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Map of Jordan.
The security and the future of Jordan is hand-in-hand with the future of the Palestinians and the Israelis.
—King Abdullah II of Jordan.[1]
No country can guarantee that it will hold off terrorism forever. But by maintaining a high level of professionalism among its security forces, responding to protests in a relatively peaceful manner, and establishing constructive relations with Islamists, Jordan has limited the ISIS threat. And in a region that seems to be falling apart, that is an accomplishment worth acknowledging.
—Aaron Magid, Jordan-based journalist for Foreign Affairs.[2]

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is an Arab kingdom in the Middle East, located on the East Bank of the River Jordan. Jordan borders Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq to the northeast, Syria to the north, and (perhaps most infamously) Israel to the west. Jordan and Israel share control of the Dead Sea. The Kingdom is what remains of the once great power of the Hashemite dynasty, which claims direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad and his ancestors.[3] Most of Jordan's population is Arab, and the country's capital is Amman.

As a region in the Levant, Jordan got in on a lot of that quality Bronze Age action, being home to kingdoms like Ammon, Moab, and Edom. A later civilization ruled by the early Arab peoples, the Nabataean Kingdom, is famous for having constructed the Al-Khazneh and the historic city of Petra. The region was later gobbled up by Alexander the Great and then by the Roman Empire before Muhammad's direct successors took over during the Islamic conquests. At the time of the Crusades, Jordan saw several military campaigns, and some of the old castles built by the Crusaders still remain. Eventually, Jordan became part of the Ottoman Empire, under which it experienced a period of relative prosperity. That period ended during the Egyptian revolts against Ottoman rule and then World War I (1914-1918). The latter conflict saw the Ottomans lose control of Jordan entirely, and the League of Nations generously placed the region under the British Empire as a mandated territory. That last part proved a little unpopular with Jordan's Arab inhabitants, since the British had promised them independence in exchange for their help against the Ottomans. When the Arabs took issue with this blatant imperialist land grab, the British fucked over the Hashemite dynasty ruling Mecca and reduced them to puppet kings ruling separate new territories of Transjordan and Iraq.

Following the end of British rule in 1946, Jordan under King Abdullah I joined a coalition of other Arab states in attacking Israel (established in 1948). Instead of restoring independence to Palestine, Jordan annexed Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1950.[4] The Palestinians were pissed, and one particularly militant one assassinated King Abdullah I in Jerusalem in 1951. Abdullah's successors introduced a modern constitution that liberalized Jordan's government greatly. Although Jordan remained hostile to Israel, even losing the West Bank during the 1967 Six-Day War, its rulers soon decided that the Palestinian militants they were harboring were too much of a threat to Jordan's stability. Jordan went to war against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)[5] and expelled it from its borders in 1970. Jordan then slowly warmed up to its Jewish neighbor, first renouncing its claim to the West Bank in 1988 and then declaring peace with Israel in 1994. The current Jordanian king, Abdullah II (reigning from 1999 onwards), has made it his policy to cozy up to the West and to encourage foreign investment and tourism.

Jordan today is known for being more peaceful and sane than any of its neighbors. Of the Arab states today, Jordan is one of the closest to being a genuine democracy (with the possible exception of TunisiaWikipedia). King Abdullah II responded to the Arab Spring of 2010-2012 by ordering his government to institute liberal political reforms.[6] The lower house of the Jordanian legislature, elected through proportional representation, must have at least 15 of its 130 seats filled by women.[7] Despite the democratization of the legislature, though, Jordan's monarch still has broad powers and can act with almost no restraint. Jordan struggles with terrorism and with the ongoing crisis of refugees from neighboring Syria.


The Mesha Stele.

