|اَلمَمْلَكَة اَلأُرْدُنِيَّة اَلهَاشِمِيَّة
Al-Mamlakah Al-Urdaniyyah Al-Hashimiyyah
Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
|Motto: Arabic: الله، الوطن، المليك
Transliteration: Allah, Al-Watan, Al-Malek
Translation: "God, Fatherland, The King"
|Anthem: عاش المليك
The Royal Anthem of Jordan
("As-salam al-malaki al-urdoni")1
Long Live the King
|Spoken languages||English, French, Circassian, Chechen, Persian, Kurdish, Turkish|
|-||Prime Minister||Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh|
|-||End of British League of Nations mandate||
25 May 1946
|-||Total||89,342 km² (112th)
35,637 sq mi
|-||July 2010 estimate||6,407,085 (106nd)|
|-||July 2004 census||5,611,202|
|GDP (PPP)||2010 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2010 estimate|
|Gini (2002–03)||38.8 (medium)|
|Currency||Jordanian dinar (
|Time zone||UTC+2 (UTC+2)|
|-||Summer (DST)||UTC+3 (UTC+3)|
|Internet TLD||.jo, الاردن.|
|1||Also serves as the Royal anthem.|
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, commonly called Jordan, is an Arab country in Southwest Asia and a part of the Middle East between the West Bank and Saudi Arabia. It shares with Israel the coastlines of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea. Jordan's principal religion is Islam, and its main language is Arabic.
A young nation, Jordan occupies an area considered one of the 15 cradle-of-civilization nations and is thus the home to many historical sites and ruins of ancient civilations. Petra in Ma'an, the home of the Nabataeans, is a complete city carved in a mountain. It is also an area considered holy land to the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The ancient biblical kingdoms of Moab, Gilead, and Edom are there, as well as the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Mount Nebo is where Moses is said to have viewed the Promised Land before he died.
Jordan is one of the most politically liberal and advanced of the Arab nations, whose leaders have continually been committed to the peace process. The fact that Jordan has peace with the surrounding countries, combined with its stability, has made it a preference for many immigrants and refugees from Palestine, Lebanon and others from the Persian Gulf region.
Jordan is bordered by Syria to the north, Iraq to the northeast, Saudi Arabia to the east and south, and both Israel and the West Bank to the west. The Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea touch the country.
Jordan consists mostly of an arid desert plateau in the east, with a highland area in the west. The Great Rift Valley of the Jordan River separates Jordan and Israel. The highest point in the country is Jabal Ram at 5689 feet (1734 meters), while the lowest is the Dead Sea at 1594 feet (486 meters) below sea level.
The climate is dry and hot. With a rainy season from November to March, most of the country receives less than 47 inches (120 millimeters) of rain a year and may be classified as a dry desert or steppe. In the highlands east of the Jordan Valley, precipitation increases to around 118 inches (300mm) in the south and 197 inches (500mm) or more in the north.
Daytime temperatures during the summer frequently exceed 96.8°F (36°C), while the winter months—November to March—bring moderately cool and sometimes cold weather, averaging about 55.4°F (13 °C). Except in the rift depression, frost is common during the winter, and snow falls at the higher elevations of the north western highlands. Usually it snows a couple of times a year in western Amman.
The Jordan River is short, but from its mountain headwaters—approximately 100 miles (160km) north of the river's mouth at the Dead Sea—the riverbed drops from an elevation of about 9842 feet (3000 meters) above sea level to more than 1312 feet (400 meters) below sea level. Before reaching Jordanian territory the river forms Lake Tiberias, the surface of which is 695 feet (212 meters) below sea level. The Jordan River's principal tributary is the Yarmuk River. Near the junction of the two rivers, the Yarmuk forms the boundary between Israel on the northwest, Syria on the northeast, and Jordan on the south. The Az Zarqa River, the second main tributary, rises and empties entirely within the East Bank.
The Royal Society for The Conservation of Nature, RSCN was established in 1966 under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Noor and is an independent voluntary organization devoted to the conservation of Jordan's natural resources. This organization has as its mission the protection and managment of the natural resources of the nation. As such, it is one of the few voluntary organizations in the Middle East with such a public service mandate. 
