Jordan ( /ˈdʒɔrdən/; Arabic: اَلأُرْدُنّ, Al-ʾUrdunn), officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (Arabic: اَلمَمْلَكَة اَلأُرْدُنِيَّة اَلهَاشِمِيَّة, al-Mamlakah al-ʾUrdunniyyah al-Hāšimiyyah), is anArab kingdom in the Middle East, on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country leader is Abdullah II. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraqto the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing control of the Dead Sea with the latter. Jordan’s only port is at its south-western tip, at the Gulf of Aqaba, which is shared with Israel, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Over half of Jordan is covered by the Arabian Desert. However, the western part of Jordan is arable land and forests. Jordan is part of the Fertile Crescent. The capital city is Amman. According to the CIA World Factbook, Jordan has the second highest life expectancy in the Middle East, after Israel. The average life expectancy is one position behind the United Kingdom, although the age remains exactly the same (80.05 years).
The precursor to modern Jordan was founded in 1921 as the Hashemite Emirate, and it was recognized by the League of Nations as a state under the British Mandate for Palestine in 1922 known as The Emirate of Transjordan. In 1946, Jordan became an independent sovereign state officially known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. After capturing the West Bank area of Cisjordan during the 1948–49 war with Israel,Abdullah I took the title King of Jordan and Palestine, and he officially changed the country’s name to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in April 1949.
Modern Jordan is classified as a country of “medium human development” by the 2011 Human Development Report, and an emerging market with the third freest economy in the Middle East and North Africa (32nd freest worldwide) . Jordan has an “upper middle income” economy. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States went into effect in December, 2001 phased out duties on nearly all goods and services between the two countries. Jordan has also enjoyed “advanced status” with theEuropean Union since December 2010, and it is also a member of the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area. Jordan has more Free Trade Agreements than any other country in the region. It has close relations with the United States and the United Kingdom, and became a major non-NATO ally of the United States in 1996. Jordan is a founding member of the Arab League, and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Jordan was invited to Join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Jordan was the first Arab and Middle Eastern state to join the International Criminal Court. The Jordanian Government is one of three members of the 22 Arab League states to maintain diplomatic relations with Israel; the others are Egypt and the Palestinian National Authority.
Jordan lies between latitudes 29° and 34° N, and longitudes 35° and 40° E (a small area lies west of 35°). It consists of an arid plateau in the east, irrigated by oasis and seasonal water streams, with highland area in the west of arable land and Mediterranean evergreen forestry.
The mountains of Jerash Governorate
The Gulf of Aqaba is named after the historic port of Aqaba
The Jordan Rift Valley of the Jordan River separates Jordan from the West Bank and Israel. The highest point in the country is Jabal Umm al Dami, at 1,854 m (6,083 ft) above sea level, its top is also covered with snow, while the lowest is the Dead Sea −420 m (−1,378 ft). Jordan is part of a region considered to be “the cradle of civilization”, the Levant region of the Fertile Crescent. Major cities include the capital Amman and as-Salt in the west, Irbid, Jerash and Zarqa, in the northwest andMadaba, Karak and Aqaba in the southwest. Major towns in the eastern part of the of the country are the oasis town of Azraq and Ruwaished.
The climate in Jordan is semi-dry in summer with average temperature in the mid 30 °C (86 °F) and relatively cold in winter averaging around 13 °C (55 °F). The western part of the country receives greater precipitation during the winter season from November to March and snowfall in Amman (756 m (2,480 ft) ~ 1,280 m (4,199 ft) above sea-level) and Western Heights of 500 m (1,640 ft). Excluding the rift valley the rest of the country is entirely above 300 m (984 ft)(SL). The weather is humid from November to March and semi dry for the rest of the year. With hot, dry summers and cool winters during which practically all of theprecipitation occurs, the country has a Mediterranean-style climate. In general, the farther inland from the Mediterranean a given part of the country lies, the greater are the seasonal contrasts in temperature and the less rainfall.
Atmospheric pressures during the summer months are relatively uniform, whereas the winter months bring a succession of marked low pressure areas and accompanying cold fronts. These cyclonic disturbances generally move eastward from over the Mediterranean Sea several times a month and result in sporadic precipitation.
Most of the land receives less than 620 mm (24.4 in) of rain a year and may be classified as a semi dry region. Where the ground rises to form the highlands east of the Jordan Valley, precipitation increases to around 300 mm (11.8 in) in the south and 500 mm (19.7 in) or more in the north. The Jordan Valley, forms a narrow climatic zone that annually receives up to 900 mm (35.4 in) of rain in the northern reaches; rain dwindles to less than 120 mm (4.7 in) at the head of the Dead Sea.
The country’s long summer reaches a peak during August. January is usually the coldest month. The fairly wide ranges of temperature during a twenty-four-hour period are greatest during the summer months and have a tendency to increase with higher elevation. Daytime temperatures during the summer months frequently exceed 29 °C (84.2 °F) and average about 32 °C (89.6 °F). September to March are moderately cool and sometimes very cold, averaging about 3.2 °C (37.8 °F). Except in the rift depression, frost is fairly common during the winter, it may take the form of snow at the higher elevations of the north western highlands. Usually it snows a couple of times in the winter.
For a month or so before and after the summer dry season, hot, dry air from the desert, drawn by low pressure, produces strong winds from the south or southeast that sometimes reach gale force. Known in Western Asia by various names, including the khamsin, this dry, sirocco-style wind is usually accompanied by great dust clouds. Its onset is heralded by a hazy sky, a falling barometer, and a drop in relative humidity to about 10%. Within a few hours there may be a 10 °C (18.0 °F) to 15 °C (27.0 °F) rise in temperature. These windstorms ordinarily last a day or so, cause much discomfort, and destroy crops by desiccating them.
The shamal comes from the north or northwest between June and September. Steady during daytime hours but becoming a breeze at night, the shamal may blow for nine days out of ten and then repeat the process. It originates as a dry continental mass of polar air that is warmed as it passes over the Eurasian landmass.
Petra, one of the New Seven Wonders of the World
History of Jordan
The Roman Oval Piazza in the ancient city of Jerash
In antiquity, the present day Jordan became a home for several ancient kingdoms including: the kingdom of Edom, the kingdom of Moab and the kingdom of Ammon. Throughout different eras of history, parts of the country were laid under the control of some regional powers including Pharaonic Egypt during their wars with the Babylonians and the Hittites; and for discrete periods of times by Israelites. The Mesha Stele recorded the glory of the King of Edom and the victories over the Israelites and other nations. The Ammon and Moab kingdoms are mentioned in ancient maps, Near Eastern documents, ancient Greco-Romanartifacts, and Christian and Jewish religious scriptures.
Due to its strategic location in the middle of the ancient world, Transjordan came to be controlled by the ancient empires of Persians and later the Macedonian Greeks, who became the dominant force in the region, following the conquests of Alexander the Great. It later fell under the changing influence of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire from the North and the Parthians from the East.
The Nabatean kingdom was one of the most prominent states in the region through the middle classic period, since the decline of the Seleucid control of the region in 168 BC. The Nabateans were most probably people of Arabian ancestry, who fell under the early influence of the Hellenistic and Parthian cultures, creating a unique civilized society, which roamed the roads of the deserts. They controlled the regional and international trade routes of the ancient world by dominating a large area southwest of the fertile crescent, which included the whole of modern Jordan in addition to the southern part of Syria in the north and the northern part of Arabian Peninsula in the south. The Nabataeans developed the Arabic Script, with their language as an intermediary between Aramaean and the ancient Classical Arabic, which evolved into Modern Arabic.
The Nabateans were largely conquered by the Hasmonean rulers of Judea and many of them forced to convert to Judaism in the late second century BC. However, the Nabataeans managed to maintain a sort of semi-independent kingdom, which covered most parts of modern Jordan and beyond, before it was taken by the Herodians and finally annexed by the still expanding Roman empire in 106 AD. However, apart from Petra, the Romans maintained the prosperity of most of the ancient cities in Transjordan which enjoyed a sort of city-state autonomy under the umbrella of the alliance of the Decapolis. Nabataean civilization left many magnificent archaeologicalsites at Petra, which is considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World as well as recognized by the UNESCO as a world Heritage site.
Following the establishment of Roman Empire at Syria, the country was incorporated into the client Judaean Kingdom of Herod, and later the Iudaea Province. With the suppression of Jewish Revolts, the eastern bank of Transjordan was incorporated into the Syria Palaestina province, while the eastern deserts fell under Parthian and later Persian Sassanid control. During the Greco-Roman period, a number of semi-independent city-states also developed in the region of Transjordan under the umbrella of the Decapolis including:Gerasa (Jerash), Philadelphia (Amman), Raphana (Abila), Dion (Capitolias), Gadara (Umm Qays), and Pella (Irbid).
