|THE JORDAN COAT OF ARMS|
Location of Jordan within the continent of Asia
Map of Jordan
Flag Description of Jordan:The flag of Jordan was officially adopted on April 16, 1928.
The red, green, black and white are Pan-Arab colors, and the star with seven points is said to represent the seven verses of Islamic belief that open the Qur'an.
Official name Al-Mamlakah al-Urduniyyah al-Hāshimiyyah (Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan)
Form of government constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses (Senate ; House of Representatives )
Head of state and government King: ʿAbdullah II, assisted by Prime Minister: Abdullah Ensour
Official language Arabic
Official religion Islam
Monetary unit Jordanian dinar (JD)
Population (2013 est.) 6,458,000COLLAPSE
Total area (sq mi) 34,284
Total area (sq km) 88,794
- Urban: (2012) 82.6%
- Rural: (2012) 17.4%
Life expectancy at birth
- Male: (2012) 78.8 years
- Female: (2012) 81.6 years
Literacy: percentage of population age 15 and over literate
- Male: (2008) 95.9%
- Female: (2008) 88.6%
GNI per capita (U.S.$) (2012) 4,720
1In October 2013 two royal decrees to dissolve the 60-member Senate and to appoint a new 75-member Senate were issued; 9 seats are reserved for women.
2Expanded to 150 members after elections in January 2013; 15 seats are reserved for women.
Jordan, Arab country of Southwest Asia, in the rocky desert of the northern Arabian Peninsula.
Jordan is a young state that occupies an ancient land, one that bears the traces of many civilizations. Separated from ancient Palestine by the Jordan River, the region played a prominent role in biblical history. The ancient biblical kingdoms of Moab, Gilead, and Edom lie within its borders, as does the famed red stone city of Petra, the capital of the Nabatean kingdom and of the Roman province of Arabia Petraea. British traveler Gertrude Bell said of Petra, “It is like a fairy tale city, all pink and wonderful.” Part of the Ottoman Empire until 1918 and later a mandate of the United Kingdom, Jordan has been an independent kingdom since 1946. It is among the most politically liberal countries of the Arab world, and, although it shares in the troubles affecting the region, its rulers have expressed a commitment to maintaining peace and stability.
The capital and largest city in the country is Amman—named for the Ammonites, who made the city their capital in the 13th century bce. Amman was later a great city of Middle Eastern antiquity, Philadelphia, of the Roman Decapolis, and now serves as one of the region’s principal commercial and transportation centres as well as one of the Arab world’s major cultural capitals.
Geography of Jordan
Slightly smaller in area than the country of Portugal, Jordan is bounded to the north by Syria, to the east by Iraq, to the southeast and south by Saudi Arabia, and to the west by Israel and the West Bank. The West Bank area (so named because it lies just west of the Jordan River) was under Jordanian rule from 1948 to 1967, but in 1988 Jordan renounced its claims to the area. Jordan has 16 miles (26 km) of coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba in the southwest, where Al-ʿAqabah, its only port, is located.
Jordan has three major physiographic regions (from east to west): the desert, the uplands east of the Jordan River, and the Jordan Valley (the northwest portion of the great East African Rift System).
The desert region is mostly within the Syrian Desert—an extension of the Arabian Desert—and occupies the eastern and southern parts of the country, comprising more than four-fifths of its territory. The desert’s northern part is composed of volcanic lava and basalt, and its southern part of outcrops of sandstone and granite. The landscape is much eroded, primarily by wind. The uplands east of the Jordan River, an escarpment overlooking the rift valley, have an average elevation of 2,000–3,000 feet (600–900 metres) and rise to about 5,755 feet (1,754 metres) at Mount Ramm, Jordan’s highest point, in the south. Outcrops of sandstone, chalk, limestone, and flint extend to the extreme south, where igneous rocks predominate.
The Jordan Valley drops to an average of 1,312 feet (400 metres) below sea level at the Dead Sea, the lowest natural point on the Earth’s surface.
The Jordan River, approximately 186 miles (300 km) in length, meanders south, draining the waters of Lake Tiberias (better known as the Sea of Galilee), the Yarmūk River, and the valley streams of both plateaus into the Dead Sea, which occupies the central area of the valley. The soil of its lower reaches is highly saline, and the shores of the Dead Sea consist of salt marshes that do not support vegetation. To its south, Wadi al-ʿArabah (also called Wadi al-Jayb), a completely desolate region, is thought to contain mineral resources.
In the northern uplands several valleys containing perennial streams run west; around Al-Karak they flow west, east, and north; south of Al-Karak intermittent valley streams run east toward Al-Jafr Depression.
