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Quick Facts
CapitalAmman
Governmentconstitutional monarchy
CurrencyJordanian dinar (JOD)
Areatotal: 92,300 sq km
water: 329 sq km
land: 91,971 sq km
Population5,307,470 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageArabic (official), English widely understood among upper and middle classes
ReligionSunni Muslim 92%, Christian 6% (majority Greek Orthodox, but some Greek and Roman Catholics, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Protestant denominations), other 2% (several small Shi'a Muslim and Druze populations) (2001 est.)
Country calling code962
Internet TLD.jo
Time ZoneUTC +2

Jordan (??????? al-Urdunn) is a country in the Middle East. Almost completely land-locked (save for a small outlet on the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aqaba and a frontage on the Dead Sea), Jordan is bordered by Israel to the west, by Syria to the north, by Iraq to the east and by Saudi Arabia to the south.

Cities

  • Amman — capital of the kingdom
  • Irbid — largest city in the north of the kingdom
  • Aqaba - located on the Gulf of Aqaba / Eilat, with links to the Sinai and the Red Sea

Other destinations

  • Jerash — one of the largest Roman ruins in the Middle East
  • Kerak — site of a once-mighty Crusader castle
  • Madaba — known for its mosaic map of Jerusalem
  • Petra — Jordan's top attraction, an ancient city carved out of sandstone
  • Wadi Rum — barren, isolated and beautiful, granite cliffs contrasting with desert sand
  • Dead Sea — The lowest point on earth and the most saline sea

Understand

For most of its history since independence from British administration in 1946, Jordan was ruled by King Hussein (1953-99). A pragmatic ruler, he successfully navigated competing pressures from the major powers (US, USSR, and UK), various Arab states, Israel, and a large internal Palestinian population, through several wars and coup attempts. In 1989 he resumed parliamentary elections and gradually permitted political liberalization; in 1994 a formal peace treaty was signed with Israel. King Abdullah II - the eldest son of King Hussein and Princess Muna - assumed the throne following his father's death in February 1999. Since then, he has consolidated his power and established his domestic priorities, including an aggressive economic reform program. Jordan acceded to the World Trade Organization in January 2000, and signed free trade agreements with the United States in 2000, and with the European Free Trade Association in 2001.

Get in

Most visitors to Jordan (except those from other Arab countries) will need a visa, but it is possible to obtain a visa on arrival at most border points. Previously notoriously complex (and expensive), visa prices have finally been standardized at JD 10 for single entry, JD 20 for multiple entry. Check with the Damascus (Syria) to Amman. Trains arrive from Damascus at the Mahatta junction just northeast of the downtown area and quite close to Marka Airport. It is straightforward to get a taxi to the downtown area from here.

The trip takes a very leisurely 9 hours (considerably slower than driving), and there is both 1st and 2nd class carriages available.

By car

From Israel

You can cross into Jordan by car from Israel, but the border formalities are time-consuming and expensive as Jordanian insurance is required and you will even have to change your license plates. The main crossings are at King Hussein Bridge (if coming from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv) and Aqaba (if coming from Eilat). There is another crossing at the Sheikh Hussein Bridge for those coming from Northern Israel.

From Syria

Long distance taxis operate the route from Damascus to Amman.

The drive between Amman and Syria is notoriously dangerous (particularly on the Syrian side of the border) and the standard of driving and vehicle maintenance in both countries is poor (but generally worse in Syria). Don't be afraid to ask your driver to slow down and take extra care when overtaking. It's worth hiring a taxi just for yourself or your party and paying a little extra money to ensure the driver isn't tempted to race the journey to make more money.

Never drive this route at night.

From Iraq

It is theoretically possible to enter Jordan from Iraq depending on your nationality. However, given the ever present threat from insurgents and the ongoing military operations in Iraq it is currently suicidal to attempt this journey from Baghdad or anywhere else in the country. Do not be tempted no matter what your thirst for danger.

From Saudi Arabia

No information at present. Please expand this section.

By bus

Long distance services operate from a number of Middle Eastern destinations including Tel Aviv and Damascus.

By boat

Jordan can be entered at the port of Aqaba via the Egyptian port of Newaiba. There are two services, ferry and speedboat. Expect to pay around $30 for the ferry or around $60 for the speedboat (both one way) if you are a non-Egyptian national (Egyptians are not required to pay the prices inflated by the authorities)

Get around

By plane

The only domestic air route is between Amman and Aqaba.

