JORDAN AT A GLANCE
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a place which once captivated ancient travelers, continues to enthrall a new generation with it’s eclectic mix of modernity and tradition.
From the enchanting starkness of Wadi Rum, to the restless city centre of urban Amman, and the majestic ruins of civilizations once forgotten. Jordan is a unique destination offering breathtaking sights, charming accommodations, and exquisite cuisine. Jordan is home to countless wonders that are sure to leave you in awe.
Pro-Tip: Learn how to dance dabke, it’s a hit at parties, and you will be made an honorary Jordanian.
Quietly becoming a premier destination within the region, Jordan has witnessed an emergence of luxury hotels in Amman, Petra, Aqaba and the Dead Sea. Whether you’re looking for the authentic backpacker experience, or the casual refinement of 5 star service, the Hashemite Kingdom is fit for both the aristocrat and the modest.
JORDAN'S CURRENT GOVERNMENT
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a constitutional monarchy. The monarch is the head of state, the chief executive, and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The King exercises his executive authority through the Council of Ministers. The cabinet, meanwhile, is responsible before the elected House of Deputies, which, along with the Senate, constitutes the legislative branch of the government. The judicial branch is an independent branch.
Jordan is a land steeped in history. It has been home to some of Humankind's earliest settlements and villages; harboring hidden relics from the world's great civilizations.
As the crossroads of the Middle East, the lands of Jordan and Palestine have served as a strategic nexus; connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe. Since the dawn of civilization, Jordan's geography has given it an important role as a conduit for trade and communications; connecting the orient with the west. Jordan continues to play a critical role in geopolitical affairs.
Pro-Tip: Jordan’s Independence Day is on May 25th.
THE ROYAL FAMILY
His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein assumed his constitutional powers as King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on February 7th, 1999, the day his father, the late King Hussein, passed away.
His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal, the father of modern Jordan, will always be remembered as a leader who guided his country through strife and turmoil to become an oasis of peace, stability, and moderation in the Middle East. Among Jordanians, his memory is cherished as the inspiration for Jordan's climate of openness, tolerance, and compassion. Known to his people as Al-Malik Al-Insan ("The Humane King"), King Hussein was the forty-second generation direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him (PBUH).
Visiting Jordan? Here are a few pro-tips to help you navigate the local culture.
- Do shake hands when meeting people; conservative veiled women may not reach out.
- Do stand up when greeting others.
- Do shake your cup from side to side in order to decline a refill of your coffee.
- Do hold your cup out to signal you would like more.
- Do accept when Arabic coffee is offered to you by your host, as it is a sign of hospitality.
- Do carry plenty of loose change with you, as many Jordanians usually do not carry adequate change.
- Do tip waiters approximately 10% gratuity in addition to the bill (unless a service charge is included in the total bill).
- Do round your taxi fare up to the nearest tenth when paying your driver.
- Do haggle with merchants when shopping.
- Do dress conservatively when exploring public areas of Jordan.
- Do be aware that Arabs tend to stand a fraction of the distance closer when conversing than people do in the West.
- Do feel free to consume alcoholic beverages, but not in outside the appropriate areas.
- Men: Do sit in the front seat of the taxi as it is seen as respectful.
- Women: Do sit in the back seat of a taxi as it is seen as disrespectful.
- Do make space for the elderly and women on public transportation.
- Don't interrupt, or pass in front of, a Muslim who may be praying in a public place.
- Don't openly consume food, beverages, or cigarettes in public places during the holy month of Ramadan.
- Don't dress provocatively when walking outdoors.
- Don't panic if an acquaintance "pecks" you on the cheeks when greeting you, as Arabs have traditionally kissed each other on both cheeks as a warm gesture of welcome and affection.
- Don't feel uncomfortable if your host insists on "over feeding" you during a meal, as Arabs traditionally view food as an important symbol of hospitality, generosity, and goodwill – the more the better!
- Don't feel that you are required to tip your taxi driver, as tipping in such a scenario is not necessary, but is certainly appreciated.
- Don’t slam a taxi drivers door shut.
Feel free to consume alcohol, as it is widely available at bars and hotels across Jordan. During Ramadan, drinks are only available to visitors in their hotels. Alcohol can also be bought from supermarkets.
VALUES & TRADITION
Jordan can be regarded as a typically Arab country for its people are very warm, friendly and hospitable. Jordanians are typically happy to forgive foreigners who break the rules of etiquette. However, visitors seen to be making an effort to observe local customs will undoubtedly win favour.
Joining local people for a cup of tea or coffee can be a wonderful way to learn more about local culture. If you are invited yet are unable to attend, then it is perfectly acceptable to decline. Place your right hand over your heart and politely make your excuses.
