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Adjacent to Eilat and facing the Red Sea, Aqaba is Jordan’s single seaport and thus plays a significant role in the country’s commerce. It is also a great tour destination, combining archaeological sites, fine hotels, and excellent scuba diving destinations. A tour of Aqaba can also be combined with a tour of Wadi Rum and the famous ancient city of Petra.

History and Archaeology of Aqaba

Named Eilat or Ezion Gaber in the bible, the Edomites and King Solomon controlled the city’s area in biblical times. In the late Roman period, the tenth ‘Fretensis’ legion was stationed in the city, named ‘Aila.’ In the 4th century the City’s population became gradually Christian. Since the 7th century AD Aqaba became an important station along the pilgrimage routes to Mecca. The Arabs named the city ‘Aqaba,’ abbreviation of  ‘Aqabat Aila’ (“the Aila pass”). In 1917, Bedouins mounted on camels captured the Ottoman outpost of Aqaba. Consulted by T.E. Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia’), this successful attack ignited the ‘Great Arab Revolt,’ which expelled the Ottomans from this region and formed modern-day Arab states.

Touring Aqaba

Aqaba’s main historical attractions include remains of a church from the early Byzantine Period, the foundation of the Umayyad era, and a Mamluk era fort. Next to the fort, a colossal-size flag commemorates the Great Arab Revolt, which also led to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Aqaba also attracts local Jordanians to vacation and shop as it is a reduced-tax shopping zone. Its streets are full of vendors mainly offering low-cost imported goods and some excellent and authentic Jordanian cuisine. Visit a local sweets bakery and try Knafeh, which has outstanding local Jordanian coffee. South of the city, Aqaba Marine Park stretches along 5 miles and offers fantastic snorkeling and scuba-diving locations.

A tour of Aqaba can be combined with a tour to Petra and Wadi Rum or a multi-day tour of Jordan.

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