Aqaba’s history dates back to the 4th millennium BC. The name of Aqaba was given to the port city in the 14th century when it was ruled by the Mamluk Sultan based in Egypt. Previously, it was known as Ayla, a name which archaeologists and historians have often interpreted as the twin version of Eilat.

During the 1st century BC, the Nabataeans, who raised livestock and pirated merchant ships in the Red Sea, inhabited Ayla. Around 106 AD, the Romans used the town as one of their main trading stations en route to the sea. Ayla came under Islamic rule in 630 AD, when the spread of Islam from Hejaz reached the peoples of the Red Sea. During this time, the port was known as the “Door to Palestine”.