Our last day in Jordan… For the previous two we succeeded to visit the main points in the plan, namely Petra and Wadi Rum. Our flight it was in the evening and we had almost a whole day for a leisurely and relaxing walk around Aqaba, after endless walking and climbing in recent days.
Where is located and how to get there
Aqaba was our base camp on this trip. It’s located in the southwestern part of Jordan and is the most important port in the country. Near the city are two of the main attractions of the Arab country – the rock city Petra (125 km) and the Wadi Rum desert (70 km).
The best option for traveling to Aqaba is by flight to the small local airport. Several low-cost airlines offer flights to the city at very affordable prices, which definitely opens the door wide for the development of local tourism.
The city itself is small and except to get from the airport to the center, you will not need transportation elsewhere. If you don’t have a reserved car rental, transfer from the hotel or personal driver for your stay in Jordan, the taxi fares on this route are 10-15 JD.
More about Aqaba
Located between the two continents (Asia and Africa) and on the Red Sea coast, the appetizing region has been inhabited since the 10th century BC, and later formed as an important trade center. Many military conflicts and riots mark the period of development of Aqaba in the 20th century, but today it seems that these times are stay of the past. The city began to form as a desirable tourist destination and drastically changed its infrastructure. Huge areas around the center are being renovated, and new and modern buildings are being built in short time.
Walk around the center – on Al-Hammamat Al-Tunisiyah
This main street is the heart of the city. It’s located between two of the main crossroads of Aqaba. We start the walk from Princess Haya Circle. The roundabout is beautifully ennobled and is one of the most photographed places in Aqaba. It resembles an artificial lake, and an oasis of palm trees has sprung up in it. Completely renovated in recent years to show the development of infrastructure in relation to tourism.
In the middle of the traffic lane is the city park. Lots of greenery, shady trees and water cascades. Favorite place for a walk of the locals! The park covers almost the entire space between the two roundabouts. The second round (Great Arab Revolt Circle) is more spacious and accessible to pedestrians and is designated as a park area.
Walk around the center – on King Hussein
This is the main road in the city and the main street along the Red Sea coast. Countless palm trees adorn the boulevard and contribute to the color of the city. On one side is the promenade around the central beach, and on the other there are mostly hotels, but also the biggest attraction in the city – the central mosque of Aqaba (Sharif Hussein bin Ali Mosque). The shining white stone, the exquisite arches and the high minarets are visible from afar! The mosque is named after the leader of the Arab uprising that led to the creation of Jordan and is a symbol of strength and power. And cranes almost as tall as minarets are an integral part of the landscapes of Aqaba.
💡 Needless to show you the many shops with goods on the streets, they are a must in almost every Asian country. Jordan is no exception, and some of the best places to shop are the streets behind the central mosque, particularly Raghadan and Zahran. There you can find all kinds of souvenirs, local herbs, spices, nuts, jewelry and a bunch of other things. A prerequisite for shopping in them is to bargain!
The fortress of Aqaba
Imperceptibly, the walk reaches the most emblematic landmark in the city – the fortress! I admit, the place didn’t look the way I imagined. The area is being renovated and I guess its appearance will soon be much friendlier. This is one of the few preserved historical monuments in Aqaba. It was built by the Crusaders in the 12th century and later played a key role in the success of the Arab uprising against the Ottoman Empire.
The central beach – Al-Ghandour Beach
Right next to the fortress is the central beach of Aqaba. It is intended mainly for locals who bathe with clothes in the water. Tourists are rare, and they themselves quickly give up sunbathing after the many looks at them. Another factor that can turn you off is dirt… The shore and the water are extremely dirty! The private beaches of the luxury hotels and the southern beach, which is a few kilometers from the center, are designed for tourists. Although not very suitable for sunbathing, the beach promenade is one of the most pleasant places to walk.
Diving is one of the most interesting things that can be done in Aqaba! There are many clubs that offer the service. The seabed of the Red Sea is one of the most impressive to see and definitely worth the activity. Especially if you have enough time to descend 14 km south to the Japanese Gardens and the sunken ship, where the experience is even more memorable.
Boat with transparent bottom
Unfortunately, we didn’t have that much time, and diving before the flight is not recommended and we were satisfied with the quick option to explore part of the sea depths – a boat with a glass bottom. This is a popular service in Aqaba and there are many local boatmen who offer it. The beach next to the fortress is the perfect place to rent a boat. The trips usually take place in the bay, not far from the shore and last around 30 minutes. The price varies, but most often it is in the range of 20 JD for 4 people or 5 JD per person. Since there were almost no people willing to trip, we managed to buy a 20-minute tour for 4 at a price of 10 JD!
Our guide played some music and started the engine… We were able to see some of the marine diversity at the seabed – corals, various fish and sea urchins. It’s impossible to see some more beautiful coral reefs, but we were satisfied with that. One of the most interesting things about the walk is the passage over a sunken tank, which is only 6 meters deep and is perfectly preserved.
We decided to continue the walk to the port of Aqaba. We toured the parked boats and sat down at one of the modern bars (Joy House), to have a refreshing drink. The port separates the public beach from the more luxurious hotels with private beaches. Some of them are Movenpick Beach, Kempinski hotel and InterContinental hotel.
Eating – Rakwet Kanaan
Food in Aqaba is essential! We had two evenings available to visit some of the local places (on landing day and after Petra). In the city has a huge variety of restaurants, many of which are concentrated around As-Saadeh Street.
We had liked Rakwet Kanaan and visited it the first night. We tried different things and everything was very tasty! A wide variety of dishes are available, and the staff are friendly and happy to guide you to something good. Prices are normal for Jordan and for around 15 JD a person can eat well. The atmosphere is also very nice. We also tried their hookahs, which were good! We returned to them for dessert and hookah after a walk around the port.
Eating – Papaya
We also tried another restaurant – Papaya. The atmosphere inside is more like a cafe, but the food was very tasty and the prices even an idea lower than Rakwet. I liked the way the skewers were served, directly with the barbecue, and I couldn’t miss to order. We tried some local snacks and their fish. Everything was great! Of course, we didn’t miss to try their hookah!
Panoramic walk at sunset
Our trip to Jordan was coming to an end… Mahmoud, our driver, wanted to take us on a panoramic tour of the city before taking us to the airport. Take us along the new neighborhoods and the surrounding roads of Aqaba. He showed us the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, built in 2014, whose project is funded by the UAE and to some extent copies that in Abu Dhabi. He stopped us at several high points, which revealed a great view over Aqaba, the nearby Israeli city of Eilat and of course… Red Sea!
For a final
Aqaba is a developing city, whose prosperity and tourist peak is yet to come! The infrastructure is developing rapidly, and the attitude of the locals towards tourists hints at the available potential of the city. The infrastructure is developing rapidly, and the attitude of the locals towards tourists hints at the available potential of the city. It’s ideal as a main point for visits to Petra and Wadi Rum, which are a must stop for every tourist in Jordan! It’s worth spending a few hours… to visit one of the modern restaurants, wander the streets and a little talk with the locals, who are always willing to talk to you, and have already learned some words on Bulgarian…