been the site of some of the most ancient civilisations - among the places
to visit listed in Jordan - a personal guide, are those inhabited
by Nabateans, Jews, Christians and Romans some 2000 years ago, 12th century
Crusaders, and Ottoman Turks from the 16th century. However, Jordan as
a country has a relatively short history, having come into being after the 1916 Arab
Revolt against the Ottoman Empire. It was then known as Trans-Jordan as
it straddled the banks of the Jordan River. Nowadays, the Hashemite Kingdom
of Jordan (HKJ), as it is properly described, exists only on the Eastern
side of the river.
is small at under six million, the majority of whom live in a few cities. Many
Jordanian people are refugees, mostly Palestinian, but more recently the numbers have been
swelled by Iraqis. In fact, the influx of wealthy Iraqis fleeing the conflict
in their own country has led to a dramatic increase in house prices and
other costs, adversely affecting the local population. Jordanians are
mostly Palestinian or descended from the nomadic Bedouin tribes. Bedouin
tents can be seen on farms, alongside western style housing, although
relatively few Bedouins are really nomadic these days.
The only viable
travel links are roads since the railway services are slow and rare. The Jordan
river is not navigable. As far as the tourist is concerned, the main routes
are the spectacular King's Highway and the fast Desert Highway which run
south from Amman, and the road that follows the River Jordan from Amman
to the Dead Sea. Driving can be dangerous - even worse than in Egypt -
and this means of travel is not recommended. We travelled by coach and had no problems.
are Moslem, though there are many Orthodox Christian churches. Saturday
is the holy day of the islamic religion so banks, offices and shops are closed, though most tourist
sites are fully open.
Safety and security
Provided a few simple rules are adhered to, you will be quite safe in
Jordan, even at night. Take care of your valuables, especially in busy
areas such as downtown Amman and Petra, and you will find Jordan much
safer than any western country. Women should be careful of their safety when on their
own (ie not with a man) as western women can be perceived as 'easy' and
'available; compared to Jordanian women. As with all Moslem countries,
visitors - both men and women - should dress modestly. Because Jordan
is close to Israel and the West Bank, military police are frequently seen,
especially near the border, and there are occasional road blocks and police checks.
The basic money unit
is the Jordanian Dinar, JD or 'Jaydee' for short. The JD is divided into
1000 fils or 100 piastres and prices are often quoted in Dinars and fils
(eg 7.500). The notes are JD1, 5, 10 and 20 with smaller amounts dealt
with by a confusing array of coins. In practice, coins are only useful
when tipping the lavatory attendant.
the national language and, although it differs from the arabic spoken
in other countries (eg Egypt) most of the commonly used phrases are the
same, or at least well understood. Basic English is widely understood
in the tourist areas, but it is a friendly gesture if you learn a few
arabic phrases, such as those below (shown as they sound):
"shukran" = "thank you"
"lah" = "no" (you will use "lah, shukran" a lot)
"aywa" = "yes"
"salaam alla aykum" = "hello" (the reply is "alla aykum es salaam")
"imshi!" = "go away!" (use only when absolutely necessary)
Don't go in
the summer unless you like it really hot (up to 40 degrees Celcius). The
basic rule is the summer is hot and dry, whilst the winter is cool and
relatively wet. The northern, hilly areas, such as Amman and Jerash are
the coolest, with Aqaba and the Dead Sea (by virtue of its low altitude)
being the hottest. We went in early November and found Amman at about
20 degrees, Petra at 24, Aqaba 26 and the Dead Sea 25 degrees. It was
sunny for most of the time, though we encountered a shower of rain (greeted
by some enthusiasm by the locals) and fog on one morning. The desert at
Wadi Rum was cool whilst we were travelling at speed in an open vehicle,
though it warmed up by lunchtime.
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