It takes less than an hour to drive from Wadi Rum to Aqaba. It lies on Jordan’s small section of the Red Sea coastline, just opposite the Israeli city of Eilat, and is home to a busy port.
There is a pleasant promenade (see photo above) from which you can see the skyline of Eilat quite clearly (below). You can also see Egypt in the distance.
The city has a pleasant feel to it, but does not offer much to the tourist in terms of interesting sights. The regional authorities are undertaking an ambitious project to relocate most of the current commercial port facilities several kilometres further south. This will give the city room to grow along the shoreline, but it will take many years for that to happen.
The most obvious landmark in Aqaba is its huge flagpole.
There is also a small fort (see below), which, however, was closed for restoration work during our visit.
The central mosque is certainly worth a photo – unfortunately the orange lorry spoiled mine.
Walking around the centre of Aqaba, we were delighted to spot some fresh dates and bought a couple of kilos from the guy below. They were reasonably cheap and very good indeed.
Our hotel was located in Tala Bay, some 15km south of the city centre, close to the border with Saudi Arabia. There are several hotels in this area, as well as a marina with a range of restaurants.
Aqaba, being at sea level, has a much hotter climate than Amman and the hotel pools were very welcome. The real attractions in this area, however, are the various coral reefs along the coast. Many of them are quite close to the shore and ideal for snorkelling. I had not booked anything, but managed to arrange for a boat to take me to the ‘Japanese Gardens’ reef, some 2 to 3km from the hotel. The photo at the beginning of the piece was taken there. Below are three more shots from the boat trip.
We stayed in Aqaba only for one night and set off at lunchtime the next day on the final leg of our tour – a 3-hour drive to the northern end of the Dead Sea. The road largely follows the border with Israel and there is not a great deal to see. You pass the occasional date plantation and small settlement and not a lot else of interest, although the mountain ranges to the East are quite picturesque. At the southern end of the Dead Sea there are several ugly potash factories, but the scenery gets more interesting as you drive up the Dead Sea coast. There is a viewpoint just over half-way up from which the next two photos were taken.
The image above shows the salt-encrusted rocks by the shoreline. The salinity of the Dead Sea is some 34%. That is almost ten times the salt content of ocean water. Another interesting fact: the shores of the Dead Sea are around 400m below sea level and what you are looking at is actually the lowest point on earth.
You have heard the story of Lot and his wife. Not surprisingly, the rock formation above is referred to as ‘Lot’s Wife’.
A couple of hours after we arrived at our hotel we were able to witness a nice sunset. The hills opposite are the West Bank.
The next morning the views were even more spectacular. You could see Jericho clearly and also just about make out Jerusalem on the other side.
So, this is my final piece on our journey through Jordan. We loved it. Because of Jordan’s proximity to various conflict zones, tourist numbers are down significantly. In an effort to reverse that decline, the Jordanian government is currently waiving visa fees for the majority of foreign tourists (– check online what conditions apply). This very hospitable country deserves more visitors and right now is a good time to go there.
For links to the other parts of this series, please click HERE