Jordan has a number of reserves and protected areas whose care is supported by the RSCN:
Environmental issues include limited natural fresh water resources, deforestation, overgrazing, soil erosion, and desertification.
Jordan has numerous ancient sites. Petra in Ma'an, the home of the Nabataeans, is a complete city carved in a mountain. The huge rocks are colorful, mostly pink, and the entrance to the ancient city is through a 1.25km narrow gorge in the mountain - called the Siq. In the city are various structures, all (except two) are carved into rock, including al Khazneh - known as the Treasury - which was nominated to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Other sites of interest in Petra include the Monastery, the Roman theatre, the Royal Tombs, the High Place of Sacrifice. The long-hidden site was revealed to the Western world by the Swiss explorer Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.
Umm Qais is a town located on the site of the ruined Roman city of Gadara. Ajlun is famous for the Islamic al-Rabadh Castle. Jerash is famous for its its ancient Roman architecture, including the colonnaded streets, arches, Roman theatres, and the Oval Plaza. Amman, the capital, has the Roman theater, in addition to several museums, where one may find remains of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Al Karak contains an important castle from the times of Saladin, known as Al-Karak Castle. Madaba is well known for its mosaics. The River Jordan is where Jesus Christ was baptised by John the Baptist. Mount Nebo, is where Moses was said to have gone to view the Promised Land before he died.
The capital and largest city, Amman, was named after the Ammonites, whose capital it was in the thirteenth century B.C.E. With a population of 2,125,400, it is a regional commercial center as well as an Arabic cultural capital. Other cities include Irbid and Az Zarqa, both in the north. Most of Jordan's population resides in or near Amman.
Jordan forms part of the richly historical Fertile Crescent region. Evidence of human settlement dates back to the Paleolithic period (500,000 - 17000 B.C.E.). Archaeologists have found flint and basalt hand-axes, knives and scraping implements. The first civilization on record in eastern Amman was during the Neolithic period, around 6500 B.C.E., when archaeological discoveries in Ain Ghazal, showed evidence of a settled life and the growth of artistic work, which suggests that a well-developed civilization.
Around the second half of the third millennium B.C.E., Semitic Amorites settled around the Jordan River in the area called Canaan and worshipped the god Amurru. From Mount Nebo in western Jordan, many people believe that Moses saw the Promised Land (c.1213 B.C.E.). The Amorites were a Semitic people who occupied the territory west of the Euphrates from the second half of the third millennium B.C.E., and who worshipped the god Amurru. Early Babylonian inscriptions reveal that all western lands, including Syria and Canaan, were known as "the land of the Amorites," who twice conquered Babylonia (at the end of the third, and the beginning of the first millennia.) In the Bible, they are described as a powerful people of great stature "like the height of the cedars," who had occupied the land east and west of the Jordan river; their king, Og, being described as the last of the remnant of the giants. Five Amorite kings were defeated with great slaughter by Joshua. In the thirteenth century B.C.E., what later became the capital, Amman, was called Rabbath Ammon.
“Edom” (Hebrew for "red") is a name given to Esau in the Hebrew Bible, as well as to the nation purportedly descended from him. The Edomite people were a Semitic-speaking tribal group inhabiting the Negev Desert and the Aravah valley of what is now southern Israel and adjacent Jordan. The nation of Edom is known to have existed back to the eighth or ninth century B.C.E., and the Bible and archaeological evidence dates it back several centuries further. The Edomites are believed to be early inhabitants of Petra, the archaeological site located in a large valley running from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. It is famous for its many stone structures which are carved into the rock.
The territory became part of the Nabataean kingdom, possibly around 312 B.C.E. The Nabataeans, whose origins remain obscure, were an ancient trading people of southern Jordan, Canaan and the northern part of Arabia- whose oasis settlements in the time of Josephus gave the name of Nabatene to the borderland between Syria and Arabia, from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. Their loosely-controlled trading network, which centered on strings of oases that they controlled, where agriculture was intensively practiced in limited areas, and on the routes that linked them, had no securely defined boundaries in the surrounding desert.