Ancient and Biblical history[edit]

Jordan has been inhabited by hominids for at least 200,000 years. The region contains a wealth of ancient human remains dating from those distant days when humanity first started migrating out of Africa.[8] The people in Jordan developed agriculture very early on, and their lifestyles quickly became sedentary as a result. The oldest example of bread-making, for instance, was found in Jordan and dates back around 14,000 years.[9] The Neolithic settlement Ain Ghazal is one of the largest prehistoric settlements found in the Middle East.[10]

Around 2000 BCE, large numbers of Semitic nomads entered the region. The region became known as Canaan, and its main city Jericho became one of, if not the, oldest settlements in the Bronze Age.[11] The region's people were diverse, were influenced by Mesopotamian and Ancient Egypt's cultures. Many kingdoms eventually sprouted up, most famously Ammon, Moab, and Edom. These kingdoms often clashed militarily with ancient Israel. The Mesha Stele, dated to about 840 BCE, commemorates a wartime victory of the Moabites against Israel.[12]

As you can probably guess based on their location, the three ancient Jordanian kingdoms feature heavily in the Bible. For instance, the rulers of Ammon and Moab are described by the Bible as being descended from Lot (the daughter-incest guy), and their conflicts with the Hebrews over land are chronicled from the Israelite point of view.[13]

This period ended when the Assyrian Empire rolled in from Mesopotamia to wreck everyone's shit. The new bosses were then replaced by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and then the Achaemenid Empire of Persia. The Persians permitted Jewish settlement across the Jordan region, and the Greeks moved in during the conquests of Alexander the Great.[14]

The Nabateans[edit]

Between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE, the Arabs started making inroads into Jordan. They called themselves the Nabataeans, and they used their brilliance at trade and pottery to dominate trade throughout the Levant.[14] The Nabateans eventually created their own state, and they took advantage of the conflicts between Greek-ruled Egypt and Greek-ruled Persia to expand their holdings in Jordan and beyond. With more land controlled came more trade routes controlled, and the kingdom became rich as fuck.[15]

The Nabateans used a big chunk of that wealth to build themselves a sweet-ass city in the desert called Raqmu (known to the Greeks as Petra), which became their capital. Raqmu is famous for the fantastic beauty of its temples and other structures, many of which are carved into sandstone formations. The city was just about impenetrable due to being a part of the sandstone landscape; other empires that rose to prominence in the region continued expanding on it due to the city's strategic utility.[16] Petra’s engineering phenomena include a sophisticated water system that once supported some 30,000 inhabitants.

Roman rule[edit]

The Roman forum in Jerash, one of the Decapolis cities. Cha-ching!

The Roman Empire's legions led by Pompey the Great infamously enforced their rule over the Levant, which would cause some problems with the Hebrews later on. However, the Nabateans got by relatively OK, as the Romans didn't consider the Greek-influenced peoples much of a problem and even allowed them some autonomy. This autonomy eventually manifested as the Decapolis, a league of ten largely self-governing cities that held up Rome's eastern frontier.[17] Seven of those cities are still major settlements in Jordan to this day, including Amman (then called Philadelphia), Jerash (then called Gerasa), and Pella (which is now the western part of Irbid).[18] Roman policy here was focused on ensuring that the Greek cultural influences on the Nabatean people remained supreme over the growing power of the Hebrews in Judea. The Romans didn't want their Jew problem spreading.

Even after Roman Emperor Trajan annexed the cities in 106 CE, they remained Hong Kong-style special regions. After the Roman Empire's partition, Jordan went along with the Byzantine Empire. During the era of Byzantine rule, all of the Decapolis cities became heavily influenced by that fancy pancy new Christian religion, and they became major administrative centers for the early Church. A warrior league of Christianized Arabs, the Ghassanids, became extremely powerful here. The Byzantines encouraged them to help protect the region against the Iranian Sasanian Empire, pagan Arabs, and other religious enemies.[14] The pagan Arabs, through conflict and trade, absorbed a great deal of religious ideology from the Ghassanid warriors. These ideas gradually flowed back into the Arab peninsula and inspired a fascination with the concept of monotheism.[14] We're pretty sure you understand the consequences that would eventually have.

Islamic conquest and the Crusades[edit]

Depiction of the Battle of Yarmouk, where some desert nomads spanked the shit out of a former military superpower.

