The southeast city in Jordan and its only sea port, Aqaba is one of the most visited places in Jordan. It’s great sandy beaches are one of the reasons for a visit, but is there more to it than just to get a tan?
Being placed where it is, the area around and in Aqaba has been inhabited for 6000 years. Since it it located on the coast and very close to Africa, there is much to see regarding wildlife, history and culture. There are many flights to either Aqaba or nearby Eilat in Israel. Apart from that other cultural, worth-visiting places are pretty close, like Wadi Rum or Petra so Aqaba is a nice place to start your trip from, actually! But what you can do and see in Aqaba itself?
Just a little bit of history…
The history of Aqaba begins around 6000 years ago, when the first inhabited settlements were dug out. Since then, the area was inhabited with different nations, and with different names of the settlements. During the Roman rule of the city, that started in 64 BCE, the city was called Aela, and together with Petra, it was one of the most important trading ports in the region for the Romans.
Fast forward some time, it is said that prophet Muhammad came to the area, at the time called Ayla, and the city was conquered by 650. Around the time, Ayla took advantage of the position where it was and became one of the stop places for importing spices from Mediterranean Sea to India, and vice versa. The ruins of city of Ayla can be seen in Aqaba, fairly close to the city center, the entrance is free so that’s really good reason to stop there and read more about its history.
…and the rest
Being where it is, with its warm climate, warm sea and close to the desert, you can see loads of different animals in the area, primarily birds. But, what Aqaba is really known for is the coral reef that can be seen very close to the beach. If you haven’t heard about it, you will see by yourself by the time you get to the beach. But I will come back to that.
The view at the beach
When you get from the main road to the public beach, it’s a gorgeous site. The fact it was January didn’t stop people from jumping in the water and take a swim. The water was pretty warm, definitely doable for a short swim, but we were tired from the trip to Aqaba, so we decided to walk around a bit (plus, Agata didn’t really want to swim there in swimming suit around all those Jordanian men.) One of the amazing things about it is your view, especially during the sunset. Standing there in Jordan, with a nice view of Aqaba hotels and buildings along the coast is a really nice experience. In the distance, there is Eilat in Israel, and behind that you will see Egypt. So, the sunset you will be watching would be over the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt! How cool is that?
Glass boat rides
From the moment you get to the beach, however, you are being overwhelmed with people trying to get you to take a boat ride to see the coral reef. At the beginning we did not want to go for a boat, as we wanted to walk down the beach. You need to know, the prices for the glass boat rides were pretty high, as in, out of our budget high. But, if you remember the things you need to know about Jordan, the prices can be changed. We were offered 25 minute ride for 30 JOD (~38€/~$42) per person, but I managed to negotiate a price of 5 JOD (~6€/$8) for both of us! I gotta say, I was very satisfied with the price we got for the ride, and in the right time too!
The glass boats give you a unique experience. They blast Jordanian music on their speakers, and they go over several small coral reefs, some sunken ships and sandy areas. If you pay attention, you will see various colorful fish, different corals of all colors and sizes, and if you plan your ride just right, you will have a beautiful sunset from the boat.
Walking around the city
While walking around the city, you can see that it is mostly tourist oriented. There were several big name companies we saw, including McDonald’s. In the afternoon, we listened to another Salah, but the one we heard in Wadi Rum was still our number one. If you forgot how amazing it was, check it out here.
Birds and wildlife
Aqaba is a great place for observing some wildlife you might not see around your house. Being located in the Middle East and right on the migration route of many bird species, birding in the city is going to be easy. I love birds and I was excited to have the binoculars with me and see what the next bird is going to be! There were several of them that were kind enough to let me take a picture of them, and I’m going to share some with you.
But, one bird in particular was very fond of Agata! At the hotel we were staying, this Yellow-faced Amazon was just hanging out at the entrance to the hotel, so we decided to take a picture with it.
We were leaving the city early in the morning, while the city still sleeps and it was still dark outside. Just when we were about the exit the city – we saw Arabian Red fox! But don’t worry Aqaba, we will be back 😉
Stay tuned and follow our footprints!