- For the town in the West Bank, see Aqabah, West Bank.
|Nickname(s): The Bride of the Red Sea|
|Motto: Turn Sand Into Gold|
|• Type||Autonomous authority|
|• Chief Commissioner||Issa Ayyoub|
|• City||375 km2 (145 sq mi)|
|Elevation||6 m (20 ft)|
|Population (2009 est.)|
|Data refers to Aqaba Special Economic Zone|
|Time zone||Jordan Standard Time (UTC+2)|
|• Summer (DST)||observed (UTC+3)|
|Airports||King Hussein International Airport|
Aqaba (Arabic: العقبة al-ʻAqabah , "the Obstacle") is a Jordanian coastal city situated at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea. Aqaba is the largest city on the Gulf of Aqaba and Jordan's only coastal city. The city of Aqaba is the capital of Aqaba Governorate. Aqaba is one of the major tourist attractions in Jordan, and famous for its warm water and rich marine life. It is best known today as a seaside and diving resort and also as a home for Jordan's mega projects. However, industrial and commercial activities remain important, due to the strategic location of the city as the country's only seaport.
Aqaba has been an inhabited settlement since 4000 BC profiting from its strategic location at the junction of trading routes between Asia and Africa. The early settlement was presumably Edomite in ancient times. It was a centre of the Edomites, and then of the Arab Nabataeans, during the first century B.C. who populated the region extensively. The oldest known text in Arabic alphabet is an inscription found in Jabal Ram 50 kilometres (31 miles) east of Aqaba.
The Bible refers to the area in (1 Kings 9:26): "King Solomon also built ships in Ezion-Geber, which is near Eloth in Edom, on the shores of the Red Sea." Eloth (or Elath), which inspired the naming of the present-day Israeli city of Eilat a little further along the coast, probably refers to an Iron Age port city on the same ground as modern Aqaba.
The Ptolemaic Greeks called it Berenice, and the Romans Aila and Aelana. Aqaba reached its peak during Roman times, the great long distance road the Via Traiana Nova led south from Bostra through Amman, terminating in Aqaba, where it connected with a west road leading to Philistia and Egypt. Around 106 AD Aqaba was one of the main ports for the Romans. In the year 410 A.D. Aqaba (known then as Ayla) became the garrison of the Roman 10th Legion of the Sea Strait (Legio X Fretensis). Ayla was the home origin of what came to be known as the Ayla-Axum Amphoras.
Soon after the Islamic conquests, it came under the rule of the Islamic Caliphate, and thereafter passed through the hands of such dynasties as the Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids and Mamluks. The early days of the Islamic era saw the construction of the city of Ayla, which was described by the geographer Shams Eddin Muqaddasi as being next to the true settlement, which was lying in ruins close by. The ruins of Ayla (unearthed in the 1980s by an American-Jordanian archeological team) are a few minutes walk north along the main waterfront road.
During the 12th century, the Kingdom of Jerusalem controlled the area and built their fortress of Helim, which remains relatively well-preserved today. In addition to building a stronghold within Aqaba, the Crusaders fortified the small island of Ile de Graye (now known as Pharaoh's Island, near the shore of Sinai), now lies in Egyptian territorial waters about 7 kilometres (4 miles) west of Aqaba.
By 1187, both Aqaba and the island had been recaptured, for Muslim rule, by Saladin. The Mamluks took over in 1250 and rebuilt the fort in the 14th century under one of the last Mamluk sultans, Qansah al-Ghouri.
By the beginning of the 16th century, the Mamluk dynasty had fallen into decline and the area came under the influence of the Turkish/Ottoman Empire. During the following period, the city declined in status, for 400 years remaining a simple fishing village of little significance. The port of Aqaba quickly regained its importance after the Ottomans built the Hejaz railway, that connects the port to Damascus and Medina.
During World War I, the occupying Ottoman forces were forced to withdraw from Aqaba after a raid, known as the Battle of Aqaba, led by T. E. Lawrence (known as Lawrence of Arabia) and the Arab forces of Sharif Hussein in 1917, making the territory part of the Kingdom of Hejaz, under the rule of Prince Faisal. The capture of Aqaba helped open supply lines from Egypt up to Arab and British forces further north in Transjordan and Greater Palestine, and more importantly alleviated a threat of a Turkish offensive onto the strategically important Suez Canal.