With the decline of the Eastern Roman Empire, Transjordan came to be controlled by the Christian Ghassanid Arab kingdom, which allied with Byzantium. The Byzantine site of Um er-Rasas is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the seventh century, and due to its proximity to Damascus, Transjordan became a heartland for the Arabic Islamic Empire and therefore secured several centuries of stability and prosperity, which allowed the coining of its current Arabic Islamic identity. Different Caliphates’ stages, including the Rashidun Empire, Umayyad Empire and Abbasid Empire controlled the region. Several resources pointed that the Abbasid movement, was started in region of Transjordan before it took over the Umayyad empire. After the decline of the Abbasid, It was ruled by several conflicting powers including the Mongols, the Crusaders, the Ayyubids and theMamluks until it became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1516.
The Arabic Islamic Empire has left desert palaces such as Qasr Mshatta, Qasr al Hallabat and Qasr Amra; and the castles of Ajlounand Al Karak which were used in the Crusader, Ayyubid and Mamluk eras.
In the 11th century, Transjordan witnessed a phase of instability, as it became a battlefield for the Crusades which ended with defeat by the Ayyubids. Jordan suffered also from the Mongol attacks which were blocked by Mamluks.
In 1516, Transjordan became part of the Ottoman Empire and it remained so until 1918, when the Hashemite Army of the Great Arab Revolt took over, and secured the present day Jordan with the help and support of Transjordanian local tribes.
Arab Revolt Tribal Cavalry – Tribes of Jordan and Arabia, c. 1918.
Adyghe (Circassian) horsemanship inTransjordan, April 1921.
During World War I, the Transjordanian tribes fought, along with other tribes of Hijaz andLevant regions, as part of the Arab Army of the Great Arab Revolt. The revolt was launched by Hashemites and led by Sherif Hussein of Mecca against the Ottoman Empire. It was supported by the Allies of World War I. The chronicle of the revolt was written byT. E. Lawrence who, as a young British Army officer, played a liaison role during the revolt. He published the chronicle in London, 1922 under the title “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, which was the basis for the iconic movie “Lawrence of Arabia”.
The Great Arab Revolt was successful in gaining independence for most of the territories of Hijaz and the Levant, including the region of east of Jordan. However, it failed to gain international recognition of the region as an independent state, due mainly to the secretSykes–Picot Agreement of 1916 and the Balfour Declaration of 1917. This was seen by the Hashemites and the Arabs as betrayal of the previous agreements with the British, including the McMahon–Hussein Correspondence in 1915, in which the British stated their willingness to recognize the independence of the Arab state in Hijaz and the Levant. However, a compromise was eventually reached and the Emirate of Transjordan was created under the Hashemite reign.
British mandate on Transjordan
In September 1922 the Council of the League of Nations recognized Transjordan as a state under the British Mandate and Transjordan memorandum excluded the territories east of the River Jordan from all of the provisions of the mandate dealing with Jewish settlement. The Permanent Court of International Justice and an International Court of Arbitration established by the Council of the League of Nations handed down rulings in 1925 which determined that both a Jewish and an Arab state in the Mandatory regions of Palestine and Transjordan were to be newly created successor states of the Ottoman Empire as defined by international law. The country remained under British supervision until 1946.
The Hashemite leadership met multiple difficulties upon assuming power in the region. The most serious threats to emir Abdullah’s position in Transjordan were repeated Wahhabi incursions from Najd into southern parts of his territory. The emir was powerless to repel those raids by himself, thus the British maintained a military base, with a small air force, at Marka, close to Amman. The British military force was the primary obstacle against the Ikhwan, and was also used to help emir Abdullah with the suppression of local rebellions at Kura and later by Sultan Adwan, in 1921 and 1923 respectively.
Arar (1897–1949), poet of Jordan
Under King Abdullah I
On 25 May 1946 the United Nations approved the end of the British Mandate and recognized Transjordan as an independent sovereign kingdom. The Parliament of Transjordan proclaimed King Abdullah as the first King. The country’s name was later changed from Transjordan to Jordan.
On 24 April 1950, Jordan formally annexed the West Bank and East Jerusalem, an act that was regarded as illegal and void by the Arab League. The move formed part of Jordan’s “Greater Syria Plan” expansionist policy,and in response, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Syria joined Egypt in demanding Jordan’s expulsion from the Arab League. A motion to expel Jordan from the League was prevented by the dissenting votes of Yemen and Iraq. On 12 June 1950, the Arab League declared the annexation was a temporary, practical measure and that Jordan was holding the territory as a “trustee” pending a future settlement. On 27 July 1953, King Hussein of Jordan announced that East Jerusalem was “the alternative capital of the Hashemite Kingdom” and would form an “integral and inseparable part” of Jordan.
Abdullah I was assassinated in 1951 by a Palestinian militant Mustafa Ashu, of the jihad al-muqaddas, as he was leaving the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The reason for his murder was allegedly the power rivalry of the al-Husseinis over control of Palestine, which was declared a part of the Hashemite Kingdom by Adbullah I. Though Amin al-Husseini, former mufti of Jerusalem, was not directly charged in the plot, Musa al-Husseini was among the 6 executed by Jordanian authorities, following the assassination.
Under King Hussein
Jordan, which became a founding member of the Arab League in 1945 and gained independence in 1946, joined the United Nations in 1955. In 1957 it terminated the Anglo-Jordan treaty, one year after the king sacked the British personnel serving in the Jordanian Army. This act of Arabization ensured the complete sovereignty of Jordan as a fully independent nation.
Field marshal Habis Al-Majali and former prime minister Wasfi Al-Tal
In May 1967, Jordan signed a military pact with Egypt. In June 1967, it joined Egypt, Syria and Iraq in the Six Day War against Israel, which however ended in an Israeli victory and the capture of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The period following the war saw an upsurge in the activity and numbers of Arab Palestinian paramilitary elements (fedayeen) within the state of Jordan. These distinct, armed militias were becoming a “state within a state”, threatening Jordan’s rule of law. King Hussein’s armed forces targeted the fedayeen, and open fighting erupted in June 1970. The battle in which Palestinian fighters from variousPalestine Liberation Organization (PLO) groups were expelled from Jordan is commonly known as Black September.
The heaviest fighting occurred in northern Jordan and Amman. In the ensuing heavy fighting, a Syrian tank force invaded northern Jordan to back the fedayeen fighters, but subsequently retreated. King Hussein urgently asked the United States and Great Britain to intervene against Syria. Consequently, Israel performed mock air strikes on the Syrian column at the Americans’ request. Soon after, Syrian President Nureddin al-Atassi, ordered a hasty retreat from Jordanian soil. By 22 September, Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo arranged a cease-fire beginning the following day. However, sporadic violence continued until Jordanian forces, led by Habis Al-Majali, with the help of Iraqi forces, won a decisive victory over the fedayeen on July 1971, expelling them, and ultimately the PLO’sYasser Arafat of Jordan.
In 1973, allied Arab League forces attacked Israel in the Yom Kippur War, and fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line. Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to attack Israeli units on Syrian territory but did not engage Israeli forces from Jordanian territory. At the Rabat summit conference in 1974, Jordan was now in a more secure position to agree, along with the rest of the Arab League, that the PLO was the “sole legitimate representative of the [Arab] Palestinian people”, thereby relinquishing to that organization its role as representative of the West Bank.
The Amman Agreement of 11 February 1985, declared that the PLO and Jordan would pursue a proposed confederation between the state of Jordan and a Palestinian state. In 1988, King Hussein dissolved the Jordanian parliament and renounced Jordanian claims to the West Bank. The PLO assumed responsibility as the Provisional Government of Palestine and an independent state was declared.
A handshake between Hussein I of Jordan and Yitzhak Rabin, accompanied byBill Clinton, after signing the Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace, 26 October 1994.
In 1991 Jordan agreed to participate in direct peace negotiations with Israel at the Madrid Conference, sponsored by the US and the Soviet Union. It negotiated an end to hostilities with Israel and signed a declaration to that effect on 25 July 1994. As a result, an Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty was concluded on 26 October 1994. King Hussein was later honored when his picture appeared on an Israeli postage stamp in recognition of the good relations he established with his neighbor. Since the signing of the peace treaty, the United States not only contributes hundreds of millions of dollars in an annual foreign aid stipend to Jordan, but also has allowed it to establish a free trade zone in which to manufacture goods that will enter the US without paying the usual import taxes as long as a percentage of the material used in them is purchased in Israel.
The last major strain in Jordan’s relations with Israel occurred in September 1997, when Israeli agents allegedly entered Jordan using Canadian passports and poisoned Khaled Meshal, a senior leader of Hamas. Israel provided an antidote to the poison and released dozens of political prisoners, including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Under King Abdullah II
Abdullah became king on 7 February 1999, upon the death of his father King Hussein. Hussein had recently named him Crown Princeon 24 January, replacing Hussein’s brother Hassan, who had served many years in the position. He is the namesake of King Abdullah I, his great grandfather who founded modern Jordan.
