Aqaba was a small fishing village and site of an Ottoman fort when it became officially incorporated into the Emirate of Transjordan in 1924, giving Jordan its only outlet to the sea. In 1959, Aqaba's port became operational, and in 1976, a free trade zone was opened. The port experienced substantial development as a result of aid from Iraq, which needed safe access to a seaport during its war with Iran. Iraqi aid also helped develop the country's roads and overland transportation systems. Cargo handled through Aqaba increased steadily throughout the 1980s, peaking in 1988 at 20 million tons, and fell sharply to 10 million tons after the United Nations embargo of Iraq in 1990. In 1999 Aqaba handled 12.8 million tons of cargo. Port facilities will require modernization to increase handling potential once the embargo is lifted. In addition to the port, Aqaba, with a population of 40,500 (1998), is a popular tourist resort known for its beaches, water sports, and spectacular coral reefs.
Nowar, Ma'an A. The History of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan: The Creation and Development of Transjordan. St. Paul, MN: Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, 1989.