Jordan's only outlet to the sea, Aqaba is a popular holiday destination - with a superb climate and beach-edged Red Sea waters that boast some of the world's finest coral reef diving . In antiquity the town, then called Elath, the principal city of the Edomite people, was a major commercial centre and it became important as a Roman garrison. Today Aqaba is the only seaport of Jordan; its exports include phosphates and shells. Because of its strategic location, the port has figured in various Arab-Israeli confrontations, it was occupied by Israel from November 1956 until January 1957.
Aqaba is also the key to fabled Petra, perhaps the finest archaeological site in the Middle East. The great monuments of this Nabatean 'rose-red city, half as old as time' were hewn from living sandstone some 2,000 years ago, and rediscovered only in 1812. Nearer Aqaba is the spectacular scenery of Lawrence of Arabia's Wadi Rum, where rugged jebel mountains rise sheer from the desert sands.
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