Now introduced to monotheism, the Arab people rapidly converted to the new religion Islam under the guidance of warlord and prophet Muhammad. Conflicts with the Byzantine Empire and the Ghassanids began before Muhammad's death, starting with the 629 CE Battle of Mu'tah.[19] The Byzantines won that first encounter, but after Muhammad's death in 632, his successors were determined to carry on spreading the new religion. The Battle of Yarmouk in 636 was a decisive victory for the Muslim caliphate due to their superior tactical prowess, and it cleared the way for the Muslims to quickly claim most of the Levant.[20] Jordan was a battleground during this period, and the various early caliphates built a bunch of cool-looking castles all over the place to hold on to their new conquests.[21]

Most of the formerly Christian Arab population of Jordan readily converted to Islam. However, those who didn't and the Greek communities were permitted to maintain their individual cultural and religious identities.[22] Even after the Muslims won and solidified their hold over Jordan, the trouble wasn't over yet. The Sunnis and Shias split, causing a vast Muslim civil war between caliphates. The effects of warfare and the moving of the center of Islam to Baghdad in Iraq turned Jordan into a backwater.[22] The subsequent economic collapse and depopulation of towns led to a revival of nomadism in the region, which was only exacerbated due to the destructions of war.

Kerak Castle, built by the Crusaders.

Then, fearful over the fading power of the Byzantine Empire and furious over the Muslim conquest of Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, the Catholic world organized the Crusades to take that land back. In 1099, the Crusaders took Jerusalem and created a feudal state that extended into western Jordan. The chunk of Jordan stuck under Crusader rule became known as the Lordship of Oultrejordain, and its nebulously defined borders and fanatical occupiers ensured that warfare there was a constant.[23] Oultrejordain thus became the primary frontier of the Crusader states against the powerful Islamic empires, and the Christians sought to hold on to the Holy Land by, you guessed it, building a shitload of castles everywhere.

The first and most famous of these is Kerak Castle, where its ruler Reynald of Châtillon would gleefully and cruelly have prisoners thrown off the walls onto the hard rocks below.[24] The castle would later be conquered by Saladin during the Third Crusade, and the site marked the first usage of modern-style artillery in the Middle East. Other castles include Montreal Castle, Vaux Moise, and Helim. Most ended up being conquered by Saladin, but the damages were repaired by later Muslim rulers. They're still around to this day. While that was going on, Saladin and other Muslim rulers built their own castles to defend the Muslim world against the succeeding Crusades.[25]

If all that wasn't enough, Jordan was hit by the Mongol invasions during the 1200s. However, the large number of castles there helped local rulers successfully defend the region this time.[26]

Ottoman rule[edit]

Extent of Ottoman rule in the Levant, 1851.

In 1516, the Ottoman Empire swept in to conquer both the Levant and Egypt in a single war.[27][28] This event marked the high-water point for the Ottoman Empire and the low-water point for Jordan's relevance to the rest of the world. Busy administering and stabilizing their hold over the vastly more critical regions around Jerusalem and Cairo, the Ottomans basically didn't give a shit about those poor people living on the East Bank of the Jordan River.[29]

As a result, Jordan as a region stagnated, and nothing exciting happened there for a few hundred years. The only real influence to Ottoman government had on the area came yearly when their tax collectors would knock on doors to collect whatever meager contribution the Jordanians could give.[30] So we're going to fast forward to the point where things heat up again.

In the late 1700s, a crazy dude named Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab founded a radical revivalist sect of Islam called Wahhabism. Wahhab formed a political alliance with Prince Muhammad bin Saud in 1744, creating a theocratic regime called the Emirate of Diriyah.[31] If the name Saud sounds familiar to you, it should because this is the dynasty that would go on to found Saudi Arabia and then use their influence to radicalize and ruin the entire Middle East. In 1802, the Sauds started attacking the Ottoman Empire, which they viewed as decadent and irredeemably secular. This escalated into a full war across the Levant and Arabia, involving the Sauds on one side and the Ottomans on the other.[32] The Ottomans won by 1818 due to superior military strength, and they beheaded Abdullah bin Saud, dismantled the first Saudi state, and cracked down on the Wahhabi sect. Unfortunately, this wasn't to be the end of the Saud dynasty.

