We had the privilege of visiting Jordan. It was a real treat having been reasonably acute observers of international news and a lover of maps, basically all of our lives. There was a palpable feeling of excitement and tension just being in this part of the world.
Enjoy these 50 strange, fun facts about the country Jordan – all discovered or experienced by my husband, John McAdam – the author of this guest post.
We were in Jerash only 35 km from Syria with all its tragedy. We couldn’t help but see a road sign that pointed left to Iraq and right to Saudi Arabia! We saw fighter jets returning to base. Don’t really want to know what they were up to. We looked into the West Bank and Israel to the east. We saw Egypt from Aqaba in the south.
This is the Middle East. Loved being there so here are some mostly non-political, non-religious and mostly interesting facts about the country Jordan that hopefully will inspire you to go. It’s the Switzerland of the Middle East.
Jordan is formally known as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
A Kingdom ought to have a king and it does. His name is Abdullah II and is a member of the …… yes, the Hashemite family. Wonder if they will change it to Queendom if there is a queen?
The word Jordan is thought to be derived from the Hebrew word “Yarden” which translates into something like “descend” or “to flow down”; something a river might do.
The capital of Jordan is Amman.
Geography facts related to Jordan
Strangely enough, there is a river descending or flowing down called the “Jordan River” flowing from north to south serving as the border between Israel and Jordan and ending up in the Dead Sea. Kind of a tragic ending.
The country is tiny! It’s about 89,000 square km (34.5 thousand square miles) which if it were a square would be less than 300 kilometres (186 miles) on a side. That’s just a three hour drive on a highway!
Jordan would tuck nicely in southern Alberta where we live and in fact, you could do that seven times over. If you lived in Texas you could have eight Jordans.
Jordan has six neighbours: Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt (we count the water border), West Bank and Israel. What a neighbourhood!
Amman is 200 km (124 miles) from Damascus, the capital of Syria.
By air, Amman is 72 km (45 miles) from Jerusalem but by car it is 252 km (157 miles).
Jordan became an independent state in 1946 and is part of what was formerly know as Trans Jordan.
Pretty sure that name and the borders are NOT locally derived.
Jordan has a national flag. This counts as a fact.
Diners use dinars for dinner. The Jordanian currency, the Dinar, is worth about $2.00 Canadian ($1.50 US) in 2019 at the time of this typing.
Amman used to be known as Philadelphia but to the best of our knowledge the Philadelphia in the United Sates has never been known as Amman, although it might be one day. There is a precedent after all.
Jordanians drive on the right-hand side of the road which is the right side as far as we are concerned.
About 10 million people live in Jordan. Most live in the north and roughly 40% of them live in Amman. The housing density is astounding – and one of the amazing facts about the country Jordan.
Demographics and religion related to Jordan
Its hard to know for sure, but some experts (eg. taxi drivers) estimate as much as 60% of the population is of Palestinian origin (most having been displaced between 1947 and 1967) and that combined with over a million Iraqi and Syrian refugees means “original” Jordanians number about 30%. Now isn’t that an impressive display of neighbourliness and hospitality! Jordan is a super accepting country and has made citizens of a huge number of these displaced people.
The country is 93% Sunni Muslim, 6% Christian and 1% other. Arabic is dominant language. Snuck two facts about the country Jordan in here.
Dead Sea info
Jordan shares the lowest point (well actually it’s a line being the shore of the Dead Sea) on planet earth being about 427 metres BELOW sea level, with the West Bank and Israel.
This line is getting shorter and lower as the Dead Sea level lowers over time.
The Dead Sea is actually a lake, located at the bottom (where else) of a rift valley system where the earth’s crust has pulled apart.
The Dead Sea has a salinity of about 33% as compared to the ocean being about 3.5% saline. That is why everyone floats way high in the water.
Reportedly there are a fair number of drownings by people floating on their stomachs and who can’t roll onto their backs. We didn’t try this. Might want to call this a possible fact until it is fact checked.
Natural asphalt bubbles up into the Dead Lake (sounds just as bad as Dead Sea) in places but we didn’t see any so this might be “a plausible but personally unverified fact”. Interesting though.
Earthquakes and rocks
This rift valley is an earthquake zone and some of which were documented in the Bible.
The rocks also tells us there were earthquakes and rocks don’t lie. Well, actually they do; on top of other rocks, but not in the sense of misrepresenting the truth. There is a geologic unit called the Lisan Formation deposited fairly recently when the Dead Sea was much larger. It consists of seasonal accumulation of a bit of sediment and gritty material from winter rain flushes and which is then overlain by a thin layer of aragonite, a mineral that drops out during the summer evaporation. Year after year, the pattern is maintained, building up these rhythmic beds until disrupted by an earthquake that jumbles the top layers in the sequence. After the earthquake, the rhythm was restored covering up those disrupted beds and so it went. With careful counting and dating one can get a reasonable estimate of when earthquakes happened and some of them tie quite nicely into early recorded history in the area.