The country’s best soils are found in the Jordan Valley and in the area southeast of the Dead Sea. The topsoil in both regions consists of alluvium—deposited by the Jordan River and washed from the uplands, respectively—with the soil in the valley generally being deposited in fans spread over various grades of marl.
Jordan’s climate varies from Mediterranean in the west to desert in the east and south, but the land is generally arid. The proximity of the Mediterranean Sea is the major influence on climates, although continental air masses and elevation also modify it. Average monthly temperatures at Amman in the north range between 46 and 78 °F (8 and 26 °C), while at Al-ʿAqabah in the far south they range between 60 and 91 °F (16 and 33 °C). The prevailing winds throughout the country are westerly to southwesterly, but spells of hot, dry, dusty winds blowing from the southeast off the Arabian Peninsula frequently occur and bring the country its most uncomfortable weather. Known locally as the khamsin, these winds blow most often in the early and late summer and can last for several days at a time before terminating abruptly as the wind direction changes and much cooler air follows.
Precipitation occurs in the short, cool winters, decreasing from 16 inches (400 mm) annually in the northwest near the Jordan River to less than 4 inches (100 mm) in the south. In the uplands east of the Jordan River, the annual total is about 14 inches (355 mm). The valley itself has a yearly average of 8 inches (200 mm), and the desert regions receive one-fourth of that. Occasional snow and frost occur in the uplands but are rare in the rift valley. As the population increases, water shortages in the major towns are becoming one of Jordan’s crucial problems.
Plant and animal life
The flora of Jordan falls into three distinct types: Mediterranean, steppe (treeless plains), and desert. In the uplands the Mediterranean type predominates with scrubby, dense bushes and small trees, while in the drier steppe region to the east species of the genus Artemisia (wormwood) are most frequent. Grasses are the prevalent vegetation on the steppe, but isolated trees and shrubs, such as lotus fruit and the Mount Atlas pistachio, also occur. In the desert, vegetation grows meagrely in depressions and on the sides and floors of the valleys after the scant winter rains.
Only a tiny portion of Jordan’s area is forested, most of it occurring in the rocky highlands. These forests have survived the depredations of villagers and nomads alike. The Jordanian government promotes reforestation by providing free seedlings to farmers. In the higher regions of the uplands, the predominant types of trees are the Aleppo oak (Quercus infectoria Olivier), the kermes oak (Quercus coccinea), the Palestinian pistachio (Pistacia palaestina), the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), and the eastern strawberry tree (Arbutus andrachne). Wild olives also are found there, and the Phoenician juniper (Juniperus phoenicea L.) occurs in the regions with lower rainfall. The national flower is the black iris (Iris nigricans).
The varied wildlife includes wild boars, ibex, and a species of wild goat found in the gorges and in the ʿAyn al-Azraq oasis. Hares, jackals, foxes, wildcats, hyenas, wolves, gazelles, blind mole rats, mongooses, and a few leopards also inhabit the area. Centipedes, scorpions, and various types of lizards are found as well. Birds include the golden eagle and the vulture, while wild fowl include the pigeon and the partridge.
Demography of Jordan
- Ethnic groups
The overwhelming majority of the people are Arabs, principally Jordanians and Palestinians; there is also a significant minority of Bedouin, who were by far the largest indigenous group before the influx of Palestinians following the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948–49 and 1967. Jordanians of Bedouin heritage remain committed to the Hāshimite regime, which has ruled the country since 1923, despite having become a minority there. Although the Palestinian population is often critical of the monarchy, Jordan is the only Arab country to grant wide-scale citizenship to Palestinian refugees. Other minorities include a number of Iraqis who fled to Jordan as a result of the Persian Gulf War and Iraq War. There are also smaller Circassian (known locally as Cherkess or Jarkas) and Armenian communities. A small number of Turkmen (who speak either an ancient form of the Turkmen language or the Azeri language) also reside in Jordan.
The indigenous Arabs, whether Muslim or Christian, used to trace their ancestry from the northern Arabian Qaysī (Maʿddī, Nizārī, ʿAdnānī, or Ismāʿīlī) tribes or from the southern Arabian Yamanī (Banū Kalb or Qaḥṭānī) groups. Only a few tribes and towns have continued to observe this Qaysī-Yamanī division—a pre-Islamic split that was once an important, although broad, source of social identity as well as a point of social friction and conflict.
Nearly all the people speak Arabic, the country’s official language. There are various dialects spoken, with local inflections and accents, but these are mutually intelligible and similar to the type of Levantine Arabic spoken in parts of Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. There is, as in all parts of the Arab world, a significant difference between the written language—known as Modern Standard Arabic—and the colloquial, spoken form. The former is similar to Classical Arabic and is taught in school. Most Circassians have adopted Arabic in daily life, though some continue to speak Adyghe (one of the Caucasian languages). Armenian is also spoken in pockets, but bilingualism or outright assimilation to the Arabic language is common among all minorities.
