Aqaba & Around
Perched on the edge of the Gulf of Aqaba, ringed by high desert mountains and enjoying a pleasant climate for most of the year, Aqaba has what it takes to make a major resort – a fact not lost on developers: the glamorous US$2.5 billion Saraya Project, which includes lagoons, a marina, a golf course and a British university, is well on the way to completion.
Torn between its glorious past and its recent bloody history, Iraq is a country in turmoil. Following the 2003 US-led invasion and the problems that ensued, the country had little time to recover before a wave of violence swept through in June 2014, when jihadist group Isis took control of large swathes of north Iraq.
Meaning ‘barrier’, the region derives its name from the great escarpment that runs along Hejaz, separating it from the great plateaux of the interior. Historically, Hejaz has always seen itself as separate from the rest of the Kingdom, and that's even more true today with its friendly rivalry with the Najdis in the Riyadh region.
Sharjah doesn’t dazzle with glitz but with sensitivity towards its history and culture, which explains why Unesco declared it Cultural Capital of the Arab World in 1998, recognition reaffirmed in 2014, when it became Capital of Islamic Culture. Once you have penetrated the traffic-clogged outskirts of town, the historic old town is easy to navigate on foot.