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JORDAN – GENERAL INFORMATION

                 Fig.1 – Jordan Flag
GEOGRAPHY

Jordan borders Israel (and the Palestinian National Authority Region), the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. At 1,300ft below sea level, the Dead Sea, in the northwest of Jordan, is the lowest point on earth and one of the country’s most distinctive features; the Red Sea, to which Jordan has a narrow access at Aqaba in the southwest, is teeming with life. The River Jordan flows into the Dead Sea, and there are plans to build a canal – the Two Seas Canal (or the Dead-Red Canal) – that would link the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. Capital Amman perches above the Dead Sea Depression, at a height of 2,625ft, surrounded to the north by undulating hills, and by desert escarpments to the south, on which graze the sheep and goat herds of nomadic tribes. Jordan’s northeastern flank is flat desert sprinkled with oases, while the spectacular southeastern desert is characterized by wind-eroded forms and brightly colored sandstone cliffs.

HISTORY
Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

The emergence of Jordan as a nation started when Nabataens built Petra as the capital of the ancient Arab kingdom between the period 400 B.C.E. and 160 C.E. Mount Nebo which was located in western Jordan was believed by people as the Promised Land prophesied by Moses. Four hundred years of rule of Ottoman Empire collapsed and Britain sought the event to divide the Crescent Land which later on gave birth to modern Jordan.

Among the many Arab countries, Jordan is the only one that allows Palestinians to become citizens. However, there is still a clear differentiation in the society among its people: Bedouins, Palestinians, and Jordanians. To determine one‘s national identity, each is defined. Jordanians are known as the residents who have lived in the eastern part of the Jordan River prior to 1948. Palestinians are classified as the residents whose birthright can be traced back to western part of the Jordan River while the Bedouins are regarded as the purest Arab residents.

The Bedouins have managed to live in the most traditional way for centuries coping with the reality that they were living in deserts where there was limited source of vegetation and water. They became nomads who were not really concerned about crossing borders. However, their political influence eventually diminished even though they possessed key positions. The rise of Jordanians can be linked to their being hardworking and educated and they put great emphasis on education.

THE PEOPLE

The majority of Jordan’s 4.4 million people are Arabs descended from the various tribes that have migrated to the area over the years from all directions. In addition, there are Circassians, descendants of Muslim refugees from the Tsarist Russian invasion of the Caucasus in the 19th century, and a much smaller group of Chechens. Jordan also has a small Armenian population.

More than 92% of Jordanians are Sunni Muslims, and about 6% are Christians who live mainly in Amman, Madaba, Karak and Salt. The majority of Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, but there are also Greek Catholics, a small Roman Catholic community, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox and a few Protestant denominations found mostly in Amman. Several small Shi’a and Druze populations can also be found in Jordan. Jordan values its diverse population, and has consequently provided for the cultural rights of all its citizens. All of Jordan’s ethnic and religious groups have full freedom to form and participate in their own clubs, associations, schools or places of worship.

Ethnic groups are also free to teach their own languages. The tradition of tolerance and appreciation for diversity has long been a hallmark of Hashemite Jordan and it has helped to provide a stable social foundation on which to build the country.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS

Handshaking is the customary form of greeting. Jordanians are proud of their Arab culture and hospitality is a matter of great importance. Visitors are made to feel very welcome and Jordanians are happy to act as hosts and guides, keen to inform tourists about their traditions and culture. Islam always plays an important role in society and it is essential that Muslim beliefs are respected. Arabic coffee will normally be served continuously during social occasions. To signal that no more is wanted, slightly tilt the cup when handing it back, otherwise it will be refilled. If invited for dinner, a small gift is customarily given. Women are expected to dress modestly and beachwear must only be worn at the beach or poolside.

LANGUAGES

Arabic is the official language. English and some French are also spoken.

GOVERNMENT

Crown Prince Abdullah ascended the throne on King Hussein’s death in February 1999. He went to great lengths to plan long-term improvements to the economy of Jordan and is one of a new generation of Arab leaders in favor of social and economic reform. He has backed the promotion of women’s rights and actively encouraged information technology, democracy, liberal economic policies and integration with the rest of the world.

Bilateral relations with Syria are continuing to improve under his reign and he has won international acclaim for promoting a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian intifada. Parliamentary elections last took place in November 2007 with independent, pro-government candidates winning the majority of seats. The new prime minister, Nader al-Dahabi, has a strong backing in parliament but has yet to convince the electorate of his abilities.

TIME ZONE

Jordan is GMT + 2, or seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States. There is daylight saving time in Jordan.

ELECTRICITY

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Lamp sockets are screw-type, and there is a wide range of wall sockets.

CLIMATE

Being part of the eastern Mediterranean weather system, Jordan boasts one of the world’s most pleasant climates – often compared to that of southern California. The Amman region enjoys sunny, cloudless weather from May through to early November, with warm days and cool evenings. Spring and summer are the best times to visit, when temperatures range between 86˚F in the Amman area and the highlands, and between 95˚F in Aqaba and the Jordan Valley. Winters can be cold and wet, with rain falling regularly between late November and early April, and temperatures ranging between 46-59˚F. Aqaba and the Jordan Valley are winter resorts, with temperatures between November and April ranging from 60-71˚F.

Clothes to Wear:

Lightweight clothes are advised between May and September. Thick winter clothes are essential for winter and a warm layer is necessary for cool summer evenings. Rainwear is needed from November to April.

