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Jordan’s single deep-water port is perhaps best known as the gateway to Petra, the awe-inspiring city of stone carved into the side of rocky, arid hillsides. But Aqaba too is home to plenty of striking natural beauty; a neat port town surrounded by clear, deep blue seas that sit in beautiful contrast to the rugged desert landscape beyond.
Visitors to Apra will find no lack of history during their time ashore. Cruises may offer guided excursions to popular destinations like historic Petra, as well as tours that trace the path of the archaeologist-turned-war-hero Lawrence of Arabia – whose capture of Aqaba earned him a promotion to major.
The port itself offers plenty of things to see and do, and many cruises may give you the option to customise your own experience during your visit to Aqaba – with a private rental vehicle to take you to the sights you want to see. During your private, tailored excursion you might wish to visit the archaeological museum, or the ruins of the 13th-century Mamluk fort; alternatively, the marine park’s rich surrounding waters and comprehensive visitor facilities make the perfect attraction for those with a love of the aquatic.
A trip to Jordan wouldn’t be complete without seeing the incredible city of Petra, carved out of the pink sandstone of the surrounding hills. Travel by horse-drawn carriage through a narrow, mile-long canyon before the town opens up before you – a true wonder of the world that boasts close to a thousand monuments, hollowed out of solid rock. The Treasury is often the most popular building to see, with towering columns and intricate cresting making for a spectacular historic marvel – not least when night falls, where its courtyards and desert pathways take on a magical air in a sea of candlelight.
Tour the sites of some of T. E. Lawrence’s famous exploits on a 4x4 adventure through the deserts of Jordan. See the jaw-dropping formations of the Valley of the Moon before you journey on past rippled dunes and jagged, jutting outcrops like Seven Pillars of Wisdom Mountain. After visiting fascinating sites of ancient Jordanian rock art you’ll have the chance to experience even more of this country’s rich heritage during a stay with Bedouin tribespeople. After sharing a welcome cup of tea or coffee with your nomadic hosts in their tent, you’ll begin your journey back to the pier in Aqaba itself.
Equally historic is the shopping in Aqaba, where antiquity and native culture come to the fore. Why not browse the town’s bookshops for rare titles, or volumes in various European languages? Alternatively, visit some of the area’s jewellers for traditional and less-than-traditional necklaces and earrings – or browse stores for clothes, ceramics and other local handicrafts.
There are plenty of places to dine in Aqaba, whether you’re looking for a trendy, popular restaurant serving locally-caught seafood or a more exclusive fine-dining experience on the seafront. If it’s a quick stop-off you’re looking for whilst sightseeing, or maybe just a little refreshment, there are plenty of coffee houses and vendors selling traditional pastries and sweets. Alternatively, there are also restaurants serving Syrian, Chinese or Mediterranean cuisine, right in the heart of the Middle East.
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