Abu Dhabi consortium of companies called 'Al Maabar' has won the bid to relocate and manage the Aqaba Port for 30 years and expand the existing ferry terminal which receives about 1.3 million passengers and thousands of trucks and cars coming from across the shore in Egypt.

By air[edit]

On 3 April 2013, Turkish Airlines started operations to Aqaba King Hussein International Airport 3 times a week on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays; being the only airline having international scheduled flights to Aqaba. King Hussein International Airport connects Aqaba to Amman, Sharm el-Sheikh, Dubai and Alexandria and several destinations in Europe. It is the headquarters of the Jordan Aviation Airlines.


The universities and institutes in Aqaba are mostly scheduled to start their first academic semesters in the years 2011–2012:

International relations[edit]

Twin towns — Sister cities[edit]

See also[edit]

Aqaba from the air


  1. ^ "دائرة الإحصاءات العامة: عدد السكان (المقدر) حسب المحافظات والجنس لعام". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  2. ^ Mayhew 2006, p. 218
  3. ^ "Atlas Tours". Atlas Tours. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  4. ^ "Aseza ::". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "DoS Jordan Aqaba Census" (PDF). Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  6. ^ "Final Ann Rep Eng" (PDF). Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  7. ^ "JORDAN’S PORT CITY AQABA CHOSEN AS ARAB TOURISM CAPITAL FOR 2011 | Brunei NEWS, Brunei HEADLINES from Brunei fm". 25 February 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  8. ^ "King visits Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority | ASEZA ::". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  9. ^ [1][dead link]
  10. ^ "Aqaba". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  11. ^ "Arkia to operate flights to Aqaba – Israel Travel, Ynetnews". 20 June 1995. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  12. ^ "". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  13. ^ "ATO: Jordan turned Aqaba into a distinguished city". Zawya. 10 February 2010. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  14. ^ [2][dead link]
  15. ^ a b [3][dead link]
  16. ^ "Portfolio : Marsa Zayed". Callison. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  17. ^ "AFP: 'Trekkies' to boldly go to Jordan theme park". Google. 9 August 2011. Retrieved 17 October 2011. 
  18. ^ Mayhew 2006, p. 226
  19. ^ "University of Jordan- Aqaba campus". Retrieved 17 October 2011. 


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 29°31′N 35°00′E / 29.517°N 35.000°E / 29.517; 35.000