Following the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia
When you disembark from your MSC cruise in Aqaba, you can enjoy its idyllic, sunny setting on the shores of the Red Sea, at the country’s southernmost tip.
From something of a dowdy backwater, in the last decade or so Aqaba has transformed itself into a pleasant, if still under-resourced, leisure destination. Hotels at all grades are springing up in the town as well as at luxury waterfront developments up and down the coast; investment is coming in to improve the city’s infrastructure and facilities. Some of the best diving and snorkellingin theworld is centred on the unspoiled coral reefs that hug the coast just south of the town – an engaging contrast with the nearby desert attractions of Petra and Wadi Rum.
The city centre forms a dense network of streets and alleys clustered just behind the beach road (called the “Corniche”). A shore excursion can also be the opportunity to discover Petra. Tucked away in a remote valley basin in the heart of southern Jordan’s Shara mountains and shielded from the outside world behind an impenetrable barrier of rock, Petra remains wreathed in mystery.
Since a Western adventurer stumbled on the site in 1812, it has fired imaginations, its grandeur and dramatic setting pushing it – like the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal – into the realms of legend. Today, it’s almost as if time has literally drawn a veil over the once-great city, which grew wealthy enough on the caravan trade to challenge the might of Rome: two millennia of wind and rain have blurred the sharp edges of its ornate classical facades and rubbed away at its soft sandstone to expose vivid bands of colour beneath, putting the whole scene into soft focus.