Aqaba dresses for the holidays with native Jordanian flora

Business and leisure hub landscapes with local trees and plants

Aqaba dresses for the holidays with native Jordanian flora

Rome, December 20 - The water in Jordan's port city of Aqaba is so clear that the precious coral reef thriving 70 meters underwater is visible from the shore. 'It almost looks like it is painted,' Jordanian architect, professor and Head Commissioner of ASEZA (Aqaba Special Economic Zone) Kamel O. Mahadin tells ANSA. Mahadin gazes at the reef every day on his way to work. His pride and joy, the Aqaba development area, is a liberalized, low-tax, duty-free area that has its sights on becoming a world-class hub for business and leisure, and boasts of a landscape that has inspired poets and filmmakers. Right now, the blend of desert and sea is dressed up for the holidays. 'All around we have put up lights and night it looks like the town has been sprinkled with stars,' Mahadin enthuses. The most stunning embellishment, believes Mahadin, is neither imported nor created, it is the native flora. 'This corner of the Mediterranean landscapes itself,' says Mahadin, who also has a degree in landscape architecture. Developers have, in fact, utilized the land's assets and lined the roads with native date palms, or nakheel in Arabic, and acacia and Royal Poinciana. Water from the region's largest treatment plant irrigates the entire development area that is proudly pollution-free. The city's eight 5-star hotels and 2,000 family-oriented structures expect an occupancy rate of about 90% over the holidays. Easily accessible to the Middle East, Asia and Europe, last year around 100,000 Italians travelled to Aqaba. Located on the Red Sea, it is a stone's throw away from the Petra archeological site and Wadi Rum, also known as The Valley of the Moon, and a 26-minute boat ride to Egypt. There is no end to activities, but diving should be high on the list, says Mahadin. 'There are crash courses for shallow-water diving and 47 different companies to choose from. It is the best way to see the coral reef and 20% of diving fees goes to preserving the environment'. Though the Aqaba development is a perfect year-round tourist and holiday destination, it is also home to 135,000 permanent residents. 'In winter, the sky is beyond compare...the sunset blends with the colors of the coral reef. I am loving this place,' says Mahadin.

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