Visiting Washington, D.C., with Queen Rania, 6 March 2007.
Jordan’s economy has improved greatly since Abdullah ascended to the throne in 1999, and he has been credited with increasing foreign investment, improving public-private partnerships, and providing the foundation for Aqaba’s free trade zone and Jordan’s flourishinginformation and communication technology (ICT) sector. He also set up five other special economic zones: Irbid, Ajloun, Mafraq, Ma’an, and the Dead Sea. As a result of these reforms, Jordan’s economic growth has doubled to 6% annually under King Abdullah’s rule compared to the latter half of the 1990s. Foreign direct investment from the West as well as the countries of the Persian Gulf has continued to increase. He also negotiated a free trade agreement with the United States, which was the third free trade agreement for the U.S. and the first with an Arab country.
In 2005 BBC international published an article titled “Jordan edging towards democracy”, where King Abdullah expressed his intentions of making Jordan a democratic country. According to the article, president George W. Bush ”urged King Abdullah, a U.S. ally, to take steps towards democracy”. Thus far, however, democratic development has been limited, with the monarchy maintaining most power and its allies dominating parliament. Elections were held in November 2010, and following the Arab Spring which started in 2011, a new prime minister was appointed. In June 2011 the King has announced a move to a British style of Cabinet Government.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a constitutional monarchy with an appointed government. The reigning monarch is the chief executive and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The king exercises his executive authority through the prime ministers and the Council of Ministers, or cabinet. The cabinet, meanwhile, is responsible before the democratically elected House of Deputies which, along with the House of Notables (Senate), constitutes the legislative branch of the government. The judicial branch is an independent branch of the government.
King Abdullah II, Jordanian Head of State and Queen Rania of Jordan
King Abdullah I ruled Jordan after independence from Britain. After the assassination of King Abdullah I in 1951, his son King Talal ruled briefly. King Talal’s major accomplishment was the Jordanian constitution. King Talal was removed from the throne in 1952 due to mental illness. At that time his son, Hussein, was too young to rule, and hence a committee ruled over Jordan.
After Hussein reached 18, he ruled Jordan as king from 1953 to 1999, surviving a number of challenges to his rule, drawing on the loyalty of his military, and serving as a symbol of unity and stability in Jordan. King Hussein ended martial law in 1991 and legalized political parties in 1992. In 1989 and 1993, Jordan held free and fair parliamentary elections. Controversial changes in the election law led Islamist parties to boycott the 1997 elections.
King Abdullah II succeeded his father Hussein following the latter’s death in February 1999. Abdullah moved quickly to reaffirm Jordan’speace 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.
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 the King remains the ultimate authority in Jordan, the parliament plays an important role.
The 1952 Constitution provided for the establishment of the bicameral National Assembly of Jordan (‘Majlis al-Umma’). The Parliament consists of two Chambers: The Chamber of Deputies (‘Majlis al-Nuwaab’) and the Senate (‘Majlis al-Aayan’; literally, ‘Assembly of Notables’). The Senate has 60 Senators, all of whom are directly appointed by the King, while the Chamber of Deputies/House of Representatives has 120 elected members representing 12 constituencies. Of the 120 members of the Lower Chamber, 12 seats are reserved for women, 9 seats are reserved for Christian candidates, 9 seats are reserved for Bedouin candidates, and 3 seats are reserved for Jordanians of Chechen or Circassian descent. The Constitution ensures that the Senate cannot be more than half the size of the Chamber of Deputies.
The constitution does not provide a strong system of checks and balances within which the Jordanian Parliament can assert its role in relationship to the monarch. During the suspension of Parliament between 2001 and 2003, the scope of King Abdullah II’s power was demonstrated with the passing of 110 temporary laws. Two of such laws dealt with election law and were seen to reduce the power of Parliament.
Senators have terms of four years and are appointed by the King and can be reappointed. Prospective Senators must be at least forty years old and have held senior positions in either the government or military. Appointed Senators have included former Prime Ministers and Members of the Chamber of Deputies. Deputies are elected to also serve a four year term. Candidates must be older than thirty-five, cannot have blood ties to the King, and must not have any financial interests in government contracts.
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy based on the constitution promulgated on 8 January 1952. Executive authority is vested in the kingand his council of ministers. The king signs and executes all laws. His veto power may 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 council of ministers, led by a prime minister, is appointed by the king, who may dismiss other cabinet members at the prime minister’s request. The cabinet is accountable to the Chamber of Deputies on matters of general policy and can be forced to resign by a 50% or more of vote of “no confidence” by that body.
The constitution provides for three categories of courts: civil, religious, and special. Administratively, Jordan is divided into twelvegovernorates, 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.
Jordan is currently ranked as ‘not free’ by Freedomhouse.
Legal system and legislation
Jordan’s legal system is based on French code law system via the Egyptian civil laws while Islamic law is limited to civic status legislation for Muslims. Religious minority civic status is regulated by respective religious courts. Judicial review of legislative acts occurs in a special High Tribunal. It has not accepted International Court of Justice jurisdiction.
Jordan has multi-party politics. There are over 30 political parties in Jordan from extreme left (Jordanian Communist Party) to extreme right (Islamic Action Front). Article 97 of Jordan’s constitution guarantees the independence of the judicial branch, clearly stating that judges are ‘subject to no authority but that of the law.’ While the king must approve the appointment and dismissal of judges, in practice these are supervised by the Higher Judicial Council.
The Jordanian legal system draws upon civil traditions as well as Islamic law and custom. Article 99 of the Constitution divides the courts into three categories: civil, religious and special. The civil courts deal with civil and criminal matters in accordance with the law, and they have jurisdiction over all persons in all matters, civil and criminal, including cases brought against the government. The civil courts include Magistrate Courts, Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal, High Administrative Courts and the Supreme Court. The religious courts include shari’a (Islamic law) courts and the tribunals of other religious communities, namely those of the Christian minority. Religious courts have primary and appellate courts and deal only with matters involving personal law such as marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody. Shari’a courts also have jurisdiction over matters pertaining to the Islamic waqfs. In cases involving parties of different religions, regular courts have jurisdiction.
Despite traditional male domination, the number of women lawyers has been increasing. As of mid-2006 Jordan had 1,284 female lawyers, out of a total number of 6,915, and 35 female judges from a total of 630.
A female police officer in Amman
Jordan ranked 24th in the world, 4th in the Middle East, in terms of police services’ reliability in the Global Competitiveness Report. Jordan also ranked 13th in the world and 3rd in the Middle East in terms of prevention of organized crime, making it one of the safest countries in the world.
King Abdullah II on a visit to The Pentagon.
Jordan has followed a pro-Western foreign policy and maintained 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. During the 1970s, King Hussein negotiated with Iran to halt the military buildup to annex the small Persian Gulf nation ofBahrain. In the 1990s, he tried to mediate the conflict between the United States and Iraq and tried to bring an end to hostilities while still condemning the Iraqi annexation of Kuwait. Jordan has historically been at the forefront of negotiating peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians. King Abdullah II is the mediator between Israel and the Arab League’s negotiations for peace and normalization of bilateral ties.
Following the Gulf War, Jordan largely restored its relations with Western countries through its participation in the Southwest Asia peace process and enforcement of UN sanctions against Iraq. Relations between Jordan and the Persian Gulf countries improved substantially after King Hussein’s death. Following the fall of the Iraqi regime, Jordan has played a pivotal role in supporting the restoration of stability and security to Iraq. The Government of Jordan signed a memorandum of understanding with the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq to facilitate the training of up to 30,000 Iraqi police cadets at a Jordanian facility.
Vladimir Putin visiting the Baptism Site Bethany Beyond the Jordan in the Jordan Valley, 2007
Jordan signed a non-belligerency agreement with Israel in Washington, D.C. on 25 July 1994. King Hussein and Yitzhak Rabin negotiated this treaty. Jordan and Israel signed a historic peace treaty on 26 October 1994, witnessed by President Bill Clinton, accompanied by US Secretary, Warren Christopher. The US has participated with Jordan and Israel in trilateral development discussions in which key issues have been water-sharing and security; cooperation on Jordan Rift Valley development; infrastructure projects; and trade, finance, and banking issues.
Jordan and Israel had generally close relations even before the signing of the 1994 Peace Treaty. On more than one occasion, Jordan warned Israel of an impending attack by Syria and Egypt. Also, during the Black September conflict in Jordan, Israel warned Syria that any Syrian intervention on the side of the PLO against the Jordanian monarchy would result in an Israeli attack. Israel and Jordan along with Lebanon were already negotiating a peace treaty as early as the 1950s. However, this friendship has been damaged several times due to the worsening situation in the Palestinian territories and the slow peace process with the Palestinians. In Israel in 2009, several Likud lawmakers proposed a bill that called for a Palestinian state on both sides of the Jordan River, presuming that Jordan should be the alternative homeland for the Palestinians. Later, following similar remarks by the Israeli Speaker of the Knesset, twenty Jordanian lawmakers proposed a bill in the Jordanian Parliament in which the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan would be frozen. The Israeli Foreign Ministry disavowed the original proposal.
