Aqaba

A pleasant and quite leisure destination
Coral reefs and golden dunes
The mystic and ancient city of Petra

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Aqaba/Petra

Following the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia

When you disembark from your MSC cruise in Aquaba, you can enjoy its idyllic, sunny setting on the shores of the Red Sea, at the country’s southernmost tip.
 
From something of a dowdy backwater, in the last decade or so Aqaba has transformed itself into a pleasant, if still under-resourced, leisure destination. Hotels at all grades are springing up in the town as well as at luxury waterfront developments up and down the coast; investment is coming in to improve the city’s infrastructure and facilities. Some of the best diving and snorkelling in the world is centred on the unspoiled coral reefs that hug the coast just south of the town – an engaging contrast with the nearby desert attractions of Petra and Wadi Rum.

The city centre forms a dense network of streets and alleys clustered just behind the beach road (called the “Corniche”). A shore excursion on your MSC Grand Voyages cruise can also be the opportunity to discover Petra. Tucked away in a remote valley basin in the heart of southern Jordan’s Shara mountains and shielded from the outside world behind an impenetrable barrier of rock, Petra remains wreathed in mystery.

Since a Western adventurer stumbled on the site in 1812, it has fired imaginations, its grandeur and dramatic setting pushing it – like the Pyramids or the Taj Mahal – into the realms of legend. Today, it’s almost as if time has literally drawn a veil over the once-great city, which grew wealthy enough on the caravan trade to challenge the might of Rome: two millennia of wind and rain have blurred the sharp edges of its ornate classical facades and rubbed away at its soft sandstone to expose vivid bands of colour beneath, putting the whole scene into soft focus.

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    Jordan

    A millenary culture
    A millenary culture

    A holiday to Jordan means “desert”, but this one plain word covers a multitude of scenes, from the dramatic red sands and towering cliffs of the far south to the vast stony plains of volcanic basalt in the east.

    The northern hills, rich with olive trees, teeter over the rift of the Jordan Valley, which in turn runs down to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. The centre of the country is carpeted with tranquil fields of wheat, cut through by expansive canyons and bordered by arid, craggy mountains.

    At Jordan’s southernmost tip, beaches fringe the warm waters of the Red Sea, which harbours some of the most spectacular coral reefs in the world. Jordan is part of the land bridge linking Europe, Africa and Asia, and has seen countless armies come and go. Greeks, Romans, Muslims, Christian Crusaders and more have left evidence of their conquests, and there are literally thousands of archaeological sites from all periods in every corner of the country, waiting to be discovered during your MSC Mediterranean cruise to Jordan. And yet the country is far from being stuck in the past. Amman is a thoroughly modern Arab capital with a noteworthy economic and social dynamism.