It’s the question of water..

New Aqaba

This is the New Aqaba. The 5 Billion dollar project recently announced. (Go see the hi-res pics on Sha3teely’s blog). As you can see above, it is to be built around a huge artificial lake.


Then there’s Ayla (recently rebranded from Ayla Oasis, complete with a HUGE, seemingly unending advertising campaign).

Again you see the huge lagoons, which the Ayla people claim will extend the ‘water line’ of Aqaba by 17 km!

Obviously, water based destinations are a huge attraction. If you ever visited Madinat Jumeira in Dubai you’ll understand.

Madina Jumeira

Here the idea works as a waterway for boats that move people from the Al Qasar and Mina A’Salam hotels to the Souk. I haven’t been to the hotels so I can’t judge if the artificial bodies of water are used for any swimming activities (I doubt it).

Some people are concerned about the technical viability of such lakes. I am curious myself. Will one be able to swim in their water? Will there be fish in them? Will they have sandy beaches? Will the water move enough to stay fresh?

If any of you engineers out there can share some knowledge with us here about how these bodies of water are planned, built and managed, I’d be grateful.

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14 responses to “Aqaba’s artificial lakes: amazing attractions, but how do they work?”

  1. Hala Khalaf Avatar
    Hala Khalaf

    I can’t answer any of those questions….I wouldn’t know where to begin. But here’s a question of my own: where are they GETTING this water FROM??? What about the severe water shortages in our country, and to some extent in our region? A waterpark is being built in the Dead Sea, and is scheduled to be ready by this summer; where’s THAT water coming from?

    And if there’s so much water available for all these attractions, that I admit look amazing and I know I would love to see, if there’s so much water, then what’s being done to remedy the Dead Sea’s problem? It’s the fastest depleting body of water in the world. Soon, there won’t BE a Dead Sea.

    Am so confused!

  2. onzlo Avatar

    Hala, they are getting the water from the sea, these lakes are all connected to the sea. But i dont know any more about them, i wonder how fresh the water stays etc…

  3. Humeid Avatar

    The Ayla lakes are connected to the see through a canal. But I don’t think the ‘New Aqaba’ lake is connected to the sea (unless they want to dig an 11 km canal to it, because that’s the distance of the new city from the shore).

    About the Dead Sea: there are probably SEVEN water park project being developed there! In today’s Jordan Times the following grim article wa published about the Dead Sea (I am pasting it in full for the lack of an archive on the JT site):———————————————————To resuscitate the dying Dead Sea

    Walid M. Sadi
    About a year ago, John Ward Anderson wrote in The Washington Post that “the Dead Sea, one of the world’s cultural and ecological treasures, is dying!”

    In the last 50 years, the writer said, “the water level has dropped more than 24 metres and the sea has shrunk by more than a third, largely because the Jordan River has gone dry”.

    Over the next two decades, the sea, said the writer, is expected to fall at least 18 more metres. Then Anderson said that nothing would stop this inevitable result except, perhaps, linking the Red Sea with the Dead Sea.

    The decline in the level of the Dead Sea has been “particularly rapid since 1970s when the water level has been dropping almost one metre a year”. The main problem, experts agree, “is that most of the water that once flowed into the sea is being diverted for drinking water and agricultural” purposes. Accordingly, there is not enough inflow of water to offset the high evaporation rate of this 411 metres below sea level body of water.

    The receding waters of the Dead Sea have caused “huge mud flats with hundreds of sinkholes that threaten to collapse roads and buildings and forced a development freeze on Israel’s side of the sea”.

    In addition to the problem caused by the diminishing waters of the Jordan River, Israeli and Jordanian industries at the south end of the sea are compounding the problem. These industries, according to Anderson, in order to extract chemicals, are causing the evaporation of 700 million litres of mineral-rich water every day. This means that about 250 billion litres of water are lost every year due to industrial use.

    It seems, therefore, that the only way left to resurrect the Dead Sea from extinction is to link it to the Red Sea.

    Some Israeli experts disagree with the idea.

    Pumping seawater from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea via a proposed 193-kilometre water canal would cause chemical and biological reactions that would change the blue colour of the Dead Sea into white or red; worse still, deadly gases may be emitted in the process.

    If this is indeed the case, and the canal proposal may have to be abandoned, then the “Dead Sea will continue falling about a metre a year for the next 150 years or so, until the Dead Sea water becomes saturated with salt”. Evaporation will stop at that point because there is no water left and the Dead Sea would become “one-third smaller and about 130 metres lower than today”.

    Restoring the debit of the Jordan River could be another solution, even though now it appears an impossible mission.

    The Dead Sea problem starts about 100 kilometres north of the sea, “at a spot just below the Sea of Galilee that has become the start of an open drain that pumps out about 2.7 million litres of raw sewage a day!”

    “White foam,” says the writer, “flutters in small pools around rocks. Chunks of concrete, strips of plastic piping, bicycle tyres and other litter clutter the shore. The stench of human waste fills the air.”

    This situation has meant the end of the River Jordan as a source of clean and freshwater. From here down to the Dead Sea, the Jordan River has turned into a sewage canal,” claims Anderson.

