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Aqaba

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Southern Desert : Aqaba
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Aqaba city view

Aqaba (العقبة al-ʿAqabah) [1] is Jordan's only port city, located on the Gulf of Aqaba in the extreme south of the country.

Understand

Aqaba is Jordan's window on the Red Sea. Historically the same city as Eilat on the Israeli side of the border, plans for a shared international airport and other forms of cooperation have cooled down in the past few years during a period of political tension. Aqaba has seen a lot of development in the last few years. This has improved the infrastructure and facilities. Be prepared for road maps to be incorrect/out of date.

Get in

By boat

Ferries run regularly from Aqaba across to Nuweiba on Egypt's Sinai peninsula, bypassing Israel and the sometimes complicated border arrangements. Generally there is no visa fee for entering Jordan through Aqaba since it is a part of the free trade zone. The line to Nuweiba is operated by ABMaritime, see their website for the 'official' timetable and current prices.

There is more information about the boat crossing in the itinerary Ferries in The Red Sea

By bus or car

The Desert Highway terminates in Aqaba. There are frequent buses to Amman and other points along the highway. Fare is currently 7 JD each way.

Amman to Aqaba is about 350km using the Desert Highway. It will take about 4 hours to travel this distance at a reasonable speed. Do remember that service/fuel stops are not very frequent on this road.

The Israeli border at Arava (for Eilat) is only a short hop away. The Saudi Arabian checkpoint is also visible on a clear day, but visitors without a visa can only look.

If you are planning to come to Aqaba directly from northern Israel (e.g. from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Be'er Sheva, etc.) by catching an Egged bus to Eilat, you should ask the driver to let you off at the "Eilot stop to Jordan", which is the last stop before the Egged station in Eilat, and then walk the <1km to the border checkpoint.

By air

Royal Jordanian operates 2 daily flights between Amman and Aqaba, one in the morning and one in the evening. Duration of the flight is approximately 1 hour and costs 37 JD + tax one-way.

The King Hussein International Airport is located north of Aqaba, about a 20-minute drive.

By taxi

Minibus rental with driver from Petra costs 45 JD and it takes about 2 hours to get from Petra to Aqaba.

If you are coming from Eilat, Israel, you will cross through the Yitzhak Rabin Terminal. This is open Sunday-Thursday from 6:30 to 20:00 (8 p.m.) and Friday-Saturday from 8:00 to 20:00, except for Yom Kippur and the Moslem New Year. The fee to exit is 101 NIS (Dec 2011). For citizens of most countries (including U.S.), you can get a two-week Jordanian visa at the border, but some countries' citizens are subject to other requirements, so check in advance. If you leave Aqaba through this border, you also have to pay an exit tax of 8 JOD (Dec 2011).

Taxis at the border belong to one company, which has a monopoly, and is therefore much more expensive than a typical Jordanian taxi: 10 JOD (Dec 2011) for a 15-minute ride to the Aqaba bus station. Going the other way from Aqaba city center to the border can be done for 4-5 JOD. If you are on a budget, you will probably want to take the border taxi into town and switch to another taxi to continue on, especially if your hotel is in the South Beach resort area.

Border Taxi Mafia

There is a problematic man running the taxi service, which has been likened to the "Mafia", just outside the customs gate. As soon as you see him, he will let you know that sharing a taxi is not allowed (three men were forced to take three separate taxis in Dec 2011). If you want to share a taxi, you must form your group before exiting the customs area and insist that you are all part of the same group.

Also, if he sees you call your hotel or any other car to come and pick you up, they may be stopped and forced to go back to Aqaba. The man has said, "we will close their hotel" and "we will take their driving license". To try and avoid this, call your hotel or private car while still in the customs area, before being seen by the taxi man. You could also try calling taxi driver Mohammed Shabatat, 0786974065. (basic English, friendly) and offering 5 JOD into town, or 40 JOD to Petra/Wadi Musa.

For those trying to walk the 500 meters to the main road, the taxi mafia has connections with the military personnel and may have you brought back.

Get around

By taxi

Taxis are easily available in the city. A ride within town should cost no more than 2 JD. A ride outside town (to a beach near by or to any border crossings) costs around 5 JD. However, if your hotel calls you a taxi, you may end up paying double for it as they receive a kickback (this is especially true if you are staying on the South Beach).

