This ancient port city bustles with trade traffic and an undeniable energy, connecting Jordan with other parts of the world. Aqaba is home to many resorts and beachy activities like windsurfing and snorkeling. Scuba divers will call Aqaba their paradise, where the warmth of the water and crystal visibility make for incredible Red Sea wreck diving.
While stopped in Aqaba on an India cruise, you’ll find historic and cultural activities around every corner. Take a trip beyond Aqaba to the ancient ruins of Petra, an archaeological icon of pink stone that has long been Jordan’s most famous site. Don’t miss Wadi Rum, a famously protected desert where dunes, mountains, and wilderness collide. Stand in awe of the site where Lawrence of Arabia was said to have passed through in the early 20th century. Beyond the natural wonders of this part of Jordan, you’ll find a truly warm-natured city where tradition collides with modern life on your Aqaba cruise.
You may not have heard of the ancient ruins of Petra before, but you’d definitely know them at first sight. Featured in movie franchises and recognizable for its rose-colored stone, Petra was first occupied by human beings nearly 10,000 years ago, where inhabitants carved the elaborate Treasury into columns, temples, and alters. Tour this UNESCO World Heritage site during your time in Aqaba for an afternoon in the desert you’ll never forget.
Ever wanted to effortlessly float on your back? You can while in the waters of the Dead Sea, one of the saltiest bodies of water in the entire world. You’ll need to plan a day around this, however, since the mouth of the Dead Sea is a three-hour drive from Aqaba.
Arguably, Wadi Rum is the most famous site in Jordan. Head to this natural wonder, called the “Valley of the Moon,” where your admission fee goes toward keeping this incredible site protected. Ride camels into the desert wilderness and take in the chasms and mountain ranges during a half-day excursion. Learn about the culture of the Bedouins and enjoy an Arabian afternoon tea ceremony.
Animal and marine lovers must see the species of fish that inhabit the Red Sea and the waters of Jordan. You’ll learn what to expect from wildlife when you swim or snorkel the area and discover the coral system of Aqaba, too. The aquarium is connected to the Aqaba Marine Science Station, a perfect activity for an educational afternoon in Aqaba.
Snorkeling in the Red Sea is an essential experience on a cruise to Aqaba, Jordan, where colorful reefs and vibrant sea life miraculously thrive in salty waters. Many of the species here can’t be found in any other body of water in the world. Wrecked tanks and cargo ships contrast against bright coral, making this a feast for divers’ eyes.
Close your eyes and imagine what ancient Aqaba must have looked like thousands of years ago. These ruins were once the site of Aqaba’s central, ancient port. Seeing them offers a step back in time and makes for a quick excursion on the way to other destinations in downtown Aqaba.
In the 12th century, the Crusaders built what are now ruins of the Aqaba Fort, and today you can see these ruins before learning more about the history of this region of Jordan at the Aqaba Archaeological Museum. History buffs on one of our cruises to Jordan shouldn’t miss out on an educational afternoon at the ruins.
Near the ruins of Ayla is a site that scholars consider the oldest Christian church in the world, built in the third century. While you’re touring the other ruins, this church is a must for history buffs and those interested in early Christian artifacts.
Aqaba’s culinary scene has a variety of must-try dishes that personify Jordan’s rich history. Of course, there are classics like hummus, falafel, and shawarma which have quickly risen in popularity all over the world for their freshness, but Aqaba cuisine also has tons of surprises. The coffee and tea is different than in other parts of the world. Their special method of preparation makes them more bitter than their Western equivalents. Try kunafa, a traditional filo pastry with delicious, melty goat cheese inside. A filo pastry filled with spinach is another popular variation. Another must-have? The official breakfast of Jordan, called foul, which consists of savory fava beans mashed into a liquid-like dipping sauce with olive oil, lemon, and garlic. Served with hot flatbread, it’s regularly offered as a side dish for every meal in Jordan.
Aqaba practically opened the country of Jordan to international trade and commerce along the Silk Road, dating back to the occupation of the Ottoman empire during the 14th century. The Turks held control of Jordan until World War I, when various Western nations took over. Eventually, Jordan gained independence in 1946. Today, Aqaba plays a significant part in the Jordanian economy as a central trading port and tourist destination, thanks to incredible sights like Wadi Rum, Petra, and the beautiful Red Sea.
The culture of Aqaba is heavily influenced by the Bedouin population of Jordan and the surrounding regions, specifically the national dance, called the dabke. While on one of our cruises to Jordan, make a point to see live music featuring traditional instruments like the shababa and the Jordanian bagpipes, gerbah. Music is deeply woven into the fabric of Jordan’s history and culture. The people of Jordan value respect and politeness. Be aware that dressing modestly is hugely important during your time in Aqaba, which will show locals that you respect their traditions.
The port of Aqaba is a commercial port, so it’s more focused on trading and unloading than cruise and tourism traffic. You won’t find a terminal or tourism information desk here, but there is a free shuttle service that takes cruise passengers and others to downtown Aqaba, which is about a 15-minute ride away.
There are a few main ways to get around while on your cruise to Aqaba, Jordan. Taxis are plentiful on the ground in the city, and you’ll find them easy to hail and generally inexpensive. There are the standard yellow taxis as well as green and blue cars. The public bus system is also efficient for riders, and a one-way ride costs less than one Jordanian Dinar. Note that the desert climate can make walking for long periods difficult. Be sure to schedule regular breaks for water and rest while you’re exploring Aqaba, particularly if you’re visiting during the hotter months.
Because the Port of Aqaba is a commercial port, Jordan cruise passengers can’t do much shopping here. Venture downtown for the bazaars and restaurants using the complimentary shuttle system at the port. Due to the hot climate, shops regularly close from 2 to 6 pm to escape the heat of the day.
The official currency is the Jordanian Dinar (JD). Locals will pronounce this “jay-dee” in conversation, so be aware you’ll probably hear that while shopping or bargaining with vendors. Credit cards are commonly used in Jordan, and there are ATMs throughout the city of Aqaba. The US dollar is commonly accepted when you pay with cash as well. Tip around 10% for guides, taxi drivers, and restaurant servers if there isn’t a service charge already included in your bill. Generally, tipping isn’t a big practice in Jordan.