The Nabataeans built the capital of their ancient Arab kingdom, Petra, between 400 B.C.E. and 160 C.E. The ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply led to the rise of the desert city, in effect creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. Thus, stored water could be employed even during prolonged periods of drought, and the city prospered from its sale.
The territory was later conquered by the Assyrians (c. 722 B.C.E.,), followed by the Persians (c. 597 B.C.E.). Alexander the Great conquered the area around 331 B.C.E. Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the Hellenic ruler of Egypt, renamed the city of Rabbath Ammon “Philadelphia.”
Emperor Trajan conquered the Nabataeans and incorporated them into the Roman Empire in 106 C.E., where their individual culture, easily identified by their characteristic finely-potted painted ceramics, became dispersed and was eventually lost. Philadelphia came under Roman control and joined the Decapolis—a group of ten cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire in Syria and Judea that was renamed Palaestina in 135 C.E.
In 324 C.E., Christianity became the religion of the Byzantine Empire, and Philadelphia became the seat of a bishopric. One of the churches of this period can be seen on the city's Citadel.
The Ghassanids were Arab Christians who emigrated in the year 250 from Yemen to the Hauran, in southern Syria, south of Damascus. The Ghassanid kingdom was an ally of the Byzantine Empire, although Ghassanid kings can be more accurately described as "phylarchs," native rulers of subject frontier states. The capital was at Jabiyah in the Golan Heights, and their rule covered much of Syria, Lebanon), Palestine, Jordan and the northern Hijaz as far south as Yathrib (Medina). The Ghassanids acted as guardians of trade routes, policed Bedouin tribes and were a source of troops for the Byzantine army. Their rule lasted until to 638 C.E. Philadelphia was renamed Amman during the Ghassanian era.
Beginning in the seventh century C.E., Islam spread through the region. The territory flourished under the caliphates, with nearby capital of the Umayyad Muslims (636 C.E. – 750 C.E.) in Damascus, and the Abbasids (750 –950) in Baghdad. Islamic control continued under the Mameluks (1174 – 1517), and the Ottoman Turks (1517-1918).
Amman was destroyed by several earthquakes and natural disasters and remained a small village and a pile of ruins until the Circassians settlement in 1887.
When the Ottoman Sultan decided to build the Hejaz railway, linking Damascus and Medina, facilitating both the annual haj pilgrimage and permanent trade, Amman became a major station, and was back on the commercial map.
With the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations created the French Mandate Syria and British Mandate Palestine. Approximately 80 percent of the British Mandate of Palestine was east of the Jordan River and was known as "Transjordan." In 1921, the British gave semi-autonomous control of Transjordan to the future Abdullah I of Jordan, from the Hashemite family, who had lost their civil war with the House of Saud for control of Mecca and Medina. Abdullah I was assassinated in 1951 but the Hashemites continued to rule Transjordan under British supervision until after World War II.
In 1946, the British requested that the United Nations approve an end to British Mandate rule in Transjordan. Following this approval, the Jordanian Parliament proclaimed King Abdullah the first ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
King Abdullah I was assassinated by a Palestinian terrorist in 1951, when in Jerusalem visiting the Dome of the Rock mosque. His son King Talal ruled briefly, his major accomplishment being the Jordanian constitution, before he was removed from the throne in 1952 due to mental illness. At that time his son, Hussein, was too young for the throne, so a committee ruled the nation.
After Hussein reached 18, he ruled Jordan as king from 1953 until his death in 1999, surviving a number of challenges to his rule, drawing on the loyalty of his military, and serving as a symbol of unity for both the Bedouin-related and Palestinian communities in Jordan.
In 1965 there was an exchange of land between Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Jordan gave up a relatively large area of inland desert in return for a small piece of sea-shore near Aqaba.
Jordan signed a mutual defense pact in May 1967 with Egypt, and it participated in the June 1967 war against Israel along with Syria, Egypt, and Iraq. During the war, Jordan lost the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Israel (the western sector having been under Israeli control). In 1988, Jordan renounced all claims to the West Bank but retained an administrative role pending a final settlement, and its 1994 treaty with Israel allowed for a continuing Jordanian role in Muslim and Christian holy places in Jerusalem.
