The culture and festivals in Aqaba are an attractive blend of influences arising from its long history and the activity that has constantly been present in it. This is an old city, one that was already populated by 4,000BCE by what were most likely Edomites and later by Arabs and yet more races. It fell into the hands of Romans, the Islamic Caliphate, Saladin, the Mamluk Sultans, and the Ottoman Empire. It has been gone under the names Berenice, Aila and Aelena. It was the site of the famous Battle of Aqaba of T.E. Lawrence in 1917. To put it shortly, it is a place of historic significance in not just the country but also the region.
A lot of people choose to study the culture of a city they are visiting as embodied by its relics and monuments. While this is certainly a worthwhile method of investigating a city’s culture, there are other ways available to supplement it and give you a more rounded view. For instance, there are the people. The soul of a city is found in the attitudes and traditions of the people themselves as they live, breathe and interact, and so most travellers find it to be in Aqaba.
Aqaba locals are generally friendly and warm. There is a little more warmth for foreigners here than in other, more rural places in the kingdom. This is to be expected: Aqaba has long served as a trade post as well as a major port for Jordan, so people here are used to foreigners coming into their borders. This does not mean you should start acting as you would in your own country by being overly lax, of course: take care to respect the local customs, especially the sense of modesty Jordanians have.
You can also learn a lot of about the culture and festivals in Aqaba by looking at the local festivals. The typical Muslim festivals are included, from the Prophet’s Birthday and Ascension (the former of which is also a bank holiday, by the way) to Ramadan, when you should keep in mind that there may be restrictions on smoking, drinking, etc., at least in public. Some Christian holidays are observed too, like Good Friday and Easter Monday. National holidays include Labour Day (on May 1, also a bank holiday), Independence Day (May 25, also a bank holiday), and Army Day (on June 10).
Something that might interest the younger or more excitement-seeking tourists in terms of culture and festivals in Aqaba might be the Distant Festival. This is held on the final Thursday of July, a night-long party that takes place in the Wadi Rum desert. DJs and musical performers abound and you can expect to have fun all night long. If you want something closer to the water, try out the Water Festival too. Held on the 14th of November, this commemorates the day of birth of the late King Hussein (father of the current king), who was known for enjoying water sports and races in his time. Naturally, these events would be held in the only port location of the country, Aqaba, and so the festival is hosted in this coastal city to this day.