As a coastal city, Aqaba’s golden sand beaches are a tempting highlight. For a laid-back café culture as you while away the hours in the fantastic climate, the middle beach is recommended, while the southern beach offers the best choice of snorkelling and diving facilities. Hop on a boat to the centre of the Gulf, and you’ll be able to see the shores of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel, which each border the Gulf of Aqaba.
A haven for those with a sweet tooth, the city has a number of pastry shops, each offering their own unique interpretation on a variety of sweet treats. Pistachio is a common ingredient and, when coupled with delicate honey drenched flaky pastry, it delights the taste buds. Why not pop into one of the shops and try Kunafeh – a thin pastry topped with warm fried cheese covered in syrup and pistachios?
Set on the Red Sea coast, one of Aqaba’s main draws is the opportunity to enjoy a variety of water activities, such as diving. As it’s lesser-known than some of the busier Red Sea resorts in Egypt, you can explore some of the 25 dive sites with relative ease – discovering the colourful coral gardens, eerie wrecks and shoals of glistening fish. If you find the prospect of diving a little daunting, snorkelling is a great alternative and widely available.
Before you head to the alluring historic site of Petra, be sure to visit Aqaba castle. Built during the 16th century, the stone fortress has witnessed tumultuous times and played a vital role in the overthrow of the Ottoman Empire. Its position provided a safe haven for passing pilgrims and travellers, and during the Arab Revolt some of its chambers became military barracks.
Founded in the 7th century, Ayla was one of the earliest Islamic cities and became a copper production hub thanks to its location near copper mines. Its ruins hold an important place in Islamic history. You’ll find the ruins just north-west of the city centre, and it’s a fascinating place to explore in an afternoon. The remnants of the city wall and an ancient church, understood to be the oldest purposely built in the world, will give you a glimpse of history and life during the Chalcolithic period.
This stunning white mosque gleams in Jordan’s midday sun and has become an icon of Aqaba. Named after the Sharif and Emir of Mecca (1908-1917), it is a beautiful example of Islamic architecture and commands the cityscape, boasting the largest dome of all of Jordan’s mosques. Spending time in its peaceful surroundings is a great contrast to the hustle and bustle of life in Aqaba.
Experiencing the sights and sounds of a busy souk is a must when you visit Jordan, and there’s plenty of opportunities in Aqaba. Explore at your leisure and you’ll easily discover a souk or two. The aroma of spices, herbs and incense will enchant you as you peruse the scarves, jewellery, lanterns and other trinkets for sale – a great place to pick up a memento or two from your holiday here, just don’t forget to haggle.
The cooler temperatures in spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) mean you can explore the sites for longer.
If you are a British citizen you’ll need a one month, single-entry visa which can be obtained on arrival. For the latest information on travel regulations, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/jordan/entry-requirements.
The currency is the dinar (JD), broken down into 100 piastres or 1,000 fils.
The language spoken in Aqaba is Arabic.