The highest point in Jordan is a mountain called Jabal Umm al Dami at 1854 metres in southern Jordan.
Speaking of mountains, Jordan is really hilly (mountainous) especially in the north.
Jordan, although only 73 years old has had people wandering around in it since times pre-historic. I highly recommend a visit to the small but wonderful Archaeological Museum at the Citadel in Amman. It is here you can see stone tools excavated near Azraq in eastern Jordan that are, if I recall correctly (not a reliable source), 45,000 years old – a fun fact about the country Jordan.
Given Jordan is an extension of the African rift valley, Lucy’s (3.2 million years old) offspring may have wandered up and through Jordan.
People that didn’t wander through were the Romans who seemed to have invited themselves for an extended stay about 2,000 years ago. Go to Jerash in northern Jordan and you will be amazed by what these guys did. There are reportedly the most extensive Roman ruins in the world but I can’t independently verify that since we have not visited all the Roman ruins in the world.
The history of Jordan is long, rich and complex and would have to report way too many facts to do it justice but starts in the prehistory and involves many wanderers, conquerors and conquerees. The are lifetimes of learning in this domain.
In case you were thinking every country in the Middle East is a massive oil producer you had better stop that, as it’s not factual. Jordan produces virtually no oil but 60% of Jordan is underlain by oil shale which unfortunately is not easy to wrest oil from. This is probably one of the lesser known facts about the country Jordan.
Jordan produces a little bit of natural gas in the east near Iraq which is used to generate electricity. It used to import gas from Egypt but now it comes from Israel. We don’t normally think of Israel as a gas producer but it is.
We can also report that, as a person that enjoys finding and looking at birds, there are 412 species of avifauna (birds, if you prefer) reported (presumably by reporters) in Jordan.
Jordan is on the African Eurasian flyway and therefore migration time can be very exciting in Jordan; for some of us – especially in a place like Azraq which is a bit of a wetland in the desert. You can read more about birds and Azraq here.
Weather in Jordan
It can snow in Jordan so take more than your bathing suit when you go.
Winter temperatures are 5-10°C and summer in the range of 20 to 35°C according to an international weather website.
Doesn’t rain that much in Jordan with annual rainfall in the 25 to 40 cm (10 to 18 inches) range.
Jordan can be quite green, after a rainfall for instance and in the north where it is mountainous and treed. To the south and east it is a desert.
You must also go to Wadi Rum. Sorry for being so emphatic but it is a desert area with massive rock outcrops (maybe even mountains) creating a magical environment especially at sunset sitting on a camel. Apparently, Lawrence of Arabia visited the area and his impostor in the movie presented himself for filming here too, one of the cool facts about the country Jordan.
Go to Petra and Little Petra in southern Jordan. Not sorry for being emphatic here.
The scale of the carvings in rock and the large area of this former trade hub is impressive. Even the UNESCO people like it. There is evidence that people were here 9,000 years ago but the biggest influence were the nomadic Nabateans. Yup, the Romans showed up here too. There is so much to say about Petra that perhaps you should go to this blog post and get a bigger taste of Petra.
Food in Jordan
Speaking of taste, Jordanian food is delicious. Mansaf is the classic which is lambed cooked in jameed which is fermented dried yogurt (who in the heck came up with this ingredient, and what else did they try first) and served with rice or bulgur.
Had the best falafels we ever tasted at the Hashem outdoor restaurant in Amman. Hard to prove this fact but you can’t disprove it either since we ate the falafels and they are gone now.
For those with a sweet tooth halva and baklava abound in Jordan. Actually, it is a fact that we enjoyed an Amman food tour and you probably would too.
A most wonderful new dessert taste experience was Kanafeh which according to Wikipedia “is a traditional Levantine dessert made with thin noodle-like pastry, or alternatively fine semolina dough, soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and typically layered with cheese, or with other ingredients such as clotted cream or nuts, depending on the region.” Doubt that we could repeat that but it sure was delicious.
Cycling in Jordan
You can bicycle in Jordan which is probably true for any country – but we had a police escort most of the time as reportedly Jordanian drivers aren’t great dealing with bikes on the road. We participated on a tour run by Exodus Travel and you can see some of what we did on this blog post.
The cycle down from Mount Nebo (700 m above sea level) where it is believed that Moses died to the Dead Sea (427 m below sea level) is about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on.
Okay, one more to make it 51 real facts since the last one wasn’t a fact. Jordanian people are really, really nice so go on over and meet some of these fine folks in their fine land. We highly recommend it.
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