The modern sea port of Aqaba has been identified with the earlier settlements of Ayla and Wayla. Both were mentioned by the Arab geographers Ya'qūbi and Al-Muqaddasī, who visited the town in the late ninth and in the tenth century respectively. Al Muqaddasī described it as 'a city on the branch of the China Sea. Great in prosperity with its palms and fish, it is the port of Palestine and the warehouse of al Hijaz.' An Egyptian Fatimid garrison was stationed there in 961/350 AH and the town was captured by the crusaders in 1116/510 AH and then liberated by Saladin in 1170/565 AH. By the thirteenth century there was little left of the town's fortifications except for a stronghold on the shore. It was at this time that the town's name was changed to Aqaba.
Today, the only remaining fort in Aqaba is dated (in the entrance vestibule) to the reign of Sultan Qansuh al Ghuri of the late Mamluk period (early sixteenth century). The beautiful stone-carved calligraphy frieze that wraps around the entrance documents the building as being the work of the Prince Khayir Beg Al Ala'i. The structure was partly rebuilt during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Murat III. The city's importance diminished following the construction of the Suez Canal, in 1869/1286 AH, and the Hijaz railway, from Damascus to Madina, between 1906/1322 AH and 1908/1326 AH. The town received Sharif Hussain of Makkah in 1917/1335 AH, and the Hashimates during the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans.
Khouri, Rami G., and Donald S. Whitcomb. Aqaba : port of Palestine on the China Sea. n.p.: Amman, Jordan : Al Kutba, 1988.