In 1965, King Hussein attempted to give Aqaba room to grow by trading land with Saudi Arabia. In return for 6,000 square kilometres (2,317 square miles) of desertland in Jordan's interior, the Saudis traded 12 kilometres (7 miles) of prime coastline to the south of Aqaba. In addition to the extra land for expansion of the port, the swap also gave the country access to the magnificent Yamanieh coral reef.
In August 2000, the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority Law was passed by the Jordanian Parliament. The law established the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) as the statutory institution empowered with regulatory, administrative, fiscal and economic responsibilities within the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ).
The city of Aqaba has one of the highest growth rates in Jordan, with only 44% of the buildings in the city being built before 1990. A special census for Aqaba city was carried by the Jordanian department of statistics in 2007, the total population of Aqaba by the census of 2007 was 98,400. The 2009 population estimate is 108,500. The results of the census compared to the national level are indicated as follows:
|Demographic data of the city of Aqaba (2007) compared to Kingdom of Jordan nationwide|
|Aqaba City (2007)||Jordan (2004 census)|
|3||Male to Female ratio||56.1 to 43.9||51.5 to 48.5|
|4||Ratio of Jordanians to Foreign Nationals||82.1 to 17.9||93 to 7|
|5||Number of households||18,425||946,000|
|6||Persons per household||4.9||5.3|
|7||Percent of population below 15 years of age||35.6%||37.3%|
|8||Percent of population over 65 years of age||1.7%||3.2%|
Aqaba has a desert climate with a warm winter and a hot dry summer.
|Climate data for Aqaba|
|Average high °C (°F)||20.5
|Average low °C (°F)||8.9
|Precipitation mm (inches)||4.9
|Avg. precipitation days||2.0||1.4||1.5||0.8||0.5||0||0||0||0||0.6||0.9||1.9||9.6|
|Source: World Meteorological Organization|
Aqaba is well known for its beach resorts and luxury hotels, which service those who come for diving, fun in the sand as well as watersports like windsurfing and Scuba diving. It also offers activities which take advantage of its desert location. Its many coffee shops offer mansaf and knafeh, and baqlawa desserts. Another very popular venue is the Turkish Bath (Hamam) built in 306AD, in which locals and visitors alike come to relax after a hot day. Aqaba and Wadi Rum are the sites of the annual Jordan – Middle East Distant Heat Festival, an annual electronic dance festival. It takes place on 31 July and 1 August. DJs from Jordan, the Middle East and around the world participate in this unique dance festival. Some famous artists who participate in the festival are Armin Van Buuren, Ferry Corsten, Above & Beyond, and Josh Gabriel.
In 2006, the Tourism Division of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) reported that the number of tourists visiting the Zone in 2006 rose to about 432,000, an increase of 5% over previous year. Approximately 65%, or 293,000 were Jordanians. Of foreign tourists, Europeans visited the Zone in the largest numbers, with about 98,000 visiting during the year. The division has financed tourism advertising and media campaigns with the assistance of the European Union.
Aqaba has been chosen for the site of a new waterfront building project that would rebuild Aqaba with new man-made water structures, new high-rise residential and office buildings, and more tourist services to place Aqaba on the investment map and challenge other centers of waterfront development throughout the region.
The Distant Festival held at Aqaba on the last Thursday of July and the following day at Aqaba and Wadi Rum which features the world's most famous trance and electronica dancers.
Benefiting from its location and status as Jordan's special economic zone, Aqaba's economy is based on the tourism and port industry sectors. The economical growth in Aqaba is higher than the average economical growth in the country. Under the special economic zone status some investments and trades are exempted from taxation, as a result, new resorts, housing developments, and retail outlets are being constructed. New projects such as Tala Bay and Saraya al Aqaba are constructed aiming at providing high-end vacation and residential homes to locals and foreigners alike.
Over twenty billion dollars have been invested in Aqaba since 2001 when the Special Economic Zone was established. Along with tourism projects, Aqaba has also attracted global logistic companies such as APM Terminals and Agility to invest in logistics, which boosted the city's status as a transport and logistics hub.
There are numerous hotels that reside in Aqaba but new hotels are also under construction.
Aqaba is the only seaport of Jordan so virtually all of Jordan's exports depart from here. Heavy machinery industry is also flourishing in the city with regional assembly plants being located in Aqaba such as the Land Rover Aqaba Assembly Plant. By 2006 the ASEZ had attracted $8bn in committed investments, beating its $6bn target by 2020 by a third and more in less than a decade. The goal was adjusted to bring in another $12bn by 2020, but in 2009 alone, deals worth $14bn were inked. Some projects currently under construction are:
- Saraya Aqaba, a $700 million resort with a man made lagoon, luxury hotels, villas, and townhouses that will be completed by 2010.