Virtually the entire population is Sunni Muslim; Christians constitute most of the rest, of whom two-thirds adhere to the Greek Orthodox church. Other Christian groups include the Greek Catholics, also called the Melchites, or Catholics of the Byzantine rite, who recognize the supremacy of the Roman pope; the Roman Catholic community, headed by a pope-appointed patriarch; and the small Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch, or Syrian Jacobite Church, whose members use Syriac in their liturgy. Most non-Arab Christians are Armenians, and the majority belong to the Gregorian, or Armenian, Orthodox church, while the rest attend the Armenian Catholic Church. There are several Protestant denominations representing communities whose converts came almost entirely from other Christian sects.
The Druze, an offshoot of the Ismāʿīlī Shīʿite sect, number a few hundred and reside in and around Amman. About 1,000 Bahāʾī—who in the 19th century also split off from Shīʿite Islam—live in Al-ʿAdasiyyah in the Jordan Valley. The Armenians, Druze, and Bahāʾī are both religious and ethnic communities. The Circassians are mostly Sunni, and they along with the closely related Chechens (Shīshān)—a group numbering about 1,000, who are descendants of 19th-century immigrants from the Caucasus Mountains—make up the most important non-Arab minority.
- Settlement patterns
The landscape falls into two regions—the desert zone and the cultivated zone—each of which is associated with its own mode of living. The tent-dwelling nomads (Bedouin, or Badū), who make up less than one-tenth of the population, generally inhabit the desert, some areas of the steppe, and the uplands. The tent-dwelling Bedouin people have decreased in number because the government has successfully enforced their permanent settlement; urban residents who trace their roots to the Bedouin make up more than one-third of Jordanians.
The eastern Bedouin are principally camel breeders and herders, while the western Bedouin herd sheep and goats. There are some seminomads, in whom the modes of life of the desert and the cultivated zones merge. These people adopt a nomadic existence during part of the year but return to their lands and homes in time to practice agriculture. The two largest nomadic groups of Jordan are the Banū (Banī) Ṣakhr and Banū al-Ḥuwayṭāt. The grazing grounds of both are entirely within Jordan, as is the case with the smaller tribe of Sirḥān. There are numerous lesser groups, such as the Banū Ḥasan and Banū Khālid as well as the Hawazim, ʿAṭiyyah, and Sharafāt. These traditionally paid protection money to larger groups. The Ruwālah (Rwala) tribe, which is not indigenous, passes through Jordan in its yearly wandering from Syria to Saudi Arabia.
- RURAL SETTLEMENT
Rural residents, including small numbers of Bedouin, constitute about one-fifth of the population. The average village contains a cluster of houses and other buildings, including an elementary school and a mosque, with pasturage on the outskirts. A medical dispensary and a post office may be found in the larger villages, together with a general store and a small café, whose owners are usually part-time farmers. Kinship relationships are patriarchal, while extended-family ties govern social relationships and tribal organization.
- URBAN SETTLEMENT
Some three-fourths of all Jordanians live in urban areas. The main population centres are Amman, Al-Zarqāʾ, Irbid, and Al-Ruṣayfah. Many of the smaller towns have only a few thousand inhabitants. Most towns have hospitals, banks, government and private schools, mosques, churches, libraries, and entertainment facilities, and some have institutions of higher learning and newspapers. Amman and Al-Zarqāʾ, and to some extent Irbid, have more modern urban characteristics than do the smaller towns.
- Demographic trends
The population structure is predominantly young; persons under age 15 constitute roughly two-fifths of the population. The birth rate is high, and the country’s population growth rate is about double the world average. The average life expectancy is about 70 years. Internal migration from rural to urban centres has added a burden to the economy; however, a large number of Jordanians live and work abroad.
Some one-third of Jordan’s population are Palestinians. The influx of Palestinian refugees not only altered Jordan’s demographic map but has also affected its political, social, and economic life. Jordan’s population in the late 1940s was between 200,000 and 250,000. After the 1948–49 Arab-Israeli war and the annexation of the West Bank, Jordanian citizenship was granted to some 400,000 Palestinians who were residents of and remained in the West Bank and to about half a million refugees from the new Israeli state. Many of these refugees settled east of the Jordan River. Between 1949 and 1967, Palestinians continued to move east in large numbers. After the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, an estimated 310,000 to 350,000 Palestinians, mostly from the West Bank, sought refuge in Jordan; thereafter immigration from the West Bank continued at a lower rate. During the Persian Gulf War (1990–91), some 300,000 additional Palestinians fled (or were expelled) from Kuwait to Jordan, and as many as 1.7 million Iraqis flooded into the kingdom during the war and the years that followed. Another smaller wave arrived in 2003 after the start of the Iraq War. Most of these Iraqis left, but perhaps 200,000 to 300,000 remain. Only a small fraction are registered as refugees.
