Mamluk Castle (Aqaba Fortress)

About this place

One of the top attractions of Aqaba, the Red Sea port city in Jordan, is the Mamluk Castle. It is also known as the Aqaba Fortress or Aqaba Castle. This well-preserved historical site tells the story of Aqaba’s conquerors and rulers over the course of hundreds of years. 

History of Mamluk Castle

The structure was completed in 1517 under the Mamluk Sultan Qanswah al-Ghawri. ProTip: Spot the Arabic inscription in the gateway showing the date of construction. 

The main entrance to Mamluk Castle

The fort was used as a travelers’ inn or Khan. Muslim pilgrims en route to Mecca could stop here to rest and renew their supplies for the rest of the journey.

The fortress was used and renovated by several Arab dynasties and survived a Crusader attack in 1116. The Turkish Ottomans controlled the area, including Aqaba and the fortress until the Arab Revolt in 1916 when Sharif Hussein bin Ali al-Hashimi, in alliance with Britain and France (and with the help of Lawrence of Arabia) managed to oust the Turks. The fortress played an important role in the revolt and was a heavily defended stronghold of the Turks.

The revolt continued until October 1918, and in 1917 most of the fort, including the west wall and the northwest tower, was destroyed by British bombs. Today a tall flag pole stands in the Great Arab Revolt Plaza, next to the fortress commemorating the Arab Revolt. 

In 1922 Transjordan was recognized as a state under the British Mandate which lasted until 1946 when Jordan gained independence. Since then the Jordanian authority has slowly been restoring and preserving precious monuments like the Aqaba Fort.

What to See and Do at Mamluk Castle

The rectangular-shaped fortress had towers at each corner and in the middle of the northern wall stood the two-towered gatehouse. Above the entrance of the fortress, you can see a machicolation (an opening in the battlement where hot oil, tar, or water could be thrown down on attacking forces below) adorned with a large coat-of-arms of the Hashemites, commemorating victory during the Arab Revolt. ProTip: This is one of the best photo ops at the Mamluk Castle.

The Mamluk Castle ruins

Within the walls would have been a two-story structure with rooms used for pilgrims during the Ottoman era and used as army barracks during the Arab Revolt. A mosque once stood by the south wall, but all that remains of this structure are the Qiba and Mihrab.

The fortress had rooms beneath the ground that predated the Mamluks fort, but they were destroyed during the Crusader attack of 1116 and by an earthquake in 1068 before being abandoned. 

The structure we see today dates back to the 16th century. ProTip: If you’re at the fortress it is a short walk to the adjacent Aqaba Archaeological Museum housed in Sharif Hussein’s former residence.

The Fortress facade

Plan Your Visit

  • Open Times: Sunday to Thursday 08:00-17:00 (and until 16:00 in winter); Friday to Saturday 10:00-17:00 (and until 16:00 in winter.
  • Prices: 3 JD or if you join a Petra tour from Israel that visits the fortress, the entrance will be included. Note that The Jordan Pass includes Aqaba Castle.
  • Average Visit Duration: You could spend up to an hour exploring the fortress.
  • Popular Times: Tourists visit the Aqaba Fort throughout the day but because of the heat it is always recommended to do your Aqaba sightseeing in the morning or afternoon.
  • Special Events: The Aqaba Traditional Arts Festival is in February and showcases traditional Bedouin arts and crafts.
  • Relevant Tours: Join a 2-day Petra tour from Israel that includes a panoramic tour of Aqaba. Here you can find a good Petra tour from Tel Aviv and recommended Petra tours from Eilat.

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