Interesting facts about Jordan
Here are some interesting facts about Jordan that I collected during my numerous trips to the Middle East.
It’s easy to understand how impatient I was to visit the country if I tell you that I was so eager to go for a few years. I knew that I shouldn’t travel on my own, not around the Middle East, and not for the first time at least, and local agencies didn’t have any tours yet. After I saw photos of Petra for the first time, I read all I could find about the city, and I was just fidgeting in waiting for the opportunity to arise.
And it did! It happened in 2008 when I finally packed my suitcase and went to the Middle East for the first time. I traveled all around Syria and Jordan, and this trip turned out to be an introduction to many more travels around the region in years to come. Here are a few guidelines on things to know about the country, just to prepare you for what’s yet to come in this series.
There will be more about Jordan’s history in future posts, but I should mention that the city of Amman was declared the capital in 1921, the same year when King Abdullah I founded the country of – Transjordan.
Interesting facts about Jordan
The country developed rapidly after World War II but this was also the time when Palestinian refugees came to seek refuge. Jordan people often refer to Palestinians in a positive manner, saying that they are extremely diligent and hard-working.
As the situation in the region got seriously turbulent in recent years given that the so-called Arab Spring began at the end of 2010, there was another huge impact on the country. A lot of people from Libya came after Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown. Some of them stayed for a few months, while others moved here permanently. Refugee camps that were inhabited by families from Palestine and Iraq for decades were now under additional pressure to take in the unfortunate people from Syria who also began to come in 2011.
Not only that the population was influenced by the new situation, but also Jordan’s economy and tourism. Although Jordan is a peaceful country (it’s an Arab monarchy that didn’t allow almost any Arab Spring demonstrations), it cannot avoid the consequences due to regional turbulence. Bear in mind that Jordan borders Syria, Iraq, Israel, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia.
Jordan stretches to the Red Sea into the Gulf of Aqaba with about 27 kilometers of coastline. (More about Aqaba in one of the future posts.) There is a desert to the east and the great rift valley of the Jordan River to the west, which also serves as the Israeli border. Jabal Ram is the highest point in Jordan, while the lowest is the famous Dead Sea. (There will be more about the Dead Sea, of course.)
The official currency here is JD – the Jordanian Dinar, almost the same worth as Euro (1 Euro – 0,80 JD). According to the Arab tradition, you will find king’s posters on every corner. This blue-eyed king is called Abdullah II, he was educated in Great Britain and the United States and married to beautiful queen Ranya. Jordan is considered an ally of the West and cherishes close relations with Sunni Arab monarchies in the Gulf region.
Although Amman is one of the modern Arab cities with vast quarters in the western part of the city with skyscrapers, wealthy mansions, large business centers, and a lot of foreigners from the West who work here, you have to remember that this is first and foremost an Arab country. Sharia law and Bedouin tradition are far greater here than any democratic or secular society’s rules. So, it’s always good to know a few interesting facts about Jordan before coming here.
What to wear
No matter how hot it gets in summer (and it can get seriously hot!), you shouldn’t wear short skirts or sleeveless tops. It’s not forbidden in Jordan, not officially, but it might turn out to be pretty unpleasant. When it comes to Jordan women, there are those who are covered from head to toe, but also those who dress like any other woman in the West. Still, most of them cover their hair with scarves, while at the same time they often wear tight jeans and shirts, and walk in high heels.
Men are usually in long white jalabiyas or in „ordinary“ clothes. The only thing that they don’t wear ever (not even in the summer) is short trousers of any kind. (This goes for the whole Arab world, not just for Jordan.)
Here are a few more interesting facts about Jordan. For instance, did you know that Amman is one of the Arab cities to which you cannot send a letter? It’s true – there are no street names and numbers, not the way we are used to at least. If someone expects to get any mail, they have to open a PO box. There is no postman to knock on your door every now and then.
If you take a taxi, the driver will know the street and you will just point to the building. This is not an issue if you are in a hotel, the name of the hotel would be sufficient.
Pull down the blinds
You should probably know that nonmarried couples are not really welcome to stay in the same hotel room or to hold hands in public. Like in any other Arab country, you shouldn’t show any affection in public. It really is rare that tourists have problems because of sharing a hotel room, but still – try to come with a group of fellow tourists or get a room at a slightly better hotel (if it’s just the two of you), and find a local guide.
Since I was fortunate to visit Jordan on several occasions, I noticed a few more interesting facts about Jordan. As dusk comes and you have to turn on the light in your apartment, all the blinds are pulled down immediately. During daylight, you close heavy curtains, but as night falls you use all you have. And here is why.
If you don’t and you allow people to see inside, this might be interpreted as permission or even an invite for your windows to be looked at. So, if you don’t want a group of young Arab guys to maybe whistle and cheer from below, just put your blinds down and close those curtains at the very site of dusk.
