Trade had been the biggest connector of civilizations since known history. Every era had its trading hubs and the world kind of revolved around them. In our age, these centers are New York, London, Singapore, and Mumbai. Aqaba in Jordan was one such trading hub that acted as a connector connecting Asia and Africa. It is a trading town and port located not the North-East tip of the red sea.
Even today this port plays an important role in Jordan’s economy and in serving many countries surrounding the Red Sea. And why not – it lies at the intersection of three continents – Asia, Europe, and Africa and borders Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia.
The Red Sea at Jordan at Aqaba
The red sea is not really red. It is actually as blue as the water can get. This is the sheerest blue I have seen in my life. So where does the name the Red Sea comes from? Well, it comes from the Red corals that live on its bed. I, unfortunately, could not see them as snorkeling was not on our itinerary.
What we did do was go on a long boat cruise in the deep blue sea. This is the closest I got to Israel and Egypt – two countries that I am yet to visit. As you move away from the shore towards the sea, the skyline starts making its outline clear. You see the hills in the colors of the desert. You can see the hills cut in a pyramidal shape with steps leading to the top – almost like an unfinished pyramid.
At places, the change in color of the waters indicated the presence of underwater life. It was tempting to go looking for them, but then who said, all your wishes must come true?
You have the option of going diving and glass bottom boat rides in the Red Sea at Jordan.
Ayla was the original name of Aqaba, though there is no consensus on where the name came from. Aqaba is, of course, an Arabic name that means obstacles referring to the hills and rocky terrain that created obstacles for the visitors.
Aqaba has evidence of continued inhabitation since 4000 BCE. The first port was apparently built during the Iron and Bronze Ages and I wondered if these guys would have any clues about our very own Indus Valley Civilization. While walking around the city, I stopped at a gate behind which what looked was an abandoned city. I looked around and was surprised to see boards pronouncing just the same.
These were ruins of Ayla that had been uncovered in a recent excavation. All I could see was the foundations of old buildings and water channels. I was so thrilled to discover this site that I was jumping with joy. Yes, I do that when I find an ancient place as a surprise. It was not on our itinerary. I just found myself standing in front of it and the reading on it followed that night.
Read more about this excavation on the Chicago University website which is managing this project.
This early 16 CE fort is located at one end of the present-day city, overlooking the Red Sea. This fort had been a witness to the Arab Revolution and World War I. It is a fairly small fort, that is a well-preserved ruin now. You can see a layer of green trees between the fort and the Red Sea.
In the whole of Jordan, Aqaba is the only place where I saw street art abundantly. There were wall murals announcing the love for the city. Murals depicting the maritime history of the Port. And there were quirky signboards pointing to a Friday Street Market.
All the wall art made the city come alive for a casual visitor. It established a link between its historic past and vibrant present.
Hotels in Aqaba, Jordan
Aqaba is one angle of the tourism triangle of Jordan. The other angles are Petra and Wadi Rum. There is no dearth of hotels here. I stayed at the Kempinski Hotel which has an incredible swimming pool, next to the beach. From the upper stories, you get a lovely view of the Red Sea, Beach, Pool, and port.
At night you see the lights on the other side of the Red Sea. Boats and ships moving around in the water make it look like a live video game in front of your eyes.
Video of the Red Sea, Jordan
Watch the video of a glimpse of the Red Sea, Jordan I managed to capture during the visit.
Overall, Aqaba is Jordan’s port town that offers tourists a perfect combination of adventure and history. Royal Jordanian Airlines connect it to the capital city of Amman with an hour-long flight. You can drive down the Desert Highway from Amman.
Recommend you to read the following travel blog posts on Jordan Tourist attractions, Places to visit in Jordan.