The Jordanian General Intelligence Department is reportedly the CIA’s closest partner after Britain’s MI6. Also, the release classified US cables on Wikileaks proved the depth of US-Jordan relations. Over 4,000 military cables were sent from Amman, the fifth most popular origin of US military cables worldwide, higher than from London or Tel Aviv. Jordan provides extensive strategic and logistic support to US military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, the leaked military cables show that America had kept Jordan’s involvement in the War on Terror quiet whether it be its rendition program or Jordan’s leading of counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Jordan also participates in the multilateral peace talks. Jordan belongs to the UN and several of its specialized and related agencies, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Meteorological Organization (IMO), Food and Agriculture Organization(FAO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the World Health Organization (WHO). Jordan also is a member of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Nonaligned Movement (NAM), and Arab League.
Six USAF F-16 fighters in Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Azraq. JAF F-16′s can be seen to the right.
Jordanian troops in a military parade in Amman
Jordanian Special Forces
The Jordanian military enjoys strong support and aid from the United States, the United Kingdom and France. This is due to its critical position between Israel, the West Bank, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia with very close proximity to Lebanon and Egypt. The development of the special forces has been particularly significant, enhancing the capability of the forces to react rapidly to threats to state security, as well as training special forces from the region and beyond.
The Royal Special Forces is a unit of the armed forces of Jordan. The Commander was Prince Abdullah (now Abdullah II of Jordan), 1993–1996. In 2007, these forces received training from Blackwater Worldwide.
The Royal Naval Force is the Naval entity of the Jordanian Armed Forces.
The Royal Jordanian Air Force (RJAF) (Arabic: سلاح الجو الملكي الأردني, transliterated: Silah al-Jaw Almalaki al-Urduni) is the aviation branch of the Jordanian Armed Forces and includes the Royal Jordanian Air Defence.
UN Peacekeeping force
There are about 50,000 Jordanian troops working with the United Nations in peacekeeping missions across the world. These soldiers provide everything from military defense, training of native police, medical help, and charity. Jordan ranks third internationally in taking part in UN peacekeeping missions.
Jordan has dispatched several field hospitals to conflict zones and areas affected by natural disasters across the world such as Iraq, the West Bank, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Haiti, Indonesia, Congo, Liberia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sierra Leone and Pakistan. The Kingdom’s field hospitals extended aid to more than one million people in Iraq, some one million in the West Bank and 55,000 in Lebanon. According to the military, there are Jordanian peacekeeping forces in Asia, Africa, Europe and Latin America. Jordanian Armed Forces field hospital in Afghanistan has since 2002 provided assistance to some 750,000 persons and has significantly reduced the suffering of people residing in areas where the hospital operates.In some missions, the number of Jordanian troops was the second largest, the sources said. Jordan also provides extensive training of security forces in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, and the GCC.
Jordan’s most executive power is the King and it is a constitutional monarchy with an appointed government. The King traditionally has held substantial power, however the democratically elected Parliament holds significant influence and power in national governance.
The reforms of 1989 legalized political parties and opposition movements. The result is over 30 political parties, but the only political party that plays a role in the legislature is the Islamic Action Front (IAF). Political parties can be seen to represent four sections: Islamists, leftists, Arab nationalists and liberals. Some other political parties in Jordan including the Jordanian Arab Democratic Party, Jordanian Socialist Party, and Muslim Centre Party, but these have little impact on the political process because of lack of organization and clear platforms on key domestic issues as well as differences and factions within these political parties.
Jordan is divided into 12 provinces named Governorates, which are sub-divided into 54 departments or districts named Nahias.
The 2010 Arab Democracy Index from the Arab Reform Initiative ranked Jordan first in the state of democratic reforms out of fifteen Arab countries.
Jordan ranked 141 out of 196 countries worldwide, earning “Not Free” status in Freedom House’s 2011 Freedom of the Press 2011 report. Jordan had the 5th freest press of 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. Civil liberties and political rights scored 5 and 6 respectively in Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2011 report, where 1 is most free and 7 is least free. This earned Jordan “Not Free” status. Jordan ranked ahead of 6, behind 4, and the same as 8 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.
In the 2010 Press Freedom Index maintained by Reporters Without Borders, Jordan ranked 120th out of 178 countries listed, 5th out of the 20 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. Jordan’s score was 37 on a scale from 0 (most free) to 105 (least free).
Jordan ranked 6th among the 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, and 50th out of 178 countries worldwide in the 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) issued by Transparency International. Jordan’s 2010 CPI score was 4.7 on a scale from 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean). Jordan ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in February 2005 and has been a regional leader in spearheading efforts to promote the UNCAC and its implementation.
In response to domestic and regional unrest, in February 2011 King Abdallah replaced his prime minister and formed a National Dialogue Commission with a reform mandate. The King told the new prime minister to “take quick, concrete and practical steps to launch a genuine political reform process”, “to strengthen democracy,” and provide Jordanians with the “dignified life they deserve.”The King called for an “immediate revision” of laws governing politics and public freedoms. Initial reports say that this effort has started slowly and that several “fundamental rights” are not being addressed.
Graph showing the population of Jordan, 1960–2005
The Jordan National Census for the year 2004 was released on 1 October of the same year, According to the census, Jordan had a population of 5,100,981. The census estimated that there are another 190,000 who were not counted. National growth rate was 2.5% (at maximum) compared to 3.3% of the 1994 census. Males made up 51.5% of Jordan’s population (2,628,717), while females constituted 2,472,264 (48.5%). Jordanian citizens made up 93% of the population (4,750,463), non-Jordanian citizens made up 7% (349,933). However, it is estimated that most of those who did not turn in their forms were immigrants from neighboring countries, There were 946,000 households in Jordan in 2004, with an average of 5.3 persons/household (compared to 6 persons/household for the census of 1994). The next census is scheduled to take place in 2014.
Jordan hosts one of the highest percentages of immigrants in the world in comparison to its total population, with more than 40% of its residents being born in another country, a rate even higher than the United States, according to a 2005 UN Report. Jordan’s Arab population mainly consists of Jordanians, Palestinians and Iraqis. In addition, there are sizable immigrant communities from Egypt, Syria, and more recently Libya. There were also 15,000 Lebanese who emigrated to Jordan following the 2006 War with Israel. The non-Arab population which comprises 2% to 5% of Jordan’s population, most are Circassians, Chechens, Armenians, Turkmans, andRomanis, all of which have maintained separate ethnic identities, but have integrated into mainstream Jordanian culture. Also, Jordan is home to a relatively large American and European expatriate population concentrated mainly in the capital as the city is home to many international organizations and diplomatic missions that base their regional operations in Amman. Since the Iraq War many Christians (Assyrians/Chaldeans) from Iraq have settled permanently or temporarily in Jordan. They could number as many as 500,000.
In 2004–2007, population increased due to the mass migration of Iraqi refugees. In 2007, there were 700,000–1,000,000 Iraqis in Jordan. In 2009, the population of Jordan was slightly over 6,300,000. (increasing from 5,100,000 in 2004).
According to UNRWA, Jordan was home to 1,951,603 Palestinian refugees in 2008, most of them Jordanian citizens. 338,000 of them were living in UNRWA refugee camps.
Migrant workers in Jordan are believed to account for more than 30% of the labor force in Jordan. The population of migrant workers including domestic workers is divided into 1,200,000 illegal and some 500,000 legal migrant workers in the Kingdom. 500,000 are Egyptians, while the remaining workers are from Syria, India, Yemen, Pakistan, Vietnam, and Nepal. Jordan is home to one of the world’s largest population of migrant domestic workers according to Human Rights Watch. Domestic workers number around 300,000, mainly from Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. There have been recent recruiting from African nations like Ethopia andMadagascar for the purpose of domestic labor. Furthermore, there are thousands of foreign women working in nightclubs, hotels and bars across the kingdom, mostly from Eastern Europe and North Africa.
Jordan revoked the citizenship of thousands of Palestinians to thwart any attempt to resettle West Bank residents in Jordan. West Bank Arabs with family in Jordan or Jordanian citizenship were issued yellow cards guaranteeing them all the rights of Jordanian citizenship. Palestinians living in Jordan with family in the West Bank were also issued yellow cards. All other Palestinians wishing such Jordanian papers were issued green cards to facilitate travel into Jordan.
Jordan was often at the crossroads of civilizations, and so has diverse genetic remnants. Recent genetic studies have shown strong links between the modern Jordanian people and the core populations of the Levant and the fertile crescent. A study published by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza found that the Jordanian genetics are closest to the Assyrians among all other nations of Western Asia.
