"To Aqaba," cried Peter O’Toole in Sam Lean’s epic film, Lawrence of Arabia, filmed in Jordan’s Wadi Rum. Those immortal words are bound to ring in your ears as you float into this historic port. Of course, Lawrence and the mounted Bedouin tribes of the Arab Revolt would have approached the town across the desert rather than by sea and would therefore have missed the spectacular vista enjoyed by cruise ship passengers, of the becalmed Gulf of Aqaba, ringed by auburn desert mountains. Some of Aqaba’s old history remains amid the elegant new resorts of Jordan’s beloved seaside town.
Aqaba is the only access by sea to Jordan – and what a sea it is! With spectacular underwater coral reefs and gorgeous sandy beaches, it’s little wonder people flock here for rest and relaxation. Aqaba is also the port of entry for visiting Petra, Jordan’s best-known tourist attraction and one of the official new seven wonders of the world. Carved out of the soft, rose-coloured sandstone, the ‘Pink City’ is quite simply a must-see.
• Siq: Feel dwarfed by the towering cliffs of Petra’s famous canyon.
• Treasury: Gasp at the sight of this giant tomb, glimpsed at the end of the siq.
• Monastery: Sip tea opposite this iconic tomb as the setting sun draws out its true colours.
• Wadi Rum: Ride a camel across this magnificent sand desert, home of Jordan’s nomadic Bedouin.
Jordan Tourism Board in the UK
Kennedy House, 1st Floor, 115 Hammersmith Road, London W14 0QH, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 20737 16496.
Jordan has a rich craft heritage and many cottage industries survive under royal patronage, ensuring that skills in weaving, embroidery and mosaic-making continue to thrive in the modern marketplace. Uniquely Jordanian souvenirs include kilims (hand-woven rugs), miniature mosaics, painted or tattooed ostrich eggs and bottles of coloured sand with intricate designs. Aqaba is a particularly good place to buy beads and silver Bedouin jewellery.
While the evening away over different meze (small starters such as hummus, foul, kube and tabouleh) or try Aqaba’s famous fish dish called sayadieh, served with rice, tomatoes and onions.
When to go:
Aqaba is balmy and beautiful with occasional rain from October to April and miserably hot and humid in summer (June-August). Petra, in the hills, is cooler year round and receives occasional snow. Wadi Rum is hot and dry by day and bitterly cold at night.
2.5km (1.5 miles).