Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Aqaba is strategically important to Jordan as it is the country's only seaport. The town borders Eilat, Israel, and there is a border post where it is possible to cross between the two countries (see Wadi Araba Crossing). Both Aqaba and Eilat are at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba.
The town is best known today as a diving and beach resort. However, industrial activity remains important to the area, and the town is an exporter of phosphate and some shells.
Aqaba has been an inhabited settlement since 4000 BC profiting from its strategic location at the junction of trading routes between Asia, Africa, and Europe.
The Bible refers to the area in (1 Kings 9:26) "King Solomon also built ships in Ezion-Geber, which is near Elath in Edom, on the shores of the Red Sea." This verse probably refers to an Iron Age port city on the same ground as modern Aqaba.
During World War I, the occupying Ottoman forces were forced to withdraw from the town after a raid, known as the Battle of Aqaba, led by T. E. Lawrence and the Arab forces of Sharif Hussein in 1917, making the territory part of the Kingdom of Hejaz, under the rule of Prince Faisal.
The capture of Aqaba helped open supply lines from Egypt up to Arab and British forces afield further north in Transjordan and Greater Palestine, and more importantly alleviated a threat of a Turkish offensive onto the strategically important Suez Canal.
Aqaba was ceded to the British protectorate of Transjordan in 1925.