Jordan is an ideal destination for those seeking cultural knowledge and spiritual enrichment. Jordan values its ethnically and religiously diverse population, consequently providing for the cultural rights of all its citizens. This spirit of tolerance and appreciation is one of the central elements contributing to the stability and peace in Jordan. More than 92% of Jordanians are Sunni Muslims and approximately 6% are Christians. The majority of Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox Church; but there are also Greek Catholics, Roman Catholics , Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and a few Protestant denominations. Several small Shi'a and Druze populations can also be found in Jordan.
As Jordan is predominantly an Islamic country, one may explore the principles of Islam through direct interaction with the people of this monotheistic religion. As the capstone of a long tradition beginning with Judaism and Christianity, Muslims believe that Islam completes the revelation of God's message to humankind. Islam – which in Arabic means "submission" – is an assertion of the unity, completeness, and sovereignty of God.
Islamic tradition observes five fundamental creeds, or "pillars," that identify and strengthens the bond of all Muslims . The five pillars consist of:the Confession of Faith, Daily Prayer (five times per day facing Mecca), Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan, Almsgiving (donating), and the Pilgrimage to Mecca.
Pro-Tip: Greeting people with “As-Salamalakium” is very common amongst Muslims and non-Muslims; and is very friendly way to begin any conversation. So feel free to use it.
Ramadan is a joyous holy month reserved for fasting, piety, and generosity. The dates of observance varies according to the Islamic lunar calendar. During Ramadan, alcohol is not sold, except in larger hotels. Smoking, eating, and drinking in public is prohibited during the hours of daylight. As a sign of respect, visitors are kindly requested to refrain from these activities in public during fasting hours. If you’re visiting Jordan during Ramadan and you mistakenly drink or eat in public, don’t worry Jordanians are chill.
Pro Tip: During Ramadan many stores, banks, and offices open at 09:00 and close early at 14:00.
FEASTING IN JORDAN
Feasting like a king is not only a staple of Jordan, but the Middle East as a whole.
Enjoy delectable Jordanian food coupled with the legendary lore of Jordanian hospitality creates an unforgettable atmosphere of festivities each time a meal is served.
Mealtime in Jordan is not merely a biological function, but rather a social event. Food represents community and no group of people embodies this tradition like Jordanians; with lunch time regarded as “the meal of the day” fellowship with your loved ones as you take in plate fulls of love and mansaf.
A TRADITION OF FOOD AND HOSPITALITY
Food is commonly used by Jordanians to express their hospitality and generosity. Jordanians by nature are very hospitable people and, often, it is presented within minutes of a person's invitation to a local house.
No matter how modest their means; it is with pride that Jordanians fill your belly with food and your spirit with Joy.
A 'Jordanian invitation' means that you are expected to bring nothing and eat everything. This invitation is followed by the popular Arabic phrase “Sahtain wa 'Afiya.”
If you’ve found yourself in Jordan than it’s a must you try Mansaf. Served with Arabic rice, lamb, and a flavorful broth of dried sour milk; Mansaf is the national pride of Jordan which often symbolizes a joyous occasion. Mansaf is also served during condolences and as a means to patch up ties with others.
Mansaf is the greatest symbol of Jordanian generosity.Usually eaten during social gatherings the savory meal is traditionally served in a communal dish. Ratherly served with utensils, Mansaf is a feast meant to be eaten with your hands.
Stuffed to the Brim
When it comes to food, Jordanians loved for their guests and their food to be stuffed. Though it doesn’t have the lore of Mansaf, stuffed baby lamb is an experience of its own. Also served as a delicacy, roasted lamb stuffed with rice, chopped onions, nuts and raisins is sure to leave your stomach content.From the Ground Up
In the mood to feast like a bedouin? Then you should try Al-Zarb. Jordan boasts a rich bedouin tradition and you can relive a delicious taste of it. Al-Zarb is a lamb dish prepared in a hole dug one metre into ground and coated with bricks to seal in the authentic smokey taste.
No matter your preference, Jordanian cuisine will most definitely offer you something to please your taste buds.
Pro-Tip: When consuming Mansaf, use the bread and the jameed to pick up the rice and lamb; forming a condensed ball of food in your hand, it makes it a lot neater and Jordanians will be impressed by your technique. Oh yeah, and try to only use one hand.
JUST THE FACTS
To ensure you get the most from your visit to Jordan, it is important to have a few basic facts on hand before you arrive. From currency to transport, from newspapers to business hours, you'll find the information you need by clicking the links below.
Jordan is a primarily Muslim country, although the freedom of all religions is protected. Muslim women’s clothing often covers their arms, legs and hair. Western women are not subject to these customs, but very revealing clothing is never appropriate and conservative dress is advisable for both men and women in the old part of Amman (downtown), and outside cities. Shorts are rarely worn by either sex, and would be out of place in the downtown Amman area.