The 1967 war led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians, especially from the West Bank, living in Jordan. Its Palestinian refugee population—700,000 in 1966—grew by another 300,000 from the West Bank. The period following the 1967 war saw an upsurge in the power and importance of Palestinian resistance elements ("fedayeen") in Jordan. The heavily-armed fedayeen constituted a growing threat to the sovereignty and security of the Hashemite state, and open fighting erupted in June 1970.
Other Arab governments attempted to work out a peaceful solution, but by September, continuing fedayeen actions in Jordan—including the destruction of three international airliners hijacked by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and held in the desert east of Amman—prompted the government to take action to regain control over its territory and population. In the ensuing heavy fighting, a Syrian tank force invaded northern Jordan to support the fedayeen but subsequently retreated.
By September 22, Arab foreign ministers meeting at Cairo had arranged a cease-fire beginning the following day. Sporadic violence continued, however, until Jordanian forces led by Habis Al-Majali, won a decisive victory over the fedayeen in July 1971, expelling them from the country. The battle in which Palestinian fighters from various Palestinian Liberation Organization groups were expelled from Jordan is commonly known as Black September.
At the Rabat summit conference in 1974, Jordan agreed, along with the rest of the Arab League, that the Palestinian Liberation Organization was the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people," thereby relinquishing to that organization its role as representative of the West Bank Palestinians.
King Hussein ended martial law in 1991 and legalized political parties in 1992. In 1989 and 1993, Jordan held free and fair parliamentary elections.
No fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line during the October 1973 Arab-Israeli war, but Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to fight Israeli units on Syrian territory. Jordan did not participate in the Gulf War of 1990–91. In 1991, Jordan agreed, along with Syria, Lebanon, and Palestinian fedayeen representatives, to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel at the Madrid Conference, sponsored by the U.S. and Russia. It negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a declaration to that effect on July 25, 1994. As a result, an Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was concluded on October 26, 1994.
King Abdullah II succeeded his father Hussein following the latter's death in February 1999. Abdullah moved quickly to reaffirm Jordan's peace treaty with Israel and its relations with the United States. Abdullah, during the first year in power, refocused the government's agenda on economic reform.
On November 9, 2005, Jordan sustained three simultaneous bombings at hotels in Amman. At least 57 people died and 115 were wounded. Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a group led by terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a native Jordanian, claimed responsibility.
This violence has also led to a rise of extremism in Jordan. In November 2005, King Abdullah II called for a "war on extremism" in the wake of three suicide bombings in Amman.
On September 4, 2006, a 38-year-old known criminal took a pistol to a Roman amphitheater in the capital of Amman and proceeded to shoot at a group of Western tourists. One British man was killed and five other tourists wounded, including a Jordanian tourist security guard. Later, in December of the same year, he was sentenced to death by hanging.
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy. Executive authority is vested in the king and his council of ministers. The king signs all laws, has veto power that can only be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the National Assembly. He appoints and may dismiss all judges by decree, approves amendments to the constitution, declares war, and commands the armed forces. Cabinet decisions, court judgments, and the national currency are issued in his name. The Royal Armed Forces and General Intelligence Department of Jordan are under the control of the king.
The king appoints a council of ministers, led by a prime minister, who may dismiss other cabinet members at the prime minister's request. The cabinet is responsible to the Chamber of Deputies on matters of general policy and can be forced to resign by a two-thirds vote of "no confidence" by that body.
Legislative power rests in the bicameral National Assembly. The 110-member Chamber of Deputies, elected by universal suffrage ("one person, one vote"), to a four-year term, is subject to dissolution by the king. Nine seats are reserved for Christians, six for women, and three for Circassians and Chechens. A 40-member Senate is appointed by the king for a four-year term.
The constitution provides for three categories of courts: civil, religious, and special. Jordan's legal system is based on Islamic law and French codes. Judicial review of legislative acts occurs in a special High Tribunal. Jordan has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice jurisdiction. Jordan has a low crime rate, with few petty crimes. Under the Islamic system, honor killings, such as if a woman family member’s chastity is compromised, may lead to a light sentence or charges being dropped. Jordan uses the death penalty, and allegedly uses torture.