Most Palestinians are employed and hold full Jordanian citizenship. By the early 21st century, approximately 1.6 million Palestinians were registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), an organization providing education, medical care, relief assistance, and social services. About one-sixth of these refugees lived in camps in Jordan.
Economy of Jordan
Although Jordan’s economy is relatively small and faces numerous obstacles, it is comparatively well diversified. Trade and finance combined account for nearly one-third of Jordan’s gross domestic product (GDP); transportation and communication, public utilities, and construction represent one-fifth of total GDP, and mining and manufacturing constitute nearly that proportion. Remittances from Jordanians working abroad are a major source of foreign exchange.
However, although Jordan’s economy is ostensibly based on private enterprise, services—particularly government spending—account for about one-fourth of GDP and employ roughly one-third of the workforce. In addition, Jordan has increasingly been plagued by recession, debt, and unemployment since the mid-1990s, and the small size of the Jordanian market, fluctuations in agricultural production, a lack of capital, and the presence of large numbers of refugees have made it necessary for Jordan to continue to seek foreign aid. The Jordanian government has been slow to implement privatization. Despite efforts by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to boost the private sector—including agreements to write off the country’s external debt and loans from the World Bank designed to revitalize Jordan’s economy—it was only in 1999 that the government began introducing a number of economic reforms. These efforts included Jordan’s entry into the World Trade Organization (in 2000) and the partial privatization of some state-owned enterprises.
Perhaps most importantly, Jordan’s geographic location has made it and its economy highly vulnerable to political instability in the region. The Jordanian economy was resilient and growing before the Six-Day War of June 1967, and the West Bank, prior to its occupation by Israel during that conflict, contributed about one-third of Jordan’s total domestic income. Economic growth continued after 1967 at a slower pace but was revitalized by a series of state economic plans. Trade increased between Jordan and Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88), because Iraq required access to Jordan’s port of Al-ʿAqabah. Jordan initially supported Iraqi president Ṣaddām Ḥussein when Iraq occupied Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War, but it eventually agreed to the United Nations’ trade sanctions against Iraq, its principal trading partner, and thereby put its whole economy in jeopardy. External emergency aid helped Jordan weather the crisis, and the economy was boosted by the sudden influx of Palestinians from Kuwait in 1991, many of whom brought in capital. During 2003 the construction industry recovered with the arrival of many thousands of people fleeing Iraq, and Jordan became a major service centre for those working to reconstruct that country. Despite the support of the government for IMF and World Bank plans to increase the private sector, the state remains the dominant force in Jordan’s economy.
Only a tiny fraction of Jordan’s land is arable, and the country imports some foodstuffs to meet its needs. Wheat and barley are the main crops of the rain-fed uplands, and irrigated land in the Jordan Valley produces citrus and other fruits, potatoes, vegetables (tomatoes and cucumbers), and olives. Pastureland is limited; although artesian wells have been dug to increase its area, much former pasture area has been turned over to the cultivation of olive and fruit trees, and large areas have been degraded to the point that they can barely support livestock. Sheep and goats are the most important livestock, but there are also some cattle, camels, horses, donkeys, and mules. Poultry is also kept.
- Resources and power
Mineral resources include large deposits of phosphates, potash, limestone, and marble, as well as dolomite, kaolin, and salt. More recently discovered minerals include barite (the principal ore of the metallic element barium), quartzite, gypsum (used as a fertilizer), and feldspar, and there are unexploited deposits of copper, uranium, and shale oil. Although the country has no significant oil deposits, modest reserves of natural gas are located in its eastern desert. In 2003 the first section of a new pipeline from Egypt began delivering natural gas to Al-ʿAqabah.
Virtually all electric power in Jordan is generated by thermal plants, most of which are oil-fired. The major power stations are linked by a transmission system. By the early 21st century the government had completed a program to link the major cities and towns by a countrywide grid.
Beginning in the final decades of the 20th century, access to water became a major problem for Jordan—as well as a point of conflict among states in the region—as overuse of the Jordan River (and its tributary, the Yarmūk River) and excessive tapping of the region’s natural aquifers led to shortages throughout Jordan and surrounding countries. In 2000 Jordan and Syria secured funding for constructing a dam on the Yarmūk River that, in addition to storing water for Jordan, would also generate electricity for Syria. Construction of the Waḥdah (“Unity”) Dam began in 2004.
