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Atlas of Jordan

Myriam Ababsa

Chapter nine - City Planning, Local Governance and Urban Policies

Aqaba an Extra-Territorial City

Mathieu Alaime

Texte intégral

1The town of Aqaba is Jordan’s only port and its only coastline, with borders to Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. This unique geostrategic position has been used by the Jordanian government to stimulate international trade. In 2001, the city was given a huge free trade zone: ASEZ, Aqaba Special Economic Zone, which covers 375 km² and encompasses the town (fig. IX.41). It was designed as a hub to connect with global economic systems. International Gulf investors such as Saraya and Ayla Development worked in partnership with new local public actors (ASEZA: Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority) for the planning of the town and the free trade zone. When it was created, this new economic zone was the State’s solution to address the economic crisis that had hit port activities in the region during the 1990s. Indeed, Aqaba was the main port for Iraqi imports before Iraq turned to Syrian ports following the Gulf War. Due to the war in Syria, in 2011 Iraq began to import through Aqaba once again and port traffic has doubled.

Table IX.4 — Aqaba Built-up Expansion Annual Growth Rate.


Area in sq Km

Av. Annual Growth Rate












Source: Ababsa calculation based on RIGC Satellite Image and Maps Analysis, 2009

Table IX.5 — Aqaba Population Average Annual Growth Rate.


Population (Census)

Av. Annual Growth Rate


8 908


26 999



62 785



80 135


Source: Ababsa calculation based on the National Population and Housing Census,

2Department of Statistics 2004

Figure IX.41 Aqaba City Landuse Plan 2005 (ASEZA GIS section).

Figure IX.41 Aqaba City Landuse Plan 2005 (ASEZA GIS section).

3By making tourism and industry (hi-tech and heavy industry) the spearhead of its economic development policy, the ASEZA’s economic performance is strong and legitimizes its projects and governance and leads to economic benefits across the region (fig. IX.42). With more than JD 4.5 billion invested since 2001, the ASEZA can now promote the approach adopted for the socio-economic development of the Aqaba region. However, the real economic impact on the local population, particularly in terms of job creation, has yet to be felt. The privatization of large coastal areas and the creation of gated communities and a new town (Horizon) tend to exclude the local population (fig. IX.43).

Figure IX.43 — Aqaba spatial divisions.

Figure IX.43 — Aqaba spatial divisions.

4By implementing a strategy to make its region a tourist destination of international repute, the ASEZA faces strong competition from the nearby towns of Sharm al-Sheikh, Eilat, Dahab, Taba and Nuweiba. The strategic choice to make Aqaba a tourist destination goes against Aqaba’s use since the founding of the Jordanian State: as an industrial port complex. Industry and port activities have been transferred to the south of the town, near the Saudi border. The most costly projects involved moving Aqaba’s container port (JD 800 million), its phosphate terminal (JD 170 million), its industrial terminal (JD 70 million) and the oil terminal (JD 70 million). Work on the new passenger port (JD 300 million) started in 2011.

5The ASEZA independently manages the free zone that includes the town of Aqaba and tends to include the archaeological site of Petra and the Wadi Rum desert. Through its ambitious economic development programme, the ASEZA is the symbol of a forward-looking country that wants to play a role in the new global economy.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure IX.41 Aqaba City Landuse Plan 2005 (ASEZA GIS section).
Fichier image/jpeg, 140k
Fichier image/jpeg, 168k
Titre Figure IX.43 — Aqaba spatial divisions.
Fichier image/jpeg, 162k

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 2013

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