Jordan's continuing structural economic difficulties, burgeoning population, and more open political environment led to the emergence of a variety of political parties. Moving toward greater independence, Jordan's parliament has investigated corruption charges against several regime figures and has become the major forum in which differing political views, including those of political Islamists, are expressed. While King Abdullah remains the ultimate authority in Jordan, the parliament plays an important role.
Administratively, Jordan is divided into 12 governorates, each headed by a governor appointed by the king. They are the sole authorities for all government departments and development projects in their respective areas. The governorates are subdivided into approximately fifty-two nahias. The governorates are: Ajlun, Amman, Aqaba, Balqa, Irbid, Jerash, Kerak, Ma'an, Madaba, Mafraq, Tafilah, Zarqa.
The Jordanian Armed Forces consists of the Royal Jordanian Land Force, Royal Jordanian Navy, Royal Jordanian Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the Public Security Directorate, that normally falls under Ministry of Interior, but comes under armed forces command in wartime or crisis. Age 17 is the age for voluntary military service. Conscription at age 18 was suspended in 1999, although all males under age 37 are required to register. Women are not subject to conscription, but can volunteer to serve in non-combat military positions.
Jordan has followed a pro-Western foreign policy and traditionally has had close relations with the United States and the United Kingdom. These relations were damaged by Jordan's neutrality and maintaining relations with Iraq during the first Gulf War, but were restored by participating in the Middle East peace process and enforcing of UN sanctions against Iraq. Relations with the Gulf countries improved substantially after King Hussein's death. Following the fall of the Iraqi regime, Jordan has helped restore the security of Iraq through the training of up to 30,000 Iraqi police cadets in Jordan.
The U.S. has participated with Jordan and Israel in discussions on water-sharing and security; cooperation on Jordan Rift Valley development; infrastructure projects; and trade, finance, and banking issues. Jordan participates in the multilateral peace talks. Jordan belongs to the UN, the World Trade Organization, the International Meteorological Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Atomic Energy Agency, and World Health Organization, is a member of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Nonaligned Movement (NAM), and Arab League.
Jordan is a small Arab country with insufficient supplies of water, oil, and other natural resources. Poverty, unemployment, and inflation are fundamental problems. Just over 10 percent of its land is arable, rainfall is low and highly variable, and much of Jordan's available ground water is not renewable. Jordan's economic resource base centers on phosphates, potash, and their fertilizer derivatives, tourism, overseas remittances, and foreign aid. Lacking forests, coal reserves, hydroelectric power, or commercially-viable oil deposits, Jordan relies on natural gas for 10 percent of its domestic energy needs. Jordan used to depend on Iraq for oil until the Iraq invasion in 2003 by the United States.
The ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, the Gulf War, and other conflicts in the Middle East have made huge impacts on Jordan's economy. The fact that Jordan has peace with the surrounding countries, combined with its stability, has made it a preference for many Palestinians, Lebanese, and Persian Gulf immigrants and refugees.
Though this may have resulted in a more active economy, it has also damaged it by substantially decreasing the amount of resources each person is entitled to. Jordan has a law that states that any Palestinian may immigrate and obtain Jordanian citizenship, but must surrender his or her Palestinian status. Palestinians are not allowed to buy land unless they give up their Palestinian citizenship.
Since assuming the throne in 1999, King Abdallah II has undertaken some economic reforms to improve living standards. Amman has continued to follow IMF guidelines, practicing careful monetary policy, and making substantial headway with privatization. In 2006, Jordan reduced its debt-to-GDP ratio significantly. The government has liberalized the trade regime sufficiently to secure Jordan's membership in the World Trade Organization (2000), a free-trade accord with the United States (2001), and an association agreement with the European Union (2001). These measures have helped improve productivity and have put Jordan on the foreign investment map.
The U.S.-led war in Iraq in 2003 made Jordan more dependent on oil from other Gulf nations, and has forced the Jordanian Government to raise petrol product prices. Jordan's export market, which depends on exports to Iraq, was affected by the war but recovered quickly while contributing to the Iraq recovery effort. The main challenges facing Jordan are reducing dependence on foreign grants, reducing the budget deficit, and attracting investment to promote job creation.
