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- For the town in the West Bank, see Aqabah, West Bank.
|— City —|
|Jordan, on the Gulf of Aqaba.|
|- Type||Autonomous authority|
|- Chairman of Board of Commissioners||Husni Abu Gheda|
|- Total||144.8 sq mi (375 km2)|
|Population (2008 est.)|
|Data refers to Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority|
|Time zone||Jordan Standard Time (UTC+2)|
|- Summer (DST)||observed (UTC+3)|
Aqaba (Arabic: العقبة, Al-ʻAqabah) is a coastal town in the far south of Jordan. It is the capital of Aqaba Governorate. Aqaba is strategically important to Jordan as it is the country's only seaport. The town borders Eilat, Israel, and there is a border post where it is possible to cross between the two countries (see Wadi Araba Crossing). Both Aqaba and Eilat are at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. The town is best known today as a diving and beach resort. However, industrial activity remains important to the area, and the town is an exporter of phosphate and some shells. The town is also an important administrative center within the far south of Jordan.
Aqaba has been an inhabited settlement since 4000 BC profiting from its strategic location at the junction of trading routes between Asia, Africa, and Europe. The early settlement was presumably Edomite in ancient times. It was a center of the Edomites, and then of the Arab Nabataeans, who populated the region extensively.
The Bible refers to the area in (1 Kings 9:26) "King Solomon also built ships in Ezion-Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shores of the Red Sea." This verse probably refers to an Iron Age port city on the same ground as modern Aqaba.
The Ptolemaic Greeks called it Berenice, and the Romans Aila and Aelana. During Roman times, the great long distance road the Via Traiana Nova led south from Damascus through Amman, terminating in Aqaba, where it connected with a west road leading to Philistia and Egypt.
Soon after the Islamic conquests, it came under the rule of the Islamic Caliphate, and thereafter passed through the hands of such dynasties as the Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids and Mamluks. The early days of the Islamic era saw the construction of the city of Ayla (fr), which was described by the geographer Shams Eddin Muqaddasi as being next to the true settlement, which was lying in ruins close by. The ruins of Ayla (unearthed in the 1980s by an American-Jordanian archeological team) are a few minutes walk north along the main waterfront road.
Some stories in the famous Arabian Nights also refer to Sinbad adventures to take the sea from this port city of Ayla.
During the 12th century, the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem controlled the area and built their fortress of Helim, which remains relatively well-preserved today. In addition to building a stronghold within Aqaba, the Crusaders fortified the small island of Ile de Graye (now known as Pharaoh's Island, near the shore of Sinai), now lies in Egyptian territorial waters about 7 kilometers west of Aqaba.
By 1187, both Aqaba and the island had been recaptured, for Muslim rule, by Saladin. The Mamluks took over in 1250 and rebuilt the fort in the 14th century under one of the last Mamluk sultans, Qansah al-Ghouri.
By the beginning of the 16th century, the Mamluk dynasty had fallen into decline and the area came under the influence of the Turkish/Ottoman Empire. During the following period, the city declined in status, for 400 years remaining a simple fishing village of little significance.
During World War I, the occupying Ottoman forces were forced to withdraw from the town after a raid, known as the Battle of Aqaba, led by T. E. Lawrence and the Arab forces of Sharif Hussein in 1917, making the territory part of the Kingdom of Hejaz, under the rule of Prince Faisal. The capture of Aqaba helped open supply lines from Egypt up to Arab and British forces afield further north in Transjordan and Greater Palestine, and more importantly alleviated a threat of a Turkish offensive onto the strategically important Suez Canal.
In 1965, King Hussein attempted to give Aqaba room to grow by trading land with Saudi Arabia. In return for 6000 square kilometers of desertland in Jordan's interior, the Saudis traded 12 kilometers of prime coastline to the south of Aqaba. In addition to the extra land for expansion of the port, the swap also gave the country access to the magnificent Yamanieh coral reef.
In August 2000, the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority Law was passed by the Jordanian Parliament. The law established the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) as the statutory institution empowered with regulatory, administrative, fiscal and economic responsibilities within the Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ).
On August 20, 2005, an early-morning rocket attack nearly struck a U.S. Navy ship docked there causing damage to nearby facilities in the city; the attack hit the neighboring Israeli port-town of Eilat. Al-Qaeda, or an affiliate, claimed responsibility. .
The census of Aqaba city that was carried by the Jordanian department of statistics in 2007, the results of the census are indicated as follows:
|Demographic data of the city of Aqaba (2007) |
|Aqaba City (2007)||National (2004 census)|
|3||Male : Female ratio||56.1 : 43.9||51.5 : 48.5|
|4||Ratio of Jordanians : Foreign Nationals||82.1 : 17.9||93 : 7|
|5||Number of households||18425||946000|
|6||Persons per houshold||4.9||5.3|
Aqaba is well known for its beach resorts and luxury hotels, which service those who come for fun in the sand as well as watersports like windsurfing and Scuba diving. It also offers activities which take advantage of its desert location. Its many coffee shops offer mansaf and knafeh, and baqlawa desserts. Another very popular venue is the Turkish Bath (Hamam) built in 306AD, in which locals and visitors alike come to relax after a hot day.