For the Ottomans, the war also had horrible consequences for them. They had relied on Ibrahim Pasha, the leader of their Egyptian province, to do most of the fighting. Ibrahim Pasha soon wondered why he should be subject to an empire if that empire wouldn't help him fight his battles.[33] Pasha did the obvious thing in 1831 and turned on the Ottoman Empire, declaring Egypt's independence under his rule and displacing Ottoman authority in the Levant and in Jordan. Following a long series of wars, the Ottomans retook the Levant but lost control of Egypt. To keep control of the Levant, the Ottomans started cracking down, and their rule in Jordan increasingly resembled a military occupation.[29] As the Ottomans grew more decadent and oppressive, the Arab population hated them.

Arab nationalism and WWI[edit]

Jordanians during the WWI-era Arab Revolt.

Arab unrest against the Ottoman Empire hit a critical point in 1875, leading to the creation of the Pan-Arab movement.[34] This movement also rose parallel to the Zionist movement, whose supporters helped large numbers of Western Jews move back into Palestine. Then, in 1908, the Arab nationalist movement became even more urgent when the Young Turk movement took power in the Ottoman Empire. The Young Turks intended to either forcibly assimilate or exterminate the empire's non-Turkish minority groups, as they viewed those minorities as a fatal weakness.[35] They began by implementing a wide variety of social programs designed to forcibly assimilate minorities, including renaming children and requiring instruction in schools to be conducted only in Turkish.[36] These "Turkification" policies inspired a furious reaction from the Arabs. Most of them lost basically any loyalty they might have felt to the Ottoman Empire. Opposition among many Arabs happened under Hussein ibn Ali Al Hashimi, the grand sharif and amir of Mecca and the leader of the Hashemite dynasty, which claims descent from the Prophet Muhammad.[34]

Abdullah I, the first king of Jordan.

Then World War I happened.

The Arabs were thrilled by this since it gave them a chance to possibly free themselves from the Ottoman yoke. The British Empire started supporting the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, indicating that they would cooperate with Hussein ibn Ali Al Hashimi to create an Arab state across the peninsula encompassing Arab populations in the Levant.[37] It's clear now that the British never intended to fulfil this promise since they were interested in annexing Palestine to create a buffer around the British Suez Canal.[38] The British secretly signed the Sykes-Picot Agreement to carve the Middle East into colonies with France. Then they issued the Balfour Declaration stating support for a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine.

Meanwhile, Hussein ibn Ali Al Hashimi slowly drove the Ottoman military out of major cities in Arabia. The leadership of the cause then transferred to Hussein's son Faisal, who attended the Paris Peace Conference to represent the Arab people. The British told Faisal to go fuck himself and then got the League of Nations to approve of them carving up the Middle East into a series of "mandates" (meaning colonies). One of those mandates was the Emirate of Transjordan, the direct predecessor to modern Jordan. Syria and Iraq tried to make themselves monarchies under the Hashemite dynasty, but the League of Nations rejected those ideas despite not having the authority to do so.[37] Hoping to stop the screaming from the betrayed Arabs, the British made Faisal the king of Iraq and Faisal's brother Abdullah the king of Transjordan.[37] Hussein, though, got fucked over completely, as the British withdrew their support from him, and he was consequently overthrown by the Saud dynasty.

British rule in Transjordan[edit]

Jordanian troops fight alongside the British in Iraq during World War II.

Despite having fucked over the Hashemites and their Arab subjects, the British did go about building infrastructure and increasing access to education in Transjordan.[39] Things went much more slowly here than in Palestine, though, since the British continued the proud Ottoman tradition of neglecting Jordan in favor of the Holy Land. The British also pressured Abdullah into accepting the creation of a legislature in 1929, which saw Jordan hold its first ever elections.

