We are going to perform an archaeological survey underwater to explore any architectural extensions of the city of Ayla, said Sawsan Fakhry, an archaeology expert for Jordan s Royal Marine Conservation Society (JREDS). There may be a good chance to find the remains of the port mentioned in geographical and historical sources.
The coastal town was both an oasis and an important stop on trade routes connecting Egypt, the Levant (an area encompassing modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria) and even China.
Ayla was established as an Islamic city around the year 650, next to an older port built by Nabataeans (a civilization probably most famous for building Petra) that had been used in the Roman and Byzantine periods, according to an account by Donald Whitcomb, an archaeologist at the University of Chicago. Arab geographers of the ninth and 10th centuries mention the city as a prosperous place full of merchants. The site also saw an influx of visitors during the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.