While taxis are yellow all around Jordan, early 2008 Aqaba taxis have been painted green and blue: the logo colours of Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ).

When negotiating the price of a taxi, make sure to determine whether the final cost is the total or "per-person" price, as you may otherwise receive a surprise at the end of the ride.

By local buses

Local minibuses connect residential areas with downtown. The fare is 17 Piasters (170 Fils or 0.17 JD) regardless of the length of the journey. Passengers can get on and off at any point of the route. The central bus station is located in front of the Police station in King Talal street, less than 10 min walk from city centre (ayla square, Al-Hussein Bin Ali Mosque).

See

  • Aqaba Fort. Originally dating to the 14'th century, although the present structure was built by the Mamluke sultan Qansawh el-Ghawri (1501-1516) and has been revised many times since then.
  • Ayla, (next to the Mövenpick resort). The old city that was established when Islam came to the area in 622 AD. free.
  • The oldest purpose-built Christian church in history, (across the street from the JETT bus station, which is just west of the Mövenpick hotel.). A posted sign gives a little bit of information on the church.

Do

Except the sea and diving, Aqaba doesn't have a lot of things to offer. The following could be of interest but could easily be done in one day.

  • Aqaba Fort/Castle
  • Aqaba museum, 1jd in feb 2011
  • Fourth century roman church

To get money, there are many ATM on Al-Hammamat Al-Tunisyaa street in city centre.

Spa

  • Zara Spa, Mövenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay Aqaba, South Beach Road - Tala Bay Area, P.O. Box 2425, +962 3 209 0300 (, fax: +962 3 209 0301), [2]. 9.00 am – 9.00 pm. As well as a sauna, steam room and a hydro pool with skylight, Zara Spa Tala Bay offers the latest in spa facilities. Included is an "ice fountain" designed to stimulate circulation and tighten the skin. A variety of fragrances and coloured lighting effects are available for showers and also supposedly designed to increase blood circulation. A hair salon, a nail studio and a shop with a variety of beauty care products are also on premises.

Scuba diving

  • Intel.Arab Divers Village, South Beach Road (South Of Aqaba), +962 (3) 2031808 (), [3]. 24. 35 JD for introduction dive, 40 JD for 2 dives.
  • Red Sea Dive Center, South Beach Road (South Of Aqaba), +962 (3) 2022323 (, fax: +962 (3) 202 2323), [4]. 24. 40 JD for introduction dive, 40 JD for 2 dives.

Eat

  • Casalingo, Mövenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay Aqaba, South Beach Road - Tala Bay Area, P.O. Box 2425, Aqaba 77110, (), [5]. 6.30 pm – 11.30 pm. The Italian restaurant has a distinguished Mediterranean contemporary decoration with a live cooking counter and wooden fire pizza oven. Casalingo serves authentic Italian dishes, seasonal specialties and piping hot pizza and a selection of fine wines will compliment the specialities, prepared by our Italian master chef. Guests can enjoy their dinner on the terrace or in the air conditioned restaurant.
  • Red Sea Grill, Mövenpick Resort & Residence Aqaba, King Hussein Street, P. Box 678, 77110 Aqaba, +962 3 203 40 20 (, fax: +962 3 203 40 40), [6]. 7.00 pm - midnight. Open during the summer months for dinner only, the Red Sea Grill serves up some of Aqaba's best fresh seafood specialties. These include grilled fresh fish and shellfish dishes combined with an Afro-Arab cooking twist in one of the best locations in the country. Complete with magnificent panoramic view of the Gulf of Aqaba from our popular terrace restaurant located on the hotel's private beach.
  • * Alerzal restaurant, Aqaba Gate complex, +962 3 201 3 733 (), [7]. Al-Erzal Lebanese Restaurant strategically located at the northern shores of the Red Sea (Gulf of Aqaba) inside the Aqaba Gate Complex, offering their guest a variety of Lebanese dishes and Mezza along with Sea Food and Barbeque delights. Truly it's the finest Lebanese restaurant in Aqaba; fine food can be enjoyed in the restaurant where they offer both inside and outside setting, or on the Harmattan Boat where they offer lunch and dinner cruise in the Gulf of Aqaba, for an added excitement, guests can experience the beautiful Corals of the Red Sea when diving (onboard we have certified diving instructors) http://alerzal.com .


