This section includes general facts about the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, including history, geography, main economic indicators, the state’s internal and foreign policies and national symbols, such as the country’s official flower.
"Jordan has deep roots in history, and has been home to several civilisations, cultures, kingdoms and various other types of states"
The word ‘Jordan’ consists of ‘Jor’ and ‘Dan’, which are the northern tributaries of the Jordan River. With time, the Arabic pronunciation changed into ‘Ordan’ and ‘Urdun’. Arabs then called this area ‘Jordan’, meaning fortitude and dominance. It has also been said that ‘Jordan’ is one of Noah’s grandchildren. The Greek name for Jordan is ‘Jordanem’ and ‘Jordan’, meaning slope or downhill.
When His Majesty the late King Abdullah bin Al Hussein, may his soul rest in peace, established the Jordanian emirate, he called it the “Emirate of the Arab East”; and after gaining independence, it was called the “Emirate of Transjordan”. It later became the “Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”. It is a Kingdom, because it is a monarchy, and it is Hashemite in honour of the ruling family, who are descendants of Hashem.
Jordan is divided into 12 governorates: Amman (the capital), Irbid, Zarqa, Mafraq, Ajloun, Jerash, Madaba, Balqa, Karak, Tafileh, Maan and Aqaba. Each governorate is divided into districts and sub-districts.
According to the Department of Statistics’ data from 2015, Jordan’s population is around 9,531,712 people.
- Hijri New Year (Muharram 1st)
- Prophet’s birthday (Rabi Al Awal 12th)
- Eid Al Fitr (Shawal 1st; 4 days)
- Eid Al Adha (Dhul Hijjah 10th; 5 days)
- Gregorian New Year (January 1st)
- Labour Day (May 1st)
- The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s Independence Day (May 25th)
- Christmas (December 25th)
Jordan is two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in winter (wintertime), and three hours ahead of GMT in summer (summertime). It is seven hours ahead of the United States Eastern Standard Time.
Jordan is a country deeply rooted in history, with various civilisations, kingdoms and states having had a presence in it. It is a model of continuous cultural interaction, for it has been populated since the dawn of time and up till the era of the modern state.
Semitic immigrants settled in Jordan, establishing prosperous, civilised communities, attracted by the land’s diverse climate and unique location at the centre of the world’s continents. Due to this cultural interaction, Jordan has been home to major kingdoms and civilisations, such as the Kingdom of Moab in the south and the Nabataean Kingdom, which extended from Bosra Al Sham to Madaen Saleh. Northern Jordan was also instrumental in the Greek 10-city alliance of the Decapolis.
Jordan then fell under Roman control, with many major community hubs emerging on its land. Afterwards, with the Islamic conquest, several major events took place in Jordan, including the battles of Mutah and Yarmouk, in addition to the arbitration between Imam Ali bin Abi Taleb and Muawiya bin Abi Sufian in Athroh. The call for the Abbasid caliphate was also launched from Humaima.
Jordan’s area is 89,213 square kilometres, and it shares borders with five states: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from the south, the Syrian Arab Republic from the north, the Republic of Iraq from the east, and the occupied Palestinian territories from the west, in addition to the maritime border it shares with Egypt in the Gulf of Aqaba.
Jordan is located geographically between the 33° and 29°N latitude lines, and 39° and 34°E longitude lines, which means it has a moderate desert climate. Jordan’s land is arid and semi-arid, with a long summer, short winter and little rain.
The port of Aqaba is Jordan’s only outlet to the sea. It overlooks the Red Sea, with a 25-kilometre-long shore.
- Total area: 89,213 square kilometres
- Land area: 88,884 square kilometres
- Water area: 329 square kilometres
Climate and geography
- Jordan’s climate is a mixture of the Mediterranean basin climate and that of an arid desert. Its northern and western areas boast a Mediterranean climate, while an arid climate is common in most parts of the country.
- The weather is hot and dry in summer, and fair and moist in winter, with the average temperature ranging between 12-25° Celsius (54-77° Fahrenheit). In summer, temperatures in desert areas reach 40° Celsius (110-115° Fahrenheit).
- The annual rainfall average ranges between 50 millimetres (1.97 inches) in desert areas, and 800 millimetres (31.5 inches) in the northern heights, with occasional snowfall as well.
Jordan is located southeast of Asia, within the centre of the Arab region, in the south of the Levant and the north of the Arabian Peninsula.
Jordan’s main terrain extends vertically from north to south. In the western part of the country, the Jordan Valley extends from north to south, while the mountain range in the east also extends from north to south. To the east of the mountains lies the Jordanian Badia (desert).
Jordan Rift Valley
The Jordan Rift Valley extends from the Kingdom’s northwest to its southwestern edge (the Gulf of Aqaba), and it is divided into three parts:
- Jordan Valley: A populated area that is bordered by the Jordan River to the west and the hilly areas to the east, and is known for its irrigated agriculture. The floodplain of the Jordan River is referred to as the ‘Zour’. The Ghor and the Zour are separated by non-arable land known as ‘Al Katar’. The land of Ghor lies between the Katar and the mountainside. A group of side valleys that end at the Jordan River pass through the Jordan Valley, originating from the mountainous areas and forming alluvial fans that vary in importance and size.
