Aqaba is a sleepy fishing village with a long and historic past. At various times, the port was a stopover on ancient caravan routes, a garrison for Roman troops and meeting place for pilgrims en route to Mecca. Recent excavations have revealed a third-century church, one of the worlds oldest. In medieval times, Aqaba was an important part of Palestine before being absorbed into the Ottoman Empire, a time when Lawrence of Arabia figured in local history. Today Aqaba is important as Jordan's only deep water port and the jumping-off point for excursions to Petra, the country's premier historical attraction.