Manufacturing is concentrated around Amman. The extraction of phosphate, petroleum refining, and cement production are the country’s major heavy industries. Food, clothing, and a variety of consumer goods also are produced.
The Central Bank of Jordan (Al-Bank al-Markazī al-Urdunī) issues the dinar, the national currency. There are many national and foreign banks in addition to credit institutions. The government has participated with private enterprise in establishing the largest mining, industrial, and tourist firms in the country and also owns a significant share of the largest companies. The Amman Stock Exchange (Būrṣat ʿAmmān; formerly the Amman Financial Market) is one of the largest stock markets in the Arab world.
Jordan’s primary exports are clothing, chemicals and chemical products, and potash and phosphates; the main imports are machinery and apparatus, crude petroleum, and food products. Major trading partners include Saudi Arabia, the United States, and the European Union (EU). In 2000 Jordan signed a bilateral free trade agreement with the United States. The value of exports has been growing, but it does not cover that of imports; the deficit is financed by foreign grants, loans, and other forms of capital transfers. Although Jordan’s trade deficit has been large, it has been offset somewhat by revenue from tourism, remittances sent by Jordanians working abroad, earnings from foreign investments made by the central bank, and subsidies from other Arab and non-Arab governments.
Services, including public administration, defense, and retail sales, form the single most important component of Jordan’s economy in both value and employment. The country’s vulnerable geography has led to high military expenditures, which are well above the world average.
The Jordanian government vigorously promotes tourism, and the number of tourists visiting Jordan has grown dramatically since the mid-1990s. Visitors come mainly from the West to see the old biblical cities of the Jordan Valley and such wonders as the ancient city of Petra, designated a World Heritage site in 1985. Income from tourism, mostly consisting of foreign reserves, has become a major factor in Jordan’s efforts to reduce its balance-of-payments deficit.
- Labour and taxation
Jordan has also lost much of its skilled labour to neighbouring countries—as many as 400,000 people left the kingdom in the early 1980s—although the problem has eased somewhat. This change is a result both of better employment opportunities within Jordan itself and of a curb on foreign labour demands by the Persian Gulf states.
The majority of the workforce is men, with women constituting roughly one-seventh of the total. The government employs nearly half of those working. About one-seventh of the population is unemployed, although income per capita has increased. Labour unions and employer organizations are legal, but the trade-union movement is weak; this is partly offset by the government, which has its own procedures for settling labour disputes.
About half of the government’s revenue is derived from taxes. Even though the government has made a great effort to reform the income tax, both to increase revenue and to redistribute income, revenue from indirect taxes continues to exceed that from direct taxes. Tax measures have been adopted to increase the rate of savings necessary for financing investments, and the government has implemented tax exemptions on foreign investments and on the transfer of foreign profits and capital.
- Transportation and telecommunications
Jordan has a main, secondary, and rural road network, most of which is hard-surfaced. This roadway system, maintained by the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, not only links the major cities and towns but also connects the kingdom with neighbouring countries. One of the main traffic arteries is the Amman–Jarash–Al-Ramthā highway, which links Jordan with Syria. The route from Amman via Maʿān to the port of Al-ʿAqabah is the principal route to the sea. From Maʿān the Desert Highway passes through Al-Mudawwarah, linking Jordan with Saudi Arabia. The Amman-Jerusalem highway, passing through Nāʿūr, is a major tourist artery. The government-operated Hejaz-Jordan Railway extends from Darʿā in the north via Amman to Maʿān in the south. The Aqaba Railway Corporation operates a southern line that runs to the port of Al-ʿAqabah and connects to the Hejaz-Jordan Railway at Baṭn al-Ghūl. Rail connections also join Darʿā in the north with Damascus, Syria.
Royal Jordanian is the country’s official airline, offering worldwide service. Queen Alia International Airport near Al-Jīzah, south of Amman, opened in 1983. Amman and Al-ʿAqabah have smaller international airports.
In 1994 Jordan introduced a program to reform its telecommunication system. The government-owned Jordan Telecommunications Corporation, the sole service provider, had been unable to meet demand or provide adequate service, particularly in rural areas; it was privatized in 1997. Since then, the use of cellular telephones has mushroomed, far outstripping standard telephone use. In addition, Internet use has grown dramatically.
Government and Society of Jordan
- Constitutional framework
The 1952 constitution is the most recent of a series of legislative instruments that, both before and after independence, have increased executive responsibility. The constitution declares Jordan to be a constitutional, hereditary monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. Islam is the official religion, and Jordan is declared to be part of the Arab ummah (“nation”). The king remains the country’s ultimate authority and wields power over the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Jordan’s central government is headed by a prime minister appointed by the king, who also chooses the cabinet. According to the constitution, the appointments of both prime minister and cabinet are subject to parliamentary approval. The cabinet coordinates the work of the different departments and establishes general policy.