By bus

The JETT bus company has services connecting Amman to Aqaba, the King Hussein Bridge (to cross into Israel), Petra and Hammamat Ma'in. Private buses run from Amman to Irbid and Aqaba. Minibus services connect smaller towns on a much more irregular service basis - usually they leave once they're full.

By service taxi

Service taxis (servees) cover much the same routes as buses. Service taxis are definitely more expensive than minibuses, but a lot faster and more convenient.

By car

Jordan's highways are generally in very good shape, but the same cannot be said about its drivers or it vehicles. Many trucks and buses drive with worn or defective tyres and brakes and in the southern and more rural parts of the country there is the tendency for some people to drive at night without headlights (in the belief that they can see better and that this is therefore safer!). Avoid driving outside the capital, Amman, after dark.

The main route is the Desert Highway, which connects Aqaba, Ma'an, Amman and continues all the way to Damascus in neighboring Syria.

One particular stretch of this, where the road rapidly descends from the highlands of Amman to the valley that leads into Aqaba through a series of steep hairpin curves, is infamous for the number of badly maintained oil trucks that lose their brakes and careen off the road into the ravine, plowing through all in their path. This stretch of the road has been made into a dual carriageway and is now a little safer - however exercise caution on this stretch of the road.

The other route of interest to travellers is the King's Highway, a meandering track to the west of the Desert Highway that starts south of Amman and links Kerak, Madaba, Wadi Mujib and Petra before joining the Desert Highway south of Ma'an.

Talk

The national language of Jordan is Arabic. Most people speak some English. French and German are the second and third most popular languages after English.

Buy

The currency is the Jordanian dinar (JD), divided into 1000 fils. The currency rate is effectively fixed at 0.71 JD per dollar, an unnaturally high rate that makes Jordan poorer value than it would otherwise be.

Costs

A subsistence budget would be around JD 10 per day, but this means you'll be eating falafel every day. JD 20 will allow slightly better accommodations, restaurant meals and even the occasional beer.

Eat

Jordanian cuisine is quite similar to fare served elsewhere in the region. The daily staple being khobez, a large, flat bread sold in bakeries across the country for a few hundred fils. Delicious when freshly baked, it very quickly loses all flavor as it dries.

For breakfast, the average Jordanian usually eats Falafel and Homos. This is the most popular breakfast. Manousheh and pastries come in as the second most popular breakfast item. As of recently, more and more restaurant are starting to offer American style breakfast with omelettes and so on.

The national dish of Jordan is the mansaf. Prepared with jameed, a sun-dried yogurt. Grumpygourmet.com describes the mansaf as "an enormous platter layered with cr�pe-like traditional "shraak" bread, mounds of glistening rice and chunks of lamb that have been cooked in a unique sauce made from reconstituted jameed and spices, sprinkled with golden pine nuts." In actuality more people use fried almonds instead of pine nuts because of the cheaper price tag. While mansaf is the national dish, most people in urban areas eat it on special occasions and not every day. Other popular dishes include Maklouba, stuffed vegetables, freekeh.

Levantie style mezza are served in "Lebanese style" restaurants around the country, and you can easily find international fast food chains including McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Burger King. In addition to chains well-known in Europe and North America, there are some local businesses such as:

  • Abu Jbarah: one of the famous falafel's restaurant in Jordan.
  • Al-Daya'a: A famous place to get shawerma sandwiches and dishes.

As for forgeign style restaurants, there is no shortage of them. The best ones are usually found in 5 star hotels, but the price tag is high. Italian restaurants and pizza places are somewhat abundant in Amman, Madaba, and Aquaba, but are very hard to find in other cities.

Drink

While Jordan is a Muslim country, locally brewed Amstel beer is available at better restaurants throughout the country. Guinness and Heineken can also be found in most western style restaurants. Jordanian wine is also very high quality. It is not too hard to find liquor stores in the western parts of Amman and in the Christian areas. Some of these liquor stores have a rather large selection of hardcore drinks.

Sleep

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Work

Work opportunities for the casual foreign visitor are somewhat limited in Jordan. The majority of foreigners working in Jordan are on contract work with foreign multinationals and development organisations (Amman is the 'gateway to Iraq' and a key base for the continuing efforts to rebuild its neighbour).

There is the possibility of picking up casual English teaching work if you hunt around hard for opportunities.

Fluent Arabic speakers might have more success, though the process of obtaining a work permit is not particularly straightforward. Engage a knowledgeable local to assist you.

Cope

Embassies

  • Australian - 3 Youssef Abu Shahhout, Deir Ghbar, Amman (PO Box 35201, Amman 11180), tel (06) 580 7000, fax (06) 580 7001,