Tourism is important, contributing around 11 percent to the country's gross national product in 2006. Numerous ancient places, its unique desert castles and unspoiled natural locations contribute to its cultural and religious sites tourist attractions. The country is exploring ways to expand its limited water supply and use its existing water resources more efficiently, including through regional co-operation.
The government has emphasized the information technology and tourism sectors as other promising growth sectors. The low tax and low regulation Aqaba Special Economic Zone is considered a model of a government-provided framework for private sector-led economic growth.
Exports totaled $4.798-billion in 2006. Export commodities included clothing, pharmaceuticals, potash, phosphates, fertilizers, vegetables, and manufactures. Export partners included the United States 26.2 percent, Iraq 17.1 percent, India 8.1 percent, Saudi Arabia 5.9 percent, and Syria 4.7 percent.
Imports totaled $10.42-billion in 2006. Import commodities included crude oil, textile fabrics, machinery, transport equipment, and manufactured goods. Import partners included Saudi Arabia 23.6 percent, China 9.2 percent, Germany 8 percent, the United States 5.6 percent.
Per capita GDP was $4,825 in 2005, 103 on a list of 181 nations.
Education and literacy rates and measures of social well-being are relatively high compared with other countries with similar incomes. Macroeconomic stability has been achieved since the 1990s. However, unemployment rates remain high, with the official figure standing at 15.4 percent in 2006, and the unofficial rate around 30 percent, and 30 percent existed below the poverty line in 2001. Rates of price inflation were low, at 2.3 percent in 2003, and the currency has been stable with an exchange rate fixed to the U.S. dollar since 1995.
Jordan’s population was estimated at 5,350,000 in 2005. About 70 percent of Jordan's population is urban, while less than six percent of the rural population is nomadic or semi-nomadic. About three million people registered as Palestinian refugees and displaced persons reside in Jordan, most as citizens, and between 700,000 and 1.7 million Iraqis live in Jordan, mainly in Amman. Life expectancy was 78.4 years for the total population in 2006.
Arabs make up 98 percent of the population, Circassians make up one percent, and Chechens, Armenians, and Kurds make up the remaining one percent. Jordan's ruling class is made up of people of Bedouin Arab descent, most of whom originate from the Hejaz region in northwest Saudi Arabia and account for around 40-45 percent of the population. However, 50 to 55 percent of Jordan’s Arab population are Palestinians, many of whom fled from Palestine after the Arab-Israeli wars in 1948 and 1967. Many Jordanians are of Turkish and East European descent, as many Jordanian expatriates who reside in East European countries marry there. Circassians descend from hundreds of thousands of Turkic Muslim people driven from the north west Caucasus region since 1863 after the Russian invasion of the Caucasus. A few Lebanese have settled in Jordan since the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.
For Jews and Christians, Jordan is considered part of the Holy Land, sacred for its connection to the Jewish patriarchs Abraham and Moses, as well as Christianity’s John the Baptist. Jordan is where the non-Arab world first contacted Islam more than 1500 years ago, and is the location of numerous tombs of the Prophet Mohammed's companions. About 92 percent of the population are Sunni Muslims, six percent are Christian, and the remaining two percent include several small Shi'a Muslim and Druze populations.
Among the Sunni Muslim population, although observance was not always orthodox, devotion to and identification with the faith was high. Islam was the established religion in 2007, and as such its institutions received government support. The 1952 Constitution stipulates that the king and his successors must be Muslims and sons of Muslim parents.
The 1980s witnessed a stronger adherence to Islamic customs. More women wore Islamic dress and the head scarf, and more men had beards. Attendance at Friday prayers rose, as did the number of people observing Ramadan. During the 1970s and 1980s, the Middle East region saw a rise of Islamic fundamentalism in response to economic recession and to the failure of nationalist politics.
