The city on Jordan’s Red Sea coast is the gateway to the ancient ruins of Petra, and is expected to benefit from a boost in cruise traffic in the coming years following the opening up of Saudi Arabia to cruise tourism.
Abu Dhabi Port has partnered with the Aqaba Development Corporation on the project to build a cruise terminal in the Marsa Zayed project in Aqaba. It will be the first terminal to be developed by Abu Dhabi Ports in Jordan and its first cruise facility outside the UAE.
“The creation and operation of a new cruise terminal at Marsa Zayed will be a milestone for Jordan’s fast-growing cruise and tourism sector, and is the first of many enhancement projects that we have planned,” said Capt Mohamed Al Shamsi, Group Chief Executive of Abu Dhabi Ports.
The new cruise terminal will vastly enhance Aqaba’s cruise infrastructure. Although the port has long been a popular call on repositioning cruise itineraries between Europe, Asia and the Arabian Gulf, its commercial port is not well-suited to receiving several thousand cruise passengers at once.
In addition to improving the cruise infrastructure of Aqaba, however, the new cruise terminal will also serve as a major attraction for residents of Aqaba, with tourism, commercial and entertainment services, according to Abu Dhabi Ports.
Developing the cruise terminal will significantly support the growth of Jordan’s tourism sector, create new jobs and strengthen Aqaba’s status as major regional hub, said Hussein Alsafadi, Chief Executive of Aqaba Development Corporation.
“It will also facilitate the movement of cruise ship passengers arriving from countries across the Mediterranean Sea and Europe,” he said.
Aqaba Development Corporation was launched in 2004 and is the central development arm of the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority, mandated to build new infrastructure, expand existing utilities, create necessary business enablers and operate key facilities for the SEZ.
Aqaba is Jordan’s 6,000-year-old port city on the Red Sea, the gateway to the world-famous stone-city of Petra and a key stopover for ocean liners and cruise ships transiting the Suez Canal since the early 20th century, but the lack of a cruise terminal has long held it back.
When cruise ships dock, passengers are processed onboard and then transferred by bus to the port entrance, or into town, or to Petra (two hours away through the iconic desert where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed).
There are 101 cruise calls scheduled for 2022, at least half of which are aboard MSC Cruises’ ship MSC Magnifica sailing roundtrip from Jeddah, or cruise ships transitioning between Europe and Dubai, the principle cruise port in the Arabian Gulf and wider Middle East.
The addition of a cruise terminal will be key to Jordan’s ambitions of growing Aqaba’s status as a turnaround port, where cruises embark and disembark guests. There’s just one cruise scheduled from the city next year, and four in 2023.