  • One of the finest, The Royal Yacht Club. It is situated next to the water in an upscale neighbourhood. They serve exquisite fare (mostly seafood fresh from the sea) for prices that are reasonable by Western standards. Service is fast and courteous. Note however that they are not open all afternoon, but only reopens at dinner, so not available for a mid afternoon snack after coming from the beach.


  • Not far from the Yacht Club, situated behind McDonald's, is a very nice restaurant/bar called "35 Degrees East" (Aqaba's longitude), which is open during the afternoon and serves very well prepared Western food (including steaks and seafood) for prices that are also reasonable by Western standards, though higher than many other restaurants in Jordan. This is also a great place to get a good photo (from land) of yourself with the famous Aqaba flagpole in the background, without it being obscured by trees.
  • * Syrian palace restaurant, P.o.Box 1527 - Jordan - Aqaba // on Raghadan Street, Hayl al madina, Al Awsat (At the right side of Al Shuala Hotel when you are looking to the hotel), (fax: 314788).

In the center of the city one can find very good hummus, Falafel and Shwarma (lamb meat in pita bread) places in many local restaurants. Prices starts form 1.5 JD for a Showarma dish.

Drink

You can ask for fresh fruit juices in most restaurants, and they are a treat! Many also serve the lemon juice with fresh mint in it, and it is very delicious.

Sleep

Budget

  • Intel.Arab Divers Village, 11Km from Aqaba city centre along South Beach, 00962 797085623 (fax: 00962 3 2030566), [8]. www.aqaba-divevillage.com TVs in rooms, free wi-fi, pools for paddling, full diving equipment available including PADI courses. Extremely relaxed, loads of chill out spaces including roof of Village, Bedouin tent type cushioned areas, loungers by pool, seconds from the beach and chilled atmosphere. Extremely good value for money, but expect basic room provisions. Shisha pipes available but no alcohol, although they are happy for you to drink on site. Really quiet, great escape from bustle of Aqaba city itself. Shipwreck to dive at and corals. Ideal for single travellers, as there is good communal space to meet others. It is a drive out of town, but with really decent food and the beach a stone's throw away, it's a haven. 30 JD triples and full range of other prices also, includes breakfast. Camping available.
  • Dune Village, 00962 (0) 78 8378 914. Is located 12 km east of Aqaba's center, and offers singles\double\shared rooms with breakfast included. The places also offers scuba diving equipment and guided dives. The place organizes transportation for guests to/from airport and border crossings. 7.5-17 JD PP.
  • Dweik Hotel. Small rooms, but bathrooms are in good condition. Some rooms have TV, with access to satellite channels, but you do have to get the front desk to tune the satellite for you. 20 JD.
  • Jordan Flower Hotel. 10 JD singles/12 JD doubles/14 JD doubles with bath/16 JD triples.
  • Nairoukh Hotel. 10 JD singles/15 JD doubles/20 JD triples.
  • Bedouin Garden Village, 11Km from Aqaba city centre along South Beach, 00962 777 627 933 (fax: 00962 3 2034081), [9]. www.Bedouin-hotels.com TVs in rooms, free wi-fi, pools for paddling, full diving equipment available including taster courses. Extremely relaxed, loads of chill out spaces including roof gardens, Bedouin tent type cushioned areas, loungers by pool, seconds from the beach and chilled atmosphere. Extremely good value for money, but expect basic room provisions. Shisha pipes available but no alcohol, although they are happy for you to drink on site. Really quiet, great escape from bustle of Aqaba city itself. Shipwreck to dive at and corals. Ideal for single travellers, as there is good communal space to meet others. It is a drive out of town, but with really decent food and the beach a stone's throw away, it's a haven. 45 JD triples and full range of other prices also, includes breakfast. Camping available.
  • Amer hotel, Raghadan Street, Hayl al madina, Al Awsat. clean, satellite tv, no breakfeast, no internet, fan/ac, bathroom, lot of noise (near mosquee, shops, restaurants, some strange phone calls) 15 JD singles/25 JD doubles, Feb 2011.

