Aqaba is the largest and most populous city on the Gulf of Aqaba. Its strategic location at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea between the Asia and Africa, has made an Aqaba an important city port over the course of thousands of years. The ancient city was called Elath, and known in Arabic as Ayla. Its proximity to copper mines made it a regional hub for copper production and trade. In ancient times, the city of Elath was inhabited by the Edomites, it is believed that they have built the first port in Aqaba. Around 735 BC, the city was conquered by the Assyrian empire, then by Babylonians in 600 BC, this was the time when Elath witnessed great economic growth. The city continued to grow and prosper by the time of the Greek rule by 300 BC. Then the Nabatean kingdom captured and continue to rule the city. In 64 BC following the Roman conquest, they annexed the city and called it Aela, during Roman times the city reached its peak. In AD 300 Aela came under Byzantine Empire rule, then the Crusaders, after it was part of the Arab Caliphate and the Ottoman Empire. It was also an important center on the way of pilgrims performing the Hajj to Mecca. During World War I the city was taken by rebellious Arabs. The Great Arab Revolt’s Battle of Aqaba resulted in victory for Arab forces over the Ottoman defenders. This Historical event depicted in the 1962 British historical drama film Lawrence of Arabia. After the war Aqaba was controlled by the Hashemite Kingdom of Hejaz, then by Saudi Arabia. In 1925, the city was ceded to the British protectorate Transjordan (the forerunner of modern Jordan).
Today, the city of Aqaba administered by the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority and plays a major role in the development of the Jordanian economy. The length of the coast of Aqaba is 27 km and its bordering with Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Warm weather all year round along with Aqaba’s hot desert climate, developed tourist infrastructure, rich underwater world of the Red Sea and proximity to Petra and Wadi Rum attract hundreds of thousands of tourists every year. Most of them come to Aqaba passing through the Wadi Araba crossing border, located in Eilat, Israel, or the Durra Border Crossing from Saudi Arabia. Many of the tourists also coming to the Port of Aqaba on cruise ships or fly to the King Hussein International Airport in Aqaba from Amman. Aqaba offers a number of luxury hotels with advanced Spa centers, including the Tala Bay resort, located 20 km further to the south. Aqaba has a very developed infrastructure for diving and other water sports activities, it has many restaurants and coffee shops with international and local cousins. Another very popular attraction in Aqaba is the Turkish Bath (Hamam) built in 306 AD. For those who love history and ancient art there is an Aqaba Archaeological Museum, located in the old city of Aqaba, in the building that was the palace of Sharif Hussein Bin Ali, the founder of the Hashemite dynasty. The museum presents artifacts found during excavations in the archaeological site near Aqaba, dating back to 4000 BC to the early 12th century AD. The city is also famous for its giant flag of the Arab Revolution, it is included in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest flag in the world. The height of the flagpole is 136 meters, and the size of the flag is 60 by 30 meters. The flag is clearly visible from neighboring cities Eilat (in Israel) and Taba (in Egypt).