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Introducing Aqaba

The balmy winter climate and idyllic setting on the Gulf of Aqaba, ringed by high desert mountains, make this Jordan's aquatic playground. While Amman shivers in winter with temperatures around 5°C and the occasional snowfall, the daytime mercury in Aqaba rarely goes below 20°C and is often quite a few degrees warmer. In summer, however, the weather is uncomfortably hot, with daytime temperatures over 35°C, but it's often made bearable by the sea breezes. For this reason Aqaba works on siesta time; everything shuts down around 3pm (or earlier) and reopens later in the evening, from around 6pm.

Aqaba is popular with Jordanians from the north (forget trying to get a room during holidays such as Eid al-Adha., with Saudis from across the border and, somewhat bizarrely, with Hungarian tour groups. It's also an obvious place to break a journey to/from Israel & the Palestinian Territories or Egypt. Diving and snorkelling are Aqaba's main attractions and, while not as extensive as Egypt, it's still a great place to spend a couple of days exploring the underwater brilliance of the coral-rich gulf. The port does mar the view a little and the beaches close to town are fairly unappealing, but there's a laid-back vibe and it's still a good place to kick back and relax from the rigours of life on the road.

Aqaba has big plans for the future. Several new five-star hotels are planned for the southern coast, including the huge Tala Bay resort and condo project. The Ayla Oasis project to the northwest of town involves the creation of lagoons (adding 19km to Aqaba's coastline), a marina, hotels and a golf course, and there's a new shopping and restaurant complex called Ayla Park, which should materialise soon. Expect Aqaba to change rapidly in the next few years as Jordan gears it up to be the 'new Eilat'.