Transjordan and its king remained loyal to the British during World War II. The British lost control of Iraq during this war, and the Axis-aligned Iraqis posed a severe threat to British interests in the Middle East.[40] Transjordan assembled the Arab Legion, recruited Jordanian veterans from the last world war, and contributed greatly to the Allied victory against Vichy France in French-ruled Lebanon and Syria.[41]

Despite staying loyal to Britain, King Abdullah wined and dined his fellow Arab rulers in other states, leading to the creation of the League of Arab States in 1945.[39] The Arab League was functionally the continuation of the old Pan-Arab ideals. It sought to draw the Arab states together in closer cooperation, and they would soon end up cooperating against a common enemy: Israel.[42]

In 1946, Transjordan and the British signed a treaty in London which laid the groundwork for eventual Jordanian independence. This process was completed in 1948, which removed all British authority over Jordan and fully made the country independent as a Hashemite monarchy.

From independence to war with Israel[edit]

Jordanian troops in Jerusalem, 1948.

One of Jordan's first acts as an independent country came in 1948 when it joined the rest of the Arab League in invading Israel in hopes of preventing its creation and preventing its displacement of Muslim Palestinians in the Holy Land.[43] Arab combatants were Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. However, Jordan was the only combatant to have an actual trained military force, as their Arab League had seen action in World War II and had previously received training from the British. As a result, Jordan was the most significant player on the Arab side. Too bad for the Palestinians that Jordan had its own agenda. Instead of fighting for an independent Palestine, King Abdullah hoped to annex Palestine for himself to expand the borders of his kingdom.[44] Abdullah was appointed commander-in-chief of the Arab forces by the rest of the League, and he immediately had his army zero in on East Jerusalem. While the advances by most of the other Arab states save Egypt stalled and failed, Jordan managed to hold on to most of the West Bank, meaning that peace in 1949 saw Jordan keep hold of the entire region, including the holy sites in East Jerusalem. While the Arab League technically lost, King Abdullah of Jordan got what he really wanted.

Jordanian authorities proceeded to spitefully expel Jews from East Jerusalem, destroy many Jewish holy sites, and forbade Jews from praying at the Western Wall.[45] Alongside annexing the West Bank, Jordan also benefited from the war by becoming home to droves of Palestinian refugees driven out of Israel. Its prewar population of 340,000 expanded by more than double due to the refugee influx.[46]

However, Jordan's annexation of the West Bank was highly controversial and pissed off the rest of the Arab states, who viewed the move as a betrayal and evidence that Jordan wasn't a team player. In the end, the move was only recognized by the United Kingdom and by Pakistan.[46] Of course, Jordan, like Israel, was quite content in ignoring international outcry. The Arab League eventually decided to concede the move but keep face by declaring that Jordan was holding the region in a temporary "trusteeship",[47] a declaration presumably met with much eye-rolling and "whatever"s from the Jordanian government.

Despite having recently tussled with Israel, Jordan's King Abdullah also started courting friends in the West. Jordan supported the United Nations' participation in the Korean War and struck a developmental aid agreement with the United States.[46] Shortly after this, King Abdullah was assassinated in Jerusalem in 1951 by an apparently pissed-off Palestinian.[48]

Modernization and Arabization[edit]

King Hussein flies a helicopter over Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Abdullah was succeeded by his son Talal, who was then in Switzerland receiving treatment for schizophrenia.[46] The poor man had directly witnessed Abdullah's death, which really didn't do wonders for his stability, and he was later caught abusing his son and wife and was hustled out of the country.[49] He abdicated soon after under pressure and for his own mental health. Before he left, he mandated compulsory free education and promulgated a new constitution in 1952 to strengthen the power of Jordan's legislature.[50] Talal's son Hussein then took the throne in 1953 at just 18 years old.