Jordan’s constitution provides for a bicameral National Assembly (Majlis al-Ummah), with a Senate (Majlis al-Aʿyan) as its upper chamber, and a House of Representatives (Majlis al-Nuwwāb) as its lower chamber. The aʿyan (“notables”) of the Senate are appointed by the king for four-year terms; elections for the nuwwāb (“deputies”) of the House of Representatives, scheduled at least every four years, frequently have been suspended. A small number of seats in the House of Representatives are reserved for Christians and Circassians. The ninth parliament, elected in 1965, was prorogued several times before being replaced in 1978 by the National Consultative Council, an appointed body with reduced power that debates government programs and activities. The parliament was reconvened, however, in a special session called in January 1984. Since then the parliament has been periodically suspended: from 1988, when Jordan severed its ties with the West Bank, until 1989 and from August until November 1993, when the country held its first multiparty elections since 1956. In 2001 the king dissolved the Majlis al-Nuwwāb to reformulate the electoral system; new deputies were elected in 2003.
- Local government
Jordan is divided into 12 administrative muḥāfaẓāt (governorates), which in turn are divided into districts and subdistricts, each of which is headed by an official appointed by the minister of the interior. Cities and towns each have mayors and partially elected councils.
The judiciary is constitutionally independent, though judges are appointed and dismissed by royal irādah (“decree”) following a decision made by the Justices Council. There are three categories of courts. The first category consists of regular courts, including those of magistrates, courts of first instance, and courts of appeals and cassation in Amman, which hear appeals passed on from lower courts. The constitution also provides for the Diwān Khāṣṣ (Special Council), which interprets the laws and passes on their constitutionality. The second category consists of Sharīʿah (Islamic) courts and other religious courts for non-Muslims; these exercise jurisdiction over matters of personal status. The third category consists of special courts, such as land, government, property, municipal, tax, and customs courts.
- Political process
Jordanians 18 years of age and older may vote. Political parties were banned before the elections in 1963, however. Between 1971 and 1976, when it was abolished, the Arab National Union (originally called the Jordanian National Union) was the only political organization allowed. Although not a political party, the transnational Muslim Brotherhood continued, with the tacit approval of the government, to engage in socially active functions, and it captured over one-fourth of the lower house in the 1989 election. In 1992 political parties were legalized—as long as they acknowledged the legitimacy of the monarchy. Since then, the brotherhood has maintained a significant minority presence in Jordanian politics through its political arm, the Islamic Action Front.
Although their political influence has now diminished, the Bedouin, traditionally a martial desert people, still form the core of Jordan’s army and occupy key positions in the military. Participation in the military is optional, and males can enter service at age 17. The Jordanian armed forces include an army and an air force equipped with sophisticated jet aircraft; it developed from the Arab Legion. There is also a small navy that acts as a coast guard. The king is commander in chief of the armed forces.
- Health and welfare
The country’s infant mortality rate is lower than those of several other countries in the region. Most infectious diseases have been brought under control, and the number of physicians per capita has grown rapidly. Comprehensive health facilities are operated by the government, but hospitals are found only in major urban centres. A national health insurance program covers medical, dental, and eye care at a modest cost; service is provided free to the poor. Welfare services were private until the mid-1950s, when the government assumed responsibility. Besides supervising and coordinating social and charitable organizations, the ministry administers welfare programs.
The housing situation has remained critical despite continuing construction. Surveys conducted in Amman and the eastern Jordan Valley show that most households live in one-room dwellings. The Housing Corporation and the Jordan Valley Authority build units for low-income families, and urban renewal projects in Amman and Al-Zarqāʾ have provided new and renovated units. Housing outside of the cities and major towns remains austere, and a small number of Bedouin still live in their traditional black tents.
The great majority of the population is literate, and more than half have completed secondary education or higher. Jordan has three types of schools—government schools, private schools, and the UNRWA schools that have been set up for Palestinian refugee children. Schooling consists of six years of elementary, three years of preparatory, and three years of secondary education. The Ministry of Education supervises all schools and establishes the curricula, teachers’ qualifications, and state examinations; it also distributes free books to students in government schools and enforces compulsory education to the age of 14. The majority of the students attend government schools. Jordan’s oldest institutions of higher learning include the University of Jordan (1962), Yarmūk University (1976), and Muʾtah University (1981). Many new universities were established in the 1990s. In addition to Khadduri Agricultural Training Institute, there are agricultural secondary schools as well as a number of vocational, labour, and social affairs institutes, a Sharīʿah legal seminary, and nursing, military, and teachers colleges.