The official language is Arabic. English, though without an official status, is widely spoken throughout the country and is the de facto language of commerce and banking, as well as a co-official status in the education sector. The spoken language is Jordanian Arabic.Modern Standard Arabic and English are obligatorily learnt at public and most private schools with French being a less popular elective. Radio Jordan offers radio services in Arabic, English, and French. Armenian as well as Caucasian languages like Circassian andChechen, are understood and spoken by small communities residing in Jordan, with several schools teaching them.
|Religion in Jordan|
Abu Darweesh Mosque
Greek Orthodox church in Amman
Islam is the predominant religion in Jordan. It is the official religion and approximately 92% of the population is Muslim, primarily of the Sunni branch of Islam. Islamic and Christian studies are offered to students but are not mandatory and do not factor into the University entry school exams. Jordan has laws promoting religious freedom, but they fall short of protecting all minority groups. Muslims who convert to another religion as well as missionaries face societal and legal discrimination.
According to the 2010 Legatum Prosperity Index, less than half of Jordanians regularly attend religious services (around 40%), a moderate percentage in comparison to industrialized countries. However, this rate is among the lowest of all the Arab countries and it is one of the lowest in the entire Muslim World.
Jordan has an indigenous Christian minority. Christians of all ethnic backgrounds permanently residing in Jordan form approximately 6% of the population and are allocated respective seats in parliament (The Department of Statistics released no information about the religion distribution from the census of 2004). Christians made up 30% of the Jordanian population in 1950. However, heavy Muslim immigration from Iraq and Mandatory Palestine and lower birth rates compared to Muslims have significantly decreased the ratio of the Christian population. Most Jordanian Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem. The remainder include members of the Syriac Orthodox Church, Latin Rite Catholic Church, Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Syriac Catholic Church,Chaldean Catholic Church, Assyrian Church of the East, Maronite Church, Ancient Church of the East, and Anglican Communion.
Among the Christian non-Arab population, significant part is made up of Armenians in Jordan; the Armenian Apostolic Church andArmenian Catholic Church (and some in other churches). Others include expatriate Christians in Jordan from various countries, as evinced, for example, by some Catholic masses held in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Sinhala. With Protestant services in English, Tagalog, Tamil and German. Many Iraqi Christians have moved to Jordan, mostly Iraqi Assyrian Christians.
Other religious minorities groups in Jordan include adherents to the Druze and Bahá’í Faith. The Druze are mainly located in the eastern oasis town of Azraq, some villages on the Syrian border and the city of Zarka, while the village Adassiyeh bordering the Jordan Valley is home to Jordan’s Bahá’í community.
Jordan has an advanced healthcare system, although services remain highly concentrated in Amman. Government figures have put total health spending in 2002 at some 7.5% of Gross domestic product (GDP), while international health organizations place the figure even higher, at approximately 9.3% of GDP. The country’s health care system is divided between public and private institutions. In the public sector, the Ministry of Health operates 1,245 primary health-care centers and 27 hospitals, accounting for 37% of all hospital beds in the country; the military’s Royal Medical Services runs 11 hospitals, providing 24% of all beds; and the Jordan University Hospital accounts for 3% of total beds in the country. The private sector provides 36% of all hospital beds, distributed among 56 hospitals. In 1 June 2007, Jordan Hospital (as the biggest private hospital) was the first general specialty hospital who gets the international accreditation JCAHO.
According to 2003 estimates, the rate of prevalence of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome(HIV/AIDS) was less than 0.1%. According to a United Nations Development Program report, Jordan has been considered malaria-free since 2001; cases of tuberculosis declined by half during the 1990s, but tuberculosis remains an issue and an area needing improvement. Jordan experienced a brief outbreak of bird flu in March 2006. Noncommunicable diseases such as cancer also are a major health issue in Jordan. Childhood immunization rates have increased steadily over the past 15 years; by 2002 immunizations andvaccines reached more than 95% of children under five. About 86% of Jordanians had medical insurance in 2009, the Jordanian government planned to reach 100% in 2011.
The King Hussein Cancer Center is a leading cancer treatment center. Jordan was ranked by the World Bank to be the number one health care services provider in the region and among the top 5 in the world. In 2008, 250,000 patients sought treatment in the Kingdom including Iraqis, Palestinians, Sudanese, Syrians, GCC citizens, Americans, Canadians, and Egyptians. Jordan earned almost $1 billion dollars in medical tourism revenues according to the World Bank.
According to the CIA World Factbook, life expectancy in Jordan is 80.18 years, the second highest in the region (after Israel). There were 203 physicians per 100,000 people in the years 2000–2004, a proportion comparable to many developed countries and higher than most of the developing world.
Water and sanitation, available to only 10% of the population in 1950, now reach 99% of Jordanians, according to government statistics. They also show that electricity reaches 99% of the population, as compared to less than 10% in 1955.
- See: Medical education in Jordan.
Standard of Living in Jordan
Jordan is ranked as having a superior standard of life in comparison to the region and developing countries as a whole. Jordan ranked as having the 11th highest standard of living in the developing world and the second highest standard of living in the Arab and Muslim World as measured by the Human Poverty Index-2. Decades of political stability and security and strict law enforcement make Jordan one of the top 10 countries worldwide in security. In the 2010 Newsweek “World’s Best Countries” list, Jordan ranked as the third best Arab country to live in (53rd worldwide), after Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Globally, it ranks higher than China and South Africa. According to the index, its standard of living is on par with Turkey and Argentina. In addition, Jordan is one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East with a secular government. In the 2010 Human Development Index, Jordan was placed in the “high human development” bracket and came 7th among Arab countries, behind the oil-rich states and one place behind Tunisia. In the HDI index score excluding income, Jordan came in second in the Arab world, higher than most of the affluent Persian Gulf states, showing the huge emphasis the Jordanian government has placed on human capital in its development process. Furthermore, in theInequality-adjusted HDI, Jordan came first among all the Arab countries showing that the average Jordanian was better off than the average citizen of any Arab country listed in the index.
A villa in West Amman
The 2010 Quality of Life Index prepared by International Living magazine ranked Jordan as having one of the highest quality of life in the Arab world and North Africa. Jordan ranked second in the MENA with 55.0 points after Israel and followed by Kuwait with 54.47 points, Morocco with 54.45 points, and Lebanon with 54.3 points. Only 1.6 percent of Jordanians earn less than $2 a day, one of the lowest rates in the developing world and the lowest among the Arab states, according to the UN Human Development Report.
Low income neighborhood in EastAmman
Access to adequate food and shelter in Jordan is the sixth highest in the world, and a relatively 72% of Jordanians are satisfied with their living standards. Despite high levels of perceived corruption in politics and business, Jordanians have relatively high confidence in the government. Over 8 in 10 people approve of their government which is the 13th highest level in the 2010 Legatum Prosperity Index. Levels of support for the country’s policies to preserve the environment and address poverty are also among the top 25 nations. Jordanians are highly enthusiastic about their other civil institutions: 96% support the military, the seventh highest rate overall, and 70% have confidence in the judiciary, the 25th highest rate. Jordanians also enjoy high levels of safety in their personal lives. In a 2009 survey, just 2.8% of respondents said they had been assaulted in the last 12 months, and less than 7% had experienced theft: these figures are the 21st and 10th lowest in the world, respectively. Jordan is also among the top ten countries whose citizens feel safest walking the streets at night.
Life expectancy and public health levels in Jordan are comparable to the West with 88% of the population on medical insurance, one of the highest rates in the world. The remaining 12% are covered under Royal makruma. As of 2011, 63% of working Jordanians are insured with the Social Security Corporation, as well as 120,000 foreigners, with plans to include the rest of Jordanian workers both inside and outside the kingdom as well as students, housewives, business owners, and the unemployed.
In 2008, the Jordanian government launched the “Decent Housing for a Decent Living” project aimed at giving poor people and Palestinian refugees the chance at owning their own house. Approximately 120,000 affordable housing units will be constructed within the next 5 years, and an additional 100,000 housing units can be built if the need arises.
Jordan was ranked as the 19th most expensive country in the world to live in 2010 and the most expensive Arab country to live in.
Despite these positive indicators, Jordan remains marred by chronic high unemployment rates, 11.9% in the fourth quarter of 2010 but some estimate it to be as high as a quarter of the working-age population. Also, an estimated 13.3% of citizens live under the poverty line. Wide disaparities in wealth are evident between urban and rural areas and even between the Western and Eastern districts of the capital Amman. Currently, there are over 700,000 highly skilled college graduates working temporarily in GCC nations like the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. These white-collar workers send home more than three billion dollars in remittances to Jordan each year, a vital part of the Jordanian economy. High cost of living and lower wages push thousands of fresh college graduates to seek their fortunes in the oil-rich gulf.
In the 2010 Gallup Global Wellbeing Survey, 30% of Jordanians described their financial situation as “thriving”, higher than the global median of 21% but still lower than the Americas and only marginally ahead of the European median of 28%. Jordan surpassed most of the Arab countries with the exception of Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia.
