In the 10th century, a Muslim traveler described Aqaba as ‘a great city’ and a meeting place of pilgrims en route to and from Mecca. From as early as the 10th to 5th centuries BC, it was at the heart of ancient trade routes transporting copper ore, smelted from mines in Wadi Araba, and transported by King Solomon’s fleets to far-flung destinations. Ceramics from China and coins from Ethiopia highlight the cosmopolitan nature of the port throughout its early history. Thereafter the Egyptians, Nabataeans and Romans all found their uses for ‘Ayla’, as it came to be known, and the discovery of a late-3rd-century purpose- built church – one of the oldest in the world – is suggestive of a prosperous community, embracing of change.
The castle was built between 1510 and 1517, as attested by the Arabic inscriptions inside the monumental gateway, and was used as a khan (travelers’ inn) for pilgrims on their way to Mecca. The Ottomans occupied the castle until WWI when, in 1917, the fortress was substantially destroyed by shelling from the British Royal Navy. The Hashemite coat of arms above the main entrance commemorates the Arab Revolt that swept through Aqaba, ousting the Turks. The fort is located next to the Aqaba Flagpole which carries the flag of the Arab revolt again the Ottomans
The museum, part of the Aqaba Fort complex, was previously the home of the great-great-grandfather of the present king, Abdullah II. The collection of artifacts includes coins, ceramics and 8th-century Islamic stone tablets.
Aqaba Bird Observatory
The Aqaba city, with its unique location between the Sinai desert and the Middle East, has become an oasis where migrating birds rest during their long journey. The Jordanian Society for Sustainable Development (JSSD) decided in 2003 to establish lagoons for bird watching at the natural waste-water purification plant. The lagoons are magnificent sites that attract many birdwatchers from around the world especially during periods of migration. There are more than 150 types of bird in these lagoons in addition to 90 migrating species. They include little grebe, the gray heron, the squacco heron, black stork and the white stork.
Green Creations started in December of 2009 as a World Associates project. The purpose of GC is to train individuals to use recycled materials to create green income generating products: beads, jewelry, bags, bowls, purses, baskets and more.
Noor Al-Hussein Foundation Shop
For a fine selection of handicrafts, it’s worth calling in on the Noor Al-Hussein Foundation shop, located in the Aqaba Fort complex, opposite the museum. Profits help support marginalized communities throughout Jordan. Items include silver jewelry from Wadi Musa, petroglyph designs from Wadi Rum, kilims, clothes, embroidery, basketware and ceramics.
Sharif Hussein Bin Ali Mosque
This beautiful and majestic white mosque is located between the souk and the beach. The mosque is named after the great grandfather of King Abdullah II.