Culture Life of Jordan
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.
History of Jordan
Early History to Independence
The region of present-day Jordan roughly corresponds to the biblical lands of Ammon, Bashan, Edom, and Moab. The area was conquered by the Seleucids in the 4th cent. B.C. and was part of the Nabatean empire, whose capital was Petra, from the 1st cent. B.C. to the mid-1st cent. A.D., when it was captured by the Romans under Pompey. In the period between the 6th and 7th cent. it was the scene of considerable fighting between the Byzantine Empire and Persia. In the early 7th cent. the region was invaded by the Muslim Arabs, and after the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099, it became part of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. In 1516 the Ottoman Turks gained control of what is now Jordan, and it remained part of the Ottoman Empire until the 20th cent.
After the fall of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, the region came under (1919) the government of Faisal I, centered at Damascus. When Faisal was ejected by French troops in July, 1920, Transjordan (as Jordan was then known) was made (1920) part of the British League of Nations mandate of Palestine. In 1921, Abdullah I (Abdullah ibn Husayn), a member of the Hashemite dynasty and the brother of Faisal, was made emir of Transjordan, which was administered separately from Palestine and was specifically exempted from being part of a Jewish national home. A Jordanian army, called the Arab Legion, was created by the British, largely through the work of Sir John Bagot Glubb.
In a treaty signed with Great Britain in 1928, Transjordan became a constitutional state ruled by a king, to be hereditary in the family of Abdullah I, who was placed on the throne by the British. The country supported the Allies in World War II, and, by a treaty with Great Britain signed in 1946, it became (May 25) independent as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan.
- Crisis and Conflict
By an agreement signed in 1948, Britain guaranteed Transjordan an annual military subsidy. Abdullah opposed Zionist aims, and when Palestine was partitioned and the state of Israel was established in 1948, Transjordan, like other members of the Arab League, sent forces to fight Israel (see Arab-Israeli Wars). The troops of the Arab Legion gained control of most of that part of W central Palestine that the United Nations had designated as Arab territory. In Apr., 1949, the country's name was changed to Jordan, thus reflecting its acquisition of land W of the Jordan River. In Dec., 1949, Jordan concluded an armistice with Israel, and early in 1950 it formally annexed the West Bank, a move that was deeply resented by other Arab states, which favored the establishment of an independent state of Palestine. The annexation of the West Bank increased Jordan's population by about 450,000 persons, many of them homeless refugees from Israel.
In 1951, Abdullah was assassinated in Jerusalem by a Palestinian and was succeeded the following year by his grandson Hussein I. After a series of anti-Western riots in Jordan, Hussein early in 1956 dismissed Glubb as commander of the Arab Legion, and following the Suez crisis later in the year he ended Jordan's treaty relationship with Great Britain. A leftist coup attempt in 1957 led to the suspension of Jordan's parliament for four years. In Feb., 1958, Jordan and Iraq formed the Arab Federation as a countermove to the newly formed United Arab Republic (UAR), but Hussein dissolved it in August, following the coup in Iraq that toppled the monarchy.
At the same time, the UAR called for the overthrow of the governments in Jordan and Lebanon. At the request of the Jordanian government, Britain sent troops to Jordan; tensions were soon reduced and by Nov., 1958, the troops had been withdrawn. For the next few years Jordan remained on poor terms with Iraq and the UAR. In 1961, Hussein was among the first to recognize Syria after it withdrew from the UAR. Following the establishment in 1963 of a revolutionary Jordanian government-in-exile in Damascus, a state of emergency was declared in Jordan. The crisis ended only after the United States and Great Britain announced their support of Hussein and the U.S. 6th Fleet was placed on alert.
In the mid-1960s, Jordanian politics were calm, Jordan's economy expanded as international trade increased, and Jordan was on good terms with Egypt. Following Egypt's declaration in 1967 of a blockade of Israeli shipping in the Gulf of Aqaba, Hussein signed a mutual defense pact with Egypt. Despite Israeli attempts to urge Jordan to abstain from battle, the two nations became embroiled in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. As a result of the war, Israel captured and occupied the West Bank—the previously Jordanian territory located W of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Subsequently, Jordan was under martial law until the early 1990s.
- Jordan and the Palestinians
A large number of Palestinian refugees fled to Jordan during and after the war, and soon there was growing hostility between the Jordanian government and the Palestinian guerrilla organizations operating in Jordan. The guerrillas sought to establish an independent Palestinian state, a goal that conflicted with Hussein's intention of reestablishing Jordan's control over the West Bank. There was major fighting between the guerrillas and the Jordanian army in Nov., 1968; in Sept., 1970, the country was engulfed in a bloody 10-day civil war, which ended when other Arab countries (especially Egypt) arranged a cease-fire. The Palestinians suffered heavy casualties, and many of them fled to Lebanon and Syria, which shifted the locus of the Palestinian refugee problem. In July, 1971, the army carried out a successful offensive that destroyed the remaining guerrilla bases in Jordan. In Nov., 1971, Prime Minister Wasfi al-Tal was assassinated in Cairo by members of the "Black September" Palestinian guerrilla organization, which took its name from the month of the civil war in Jordan.
