Jordanian resort destination earns plaudits for environmental initiatives
A Jordanian Red Sea resort destination is becoming increasingly green.
Aqaba, known for sunny weather and water sports options, is receiving recognition for environmental preservation initiatives, with the Aqaba Bird Observatory having been awarded Green Destinations Certification in November, and is now among the top 100 tourist destinations in the world applying sustainable destination management through the integration and preservation of the local community, in addition to biodiversity and environmental protection, Jordanian tourism authorities report.
Green Destinations is an organization that focuses on promoting sustainable tourism and recognizing destinations that demonstrate a commitment to environmental and social responsibility.
Niche market travellers, often more environmentally conscious and seeking authentic and sustainable experiences, may be more attracted to destinations with Green Destination certification, authorities continue. Those travellers are interested in minimizing their environmental impact and supporting destinations that prioritize sustainability, so the certification can attract travellers seeking eco-friendly and responsible tourism options.
“Environmental consciousness is still in its first stages in Jordan, and it may vary among the locals, depending on location being in a big city or rural area, as well as the cultural and educational background,” says Issam Sweis of Amman-based Karma House Travel & Tourism. “In Jordan, there are efforts at both the governmental and private sector levels to promote environmental awareness and sustainable practices. In particular, Jordan’s tourism sector, including eco-tourism initiatives, plays a major role in promoting this environmental consciousness.”
Tourism is a significant economic contributor to Aqaba, with the destination having a relatively mild and warm climate throughout the year, making it attractive during winter. Winter in Aqaba generally spans from November to March, a time that sees many, mostly European charter flights. Cruise ships in turn call during Aqaba’s winter/spring season. Sweis says Aqaba has understandably built a following with those who like to explore an underwater world.
“Aqaba, being located on the Red Sea, is a popular destination for diving enthusiasts due to its rich marine life and vibrant coral reefs. There are several diving centres in Aqaba that cater to both beginners and experienced divers. There are many popular diving locations in Aqaba, like the Tank dive site, Japanese Garden. Cedar Pride Wreck, The Power Station,The Blue Hole, The Seven Sisters and Rainbow Reef,” says Sweis, whose company is used by Goway Travel.
Sweis adds that Aqaba has a solid tourism infrastructure, citing luxury 5-star resorts as the Hyatt Regency, Al-Manara Luxury Collection, Kempinski Aqaba Resort, Movenpick Resort & Residences Aqaba, Movenpick Tala Bay and Intercontinental Hotel.
“Most good quality beaches in Aqaba are privately owned by Aqaba hotels,” he continues. “There are some public beaches, including the North Beach, South Beach and Berth Beach near the city centre.”
Meanwhile, Sweis says history buffs will appreciate Aqaba, home to reminders of and historical sites associated with Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab Revolt. Points of interest include Aqaba Fort (Mamluk Castle) and the Archaeological Museum.
“It is a Mamluk and Ottoman fortified caravanserai on the pilgrimage route to Mecca and Medina which, in its current form, dates back mainly to the 16th century,” he said. “In the century preceding the First World War, it was used to a larger degree as a military stronghold. In July 1917, the fortress was witness to a victory of the Arab Revolt, when this heavily defended Turkish stronghold fell to an Arab camel charge. Lawrence of Arabia rode triumphantly from here to Cairo to report the good news to General Allenby. The port of Aqaba became a major supply base for the advancing Arab Revolt.”
The Arab Revolt Plaza embraces the flag of the Great Arab Revolt, and the house of the Leader of the Arab Revolution, Al Hussein Bin Ali.
“It has a deep national symbolism as the first Jordanian land set foot on by the armies of the revolution led by Al Sharif Hussein bin Ali. It is also the site where the first bullet of the Arab Revolt was fired,” he said. “The fort is now home to the Giant Flag, proudly displaying the Great Arab Revolt flag.”
Standing at 130m, the Aqaba Flagpole is the sixth tallest unsupported flagpole in the world and can be seen from surrounding countries.
Sweis adds that Aqaba underscores the different aspects to his homeland’s tourist trade.
“The Golden Triangle: The Coastal City of Aqaba, the Lost City of Petra, and the moon-like Wadi Rum desert include natural beauty, amazing ruins, and experiences in Jordan can offer fulfilling trips for all travellers. Envision all these remarkable experiences exclusively in the southern region of Jordan. Now, contemplate the wealth of diverse encounters awaiting tourists embarking on a comprehensive journey across the entire country of Jordan,” he says of a country that also offers the likes of the Dead Sea, the Greco-Roman ruins of Jerash and numerous Biblical sites.