LOGISTICAL
Entry & Exit Requirements:

A passport and a visa are required.  Jordan issues visas to U.S. citizens for a fee at most international ports of entry and at most international land border crossings upon arrival. The visa currently costs 40 JD ($56.50 USD) for a single entry, 60 JD ($85.00 USD) for two entries, and 120 JD ($170.00 USD) for a multiple entry visa.  However, visas are not issued upon arrival at the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge land border crossing.  U.S. citizens must already be in possession of a valid visa to Jordan or have a special entry permit from the Jordanian Ministry of Interior to enter Jordan at this crossing. Travelers who fail to register properly subject themselves to a fine of 1.5 JD (approximately $2.10 USD) per day of overstay. This fine is usually assessed at departure.

Travelers are urged to check the Country Specific Information and any existing Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts for all countries they plan to visit during their travel to the region. Border crossing requirements may change and borders may be closed during periods of heightened security. For further information travelers may contact the Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at 3504 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008, or by telephone at (202) 966-2664. Jordan also maintains Honorary Consulates in Detroit, MI, Chicago, IL, and San Francisco, CA.

If you are going to visit Jordan, please take the time to tell the Embassy or Consulate about your trip.

If you check in, they can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.

Embassy Locations:

U.S. Embassy of Jordan

Al-Umayyaween Street

Abdoun neighborhood

Tel: [962] (6) 590-6000
Emergency after-hours Tel: [962]

(6) 590-6500

Fax: [962] (6) 592-4102

Open Sunday through Thursday.

http://jordan.usembassy.gov/

Embassy of Canada in Jordan

Pearl of Shmeisani Building
Abdalhameed Shoman Street
Shmeisani, Amman 11180

Tel: (962 6) 520 3300
Fax: (962 6) 520 3396

http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/jordan-jordanie/index.aspx

Health

Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to and foreign residents of Jordan. Jordan does not permit entry or residency for foreign nationals with HIV/AIDS. Travelers known to have HIV are denied entry at ports of entry, including land border crossings. Travelers seeking to extend their stay beyond the initial timeframe are legally required to have an AIDS test performed at a government medical facility. Those who fail to submit to the test or who test positive for HIV are deported. For further information, please see the Embassy of Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan website before you travel.

Good information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/topics/infectious_ diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

Following a mild regional outbreak of H1N1 influenza in 2009, there have been minimal numbers of cases in the current year. Travelers are advised to take normal precautions against contracting the flu, including frequent hand washing and covering sneezes. It is prudent to postpone traveling while ill.

Banks & Currency

Dinar (JOD; symbol JD) = 100 piastres or 1,000 fils. Notes are in denominations of JD50, 20, 10, 5 and 1, and 500 fils.

Coins are in denominations of JD1, 1/2 and 1/4; 10, 5, 2 and 1/2 piastres; and 1 and 1/2 qirsh.

Foreign currencies can be exchanged easily in banks and bureau de change. Most hotels also provide exchange facilities. The daily exchange rates are published in local newspapers.

American Express, Visa, Diners Club and MasterCard are accepted in hotels, restaurants and larger shops. ATM’s can be found in most of the larger towns and throughout Amman.

Travelers’ checks issued by UK banks are accepted by licensed banks and bureau de change. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travelers are advised to take traveler’s checks in US Dollars.

There are no restrictions on the import or export of local or foreign currency.

Banking Hours: Sat-Thurs 08:30 am-3pm. Hours during Ramadan are 08:30 am-10am, although some banks open in the afternoon.

Communication:

IDD service is available within cities, with direct dialing to most countries. Country code: 962 (followed by 6 for Amman). Outgoing international code: 00. Most good hotels have facilities.

ENTERTAINMENT

Food & Drink:

The cuisine varies although most restaurants have a mixed menu, which includes both Arabic and European dishes. Dishes include meze (small starters such as humus, fool, kube and tabouleh); a variety of kebabs; Mahshi Waraq ‘inab (vine leaves stuffed with rice, minced meat and spices); musakhan (chicken in olive oil and onion sauce roasted on Arab bread); and the Jordanian specialty mensaf (stewed lamb in a yogurt sauce served on a bed of rice), a dish which is normally eaten with the hand.

Drinking Arabic coffee is a ritual. Local beer and wine are available, as are imported beverages. There are no licensing laws. During Ramadan drinking and smoking in public is forbidden between sunrise and sunset.

Nightlife:

There are nightclubs, theatres and cinemas in Amman, while some other major towns have cinemas.

 Shopping:

Every town will have a souk (market), and there are also many good craft and jewelry shops. There is a particularly good gold and jewelry market in Amman.

Jordanian handicrafts represent a tradition of skilled workmanship and folk-art that dates back to many thousands of years. The Jordan Craft Center, just off the Second Circle of Jabal Amman, sells a full selection of all that is handmade in Jordan, while many souvenir shops also offer a good variety of Jordanian handicrafts.

The most common Jordanian crafts items include Madaba rugs, carved olivewood, mother-of-pearl, cross-stitch embroidery, Palestine pottery, Hebron glass, silver jewelry, carved stone animals, Bedouin jewelry and artifacts, old swords and turn-of-the-century rifles, sheep skin and leather goods and Aqaba’s colored sand bottles. A walk through the downtown souq will bring you in touch with hundreds of small everyday items that you may wish to take home as an apt souvenir of your visit to Jordan: a brass Arab coffee pot, some small ceramic coffee cups, a typical white or red-checkered Jordanian head-dress, the hatta wa igal, the floor-length, robe-like garment called galabieh, or a simple engraved serving tray. Prices are rarely posted on items, so you should not be afraid to bargain and offer to pay only what you feel an item is worth.

Shopping hours are 9am-1pm and 3pm-08:30pm Saturday to Thursday (closed Friday).

BAGGAGE

Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.

TIPPING

10-12% service charge is generally added in hotels and restaurants and extra tips are discretionary. Porters’ and drivers’ tips are about 8%.

PHOTOS & VIDEOS

In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

USE OF DRONES 

The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases drones are already forbidden and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

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