Aqaba is a beach lover’s wonderland, with many wonderful family-friendly resorts, and five star hotels that offer lots of activities for everyone.
You can relax on the beach and enjoy the spectacular views, or go wild with a waterskiing lesson or a parasailing flight. If you prefer to keep your feet dry, then why not go for a glass bottom boat tour? The Red Sea is known for its great variety of reef types. If you prefer to be immersed in it all, then you can opt for a trip on the neptune, which is a submarine-like boat that actually takes you underwater for spectacular views of the natural aquarium beneath the surface.
Diving is the number one attraction in Aqaba. Choose from over 20 dive sites, most of which are within the port of the Aqaba Marine Park; an organisation that is responsible for protecting the coral reefs and maintaining safety standards. Recommended dive centres include Ahlan Aqaba Scuba Diving Centre and Sea Guard Tours. Beginners should start out at Ras al Yamanya, a site that drops from standing depth to 5m, and then to 30m and offers a great diversity of species including lionfish, pipefish and crazy-looking nudibranchs. More experienced divers can try the Power Station for sharks and moray eels, or the famous wreck -the Cedar Pride- while those on the lookout for the gorgeous hawksbill turtle should try Black Rock or the King Abdullah Reef. Almost all the sites are accessible from the shore, which means they are ideal for snorkelers too. Try the First Bay area for its beautiful shallow fringing reef or take a boat and visit the Japanese Gardens, where a depth of up to 6m yields a large area of coral, some of which reaches up to the surface.
Aqaba is a duty-free zone so you’ll get the best prices on everything from liquor to electronica and even Dead Sea skincare products. Shops all over town offer handcrafted pottery and glass, textiles, home remedies and traditional Bedouin jewellery , but some of the best souvenirs of Aqaba are found at the spice stalls and nut shops. Cashews, almonds and pistachios are abundant and irresistibly cheap, or follow your nose to find cardamom, saffron and the classic Jordanian spice mix zaatár.
The largest retail and entertainment complex in the city is the Aqaba Gateway, which offers high quality goods all exempted form taxes. Or to meet the locals visit the Shweikh Mall, which is especially popular at weekends. And for a fabulous Friday evening institution, head to the Souk by the Sea — behind the Movenpick Resort & Residences — where you can fill your shopping basket with goodies from over 50 local artisans or just chill out with a mint tea and get yourself a henna tattoo.
For Art lovers, Arts of Sham Countries Art Gallery is a must see, it is a gallery that showcases the ancient and rich civilization and culture of the sham countries (Jordan, Syria, Palestine and Lebanon).
Get a sense of Aqaba’s history with a visit to the fort, also known as Aqaba Castle or Mamluk Castle. This was the scene of a great Arab victory in 1917, when the Arab Revolt, along with Lawrence of Arabia, overcame the Turkish occupation. Alongside the fort is Aqaba’s Archeological Museum, housed in the former palace of Sharif Hussein bin Ali (founder of the Hashemite dynasty). Displays include artifacts dating back to the Bronze Age that were excavated in and around Aqaba.