King Hussein decided to cast aside Jordan's old colonial ties to the British. He dismissed British officers from the Arab Legion and then reorganized it into the Jordanian Armed Forces in 1956.[51] The British were initially angry but later came to accept the move since Jordan largely maintained good diplomatic ties with them; Jordanian civilians, meanwhile, were thrilled.[52] Although British troops left Jordan, the two countries held their alliance, and British developmental aid continued.[53]

Meanwhile, tensions were still rising between Jordan, Israel, and the Arab League. The other Arab states were pissed at Jordan over its close ties with the West, while Jordan's government hoped for a peace settlement with Israel to prevent any more wars.[54] Pressure from the Arab League prevented anything resembling cooperation, let alone a peace agreement. With the Palestinian Liberation Organization hiding out in the West Bank, border clashes with Israel also started to spike in intensity and frequency. Anti-Israeli sentiment brought harshly anti-Israel politicians into parliament in the 1956 elections, making it clear that another violent clash was inevitable.[54]

Amid anti-Israeli and anti-Western sentiments, King Hussein finally decided to divorce himself from the British. In 1957, the Arab League declared a "solidarity" agreement. They would subsidize Jordan with their oil money to the tune of US$35.8 million annually for ten years, allowing Jordan to end its treaty with the UK without any financial penalty.[54] With the British gone, though, the United States, under the Dwight Eisenhower administration, stepped up to the plate to become Jordan's main Western pal. The US was suitably anti-colonialist and was also jointly interested in protecting Jordan from communism.[54] This relationship was then bolstered when the Iraqi military overthrew and murdered its Hashemite king in 1958, leaving Jordan furious and diplomatically threatened.

Conflict with the Palestinians[edit]

Smoke over Amman during the war against the PLO, 1970.

During the 1960s, tensions ramped up between Israel and the Arab states due to PLO terrorism, water disputes, and general dislike. In 1967, Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt in response to Egyptian troop movements, starting the Six-Day War. King Hussein decided to honor his ties with Egypt and join the war, but Jordan's meager air force got caught with its pants down on the ground and destroyed.[55] Seeing the opportunity to rectify an old wrong, the Israelis immediately rushed their troops into the West Bank, seizing control of East Jerusalem in record time.[56] In the ensuing peace agreement, Israel walked away with the entirety of the West Bank, which remains under Israeli occupation to this day. Jordan lost most of its best agricultural land and its best tourist attractions.

That wasn't the end of things, though, as both sides settled into a period of constant hostility called the War of Attrition.[57] King Hussein also decided that the devastatingly lost war meant that his authority was under threat. He spent the early 1970s patching things up with the US to ensure that the foreign aid tugboats wouldn't stop coming. He also basically lost all patience with the autonomous activities of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Hussein decided to kick the PLO out of Jordanian territory, and in 1970 this caused an effective civil war between the PLO and its sympathizers against Hussein's government. Up to 15,000 Palestinian militants and civilians were killed as the Jordanian military leveled Palestinian refugee camps.[58] Despite being criticized for "overkill" by his Arab neighbors, Hussein had the PLO kicked to the curb and then cooperated with Israel to assassinate much of its leadership.

Jordan then went even further by refusing to attack Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and he then objected when Egypt and Syria voiced their recognition of the PLO.[59] Egypt decided to bitch-slap Jordan in return by saying that the PLO was the legitimate authority over the West Bank and that it would oppose the return of the territory to Jordan. Despite attempts by the PLO to patch things up with Hussein after Jordan backed them at the Rabat Summit, he still ended the 1970s decade refusing to support the idea of a PLO-led independent Palestine.[60]

Into modernity[edit]

King Hussein (right), signs a peace treaty with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (right). Bill Clinton sits between them. He likes to watch.

The fall of Iran to Ayatollah Khomeini's revolution also changed Jordan's strategic outlook. It started drawing closer to Iraq and the West for protection against Iran since Iran made no secret of its hatred for Jordan's Sunni and pro-Western royal family.[61] As things developed in the 1980s, Jordan surprisingly became one of the Arab states in the best position. Despite Jordanian aid, Iraq was losing the Iran-Iraq War, Egypt was ostracized due to making peace with Israel and Camp David, and Syria and Lebanon faced severe internal uprisings.

