Aqaba: an underwater world
f Lawrence of Arabia had decided to submerge his head in the sea instead of fighting against the Ottoman Empire, he would have discovered a multi-coloured world. The contrast with the arid deserts of the southwest of Jordan, would quite possibly have distracted him from the battle that ended up conquering the city. It was such an epic event that ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ became one of Hollywood’s most famous films, an epic movie that reflects the dry and dusty landscape. You would never guess that right there, under the water, there is a kaleidoscope full of life and vibrant colours.
The city lies at the southernmost point of Jordan, in the Gulf of Aqaba. It enters the Red Sea and, as a result, it is in a strategic location where three continents meet: Asia, Europe and Africa. It also marks the border of Jordan with Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. An area that, although it barely occupies 26km of coast, is full of ports, luxury hotels, beaches and diving clubs.
The beauty of Cleopatra
Aqaba is also known for the luxury spas of its hotels. These centres combine eastern and western techniques, and they offer rejuvenating treatments and cleansing baths that contain the famous Red Sea products. Cleopatra herself searched for the elixir of youth in these waters enriched with salts and minerals.
If you go a few kilometres to the south of Aqaba, after you have gone past the dock and the ferry terminal from where you can go to Egypt, you find the Aquamarina Dive Center and, a bit further on, the Visitor’s Center. Right opposite there is a layer of coral. The reefs are all over the gulf; they commence at the shore and turn into a deep underwater gulley. Consequently, just 100m from the shore, divers find a depth of 50m.
Even beginners will find it easy enough, the crystal-clear, warm water, together with the underwater flora and fauna, make this an unforgettable experience for divers of all levels. Swimming surprisingly near the coast are coloured fish, whale sharks, dolphins, manta rays and turtles. To complete the underwater landscape there are some extra decorative touches: a ship and three tankers (all sunk on purpose to enrich the underwater experience).
Some diving clubs also offer ‘an exclusive’ experience. A high number of hotels have private beaches and they offer diving courses with their own reefs. This is the case at the Murjan, 10 km to the south of Aqaba, which besides courses of all kinds, provides its clients with a pool where they can rest, a restaurant and other aquatic activities such as sailing, surfing or water skiing.
In the Gulf of Aqaba there is also a lot to do above the water. Sailing boats, surfers, windsurfers, water skiers, fishermen… Most of these water sports are offered by the hotels in the area; for example, by the Mövenpick Resort Residences Aqaba, and at clubs like the Murjan and Aqaba Surf Center. There are even options for people who don’t want to get wet, for instance huge boats with glass bottoms that let you see the seabed without having to submerge into the water.
Today Aqaba’s undeniable protagonist is the sea, so perhaps the next Hollywood success to be filmed in the city will be ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ or a new version of ‘Finding Nemo’.