In 2006, the Tourism Division of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) reported that the number of tourists visiting the Zone in 2006 rose to about 432,000, an increase of 5% over previous year. Approximately 65%, or 293,000 were Jordanians. Of foreign tourists, Europeans visited the Zone in the largest numbers, with about 98,000 visiting during the year. The division has financed tourism advertising and media campaigns with the assistance of the European Union. 
Aqaba has been chosen for the site of a new waterfront building project that would rebuild Aqaba with new man-made water structures, new high-rise residential and office buildings, and more tourist services to place Aqaba on the investment map and challenge other centers of waterfront development throughout the region.
The Distant Festival held at Aqaba on the last Thursday of July and the following day at Aqaba and Wadi Rum which features the world's most famous trance and electronica dancers.
Aqaba's economy is skyrocketing because of the economic zone. New resorts are being constructed, but most are still on its leveling stage. New projects like Tala Bay and Saraya al Aqaba are well under construction which will provide high-end vacation and residential homes to locals and foreigners alike.
Over twenty billion dollars have been invested in Aqaba since 2001 when the Special Economic Zone was established. Along with tourism projects, Aqaba has also attracted global logistic companies such as APM Terminals and Agility to invest in logistics, which boosted the city's status as a transport and logistics hub.
There are numerous hotels that reside in Aqaba but new hotels are also under construction.
Aqaba is the only seaport of Jordan so virtually all of Jordan's exports depart from here.
Over $20 billion worth of investment is pouring into Aqaba by Gulf and European investors which overshadows Eilat, the prosperous Israeli Red Sea resort only several miles away. By 2006 the ASEZ had attracted $8bn in committed investments, beating its $6bn target by 2020 by a third and more in less than a decade. The goal was adjusted to bring in another $12bn by 2020, but in 2009 alone, deals worth $14bn were inked. Some projects currently under construction are:
- Saraya Aqaba, a $700 million resort with a man made lagoon, luxury hotels, villas, and townhouses that will be completed by 2010.
- Ayla Oasis, a $1 billion resort around a man made lagoon with luxury hotels, villas, a 18-hole golf course. It also has an Arabian Venice theme with apartment buildings built along canals only accessible by walkway or boat. A water park is part of the project. This project will be completed by 2017.
- Tala Bay, a $500 million resort with a manmade lagoon, luxury hotels such as the Hilton and villas. It is already completed. It also has a beach club that hosts the annual Distant Heat Festival, a rave held August 1.
- Marsa Zayed, a $10 billion marina community that is the largest real estate project in Jordan's history, which maximizes frontage on the Gulf of Aqaba to create a vibrant mixed-use community. Part of the Jordanian government's initiative to double its tourism economy by 2010, Marsa Zayed is designed to help fuel the country's growth by providing more than 300 yacht berths in a luxury marina, a cruise ship terminal and a mix of hotels, apartments, villas and townhouses for more than 50,000 people. This project will be completed by 2017. 
- Port relocation. Aqaba's current port will be relocated to the southernmost part of the province near the Saudi border. Its capacity will surpass that of the current port. The project costs $5 billion, and it will be completed by 2013.
- Aqaba will be connected by the national rail system which will be completed by 2013. The rail project will connect Aqaba with all Jordan's main cities and economic centers and several countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Syria.
- The Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) handled a record 587,530 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) in 2008, an increase of 41.6% on the previous year. To accommodate the rise in trade on the back of the increasing popularity of container shipping and the stabilising political situation in Iraq, the Aqaba Development Corporation (ADC) has announced plans for a new port. The port relocation 20 km to the south will cost an estimated $600m and will improve infrastructure, while freeing up space for development in the city. Plans for upgrading the King Hussein International Airport (KHIA) and the development of a logistics centre will also help position Aqaba as a regional hub for trade and transport.
The Hejaz railway system no longer functions for travellers, therefore the popular routes in and out from Aqaba are buses from Amman (and other major Jordanian cities), taxis (to the city of Eilat, Israel, through the Wadi Araba Crossing), boats to Egypt (down the Gulf to the city of Nuweiba or Sharm el-Sheikh) or by air via Aqaba Airport. Direct flights to Aqaba are now available from Amman, Sharm el-Sheikh, Dubai and Alexandria.
Bus services are plentiful between Amman and Aqaba. JETT and Trust International are the most common lines. These buses use the Desert Highway, which features particularly beautiful scenery in the Wadi Rum region and in the descent into Aqaba.
An Abu Dhabi consortium of companies called 'Al Maabar' has won the bid to relocate and manage the Aqaba Port for 30 years and expand the existing ferry terminal which receives about 1.3 million passengers and thousands of trucks and cars coming from across the shore in Egypt.
- Aqaba Flagpole
- Wadi Araba Crossing
- Jordan Maritime Authority
- Lawrence of Arabia
- ↑ http://world-gazetteer.com/wg.php?x=&men=gcis&lng=en&dat=32&geo=-110&srt=npan&col=aohdq&pt=c&va=&srt=pnan
- ↑ Mayhew 2006, p. 218
- ↑ DoS Jordan Aqaba Census
- ↑ http://www.aqabazone.com/files/ANN%20REP%20ENG.pdf
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 http://www.oxfordbusinessgroup.com/publication.asp?country=19
- ↑ Mayhew 2006, p. 226
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