The literacy rate in Jordan is 93%. The education system has been significant in the shift from a predominantly agrarian country to an industrialized nation. It ranks number one in the Arab World and is one of the highest in the developing world. UNESCO ranked Jordan’s education system 18th worldwide for providing gender equality in education. 20.5% of Jordan’s total government expenditures goes to education compared to 2.5% in Turkey and 3.86% in Syria.
In scientific research, Jordan is ranked number one in the Arab world. Nature Journal reported Jordan having the highest number of researchers per million people among all the 57 countries members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC); the average of OIC countries is 500 researchers per million people. In Jordan there are 2,000 researchers per million people. The top performers in the world were Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Japan with 5,000 researchers per million. Jordan is ranked 30th worldwide higher than some developed countries like Israel and the United Kingdom.
Jordan ranked 14th out of 110 countries for the number of engineers and scientists according to the Global Competitiveness Report 2004–2005 (WEF). Jordan has a higher proportion of university graduates in technological fields than any other Arab country. There are over 200,000 Jordanian students enrolled in universities each year. An additional 20,000 Jordanians pursue higher education abroad primarily in the United States and Great Britain.
There is a primary school enrollment rate of 98.2% in Jordan. Secondary school enrollment has increased from 63% to 97% of high school aged students in Jordan and between 79% and 85% of high school students in Jordan move on to higher education, an extremely high rate for a middle income nation.
According to the Global Innovation Index 2011, Jordan is the 3rd most innovative economy in the Middle East, only behind Qatar and theUnited Arab Emirates. Worldwide, Jordan ranked 41st beating India, South Africa, Greece and Russia.
Jordan is the top contributor among all Arab countries in terms of internet content. 75% of all Arabic online content originates from Jordan.
The illiteracy rate in Jordan was 6.9% in 2010, one of the lowest in the region. Secondary education consists of two years of school study, for students who have completed the 10-year basic cycle. It comprises two major tracks: Academic or vocational secondary education. At the end of the two-year period, students sit for the general secondary examination (Tawjihi) in the appropriate branch and those who pass are awarded the Tawjihi (General Secondary Education Certificate). The academic stream qualifies students for university entrance, whereas the vocational or technical type qualifies for entrance to Community colleges or universities or the job market, provided they pass the two additional subjects. Vocational secondary education provides intensive vocational training andapprenticeship, and leads to the award of a Certificate. This type of education is provided by the Vocational Training Corporation, under the control of the Ministry of Labour / Technical and Vocational Education and Training Higher Council.
After completing the 8, 9 or 10 years of basic education, Jordanians are free to choose any foreign secondary education program instead of the Tawjihi examinations (8 for IGCSE, 10 for SAT and IB). Such programs are usually offered by private schools. These programs include: IGCSE, SAT and International Baccalaureate.
Private schools in Jordan also offer IGCSE examinations. About 25% of school-aged students in Jordan are enrolled in private schools. Upon graduation, the ministry of Higher Education, through a system similar to UK tariff points, transforms the grades/marks of these foreign educational programs into the same marks used in grading Tawjihi students. This system is controversial, both as to the conversion process and the number of places allocated to non-Tawjihi applicants.
Medical halls of JUST as seen with KAUH.
Access to higher education is open to holders of the General Secondary Education Certificate or Tawjihi who can then apply to universities or community colleges. However, admission to public universities in Jordan is very competitive. The kingdom has 10 public and 16 private universities, in addition to some 54 community colleges, of which 14 are public, 24 private and others affiliated with the Jordan Armed Forces, the Civil Defence Department, the ministry of health and UNRWA. The first university established in the kingdom was the University of Jordan. A United Nations-supported research nuclear reactor and a synchrotron-light scientific facility (SESAME) are currently being built on campus of Jordan University of Science and Technology and the Hashemite University to establish the first nuclear facilities for academic research in the kingdom. All post-secondary education is the responsibility of the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.
In addition, Jordan is also a home for of foreign universities campuses such as NYIT, DePaul University, Columbia University, German-Jordanian University, Princess Sumaya University for Technology, and the American University of Madaba. George Washington University is also planning to establish a medical university in Jordan as well, with plans to make it a regional hub for the training of medical personnel in the Middle East and North Africa.
The Jordan Gate Towers in West Amman
According to the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, Jordan has the third freest economy in the Middle East and North Africa, behind only Bahrain and Qatar, and the 32nd freest in the world, . Jordan’s economic freedom surpasses many European countries like France and Spain and it is on par with South Korea. 
Jordan is a small country with limited natural resources. The country is exploring ways to expand its limited water supply and use its existing water resources more efficiently, including regional cooperation with Israel. The country depends on external sources for the majority of its energy requirements. In the 1990s, its crude petroleum needs were met through imports from Iraq and neighboring countries. Since early 2003, oil has been provided by some Gulf Cooperation Council member countries. In addition, the Arab Gas Pipeline from Egypt to the southern port of Aqaba was completed in 2003. In 2005 the pipeline extended north to the Amman area, in 2008 it reached Syria and in 2009 to Lebanon.
Since King Abdullah II’s accession to the throne in 1999, liberal economic policies have resulted in a continuing boom. Jordan is the 4th freest economy in the Middle East and North Africa, beating traditionally free economies like Israel, the United Arab Emirates andLebanon. Jordan’s developed and modern banking sector is becoming the investment destination of choice due to its conservative bank policies that helped Jordan escape the worst of the global financial crisis of 2009. With instability across the region in Iraq andLebanon, Jordan is emerging as the “business capital of the Levant” and “the next Beirut”. Jordan’s economy has been growing at an annual rate of 7% for a decade. Jordan’s economy is undergoing a major shift from an aid-dependent, rentier economy to one of the most robust, open and competitive economies in the region. In recent years, there has been shift to knowledge-intensive industries, i.eICT, and a rapidly growing trade sector benefiting from regional instability. The Jordanian market is considered the most developed Arab market outside the Gulf states.
Jordanian exports in 2006
Graphical depiction of Jordan ‘s product exports in 28 color coded categories.
Jordan has more free trade agreements than any other Arab country. It has such agreements with the United States, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, the European Union, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Iraq, Turkey and Syria, with plans to include the Palestinian Authority, the GCC, Lebanon and Pakistan. Jordan is a member of the Greater Arab Free Trade Agreement, the Euro-Mediterranean free trade area agreement, and the Agadir Agreement. Increased investment and exports are the main sources of Jordan’s growth. Continued close integration into theEuropean Union and GCC markets will reap vast economic rewards for the Kingdom in the coming years. However, the main obstacles to Jordan’s economy are scarce water supplies, complete reliance on oil imports for energy, and regional instability.
Rapid privatization of previously state-controlled industries and liberalization of the economy is spurring unprecedented growth in Amman and Aqaba. Jordan has six special economic zones that attract significant amount of investment amounting in the billions: Aqaba, Mafraq, Ma’an, Ajloun, the Dead Sea, and Irbid. Jordan also has a plethora of industrial zones producing goods in the textile,aerospace, defense, ICT, pharmaceutical, and cosmetic sectors.
The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States that went into effect in December 2001 will phase out duties on nearly all goods and services by 2010. The agreement also provides for more open markets in communications, construction, finance, health, transportation, and services, as well as strict application of international standards for the protection of intellectual property. In 1996, Jordan and the United States signed a civil aviation agreement that provides for open skies between the two countries, and a U.S.-Jordan treaty for the protection and encouragement of bilateral investment entered into force in 2003. Jordan has been a member of the World Trade Organization since 2000.
The Four Seasons hotel in Amman, Jordan’s capital.
Hamleys – Amman
In the 2000 Competitive Industrial Performance (CIP) Index, Jordan ranked as the third most industrialized economy in the Middle East and North Africa, behind Turkey and Kuwait. Jordan was in the upper bracket of nations scored by the CIP index. In the 2009 Global Trade Enabling Report, Jordan ranked 4th in the Arab World behind the UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar. The report analyzes the country’s market access, the country’s transport and communications infrastructure, border administration, and the business environment of the country Textile and clothing exports from Jordan to the United States shot up 2,000% from 2000 to 2005, following introduction of the FTA. According to the National Labor Committee, a U.S.-based NGO (Non-Governmental Organization), Jordan has experienced sharp increases in sweatshop conditions in its export-oriented manufacturing sector.Jordan ranked as having the 35th best infrastructure in the world, one of the highest rankings in the developing world, according to the World Economic Forum’s Index of Economic Competitiveness. It even beat several developed countries like Israel, Italy, Ireland, Greece and it was only two places behind the United Kingdom.
The proportion of skilled workers in Jordan is among the highest in the region. The services sector dominates the Jordanian economy. Tourism is a rapidly growing industry in Jordan with revenues over one billion. Industries such as pharmaceuticals are emerging as very profitable products in Jordan. The Real Estate economy and construction sectors continue to flourish with mass amounts of investments pouring in from the Persian Gulf and Europe. Foreign Direct Investment is in the billions. The stock market capitalization of Jordan is worth nearly $40 billion.