- Ayla Oasis, a $1 billion resort around a man made lagoon with luxury hotels, villas, a 18-hole golf course. It also has an Arabian Venice theme with apartment buildings built along canals only accessible by walkway or boat. A water park is part of the project. This project will be completed by 2017.
- Tala Bay, a $500 million resort with a manmade lagoon, luxury hotels such as the Hilton and villas. It is already completed. It also has a beach club that hosts the annual Distant Heat Festival, a rave held 1 August.
- Marsa Zayed, a $10 billion marina community that is the largest real estate project in Jordan's history, which maximizes frontage on the Gulf of Aqaba to create a vibrant mixed-use community. Part of the Jordanian government's initiative to double its tourism economy by 2010, Marsa Zayed is designed to help fuel the country's growth by providing more than 300 yacht berths in a luxury marina, a cruise ship terminal and a mix of hotels, apartments, villas and townhouses for more than 50,000 people. This project will be completed by 2017.
- The Red Sea Astrarium, the world's only Star Trek themed park, worth $1.5 billion will be completed by 2014. The park will span 184 acres (74 ha) will include "technologically advanced attractions, five-star accommodation, captivating theatrical productions," and night-time spectacles. The project will include four hotels and provide 500 job opportunities in the coastal city.
- Port relocation. Aqaba's current port will be relocated to the southernmost part of the province near the Saudi border. Its capacity will surpass that of the current port. The project costs $5 billion, and it will be completed by 2013.
- Aqaba will be connected by the national rail system which will be completed by 2013. The rail project will connect Aqaba with all Jordan's main cities and economic centers and several countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria.
- The Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) handled a record 587,530 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2008, an increase of 41.6% on the previous year. To accommodate the rise in trade on the back of the increasing popularity of container shipping and the stabilising political situation in Iraq, the Aqaba Development Corporation (ADC) has announced plans for a new port. The port relocation 20 kilometres (12 miles) to the south will cost an estimated $600m and will improve infrastructure, while freeing up space for development in the city. Plans for upgrading the King Hussein International Airport (KHIA) and the development of a logistics centre will also help position Aqaba as a regional hub for trade and transport.
The city is connected to the rest of Jordan by the Desert Highway and the King's Highway. Aqaba is connected to Eilat, Israel by the Wadi Araba crossing and to Haql, Saudi Arabia by the Durra Border Crossing. There are many bus services between Aqaba and Amman and the other major cities in Jordan. JETT and Trust International are the most common lines. These buses use the Desert Highway. Taxi services are also available between Aqaba and Eilat.
The Arab Bridge Maritime company vessels connect Aqaba to the Egyptian ports of Taba and Nuweiba. More than one million passengers travelled between Aqaba and the ports of Nuweiba and Sharm el-Sheikh by ferries. An Abu Dhabi consortium of companies called 'Al Maabar' has won the bid to relocate and manage the Aqaba Port for 30 years and expand the existing ferry terminal which receives about 1.3 million passengers and thousands of trucks and cars coming from across the shore in Egypt.
On 3 April 2013, Turkish Airlines started operations to Aqaba King Hussein International Airport 3 times a week on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays; being the only airline having international scheduled flights to Aqaba. King Hussein International Airport connects Aqaba to Amman, Sharm el-Sheikh, Dubai and Alexandria and several destinations in Europe. It is the headquarters of the Jordan Aviation Airlines.
The universities and institutes in Aqaba are mostly scheduled to start their first academic semesters in the years 2011–2012:
- Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts
- University of Jordan at Aqaba (2009)
- Aqaba University of Technology (2011)
- American University of Aqaba (2009)
- British University of Aqaba (2009)
- Institute of Banking Studies: Aqaba Branch
Twin towns — Sister cities
- Aqaba Archaeological Museum
- Aqaba Flagpole
- Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority
- Arab Bridge Maritime
- Disi Water Conveyance Project
- Jordan Maritime Authority
- King Hussein International Airport
- Wadi Araba Crossing
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Aqaba.|
- Aqaba Best Free Information Guide
- Traditional Jordanian Folk Song from The Port City of Aqaba
- Aqaba Marketing and Tourism Directorate