In 1972, Hussein proposed the creation of a United Arab Kingdom that would include the West Bank with the rest of Jordan. Predicated on Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank, the proposal was rejected by the other Arab states as well as Israel. Hussein survived an assassination attempt by a Palestinian in Dec., 1972. Jordan played a minor role in the Arab-Israeli War of Oct., 1973, sending a small number of troops to fight on the Syrian front. In 1974, Hussein complied with the Arab League's ruling that the PLO (see Palestine Liberation Organization) was to be the single legitimate representative of the Palestinians.
- Recent History
Jordan moved closer to Syria in the late 1970s and, along with other Arab countries, opposed the Camp David accords and the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty (1979). Jordan sided with Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War, despite Syrian threats, and sent large amounts of war materials to Iraq. In 1988, Hussein formally relinquished claim to the West Bank in acknowledgment of Palestinian sovereignty. He approved the creation of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, and Arabs residing in that area lost their Jordanian citizenship. Parliamentary elections were held in 1989 for the first time in 22 years.
Plagued by serious economic problems since the mid-1980s, Jordan received increased economic aid from the United States in 1990. However, the outbreak (1991) of the Persian Gulf War led to a repeal of U.S. aid to Jordan due to Hussein's support of Iraq (Jordan's major source of oil). Jordan also suffered a loss of aid from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the war. The country endured further economic hardship when approximately 700,000 Jordanian workers and refugees returned to Jordan as a result of the fighting in the Persian Gulf, causing housing and employment shortages. Not until 2001 did an accord again permit Jordanians to work in Kuwait.
Peace talks between Israel, Syria, Lebanon, and a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation began in Aug., 1991. In 1994 a peace agreement between Jordan and Israel ended the official state of war between the two nations, and Hussein went on to encourage peace negotiations between other Arab states and Israel. In 1993 political parties were again permitted to field candidates, resulting in Jordan's first multiparty elections in 37 years. The country's economy continued to decline, however, and the government became less tolerant of dissent. Laws restricting freedom of the press were instituted in 1997, and that same year Islamic parties boycotted the legislative elections, claiming they were unfair.
Hussein died in 1999 and was succeeded by his son, Abdullah II, who pledged to work toward a more open government and to ease restrictions on public expression. Although there was some progress in terms of economic development, the country continued to be dependent on tourism, which was hurt by its location between Israel and Iraq. Political liberalization was slow in coming. In 2001 parliament's term expired without new elections being called; they were postponed out of fear that popular sympathy for the Palestinians in their renewed conflict with Israel would lead to a victory for the Islamic parties.
The June, 2003, parliamentary elections resulted in a majority for the king's supporters; Islamists won 18 seats. In Apr., 2006, Jordan accused Hamas of planning attacks against targets in Jordan, saying that it had detained militants and seized weapons that had come in from Syria. The Nov., 2007, parliamentary elections resulted in sharp losses for the Islamists, who accused the government of fraud. The parliament was largely seen as ineffective, and two years later the king dissolved parliament and ordered preparations for a new election. The main Islamic opposition group boycotted the Nov., 2010, elections, which gave the king's supporters a parliamentary majority.
The proreform demonstrations that affected many Arab nations in early 2011 also occurred in Jordan, though they were generally smaller and more moderate than in other countries. The king made promises of reform, and in February appointed a new government that included some opposition figures, but antigovernment protests continued in subsequent weeks. In June the king announced plans for significant political and economic changes, but did not specify a timetable. He subsequently (October) appointed yet another new government to undertake political reforms, but criticism of its proposed election law reforms led to a new government in May, 2012.
In Oct., 2012, the king dissolved parliament. Early elections, held in Jan., 2013, were boycotted by Islamists and other opposition groups because of their objections to the reforms, which they criticized for favoring rural and tribal constituencies. In 2012 Jordan saw a dramatic increase in the number of Syrians who fled there to escape the civil war in their country; in early 2013 more than 300,000 Syrian refugees were in Jordan.
Jordan Area: 88,778 sq km (34,277 sq mi) Population (2009 est.): 5,981,000 (including about 2,000,000 Palestinian refugees, most of whom hold Jordanian citizenship; excluding roughly 450,000 Iraqi ...>>>Read On<<<
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