Jordan finally made peace with the PLO to further those diplomatic gains and relinquished its territorial claim to the West Bank in 1988.[62] In 1994, amid closer relations with Israel and the United States, Jordan's King Hussein finally signed a lasting peace agreement with Israel on the White House lawn.[63] Israel, however, would continue to strain this relationship, taking advantage of their newfound peace to assassinate leaders of the terrorist organization Hamas that were residing within Jordan's borders.[64]

Jordan is currently ruled by King Abdullah II, who assumed the throne in 1999 and is, by all means, a relatively progressive leader as far as Middle Eastern monarchs go. Abdullah brought foreign investment and trade to his country, going so far as to designate special development zones inside his country to develop industry and technology. Jordan has significantly improved its GDPPC since Abdullah's ascension to the throne, and the country's economic growth has doubled to almost 6% annually under Abdullah. The economic improvements culminated in the United States signing a free trade agreement with Jordan, its first with any Arab country and only the third the U.S. had ever signed. Jordan backs the rebels in Syria, giving them rifles, anti-tank missiles, bullets, and money. Jordan denied that it was doing this and shifted its stance in Syria to promote a diplomatic solution, much to the behest of the rebels. Jordan has come a long way since its people were riding around in the desert with T.E. Lawrence on camels.

Government and politics[edit]

King Abdullah II of Jordan.


Jordan, along with many other traditionally Islamic countries of the Middle East, has a desire for democracy which its ruling monarchy has to contend with almost perennially. In response to the growing domestic and regional distress that led to the eventual Arab Spring, King Abdullah II replaced his prime minister in 2011. He told the new prime minister to "take practical steps, quick and concrete, to launch a process of genuine political reform."[65] Although the king called for an immediate revision of laws and government policies concerning public and political freedoms, there is a growing concern that he may have just been throwing his people a bone and actually had no intention of helping to foster democracy. The new prime minister was displaced in October 2012, when the king dissolved his parliament and called for early elections, leading to the appointment of a brand new prime minister and a continuation of the years of protest that preceded this.

Jordan is still categorized by the Economist Intelligence Unit as an "Authoritarian Regime" and displays many of the hallmarks of that classification. Jordan has a slew of aggressive policies, from conscription to large military spending to compete with those of surrounding nations. Jordan does have free parliamentary elections, at least when said parliament is not being dissolved by the absolute monarch. Both men and women have the right to vote, and voting rights are rarely violated.[66]

Civil rights[edit]

Jordan's House of Representatives in 2018. Note the scattering of hijab-clad women.

Women are enfranchised in Jordan (and have been since 1974) and have more civil liberties than in other Islamic nations such as Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia. Women can legally own and operate vehicles and may not be denied a job that they are qualified for. Women still endure some injustices, notably pay inequality, and there have been reports of sexism in hiring practices for many of the new Jordanian industrial firms. Women who do not strictly obey Islamic rules are not as subject to persecution as in more devout nations (i.e., places where Shari’a law is supreme) but still may take flak from their neighbors if they do not seem to be following Islamic principles.

Homosexuals enjoy more rights in Jordan than in any other Middle Eastern country, apart from Israel and arguably Turkey. Homosexuality in private between two consenting adults is legal in Jordan, and there is a small gay scene in Amman. Still, the country's highly conservative and religious atmosphere makes most gay men stay closeted. Though honor killings for engaging in "haraam"[67] behavior are illegal, the court system will rarely be able or even seek to punish the offender if an honor killing occurs. If you are a transsexual, transvestite, or anything else anywhere on the spectrum that doesn't lean towards "normal", you will have trouble being open with your sexuality or gender identity in Jordan.[68]


Jordan is a majority Muslim nation. Islam is part of the daily life of people in Jordan, and it dictates many people's social roles and daily life. Some, but not all, of the country's laws and court systems are based on the teachings of the Qur'an.[69]

  • Sunnis are the vast majority, with 92%.
  • Christians comprise 6% of the populace, with a majority Orthodox and a minority Catholic. In 1950, 30% of Jordan used to be Christian, but this number has shrunk due to immigration from other Muslim countries.
  • 0.5% are Druze, an offshoot monotheistic religion that has traits of Shia Islam. These 32,000 people live in a small, homogeneous area on the northern border with Syria.


