Aqaba [key], 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 b.c., 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.
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