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.
Aqaba (ä´käbä), town (1996 est. pop. 52,000), SW Jordan, at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba, on the border with Israel. It is the only Jordanian port with direct access to the Red Sea; it remains the trade entrepôt to Iraq. Phosphates are the chief export. Aqaba is also a popular winter and summer seaside resort. Since at least 1000 BC, a port has existed continuously on the site to handle trade between Palestine and Syria. Aqaba stands on or near the biblical Elath (Elat). The Roman military post of Aelana later occupied the site. A great road built under Emperor Trajan linked the area with Damascus and Egypt. Occupied and fortified by the Crusaders in 1115, Aqaba was retaken by Saladin in 1187. During the 19th cent. the town became a staging point on the pilgrim route to Mecca. T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) captured Aqaba for the Allies in World War I; it later became part of the Hejaz but was ceded to Transjordan in 1924. The town's name is sometimes spelled Akaba.