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Things to do and places to visit in Aqaba

Diving shop in Aqaba, JordanThe Red Sea: The most obvious of Aqaba's visitor attractions, and the reason for many tourist visits, is the Red Sea. The few kilometres of coastline have some of the best coral and tropical fish in the world, and diving and snorkelling are extremely popular.

Diving equipment and advice is plentiful in Aqaba

We decided to be rather less adventurous and take one of the numerous glass-bottomed boats for hire.

Glass bottomed boat in Aqaba
Typical glass-bottomed boat at Aqaba

 

Our tour manager found something even better - a boat with a deck that was below water. Seats were arranged along each side, each one next to a porthole. This deck could be used as soon as we were above the coral reefs.. We left Aqaba with great expectations. Unfortunately, although the trip out was interesting we encountered problems as soon as the coral beds were reached. During the journey the swell had increased. In fact, it was so bumpy that we actually hit the reef. The coastguard immediately warned us off and eventually escorted us back to Aqaba. We saw no coral and no fish! However, our experience should not put off anyone who wants to try this way off seeing what the Red Sea has to offer. Just be careful to go out on a calm day.

Submarine viewing boat at Aqaba
The boat and . . .
Under the sea
. . . its submarine deck . .
Sea but no fish
. . . and the view

The Rovers Return pub in Aqaba, JordanThe Jordan Experience: This is located through an archway next to McDonalds on the Corniche, and is part of small, modern shopping and leisure complex which includes an English pub called The Rovers Return (see right). The Jordan Experience comprises two parts. Firstly, there is a guided walk through passageways into which are set niches containing photographs and other exhibits to illustrate the history of Jordan. Of particular interest is a large timeline exhibit. This is only the appetiser, however, as visitors are then ushered into a spacious 110-seat Imax-style movie theatre which has steep tiers of long benches. Once seated, the lights go down and the movie starts. A couple is seen in a car driving on a narrow road above a gorge. They go over a speed bump. At this point the 'experience' begins as your bench also moves as though you were going over the bump. The couple are arguing so much that they miss a sharp turn and drive off the road over a cliff. Your bench moves so you feel like you are flying and sure enough the car on the screen appears to fly. To cut a long story short, the car acts like a flying carpet and its movements are experienced by the viewer seated on his aircraft-simulator driven bench. The flying carpet travels across all of the visitor sites of Jordan, sweeping low over sheep and rising above Petra, finishing 25 minutes later by flying back to Aqaba and into the car park of the Movenpick Hotel (a clue as to where some of the funding may have come from). Despite being plainly a way of showing the cruise ship visitors that there's more to Jordan than Aqaba, and despite it showing many of the places I had already been, I found it surprisingly enjoyable. The feeling of flying was quite realistic and was a strangely moving eperience. It was well worth the modest admission fee and no doubt is a respite from the sun if you visit in the summer.The cinema has a good but expensive craft shop in the ticket office / waiting area. We visited at low season and they were prepared (if a little grumpily) to run the movie for just two of us.

Aqaba fort viewAqaba Castle (Mamluk fort): This small but interesting ruined fort is situated close to the coastline and near the centre of Aqaba. The use of the site for a castle probably dates from the crusaders in the 13th century, but the current structure was built in the 15th century by the Mamluks and may have been expanded by the Ottmans. The British Navy destroyed it by shelling in 1917. Points of interest for the visitor include the huge wooden doorway and the views from the upper floors.

The aerial view shown opposite is taken from the notice that details the history of the fort.

Aqaba Castle entrance Mamluk fort, Aqaba
Aqaba fort

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