Visitors with a valid passport may obtain a visa at any Jordanian embassy or consulate abroad. A visa can also be obtained at Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport (for unrestricted nationalities) or at any other border crossing except King Hussein Bridge and the ferryboat from Egypt. Visas are valid for one month, but can be extended at any police station.
Credit cards are accepted at hotels, restaurants and larger shops, including American Express, Visa, Diners Club, and MasterCard. Please note that many smaller shops still prefer cash payment in the Jordanian currency, and it’s essential for shopping in the local souks.
The official language of Jordan is Arabic, but English is widely spoken especially in the cities. Many Jordanians have traveled, or have been educated abroad, so French, German, Italian and Spanish are also spoken, but to a lesser extent.When Arabic is written in Jordan using the Latin alphabet, English spelling is applied; however, these spellings can be interpreted in various ways - the spelling, for example, of street addresses can vary widely. For this reason, the sounds of the words are a much better guide than the spelling.
Speaking Arabic is easier than you might think; attempting a few basic words will gain you respect from the locals and is a good way to break the ice. The Jordanian people are extremely understanding and will help you whenever they are able.
Arabic numbers are easy to read - in fact, the western numerical system was originally derived from the Arabic system. Unlike the words, Arabic numerals are read from left to right (the same as western numerals).
220 AC volts, 50 cycles, requiring rounded two-prong wall plugs. Visitors from the US will need a transformer, which most hotels can provide.
Wherever you go in Jordan you will find plenty of opportunities to shop. For visitors there is a wide range of locally made handicrafts and other goods available at all the popular sites, as well as within the boutiques of the leading hotels and at the various visitors' centers. There you will find hand-woven rugs and cushions, beautifully embroidered items and clothing, traditional pottery, glassware, silver jewelry embedded with semi-precious stones, Bedouin knives, coffee pots, narghiles (hubble bubble), marquetry work, antiques and other artefacts. The list is endless and about as varied as you can imagine.
Take time to visit the souks in Jordan’s larger towns and cities. These are treasure troves for those seeking something a little bit out of the ordinary. Within the souks are also excellent gold and silver outlets, where some great bargains can be found. Also worth visiting are the busy market shops, especially for exotic spices, herbs and seasonings.
Pro- tip: Shopkeepers are helpful and friendly. Most speak at least a little English but even if they don’t, there is usually someone around who will only be very willing to assist you. After all, this is Jordan!
October – March: Greenwich Mean Time plus 2 hours (G.M.T. + 2).
April – September: Greenwich Mean Time plus 3 hours (G.M.T. + 3).
Jordan is seven hours ahead of US Eastern Time.
Water is a precious resource in Jordan and visitors are encouraged not to waste it. Hotels rated 3 stars and up have their own water filtering systems and their water is considered safe to drink. Elsewhere, bottled water is inexpensive and readily available.
Telephone services within Jordan are efficient and reliable. Directories in Arabic and English are widely available and international calls can be made from public and private phones. Fax services are available at most hotels while telegrams can be sent from post offices. Internet access is widespread via Internet cafes and hotels.
The local currency is the Jordanian Dinar, symbol JD, also pronounced as “jaydee.” There are 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 JD notes. The dinar is divided into 100 piasters (pronounced “pee-asters”) of 1000 fils (“fills”).
The fils is the unit most commonly used and you will usually see prices written as 4,750 (which is 4 JD and 750 fils).
Currency can be exchanged at major banks, exchange booths and at most hotels. Street money-changers are best avoided. Exchange rates are set daily by the Jordanian Central Bank.
As well as post offices, most 4- and 5-star hotels offer postal services.
Post office opening hours are:
- Summer: Sat-Thurs 07.00-19.00 / Fri 07.00-13.00.
- Winter: Sat-Thurs 07.00-17.00 / Fri 07.00-13.00.
There are also a number of international courier services, including DHL, FedEx, TNT International, UPS, etc.
Banks, businesses, government offices and many shops close all day for public holidays.
Fixed public holidays include:
- New Year’s Day January 1 st
- Labor Day May 1 st
- Independence Day May 25 th
- Christmas Day December 25 th<
A number of public holidays are not fixed. These include Easter and the following Islamic Holidays, which are based on the Lunar calendar:
- Eid al-Fitr - A 3 or 4-day feast marking the end of Ramadan.
- Eid al-Adha - A 4 day feast at the end of the Hajj, or month of pilgrimage to Mecca.
- First of Muharam - Islamic New Year.
- 12 Rabee Al Awal - The Birthday of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH).
WEIGHTS & MEASURES
Jordan uses the metric system.