Jordan is a Kingdom located at the heart of The Middle East. It was founded nearly a century ago, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire, on a land with thousands of years of human history. This small country, with an exceptional cultural richness and extremely varied landscapes, covers an area barely bigger than a fifth of France.
Most of the touristic sites are located along a north-south axis 450 km long. The Bible and the history are present all the way, from Mount Nebo where the prophet Moses is supposed to have died, to the baptism site of the Christ in the Jordan River, to the Crusades vestiges and the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottomans.
From the north, the route passes through Mediterranean hills planted with olive trees and the Hellenistic cities of Umm Qais and Jerash, and then winds on the hillside before going down up to -350m in the semi-tropical Jordan Valley and the minerals shores of the Dead Sea.
Going back uphill, Amman, the capital, is a city built on a series of hills; its modern aspect hardly reveals lively neighborhoods and beautiful ancient ruins that are worth a visit. Further, one can attempt an incursion to the east, in the desert steppe where the first Arab caliphs of the Umayyad dynasty built their palace surrounded by vegetation and animals thanks to the control of water. From Amman, we head south by the road known in the Bible as that of the kings; the "Kings' highway" passes through the Byzantine town of Madaba with its rich mosaics, the major geological faults of Mujib and Hasa, and the crusaders fortresses of Kerak and Shobak, through more and more arid, mountainous and spectacular landscape, intersected by canyons with flourishing vegetation.
The road leads to Petra, in the midst of its red-rose's mountains, once an important caravan center, capital of the Nabataean kingdom, today unavoidable stop of the journey.
Heading further south to discover the Wadi Rum, a stunning mountain desert, territory of the Bedouins, where you can stay under the stars in Milky Way Ecolodge Camp. And at the end of the road, the port of Aqaba and the coral reefs of the Red Sea.
Jordan is a country where travel conditions are excellent: very good roads and sanitary conditions, a temperate climate balanced between the Mediterranean and desert influences, tourism infrastructure for all kind of budgets and people extremely hospitable to travelers.
Official name: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Government: Parliamentary monarchy
Kingdom founded: 1921
President: King Abdallah II
Surface area: 91,880 km², more than %80 is desert
Population: around 10 million
Official language: Arabic
Religions: Muslim Sunni (%96), Christians (%4)
Life expectancy: 71.5 years
GDP per capita: 4,322 USD
Literacy rate: %90
Ways and Customs
Jordan is a country of Muslim tradition where the laws and the people are tolerant. There is no mandatory dress code, but a respectful attitude of local custom should be adopted. Especially for women, but also for men, adopt a long skirt or loose trousers and a decent blouse avoiding showing thighs, shoulders and back or too tight clothes. A "mini" swimsuit on the banks of the Dead Sea or the Red Sea will not be well perceived, for both men and women.
Couples should avoid demonstrations of affection in public. They can still hold hands, and Jordanian couples are not the last to do so.
Some public places are rather reserved to men, especially the popular cafes. In small towns, restaurants usually have a floor reserved for 'families' that is to say for both genders. If we sit in the "wrong place", we risk, at the worst, insistent stares. In the neighborhoods of most modern cities such as Aqaba and Amman, cafes and restaurants are open for both genders.
It is allowed to visit some mosques but always ask before entering. You should remove your shoes and have an appropriate dressing, both men and women, including a headscarf for the women.
During the month of Ramadan (whose dates change every year according to the Lunar calendar), it is not appropriate to eat, drink or smoke in public between sunrise and sunset. Exceptions to that rule are tolerated on the big tourist sites (Petra, Jerash, Dead Sea, Aqaba, Wadi Rum) but do not abuse it to the point that it will be perceived as a lack of respect. The restaurants of hotels and tourist sites remain open all day.
You should not, of course, photograph people against their will and avoid giving money to children who ask for it in return to a picture.
If you accepted an invitation to eat or drink tea with a family, you should stay "for a while"! Decline all invitations if you're in a hurry or if you are not hungry... If this is not the case, you should know that we usually take off our shoes on entering a house and that a small token gift will be appreciated (including local pastries) but people will not open it in front of you.
Help yourself freely if mezze (assortment of salads and others starters) are served. We take small bites with the flat bread that is served. Watch how your guests proceed and do the same thing. You must remember that, even left-handed, you must use the right hand; the left hand being considered unclean for Muslims.
Do not hesitate to help yourself again (in moderation!): the hostess will be happy!
Remember when shopping that bargaining is a tradition and that it takes some time; but do not expect huge price cuts!
For a number of "services", a tip is unavoidable. A guide or driver, a guard who opens up a site location (even if you paid a ticket) will expect to receive something. In restaurants and taxis (equipped with taximeters in big cities), the sum is always rounded up. We can give money to a beggar, a blind or a disabled person, however, avoid it with children without a service in return.