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Aqaba is Jordan's only coastal city, seaport, most populous and largest city. It is located in southernmost Jordan and has population around 190,000. The ancient city was called Ayla. Port Aqaba is also the cruise port to Petra - an ancient city and a major archaeological site in the Jabal Al-Madbah mountain.
Port's strategic location at the northeastern end of Red Sea (between Africa and Asia) and its proximity to copper mines made Aqaba (originally named Ayla) a regional hub for copper production and trade. Following the Islamic conquest (around 600 AD), Ayla was renamed to Aqaba. The location next to Petra and Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) made Aqaba Jordan's primary tourism hub. The city is administered by Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, which turned it into a duty-free zone, low-tax city and a major Red Sea cruise and travel destination.
Port Aqaba is Jordan's only seaport. It is owned and operated by Aqaba Port Corporation.
Following rapid growth, in the 1980s, Port Aqaba was ranked Red Sea's third-largest cargo port. In 2003, vessel congestion became a major obstacle for Jordan's growing shipping trade, costing the country's economy an estimated USD 120 million per year. Then was formed ADC (Aqaba Development Corporation) and the Aqaba Container Terminal's management was put out to a 2-year tender.
Aqaba Container Terminal (ACT) is the country's only containership port, currently ranked as Red Sea's second-busiest. The terminal is a joint venture between Aqaba Development Corporation and APM Terminals. The Holland-based company APM Terminals (international container terminal operator) won the tender and started operations in 2004. By 2005, the terminal was fully computerised, which optimized berthing and logistics. In 2006, APM Terminals signed with ADC a 25-year terminal concession deal (till 2031) for operating, managing and marketing the Aqaba terminal.
To increase its water depth, n 2006 the port was relocated from the city centre to the south.
The terminal's expansion was started in 2009 and completed in October 2013. By this project were added additional 460 m (1510 ft) of quay - to a total quay length of 1 km (0,6 ml), The facility's annual container shipping capacity was increased to 1,3 million TEUs (containers). The expansion project also included purchasing 2 new ship-to-shore cranes (reach 22 container rows) and 4 RTG cranes (rubber-tyred gantry cranes).
Since 2006, ATM Terminals reached in Port Aqaba an employee nationalization rate 99,5% and reinvested in Jordan around 97% of all the generated revenues.
Petra (Al-Batra) was originally named Raqmu. This ancient city is surrounded by Jabal Al-Madbah mountain and the Arabah Valley (running from Dead Sea to Gulf of Aqaba). The city served as the capital of the Nabataeans (nomadic Arab tribe, 4th century BC - 2nd century AD) who were well-known traders. During its peak, Raqmu's population reached around 20,000.
The kingdom of the Nabataeans was conquered by the Romans in 106 AD. The Romans renamed Nabataea to Arabia Petraea (Petra). The city's importance started to steadily decline as sea trade routes were developed, and especially after 363 AD when an earthquake destroyed many of its buildings. In the following centuries the decline continued, and during the region's Islamic era Petra was abandoned. The city's ruins was discovered by the Swiss traveller Johann Ludwig (1784-1817) in 1812.
Current-day Petra is accessible through a 1-km long gorge (Siq) leading directly to the Al-Khazneh temple. Petra was declared UNESCO site in 1985. Today, Petra is one of the world's best-known landmarks and Jordan's most-visited by tourists attraction (1,1+ million visitors in 2019). Petra gained popularity also from the film industry - being featured in movies like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), The Mummy Returns (2001), Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), Kajraare (2010, Bollywood).
Port Aqaba cruise ship schedule shows timetable calendars of all arrival and departure dates by month. The port's schedule lists all ships (in links) with cruises going to or leaving from Aqaba, Petra, Jordan. To see the full itineraries (ports of call dates and arrival / departure times) and their lowest rates – just follow the corresponding ship-link.
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