Aqaba is the only port in Jordan; it has a strategic location, so it has long been inhabited as a trading port. There is a great deal of archaeological evidence for that—the Mamluke Fort, Ayla Byzantine village and Tell al-Khaleifeh (Iron Age), as well as what archaeologists believe to be the oldest church in the world.
There is also a museum with exhibits and information on the old city. The museum building was once home of Ash-Sharif Hussein bin Ali, the great-great–grandfather of the present King Abdullah II.
Recently, Aqaba was designated a special free trade zone. A good deal of industrial development is in the works, taking advantage of special customs and tax regulations.
As a Red Sea port city, Aqaba has the beaches, dive centers, resort hotels and other accoutrements of a beach holiday destination. You can take a dive course or snorkeling gear, and enjoy some of the world’s most colorful coral reefs. Other water sports including windsurfing, parasailing, water- and jet-skiing and bananas are also available. For the less energetic, glass-bottom boats will cruise along the coral reefs to give you a dry-feet view of the undersea world.
Be warned, though. At the present time, Aqaba is undergoing a tremendous development period which will create an additional 7,000 hotel rooms, villas, marinas, lagoons, golf courses and other resort-city wonders within the next six years. These developments will provide an estimated 90,000 additional jobs, so building of new housing complexes and other municipal services is also underway. For the next few years, visitors to Aqaba will have to deal with the construction noises and inconveniences that all these new projects require!