Jordan is classified by the World Bank as an “upper middle income country.” Per-capita GDP was approximately US$5,100 for 2007 and 14.5% of the economically active population, on average, was unemployed in 2003. Education and literacy rates and measures of social well-being are very high compared to other countries with similar incomes. Jordan’s population growth rate is high, but has declined in recent years, to approximately 2.8% currently. One of the most important factors in the government’s efforts to improve the well-being of its citizens is the macroeconomic stability that has been achieved since the 1990s. However, unemployment rates remain high, with the official figure standing at 12.5%, and the unofficial around 30%. The currency has been stable with an exchange rate fixed to the US dollar since 1995.
Jordan is pinning its hopes on tourism, future uranium and oil shale exports, trade, and ICT for future economic growth.
Amman was ranked as the Arab World’s most expensive city in 2006 by the Economist Intelligence Unit, beating Dubai. In 2009, Amman ranked as the 4th most expensive city in the Arab World, behind Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Beirut.
In relation to the population size, Jordan is also one of the largest suppliers of skilled labour and human capital in the world. An estimated 600,000 Jordanians or one fourth of the labour force are earning their living in foreign countries working primarily in high paying white-collar jobs. Between 1968 and 2003, the accumulated net number of emmigrants amounted to over 1.1 million persons. Most of the skilled labor that left Jordan emigrated on a temporary basis to the oil producing Persian Gulf states. Since the mid 1970s, migrants’ remittances are Jordan’s most important source of foreign exchange, and a decisive factor in the country’s economic development and the rising standard of living of the population.
Jordan has the headquarters of several large-scale global corporations despite its small size. Some of these include Arab Bank,Aramex, Maktoob, Rubicon Group Holding and Kurdi Group. Since 2009, there are 2 Jordanian companies listed in the Forbes Global 2000 list, Arab Bank (Rank 708) and Arab Potash (Rank 1964). In addition, Jordan has several billionaires as well like Ziad Manasir and Eyhab Jumean.
Agriculture in Jordan contributed substantially to the economy at the time of Jordan’s independence, but it subsequently suffered a decades-long steady decline. In the early 1950s, agriculture constituted almost 40 percent of GNP; on the eve of the June 1967 War, it was 17 percent. By the mid-1980s, agriculture’s share of GNP in Jordan was only about 6 percent.
The main irrigated area in Jordan is focused in fertile lands of Jordan Valley. However, other non-irrigated lands which depends on the seasonal rain are also available. Most of these lands are in the northern region in the provinces of Balqa, Jerash, Ajloun and Irbid. Yet, some other lands are also available in the mid-western regions of Karak and Madaba. Recently, some desert land in the east of Mafraqhave witnessed a large scale of irrigation projects, however, the sustainability of these projects is still in doubt, due to their dependency on groundwater.
Jordan exports many fruits and vegetables to the neighboring countries, the Gulf and Europe, including olives, citrus fruit, grapes, apples, figs, peaches, pears, plums, apricots, almonds, and cherries.
Although Jordan is a resource-poor country, it has significant deposits of oil shale and sources of uranium; these potential sources of indigenous energy have been the focus of renewed interest in recent years. It is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world and considerable water is required to develop its resources, particularly oil shale. There are very limited resources of timber and forestry products and timbering is strictly limited by Jordan’s environmentalists. Nevertheless, the kingdom is home to several water parks for tourism purposes, and the capital alone has over 17,000 private swimming pools.
A phosphate train at Ram station
Phosphate mines in the south have made Jordan one of the largest producers and exporters of this mineral in the world. Potassium, salt, natural gas and stone are the most important other substances extracted. Phosphates are carried by rail from the mines to the port of Aqaba where it is shipped via cargo ship to other ports.
Jordan has one of the largest uranium reserves in the world. Jordan’s reserves account for 2% of the world’s total uranium. Jordan can extract 80,000 tons of uranium from its uranic ores, and the country’s phosphate reserves also contain some 100,000 tons of uranium. Jordan plans that by 2035, 60% of the country’s total energy consumption will be from nuclear energy. Four nuclear power plants are planned with the first one to be operational in 2019.
Since the beginning of 2010, the government of Jordan has been seeking approval from the US for producing nuclear fuel from Jordan’s uranium for use in nuclear power plants that Jordan plans to build. Jordan is not required to obtain US approval since, as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Jordan has every right to produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. However, in view of the U.S.-led sanctions against Iran over Iran’s nuclear program, despite Iran being a signatory of the NPT, Jordan is first seeking US approval to avoid a fate similar to that of Iran. The government of Israel, not a signatory of the NPT, has made clear to Washington its objection to Jordan’s nuclear energy program. According to Haaretz, Jordan learned that the US position is essentially the Israeli position, and the US has rejected Jordan’s request for approval.
Natural gas was discovered in Jordan in 1987, and the estimated size of the reserve discovered was about 230 billion cubic feet, and quantities are very modest compared with its neighbours. It was the development of the Risha field in the Eastern Desert beside the Iraqi border, and the field produces nearly 30 million cubic feet of gas a day, to be sent to a nearby power plant to produce nearly 10% of the Jordan’s Electric needs.
Despite the fact that reserves of crude oil are non-commercial, Jordan possesses one of the world’s richest stockpiles of oil shale where there are huge quantities that could be commercially exploited in the central and northern regions west of the country. The extent the World Energy Council reserves Jordan approximately 40 billion tons, which established it as the second richest state in rock oil reserves after Canada (estimated), and first at the world’s level of proven discoveries at a rate of extraction of oil up to between 8% and 12% of content, and could be the production of 4 billion tons of oil from the current reserve, which puts the quality of Jordanian oil on the one hand extraction, on an equal footing with their counterparts in western Colorado in the United States, which its estimated amount may rise to 20 billion tons. The moisture content and ash within is relatively low. And the total thermal value is 7.5 megajoules/kg, and the content of ointments reach 9% of the weight of the organic content. Jordan recently signed a deal with Royal Dutch Shell to extract and exploit shale oil reserves in central Jordan. It is expected Jordan will produce its first commercial quantities of oil in the year 2020, with an estimated production of 50,000 barrels of oil a day, 35 per cent of the Kingdom’s energy consumption in “less than 10 years”. Previous NRA studies have revealed that 40 billion tonnes of oil shale exist in 21 sites concentrated near the Yarmouk River, Buweida, Beit Ras, Rweished, Karak, Madaba and Maan.
A switch to power plants operated by oil shale has the potential to reduce Jordan’s energy bill by at least 40–50 per cent, according to the National Electric Power Company.
Many of the world’s major software and hardware IT companies, including Cisco, Dell, Hewlett Packard, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and Samsung, are present in Jordan. In addition to targeting the local market, a number of these firms use the kingdom as their regional centre. For example, Oracle’s regional office for the Middle East and Africa, as well as Central and Eastern Europe, is located in Jordan. The company undertakes a variety of activities from its Amman office, including pre-sales, sales, business operations, consulting and R&D. Cisco has also used the kingdom as a base to target markets across the region. The presence of such firms underlines Jordan’s attractiveness as a stable base with high-calibre human resources from which to serve the wider region. Factors such as the availability of financing for start-ups and the high calibre of human resources helped propel Amman into a list of the top 10 best cities in the world to launch a tech start-up published in January 2012 by the founder of venture capital firm Finaventures, Rachid Sefraoui, auguring rapid development and spurring comparisons with global start-up centers.
Currency and exchange rates
The official currency in Jordan is the Jordanian dinar and divides into 100 qirsh (also called piastres) or 1000 fils. In 1949, banknotes were issued by the government in denominations of 500 fils, 1, 5,10 dinar. From 1959, the Central Bank of Jordan took over note production. 20 dinar notes were introduced in 1977, followed by 50 dinar in 1999. ½ dinar notes were replaced by coins in 1999. Coins were introduced in 1949 in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 fils. The first issue of 1 fils were mistakenly minted with the denomination given as “1 fil”. 20 fils coins were minted until 1965, with 25 fils introduced in 1968 and ¼ dinar coins in 1970. The 1 fils coin was last minted in 1985. In 1996, smaller ¼ dinar coins were introduced alongside ½ and 1 dinar coins. Since 23 October 1995, the dinar has been officially pegged to the IMF’s special drawing rights (SDRs). In practice, it is fixed at 1 US$ = 0.709 dinar, which translates to approximately 1 dinar = 1.41044 dollars. The Central Bank buys US dollars at 0.708 dinar, and sell US dollars at 0.7125 dinar,Exchangers buys US dollars at 0.708 and sell US dollars at 0.709.