Mid-range

Splurge

  • Mövenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay Aqaba, South Beach Road - Tala Bay Area, P.O. Box 2425, Aqaba 77110, +962 3 209 0300 (, fax: +962 3 209 0301), [10]. checkin: 15:00 hrs; checkout: 12:00 hrs. The Mövenpick Resort & Spa Tala Bay Aqaba is a striking new property on the idyllic southern shores of the Red Sea, an area blessed with year round sunshine. 302 rooms, including 145 family rooms, various suites and two Grand Suites all share a generous and modern design and light-coloured furnishings. All rooms have air-conditioning, TV, coffee and tea making facilities, direct dial phone/voice-mail, wireless LAN throughout the resort as well as hairdryer, 24-hour room service, in-room safe box. Superior rooms and suites allow for added comfort. Non-smoking rooms and rooms for the physically challenged are also available upon request. A special benefit is the free minibar, available in all rooms. Rates starting from JOD 99.00++.
  • Mövenpick Resort & Residence Aqaba, King Hussein Street, P. Box 678, 77110 Aqaba, +962 3 203 40 20 (), [11]. checkin: 15:00 hrs; checkout: 12:00 hrs. Located in the centre of Aqaba, overlooking the Red Sea, the Mövenpick Resort & Residence is a high-quality resort hotel. This architectural delight features a mix of European and Arabesque designs, with a feeling of grandeur and luxury. All 296 rooms, suites and apartments include self-controlled air conditioning and heating, satellite TV, direct-dial phone with voice mail, public wifi throughout the resort, coffee and tea-making facilities, hairdryer, complimentary minibar, and a safe. Our lavish suites comprise additional amenities and a balcony or terrace from which you can enjoy remarkable views of the country's world-renowned archeological sites, the Gulf of Aqaba and neighbouring countries. Guests staying at the residence also enjoy access to all facilities of the resort without limitations. Connecting rooms, non-smoking rooms, and rooms for the physically challenged are also available on request. Rates starting from JOD 88.00++. (29°31'56.37N,)
  • Radisson Blu Tala Bay, South Beach (Head South from Aqaba), +962 (3) 209 0777, [12]. New luxury hotel south of Aqaba. Has very nice swimming pools, restaurants and beach. All the services to be expected at a 4/5* hotel.

Get out

Please note, it could be difficult to get mini-bus on friday which is prayers' day and both friday/saturday when there is no school. Try to check it with police, bus station and your hotel.

Daytrips

Most destinations that are not north of Amman can be reached on a day trip. You can set up your own flexible day trips by hiring a taxi for the day. Make sure when you set up the trip that you have agreed on the destinations to be included in the trip (or you may need to discuss your price while on the road and do not have other options that your current driver).

  • Kerak — site of a once-mighty Crusader castle
  • Madaba — known for its mosaic map of Jerusalem
  • Petra — Jordan's top attraction, an ancient city carved out of sandstone and one of the new 7 Wonders.
  • Wadi Rum — barren, isolated and beautiful, granite cliffs contrasting with desert sand
  • Dead Sea — The lowest point on earth and the most saline sea
  • Dana Nature Reserve — Stay in a village little changed since the 15th century, enjoy unforgettable hiking in an offshoot of the Great Rift.


Aqaba is relatively close to both Wadi Rum and Petra. Public buses go to both. Alternatively, there are a lot of tour companies around town who would happily arrange excursions, in particular to Wadi Rum. Petra will take 2.5 hours by car.

To Egypt (Nuweiba)

Ferries to Egypt are operated by AB Maritime. The schedule changes rapidly with cancellations common, so its recommended to check it when you arrive in Aqaba. As of November 20th 2011

  • The fast ferry is not operating
  • There is a slow ferry departing Aqaba at 1pm
  • There is a slow ferry departing Aqaba at 1am

This will change based on seasonal loadings. The approximate cost for foreigners is US$65 + JOD5 departure fee.

Pay the departure fee on the ground floor of the terminal building, then take the coupon upstairs for immigration purposes. After copious amounts of stamping, you can go and wait outside.

It is also recommended that you ring the AB Maritime ferry office to confirm the departure time for that day. Delays of several hours are common and sometimes known in advance.

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