See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Interview with His Majesty King Abdullah II. King Abdullah.
  2. ISIS Meets Its Match? How Jordan Has Prevented Large-Scale Attacks. Foreign Affairs.
  3. See the Wikipedia article on Hashemites.
  4. See the Wikipedia article on Jordanian annexation of the West Bank.
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Palestine Liberation Organization.
  6. Jordan's king fires Cabinet amid protests. USA Today.
  7. New elections bill sheds one-vote system. The Jordan Times.
  8. Patai, Raphael (8 December 2015). Kingdom of Jordan. Princeton University Press. pp. 23, 32. ISBN 9781400877997
  9. Prehistoric bake-off: Scientists discover oldest evidence of bread. BBC News.
  10. Betts, Alison (March 2014). "The Southern Levant (Transjordan) During the Neolithic Period". The Oxford Handbook of the Archaeology of the Levant. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199212972.013.012. ISBN 9780199212972.
  11. Canaan. Ancient History Encyclopedia.
  12. See the Wikipedia article on Mesha Stele.
  13. Who Were the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites in the Bible? Biblical Archaeology Society.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 The Jordan Region in Antiquity. Country Studies.
  15. Taylor, Jane (2001). Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans. I. B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1-86064-508-2. p. 30.
  16. Go Inside Jordan's Stunning City of Stone. National Geographic.
  17. Mare, Harold W. (2000). "Decapolis". In Freedman, David Noel (ed.). Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible. William B. Eerdman's Publishing Company. pp. 333–334. ISBN 0-8028-2400-5.
  18. See the Wikipedia article on Decapolis.
  19. See the Wikipedia article on Battle of Mu'tah.
  20. See the Wikipedia article on Battle of Yarmouk.
  21. van der Steen, Eveline (14 October 2014). Near Eastern Tribal Societies During the Nineteenth Century: Economy, Society and Politics Between Tent and Town. Routledge. p. 54. ISBN 9781317543473.
  22. 22.0 22.1 Jordan: Islam and Arab Rule. Country Studies.
  23. See the Wikipedia article on Oultrejordain.
  24. A Brief History of Crusader Castles in Jordan. The Culture Trip.
  25. Salibi, Kamal S. (1998). The Modern History of Jordan. London: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1860643316. p. 23
  26. Friedman, John; Figg, Kristen (4 July 2013). Trade, Travel, and Exploration in the Middle Ages: An Encyclopedia. Routledge. p. 11. ISBN 9781135590949.
  27. Salibi, Kamal S. (1998). The Modern History of Jordan. London: I. B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1860643316. p. 26.
  28. See the Wikipedia article on Ottoman–Mamluk War (1516–17).
  29. 29.0 29.1 Jordan: Ottoman Rule. Country Studies.
  30. Rogan, Eugene; Tell, Tariq (1994). Village, Steppe and State: The Social Origins of Modern Jordan. British Academic Press. pp. 37, 47. ISBN 9781850438298
  31. See the Wikipedia article on Emirate of Diriyah.
  32. See the Wikipedia article on Wahhabi War.
  33. Rogan, Eugene (11 April 2002). Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire: Transjordan, 1850–1921. Cambridge University Press. p. 31. ISBN 9780521892230.
  34. 34.0 34.1 Jordan: Arab Nationalism and Zionism. Country Studies.
  35. The Young Turks. Country Studies.
  36. Üngör, Uğur Ümit (2008). "Geographies of Nationalism and Violence: Rethinking Young Turk 'Social Engineering'". European Journal of Turkish Studies (7).
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 Jordan: World War I. Country Studies.
  38. Israel: World War I. Country Studies.
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