An Arabian Desert castle in Azraq
Roman ruins at Umm Qais
Tourism accounted for 10%–12% of the country’s Gross National Product in 2006. In 2010, there were 8 million visitors to Jordan. The result was $3.4 billion in tourism revenues, $4.4 billion if medical tourists are included. Jordan offers everything from world-class historical and cultural sites like Petra and Jerash to modern entertainment in urban areas most notablyAmman. Moreover, seaside recreation is present in Aqaba and Dead Sea through numerous international resorts. Eco-tourists have numerous nature reserves to choose from as like Dana Nature Reserve. Religious tourists visitMt. Nebo, the Baptist Site, and the mosaic city of Madaba.
Jordan has nightclubs, discothèques and bars in Amman, Irbid, Aqaba, and many 4 and 5-star hotels. Furthermore, beach clubs are also offered at the Dead Sea and Aqaba. Jordan played host to the Petra Prana Festival in 2007 which celebrated Petra’s win as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World with world-renowned DJs like Tiesto and Sarah Main. The annual Distant Heat festival in Wadi Rum and Aqaba ranked as one of the world’s top 10 raves.
Excavated remains of Bethabara, Jordan, where John the Baptist is believed to have conducted his ministry.
Jordan has been a medical tourism destination in the Middle East since the 1970s. A study conducted by Jordan’s Private Hospitals Association (PHA) found that 250,000 patients from 102 countries received treatment in the kingdom in 2010, compared to 190,000 in 2007, bringing over $1 billion in revenue. It is the region’s top medical tourism destination as rated by the World Bank, and fifth in the world overall.
2011 and 2012 saw an influx of Arab patients from Libya and Syria entering the kingdom for treatment. It is estimated that Jordan received 50,000 Libyan patients and 80,000 Syrian refugees, who also sought treatment in Jordanian hospitals, in the last six months.
There are about 60 private health care institutions in the kingdom, four of which have been accredited by US-based Joint Commission International, which is considered the gold standard for international accreditation in the healthcare industry. Most of Jordan’s doctors speak proficient English and many have been trained or are affiliated with top US hospitals. The main barrier to medical tourism is visa restrictions placed on some countries due to the fear of illegal settlement in Jordan. Jordan’s main focus of attention in its marketing effort are the ex-Soviet states, Europe, and America. Top institutions that work in this industry include JORDICURE for medical tourism, King Hussein Cancer Center, Khalidi Hospital, Jordan Hospital and the Specialty Hospital among others. Most common medical procedures on Arab and foreign patients included organ transplants, open heart surgeries, infertility treatment, laser vision corrections, bone operations and cancer treatment.
Dana Biosphere Reserve
Nature reserves in Jordan include the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Azraq Wetland Reserve,Shaumari Wildlife Reserve and Mujib Nature Reserve.
A Royal Jordanian Airbus A310-300
Being that Jordan is a transit country for goods and services to the Palestinian territories andIraq, Jordan maintains a well-developed transportation infrastructure. Jordan ranked as having the 35th best infrastructure in the world, one of the highest rankings in the developing world, according to the World Economic Forum’s Index of Economic Competitiveness. It even scored higher than several developed countries like Israel, Italy, Ireland, Greece and it was only two places behind the United Kingdom.
There are three commercial airports, all receiving and sending international commercial flights, two of them in Amman and the third is located in the city of Aqaba. The largest airport in the country is Queen Alia International Airport in Amman that serves as the hub of the international airline Royal Jordanian. The airport is currently under significant expansion in a bid to make it the hub for the Levant. Amman Civil Airport was the country’s main airport before it was replaced by Queen Alia Airport but it still serves several regional routes. King Hussein International Airport serves Aqaba with connections to Amman and several regional and international cities.
Jordan has a well-developed road infrastructure with 7,999 kilometres of paved highways. The road system is centralized around Amman, which connects the capital to major cities and surrounding countries.
Two connected but non-contiguously operated sections of the Hedjaz Railway exist:
- from Amman in Jordan to Syria, as the “Hedjaz Jordan Railway.”
- from phosphate mines near Ma’an to the Gulf of Aqaba as the “Aqaba Railway.”
Jordan shares the longest common borders with the West Bank, there are two border crossings between Jordan and Israel in the Bisan merge (King Hussein Bridge) in the north in the Wadi Araba in the south.
The Port of Aqaba is Jordan’s sole outlet to the sea. It handles all cargo bound to Jordan, Iraq,and in some cases the West Bank. The Main Port is being relocated further south and being expanded. An Abu Dhabi consortium will handle the $5 billion dollar deal. The project is set to be completed in 2013.
Jordan is a recent entrant to the domestic defense industry with the establishment of King Abdullah Design and Development Bureau(KADDB) in 1999. The defense industrial initiative is intended to jumpstart industrialization across a range of sectors. With the Jordanian defense expenditures at 8.7% of GDP, the Jordanian authorities created the defense industry to utilize defense budget spending power and to assist in economic growth without placing additional demands on the national budget. Jordan also hosts SOFEX, the world’s fastest growing and region’s only special operations and homeland security exhibition and conference. Jordan is a regional and international provider of advanced military goods and services.
A KADDB Industrial Park was opened in September 2009 in Mafraq. It is an integral industrial free zone specialized in defense industries and vehicles and machinery manufacturing. By 2015, the park is expected to provide around 15,000 job opportunities whereas the investment volume is expected to reach JD500 million.
Influence of the Southwest Asian conflict
The ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, the Persian Gulf War, and other conflicts in Southwest Asia have made huge impacts on the economy of Jordan. The fact that Jordan has peace with the surrounding countries, combined with its stability, has made it a preference for manyPalestinians, 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 available for each person. Jordan has a law that states that any Palestinian may immigrate and obtain Jordanian citizenship, but must remit his/her Palestinian claim.. In November 2005, King Abdullah called for a “war on extremism” in the wake of three suicide bombings in Amman.
Opportunity cost of the conflict
A report by Strategic Foresight Group has calculated the opportunity cost of conflict for the Middle East from 1991 to 2010 at a whopping $12 trillion (12,000,000,000,000). Jordan’s share in this is almost $84 billion. Every Jordanian family will also have the opportunity to increase their annual income by more than $1,250 if peace is established in the region and the Arab-Israeli boycott is lifted in full.
The report also outlines how an extremely significant cost to Jordan is that the country is host to millions of refugees who make up 40% of their population and are a drain on 7% of the GDP. Jordan also spends over 5% of its GDP on defense, and has one of the highest numbers of military personnel in the region, 23,500 military personnel per million people.
Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan.
Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, Vice President of the FIFA.
Jordan is considered one of the Arab World’s most cosmopolitan and westernized countries with its capital Amman becoming referred to as the “New Beirut”.67% of Jordanian youth identify themselves as liberals, second highest in the Arab World after Lebanon.
Although many people from different regions of the world have come to settle in Jordan, Europeans like the (Circassians and the Chechens) or other Middle Easterners like the Armenians, they have long been assimilated in the society and added their richness to the society that subsequently developed. However, the culture of Jordan, as in its spoken language, values, beliefs, ethnicity is Arab as the Kingdom is in the heart of Southwest Asia. Jordan has a very diverse cultural scene with many different artists, religious sects, and ethnic groups residing in the small country because of Jordan’s reputation for stability and tolerance.
Jordan imports the overwhelming majority of its music, cinema, and other forms of entertainment from other countries most specifically other Arab countries like Lebanon and Egypt as well as by the West primarily the United States. However, there has been a rise of home-grown songs, music, art, movies and television, but they pale in comparison to the amount imported from abroad.
In the 2007 A.T. Kearney Globalization Index, Jordan was ranked as the 9th most globalized nation in the world. The 2010 AOF Index of Globalization ranked Jordan as the most globalized country in the Middle East and North Africa region, including Israel and Turkey.Jordan ranked in the top 10 for the economic, social, and political components of the index. Jordan scored high on the trade tables with high investment rates, large amounts of expatriate remittances, and a liberal trade regime. Jordan also had one of the most political engagements, organization and treaty memberships in the world. High technology penetration rates and its fast growing ICT industry earned Jordan high marks in the technology connectivity rankings. For example, Jordan has a 120% mobile phone penetration rate and a 50.5% internet penetration rate. 41.6% of all mobile phones in Jordan are smartphones, compared with 40% in the United States and 26% in the United Kingdom. 97% of Jordanian households own at least one television set while 90% have satellite reception which means they have access to other Arab and European programs. Furthermore, 61% of Jordanian households own at least one personal computer or laptop. Also, Jordan has one of the highest levels of peacekeeping troop contributions of all U.N. member states.
Jordan ranked as the 9th best outsourcing destination worldwide. Amman was ranked as one of the “Top 10 Aspirants”, cities in this ranking have a good chance in making the top 50 outsourcing cities in the next ranking. The report said that Jordan had one of the region’s most favourable business climates, a well-educated population, solid capabilities in the ICT industry, and Jordan was home to numerous outsourcing companies that compete successfully internationally.
Amman is one of the top 10 cities in the world to launch a tech start-up in 2012. It is also considered the region’s “Silicon Valley” beating regional technology hub Dubai.