- Dead Sea: This is the lowest point on earth (420 metres below sea level). Many tourism establishments have been built on its northeastern edge, while urban centres are spread to its east and southeast.
- Wadi Araba: It is 170 kilometres long and includes some urban centres.
- Jordan’s highlands are a natural barrier that separates the Jordan Valley from the Eastern Badia. It is made up of a plateau permeated by mountain ranges and peaks extending between the Yarmouk River in the north and the border with Saudi Arabia in the south. The average height of the plateau is around 1,200 metre above sea level, sloping gradually to the east to connect to the desert plateau, while it mostly slopes towards the Jordan Valley in the west.
- The highlands encompass regional units from north to south: Ajloun, Balqa, Karak and Maan.
The average altitude of the Ajloun area is around 850 metres above sea level. Its southern parts feature mountain peaks, such as the Ajloun Peak, whereas its northern part forms the Irbid plains.
The average altitude of Balqa is 925 metres above sea level, with the Salt Peak in its north and Madaba’s rugged plains in its south.
In Karak, the average altitude is around 1,150 metres above sea level. Its southern side is higher than its northern side, while its central areas tend to be flatlands, where villages and cities are located around agricultural lands.
Maan’s average altitude is around 1,300 kilometres above sea level; and its Sharah Mountain range steeply inclines towards Wadi Araba in the west. Major peaks in this mountain range are: Mount Mubarrak (1,734 metres); Mount Haroun (1,336 metres in the southeast of Petra); Mount Rum (1,754 metres), located in Hasma Plateau; and Mount Um Al Dami (1,854 metres), the highest peak in Jordan. Wadi Rum is also located in this area, and is referred to as ‘The Valley of the Moon’ because its landscape is similar to that of the moon.
These highlands are the most important areas in Jordan and the main centres of economic activity. The majority of the country’s population lives in these areas, which can be as wide as 50 kilometres, due to the suitable climate and nature of the soil. Meanwhile, urban centres are fewer in the southern areas, where economic activity also decreases.
Jordanian Badia is also called the ‘Eastern Desert’ or the ‘Desert Badia Plateau’, which is the eastern extension of the highland plateau in Jordan, the northern extension of the Badia plateau of the Arabian Peninsula and the southern extension of the Levant plateau. This plateau, in general, features a rugged landscape and includes some mountain ranges in the southwestern parts, especially south of Maan. It also encompasses low-lying valleys and bottoms, such as the Jafer lowlands, Al Disi bottom and Sarhan Valley. Al Hammad desert also covers vast areas of the plateau, while sand lands are spread in Hasma plateau in the south. The basaltic Harrat lies in the northeast of the Badia, which makes up 75 per cent of Jordan’s area. However, most of the Badia is unpopulated due to the limitations imposed by its natural conditions, which have prevented the establishment of urban centres.
Jordan’s topographic maps show that population centres are concentrated in the highlands, and to a lesser extent in grooves or in the Ghor. Population centres are rare in the Jordanian Badia.
Jordan boasts a resilient, healthy economy that is able to adapt to internal and external shocks, and is capable of steady and sustainable growth.
The economic vision is aimed at entrenching the constants of the Jordanian state and achieving the aspirations of its people by provi ding job opportunities for citizens; ensuring the fair distribution of national wealth via a fair and gradual tax system; and implementing a social safety net that secures a decent life for those incapable of being productive.
Gross Domestic Product
Growth catalysts: The private sector’s contributions to the local economy.
The GDP, by the first quarter of 2016, stood at around 22,847.5 million, or 85.8 per cent of the GDP of 2015, at an increase of 0.8 percentage points. The construction sector is one of the most important sectors that feed into the GDP.
Official Currency and Exchange Rates
The country’s official currency is the Jordanian dinar, which equals 1,000 fils or 100 piasters. It is available in banknotes of JD 50, JD 20, JD 10, JD 5 and JD 1. Coins of half a dinar (500 fils), quarter of a dinar (250 fils), 100 fils, 50 fils, 25 fils, 10 fils and 5 fils are also in circulation.
The exchange rate is approximately US $1.42 per JD 1.
Public departments, offices, banks, schools, universities and most institutions are off on Fridays and Saturdays.
Official working hours on weekdays (Sunday-Thursday) are from 8:30am to 3:30pm.
- Deciduous Oak (Jordan’s national tree)
A type of oak, a perennial tree. It covers few areas in the Kingdom and is mostly seen in the northern and central regions.
- The Black Iris (Jordan’s national flower)
The Black Iris is a national symbol that signifies the beauty of wildlife and biodiversity in Jordan. It is a rare type of iris with a black-purplish hue that is found in Jordan more than any other place. This flower grows in the mountains of Ajloun, the Yarmouk Reserve, Al Koura and other areas.
- Bright pink Sinai Rosefinch (Jordan’s national bird)
A small beautiful bird of around 16 centimetres in length and 17-24 grammes in weight. The male bird’s head and chest are pink, with earthy brown wings. Female birds and chicks are of a grey-brown colour. The pink Sinai Rosefinch belongs to the Passeriformes family. It can be spotted in the southern region of the Kingdom and it lives in rocky terrain.
This bird, with pink colours akin to the rose-red city of Petra, represents its natural habitat, transmitting its breath-taking magic and beauty and reminding all of the importance of protecting and preserving nature.