I arrived in Aqaba tonight to attend the ‘Aqaba, Five Years of Achievement’ conference. The event, which is being held at the new Intercontinental hotel in Aqaba, was shifted for one day in the last minute. HM King Abdullah personally opened the event today. The event was kicked off Thursday with an opening of a photographic exhibition about Aqaba at the turn of the 20th century, organized by the French Embassy in Amman. I didn’t see the exhibition tonight but I will make sure to do that tomorrow. Pictures of old Aqaba are not widely available. The rapid development of the small village to Jordan’s only sea port in the 2nd half of the 20th century, and more recently into a special economic zone that is attracting billions of dollars in investments, has totally changed the image and landscape of Aqaba, a process which isn’t without its critics.
I arrived at the hotel just in time to catch the gala dinner. Reportedly, a large number of unexpected guest showed up for that, so the ball room was absolutely packed. Famous Jordanian comic actors Hisham Yanes and Amal Dabbas entertained the crowd with some hard hitting Jordanian humor which touched on everything ranging from regional politics to government corruption. Not bad at all!
The various sessions of the conference will cover investment opportunities, real estate, environmental protection, tourism marketing and social development. There will also be an exhibition by a number of Aqaba-based companies and organizations to showcase their projects and achievements.
The event is heavily supported by corporate sponsors such as the Aqaba Development Corporation, Saraya Aqaba, AB Maritime, Export and Finance Bank, ABC Bank, Salti Bros and Co. and PBI Aqaba.
When ASEZA was launched 5 years ago it was hit hard by the negative global climate following September 11th. Now, with billion-dollar projects being kicked off, it’s a different picture. It’s definitely something worth watching. I hope to post at least once more from the conference floor tomorrow.
And yes, I am, again, bypassing the (probably business-class-expensive) hotel internet connection and going for GPRS, which, although not exactly fast, is working just fine