Set against the rust-colored Wadi Rum mountains, Aqaba is the only coastal city in the country of Jordan, on the northern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. The ancient city of Petra—a New Wonder of the World—is just 78 miles away through desert haze. The otherworldly landscape might look familiar to visitors as the planet Arrakis in Dune. The sci-fi franchise’s second installment, which premieres this November, was also filmed in the extraordinarily dramatic scenery of the Wadi Rum reserve, referred to as the “Valley of the Moon” and previously famous as the backdrop for Lawrence of Arabia.
But it’s not just the dunes that are bringing new visitors to Aqaba this year; it’s the sea. In the Gulf of Aqaba, Aqaba Marine Park aims to preserve its marine biosphere, which includes coral reefs and 19 dive sites, as well as an underwater walking experience or glass-bottom boats for those looking to stay dry.
Jordan’s first cruise terminal, inaugurated in January, welcomes an influx of cruisers to Aqaba as well. The Port of Aqaba anticipates a 25 percent increase in passenger ships for 2023, including an inaugural visit from luxury cruise line Windstar. From the mega ships of MSC Cruises to superyacht Emerald Azzurra, sailing the Middle East demands a part of call at the tip of the Red Sea where four countries meet. For those watching from shore, there’s the five-star Marriott property the Al Manara, a Marriott Luxury Collection Hotel.
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