Christians have nine percent of the seats in parliament. Most Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox church (called "Room Urthudux" in Arabic). The rest are Roman Catholics (called "Lateen"), Eastern Catholics (called "Room Katoleek" to distinguish them from "Western Catholics"), and various Protestant communities including Baptists. Christians in Jordan are of many nationalities. The Catholic mass is celebrated in Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Tagalog and Sinhala, as well as in Iraqi dialects of Arabic. Since the Iraq War, many Christians from Iraq have settled in Jordan.
Of interest to those steeped in the Bible, in an area called Wadi Shoaib, stands the grave of prophet Shoaib, who is referred to as "Jethro" in the Bible where he is called the "priest of Midian."
The official language is Arabic, the largest living member of the Semitic language family in terms of speakers. English is used widely in commerce and government and among educated people. Arabic and English must be taught at public and private schools, while French may be taught at some schools but is not obligatory.
Women in Jordan tend to have their lives controlled by their closest male relative. The practice of educating women only began 40 or 50 years ago. The 1997 census revealed 14 percent of the workforce were women, up from eight percent in 1979. Sons are prized. Women must obey their husbands. Most Muslim women cover their heads with scarves, and some cover their heads and faces with a veil. Sexes are segregated in public—it is common for women to eat apart from men in restaurants, and unless they are married or related, men and women sit apart on public transport.
The father of the bride is responsible for arranging any marriage. Couples marry within their clans, so cousins often marry each other, and the couple may barely know each other until the engagement is announced. The wedding has an engagement party and a wedding party. Papers signed at the engagement party mean from that time the couple is legally married. The couple date and get to know each other. If they choose not to proceed, they must divorce, even though they have not lived together. Brides must be virgins on the wedding night. The husband controls all aspects of his wife’s life, and may take another wife. Polygamy with up to four wives is legal. Divorce is legal. Upon divorce, custody of the children goes to the father. For this reason, and for the fact that divorced women are viewed as outcasts, women choose to remain in a marriage even when there are other wives.
The typical family is extended, with family size decreasing to about six members per family. The scarcity of resources makes population control vital. Family planning has been promoted, and many wives use contraceptives. Under Islamic law, a woman inherits half the amount a man receives. Women are primary caregivers for children. When the first son is born, the parents take the name of the son. For instance, if the son's name is Mohammed, the father becomes Abu Mohammed ("father of Mohammed") and the mother becomes Om Mohammed ("mother of Mohammed").
Jordan has given great attention to education. With a literacy rate of 91.3 percent (the percentage of the population age 15 and over who can read and write), it is ranked first in the Arab world. Its educational system is of international standards and its secondary education program is accepted in world-class universities.
School education contains two parts: Basic education, which lasts for 10 years (from age six to 16), and the secondary education, which lasts for two years. Secondary education is free but not compulsory. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees provides schooling for Palestinian refugees. Outside the classroom, children participate in few activities away from the family.
Secondary education comprises two major tracks—academic or vocational. At the end of the two-year period, academic students sit for the general secondary examination (Tawjihi) for a general secondary education certificate. The academic stream qualifies students for entrance to university. Vocational secondary education provides intensive vocational training and apprenticeships, and leads to the award of a certificate (not the Tawjihi).
Access to higher education is open to holders of the general secondary education certificate who can then choose between private or public community colleges or universities. A credit-hour system, which entitles students to select courses according to a study plan, is implemented at universities. In 2007, there were eight public universities plus two newly licensed ones, and 13 private universities plus four newly-licensed ones.
Jordan's political and social systems are centered around extended patriarchal family units based on ancestry and wealth. Family units are often led by sheikhs whose rule depends on the size of their families, their wealth, and their personalities. Upon the death of a sheikh, the eldest son takes over. Modern Arab culture values a college education, Mercedes cars, and an urban home. In traditional Arab culture, camel breeders are the highest on the social scale.
The culture of Jordan is based on Arab and Islamic elements. The government promotes cultural festivals, encourages the revival of handicrafts, and takes steps to preserve the country's archaeological and historical heritage. Folk art survives in tapestries, leather crafts, pottery, and ceramics. Wool and goat hair rugs with colorful tribal designs are manufactured. Notable aspects of the culture include the music of Jordan as well as an interest in sports, particularly football (soccer) and basketball as well as other imported sports mainly from the west. They also have camel races.