    Once Jordan River poured about 1.3 billion cubic metres of clean water every year, or about three quarters of all the freshwater that flowed into the sea. Now Jordan River delivers less than 100 million litres of water a year, and half of it, according to the writer, is raw sewage.

    The real solution to the dying sea, according to the writer, lies in the deployment of a plan for a “smarter use of water”.

    Since environmentalists claim that industries are part of the reason 25 to 30 per cent of the sea level drops annually, developing a more balanced plan of economic exploitation of the Dead Sea offers another way to salvage the sea. If we cannot pour water into the sea, the least that we can do is to stop taking away from it.

    “We need to reach a balance with nature, or the Dead Sea will become the Dry Sea,” concludes the writer.

    There is need to come up with a sensible solution to reverse the tide. No much time to wait if we don’t want future generations to know about the Dead Sea from pictures only.

  4. Hala Khalaf Avatar
    Hala Khalaf

    Oh wow, never occurred to me that they’re getting it from the sea, how stupid do I feel right now? Gotta stop posting comments so late at night.

    Thanks for this JT article Humeid…it’s so depressing. Wish someone would invest a billion dollar project into resurrecting the Dead Sea instead of into one more housing community project, though God knows we need affordable housing communities for the lower and lower middle class.

  5. RebelliousArabGirl Avatar

    I didn’t know that the lakes in Aqaba are artitificial.. wow! Human technology does wonders!

  6. fida Avatar

    As you said Ahmad and Onzlo, the water comes from the sea through the proposed canal. However, the canal has to be designed with adequate width to allow for water circulation and tidal movement. In the areas where water reaches a ‘dead end’, relatively expensive turbines are introduced to reduce water stagnation and its consequences of floating weeds and algae. Almost every new development in Dubai creeps around artificial water bodies excavated for that purpose. It is only recently that environmental studies have gone into the design of these water lakes/canals.

  7. Batir Wardam Avatar
    Batir Wardam

    Ahmad I can tell you what will happen to those artificial lakes. It has happened in Eilat and virtually in every other part of the world experimented. Water will stagnate due to lack of circulation, and the result will be a collection of algae and bacteria that will make the water smell bad. I just canot understand how they have the brains to do the same mistakes again.

  8. thaer al saleh Avatar
    thaer al saleh

    how can you inform me about the price in ayla to buy an apartment there?

  9. Salman Avatar

    A place with a similar , if not the same idea, is Mission Bay in San Diego. The bay was dug to create recreational lakes and although it has a couple of small fresh water inlets, it is mostly of sea water. Here is a link to study about the environmental factors affecting Mission Bay and the status of animal communities within the bay:,-117.224765&spn=0.062063,0.135441&t=h&om=1

  10. Osama Avatar

    I think Ayla is different from the other lagoons you guys are talking about. What I understand (though not an expert in the matter and maybe not 100% confident in this), is that at least for Ayla, it works kind of like a giant artificial waterfall (or cascading fountain). Most of the other lagoons like these are generally/usually mixed naturally or passively.

    Here, they will actively pump huge amounts of sea water to the top/highest areas inland, then it flows by gravity back out (cascades) to the sea. So they hope to have solved the water stagnation risks. Will probably also need the turbines or something to mix water in specific zones as mentioned by fida.

    In the end though, the ideas are kind of new and at quite a large scale, so there will always be risks. So they should have and probably have brought in people/experts who are top at this sort of stuff. Lets just hope the “big fish” really listed to what the experts have reccomended, actually build what is needed, things are operated as they are supposed to, and that they don’t try to cut too many corners to save some money!

  11. Alozie Chijioke Avatar
    Alozie Chijioke

    I am a Nigerian from the eastern part of the country, namely Umuahia. The town is hilly with undulating curves and corners great for an artificial lake. can someone let me know how to plan, build and maintain such projects,

  12. Akram Sawalha Avatar
    Akram Sawalha

    You brought up an intresting issue….and it made me think….
    It is just an idea ; would it work or not I am not sure?…
    Since we have the pumping stations that pump sea water to cool the Power Generators / Turbines at the NEPCO Aqaba Power Station, why not consider routing the water through these artificial lakes….? ( warmer water could be a problem?!… could it be cooled by jetting the water in the air, like the Geneva fountain? ) .

  13. Ben Avatar

    I don’t know how safe the water is since it is not being regenerated. The heat is also the main problem, it will eventually attract insects and bacetria. This may effect the Beach resorts as it could easily be transported.

  14. Bilal Tatar Avatar
    Bilal Tatar

    Hey Guys,

    I am an architect from Turkey, and currently working @ Libya now. I am working on a similar project (smaller one) which has 45,000m2 artificial lake area. And I had some technical research that I can share with you.

    First of all, if there is no any fresh water supply, you should think about mechanical systems to keep the water clean and fresh. If you want to swim or having fishing in this water, ozone systems need to be added. Yani its up to your decision, if you want to keep the water blue as sea, you have to filtered it with mechanical support, but if you want to see it green but clean there are cheaper solutions…

    If anyone wants to learn draft cost of a such a lake I can share my knowledge, so please don’t hesitate to contact with me ;)

    All the best,

    Bilal Tatar