Also, I couldn’t get used to the same song coming from the street, a funny tune that was played several times a day. It was coming from a little colorful truck driving to the neighborhood numerous times. It even reminded me of those ice cream sellers from old American movies.
I found out later that the music was the way to notify people that the truck with kitchen gas tanks is in the neighborhood. So, you pull out your empty one, rush out, stop that small truck and get yourself a new tank, filled with gas.
I was confused by the water issue as well. You get used to buying drinking water when you travel. But never before have I encountered a situation with water tanks placed on building tops which get refilled from time to time while water is to be used by all the tenants. This is for bathing and washing dishes. Nevertheless, the country lacks water and so, when it’s hot and there’s not enough water for everybody, people tend to rob those rooftop tanks. Regardless to say that water bills can get pretty high.
The same happened with the washing machine – there was no fill hose. Okay, you get the idea that water is to be taken care of here, it’s not to be wasted, etc, but this was a bit odd. I took a big pot filled with water which I then poured into the washing machine. The drain hose goes into the toilet. After a while, you get used to these things, of course. And you can always ask a janitor (who also serves as a doorman), who can be found in almost every building in west Amman.
Okay, this is probably enough for now. You got acquainted with a few interesting facts about Jordan and now we are ready to go around Amman in the next post. There’s so much to see!
Next: AMMAN, THINGS TO DO (2)
The full Jordan SERIES
Love your post! Everything you said will be super useful once I visit Jordan! Hope you loved it!
Hey, thanks! 🙂
Oh, yes, I had so much fun every time I traveled to the country, and I have been several times.
So glad it will come useful. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Marii.
It’s so interesting to read something about Jordan other than Petra! I totally agree about the dress etiquette in the Arab world; I was recently in Morocco, though not Arab, still is very conservative in clothing (women I mean!). I really hope to visit Jordan one day!
Well, there’s going to be Petra in the series as well, of course. I mean, how can you go to Jordan without visiting the ancient city, right! 🙂
But, I’m glad that you might like reading a lot more about the country than just about Petra. I did try to cover the whole of Jordan, from Amman to Aqaba! 🙂
I’ve always been curious about Jordan. These photos are so real and raw its made me want to go all the more Would you consider it safe for travelling with kids (mine are not Disneyland kids and are pretty adventurous)?
Hey, so nice of you to drop by. 🙂
Yes, it is safe. Jordan is one safe country all together. One has to hire a local guide, so that detail comes even more handy when coming with kids. Accommodation is usually nice, the food is good, you only drink bottled water.
You just need to be aware of the fact that you are in the Middle East! But that goes for everyone in general, with or without children. I bet they would love “swimming” in the Dead Sea or camel rides in Petra! 🙂
I love the idea of the musical truck coming to replace your gas bottles. These are all little things that we do not notice when staying in a big hotel so I did not pick up on these things when I was in Jordan. That story reminds me of the truck coming to replace your pop bottles when I was a kid.
I know, right! There’s no way to notice these things when you’re spending a week or two while rushing around to see as much as you can. I wonder how much we actually miss when we travel to foreign countries on limited time.
And yes, those trucks were one amusing detail – all colorful and noisy. 😀
Your post reminded me how I tried to plan a visit to that area (starting from Syria) a few years ago when I was living in Turkey. I didn’t make it as I could not get the visa on time and didn’t have flexibility with my dates (I was studying) and a trip to Bulgaria was easier and attractive as well… So much has changed since then that I regret not trying to go again at another time. Now I’m too far away to plan a trip soon, but I still dream of seeing Petra and the Dead Sea one day. Thank you for sharing all this useful info. There are so many important things to know not to shock locals and get in trouble.
Yes, so much has changed throughout the years. But Jordan is still doable, it’s safe and hopefully it will stay as such.
I know what you mean though. There are places I still didn’t get to visit, and I’ve just missed my chance since they are not going to be the same for many, many years to come.
We’ll just have to hope for the best, and discover the rest of the world in the meantime, right! 🙂 And then one day, who knows…
Such interesting facts! It’s always nice to learn new things abouta city/ country.. I didn’t know Jordan doesn’t use street numbers. Good thing we already have internet and emails now. Makes things easier when receiving mails. 🙂
It’s much easier now when everything is online, you’re right. 🙂
I don’t really think that this postal issue is “exclusive” for Jordan. It’s the same in Qatar, and probably few other Arab countries.
This is a great guide of things I had no idea about. I too long to explore Jordan, especially Petra. I feel that it would also make a great intro for me into the Middle East. But I didnt know all the rules for non married couples and women. It makes sense cause many Muslim parts of India were the same way and Darcee & I learned this and found it easy to respect their culture. But its good to know ahead of time!
