Culture and sightseeing in Aqaba

Jordan’s only coastal city sits on the Gulf of Aqaba and is home to the country’s only seaport. As the gateway city to the famous desert landscapes of Wadi Rum, Aqaba receives a good share of tourists and holds a reputation for rich marine life in its warm Red Sea waters.

The Early Islamic city of Ayla

The early Islamic city of Ayla was built by the Rashedi Caliph Othaman Ben Afan around 650 AD and is notable as the first Islamic city to be built outside the Arabian Peninsula. It served neighbouring Palestine as a port and was also a store house for the Hejaz.  Ayla was once an important stopping place for Egyptian pilgrims on their way to Mecca. Today, right in the heart of Aqaba's seafront hotel district, you can see the remains of city walls, gates, a large mosque and other buildings.  The site is well marked and has informative panels detailing its history and importance.

More details: www.visitjordan.com

Aqaba Castle

According to an early inscription, the Mamluk castle was built in the early 16th century. Semi-circular towers flank the entrance, and the coat of arms of the Hashemite family can be seen above the entrance. The excavation of the historical city of Ayla is close by and within the reach of the resort's guests It can be visited at any time of the day.

More details: www.visitjordan.com

Early Church at Aqaba

In one of the most exciting discoveries in recent times, archaeologists in Aqaba have unearthed what they believe to be the world's oldest church, from the late 3rd century AD.

It is slightly older than the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, both of which date back to the 4th century. The church is found on a plot of land east of Istiklal Street and is now backfilled with earth for protection.

Petra, a legacy of the Nabataeans

Jordan's best-known tourist attraction, Petra, is one of the great wonders of the Middle Eastern world - a city that was carved straight into solid rock. It unfolds grandly after a two kilometre (1.2 mile) walk through a very narrow chasm adding to its mystery and grandeur. Built during the 5th and 6th centuries BC, Petra is the ruined capital of the Nabatean Arabs. Its immense façades were lost for almost 1000 years until they were rediscovered by the Swiss traveller Johan Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. Today, there are still many sites to see including the el Khazneh (The Treasury) monument, which is a giant tomb carved out of rock, the Temple of the Winged Lions, the al-Deir (Monastery) and the small Archaeological Museum, which displays artefacts found at Petra during the 19th and 20th centuries.

  • Open daily from 6.00 am
  • Evening candlelight experiences
  • Tickets for one, two or three days

More details: www.visitjordan.com

Madaba Historical City

On the 5,000-year-old King’s Highway is Madaba, City of Mosaics, dating from the Middle Bronze Age. Here, in the Greek Orthodox Church of St George, is the 6th-century Byzantine mosaic map showing the region from Jerusalem to the Nile.

  • Historic Middle Bronze Age site
  • Church with a famous mosaic map
  • Traditional arts and crafts

More details: www.visitjordan.com

Aqaba Cultural Centre

According to an early inscription, the Mamluk castle was built in the early 16th century. Semi-circular towers flank the entrance, and the coat of arms of the Hashemite family can be seen above the entrance. The excavation of the historical city of Ayla is in Aqaba  and within the reach of the resort's guests It can be visited at any time of the day.

  • City center shopping
  • Cultural site-seeing
  • Dive activities

More details: www.visitjordan.com