A Country of Contrasts
Jordan is a country of vast diversity, great natural beauty and a unique regional role. It is a young nation founded on ancient land; home to a dozen civilizations, heartland of religions, a sea of languages, cultures and traditions.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan achieved formal independence in 1946. That was the culmination of a 25-year struggle on the part of its founder, King Abdullah I, to establish an independent Arab homeland after the collapse of Ottoman Turkish domination in the region.
Jordan was founded on one of the oldest, continually inhabited pieces of ground on earth. Civilisation was born in the Fertile Crescent, defined on one side by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and on the other by the Jordan Valley. In these lands, humankind first discovered writing and made laws, first built cities — and besieged them.
Over millennia, dozens of civilisations have laid claim to Jordan's lands, which lie at the heart of ancient trade routes linking Europe, Africa and Asia.. Nabataeans, Greeks, Romans, Persians and Islamic caliphs all preceded the Turks and European powers in building strongholds here.
More than just a crossroads, frequented by traders from Africa, Arabia, the Mediterranean, and the Caucasus and travelers from around the globe, Jordan has been a haven for people in times of crisis. After the Russians invaded the Caucasus in the 10th century AD, the indigenous Muslim Circassian community fled southwards to escape religious persecution. By the late 19th century, they had populated less inhabited areas of Jordan, including Amman. Other ethnic minorities, such as the Chechens, Armenians, Kurds, and Bosnians embellished the Jordanian patchwork, alongside the local Arab people. Today, the country's population of six million retains a rich diversity in appearance and culture. Since Jordan's birth as a nation, it has absorbed several major waves of immigration – most comprising Palestinian refugees and displaced persons uprooted by the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israel wars. More recently, half a million Iraqis have taken refuge in Jordan from the ongoing crisis in their homeland. Today, too, around 350,000 foreign workers reside in Jordan, while more than 220,000 Jordanians work abroad.
The country's natural and ecological diversity is also vast. The drive from Amman, in the mountains, to the shores of the Dead Sea, is a descent of 1,200m in less than an hour. Most of the land is desert plateau, but the uplands are temperate and the Jordan Valley semitropical. Within Jordan's borders, 19 different plant ecosystems and countless species thrive.
Hub of a Dynamic New Middle East
“Jordan is an oasis of stability in a troubled region.” This statement is so often repeated that it has become a cliché. It cements the image of Jordan as it was decades ago: small, silent and provincial. Jordanians are proud of their country's reputation for peace and quiet but Jordan is far from standing still.
Today, Jordan is recognised as one of the most globalised countries in the world in terms of political engagement, economic integration and its citizens’ contacts with the rest of the world. Years of serious economic development and investment in education are paying off in rapid growth and Jordan's capital, Amman, is a model of the country's diversity. High-tech companies rub shoulders with the shops of traditional craftsmen, and glass skyscrapers rise from the hills. In the valleys below, itinerant shepherds still graze their flocks.
Jordan's diversity, its unique combination of modernity and tradition, makes it more than an island of tranquility in a turbulent region. The country today is the harbinger of stability and prosperity in a dynamic new the Middle East.