That is crazy about the lack of house numbers. I would totally be lost!
You won’t be lost, you’d be surprised what few weeks there can do to a man. And then you’d just get used to it, it would become the most natural thing in the world! 😀
Also, you’d love Petra, there’s no doubt about it. (The next post is on Petra, feel free to stop by. 🙂 ) And you’re right, Jordan is probably the best place to get acquainted with the region.
Thanks, Eric, so glad that this was interesting to read. 🙂
Looks like an amazing place to visit, with so much to see and do. Certainly a place that’s been on my list for quite awhile now. One day I’ll get there.
Hope you do, it would be one memorable journey. 🙂
During my Jordan trip, I mostly stayed in the hotels, so I did not get the water shortage story. Good to know it from your post. Water is the most precious and most essential thing in the world. I found Jordan and island of peace surrounded by turbulence.
So true. Jordan is suffering through economy because of the crises in neighboring countries. It’s even astonishing that it stayed calm over these turbulent years, still managing to welcome tourists.
Thanks, Anuradha, for stopping by, I can see you’ve enjoyed your trip there. 🙂
So glad you had the opportunity to make your trip to Jordan a reality after having planned it for so many years. It must have been a very good opportunity to visit before the Arab Spring.
I’ve heard that Jordan today is a very safe country for tourism, but it’s a very good reminder that it’s an Arab country and their laws and customs are different to what a tourist may be accustomed to in thr west. Interesting to hear that non married couples aren’t really supposed to be sharing a hotel room or public displays of affection – I knew about this in Dubai but didn’t realize it was a prevalent opinion in Jordan too.
Looking forward to hearing more about your time in Jordan, and reading your posts on Syria too – I’m very interested to know what it would have been like to travel to the region before our most recent political unrest.
Jordan is an Arab country, like any other, with the same laws. It is safe and easy to explore, that’s probably what makes it so popular among tourists from the west.
Thanks, so glad you’ve enjoyed the post! 🙂
This sounds like a fascinating adventure. I like what you suggested re: women dressing as the local women do to show respect for the culture. Also interesting that public affection is frowned upon! What a comprehensive guide for anyone traveling to this area 🙂
Hey, so glad you find the post useful. I did try to put in few “small”, less known details.
Jordan has been on my list for a very long time… I haven’t had the occasion yet. But there are so many beautiful sites to visit. Your memories from 2008 are really impressive… I heard it’s a country that has been changing a lot recently.
By the way, I like your pictures of people and street’s life!
My first trip to Jordan was in 2008, but I was going to the country and back for many years afterwards. That is why I had a chance to witness few of those changes you’ve mentioned. Still, the country didn’t change that much. It’s still okay to go and visit.
Thank you for your kind words regarding Amman photos! 🙂
Such an interesting post. I can’t believe you can’t send a letter here, that is so funny to me! I am concerned as a women about visiting Jordan, given all the rules you outlined but this was helpful if I do decided to go!
It’s all doable, you shouldn’t be worried much. Especially if you travel with someone and after you hire the local guide. It sounds more “serious” from afar, but once you’re there – you just get along by default. 🙂
It’s nice to see a post about something else than Petra, I realize that I know very little about Jordan. Super information post!
Well, you can’t really skip Petra if you come here, it would be such a pity. 😀
But the truth is that Jordan has a lot more that’s also interesting to explore. I loved learning about the country! 🙂
Lois Alter Mark
I’ve read so much about Petra but appreciate hearing the real, practical facts about Jordan. I had no idea about the water tanks or the music acting as a sign to people about the gas tanks. Fascinating!
There are so many interesting things to see in Jordan, Petra is just the most popular. You’re welcome to read about the Dead Sea or the Mount Nebo in the upcoming days.
So glad you’ve enjoyed the post, thank you! 🙂
We have those ‘gas tank trucks playing music’ thing here too Danijela. One of the brands is called ‘Aygaz’ and when the truck comes, you here a girl singing “Ayy- gaaas” and we laugh at it so much because it sounds like “hi guys”, like greeting us all in the neighbourhood 😀
Heheehe, didn’t know that. They were truly interesting to me, given the fact that I’ve seen them for the first time.
While those gas trucks of yours sing “Hey guys”, these were playing music like the ice cream trucks from old American movies. 😀 😀
Quite funny, you’re right! 🙂
We visited Jordan about 10 years ago, our guide told us we should visit Syria next, I guess we missed that window of opportunity!
Unfortunately. Hope you enjoyed Jordan though?
I was in better luck – visited Syria few years before the war! You might find Homage to Syria series here on the blog interesting, here’s the link: http://bit.ly/2BlXyhJ.
Hope it will be possible to go again in the upcoming years.
Thanks, Jane. 🙂
Thanks for the link, off to check it out now!
Thank you. 🙂