Most people live in one- or two-room apartments or houses. Affluent urban families have larger apartments or separate homes. Buildings are mostly made of concrete, to which more floors may be added, to create apartments for married sons. Many homes open into private courtyards with concrete walls.
Essential to any cooking in the Arabian Peninsula is the concept of hospitality. Meals are generally large family affairs, with much sharing and a great deal of warmth over the dinner table. Formal dinners and celebrations generally entail large quantities of lamb, and every occasion entails large quantities of tea.
A feta-like cheese is called halloumi, made from goat or sheep milk, is served in a sandwich of pita-style bread or cubed in salads. Rice, legumes, olives, yogurt, flat breads, vegetables including cauliflower, eggplant, potatoes, okra, tomatoes, and cucumbers, lamb or chicken, and fruits (apricots, apples, bananas, melons, and oranges) form the basis for most meals.
The national main dish is mansaf, which is lamb cooked in dried yogurt and served with seasoned rice on flat bread. The main meal is served during the middle of the afternoon. A covering is placed on the floor. A dinner may consist of a very large platter, shared commonly, with a large pile of rice, incorporating lamb or chicken, or both, as separate dishes, with various stewed vegetables, heavily spiced, sometimes with a tomato sauce. Most likely, there would be several other items on the side, less hearty. Tea would certainly accompany the meal, as it is almost constantly consumed. Coffee would be included. Torn pieces of bread are folded in half and used to scoop the food. In keeping with the rules and traditions of the Muslim culture, the left hand is never used to feed oneself.
Cinnamon is used in meat dishes as well as in sweets such as baklava. Other desserts include variations of rice pudding and fried dough. Ground nut mixtures are common fillings for such treats. Saffron is used in everything, from sweets, to rice, to beverages. Fruit juices are quite popular in this often arid region.
Greetings and farewells are lengthy and sincere. Visitors are invited for dinner, where they are showered with kindness and food. Women dress modestly and are offended by exposed flesh. Shoes are removed before entering a mosque or a home. Feet are never put on a coffee table, footstool, or desk. Same-sex friends hold hands, hug, and kiss in public. There is limited touching between men and women.
Jordan’s most famous poet is Mustafa Wahbi al-Tal, who is among the major Arab poets of the twentieth century. Al-Tal was a political and social activist who devoted 20 years of his life to regaining the rights of the Roma people (gypsies) and became a member of the gypsy community.
The music of Jordan can be distinguished from that of Syria and Saudi Arabia by its strong Bedouin influence. Rural zajal songs, with improvised poetry accompanied with a rabab, a stringed lute-type instrument, and reed pipe is popular. Villagers have special songs for births, weddings, funerals, planting, ploughing, and harvesting.
The Bedouin singer Omar Al-Abdillat, and Diana Karazon, winner of the Arab version of Pop Idol, are perhaps Jordan's biggest stars, known for his patriotic song "Hashemi, Hashemi." Other well-known Jordanian musicians are Qamar Badwan, who won the golden prize in the 2000 Cairo Song Festival, percussionist Hani Naser, the pianist, and composer Khalid Asad. A new age group called Rum, led by Tareq Al Nasser has been gaining regional and international popularity.
In Amman, alternative music has developed in the past two decades. Rock bands that mix western and eastern influences are becoming more popular, examples of which are Ethereal, which was famous early this decade, and Signs of Thyme, and Illusions, who are famous for their pure classic rock style. Jordan is also known to have quite a big underground heavy metal scene, with many bands reaching international audiences such as Augury, Ajdath, Bilocate, Darkcide, and others.
Football (soccer), that is the most-played game there, became increasingly popular, especially because of improvements in Jordan's National Football Team's FIFA results. The National Basketball Team is sponsored by Fastlink and participates in various Arab and Middle East Basketball competitions.
Televised professional competition boosted the popularity of darts. Young professional Ramzi "The Jordanian Dragon" Qattan, who, at 22 years old, averages an impressive 102.8, comes from a family of great sportsmen: his cousin represented Jordan at international rugby, and his father was a star of the Jordanian handball team in the late 1970s.
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