Jordan - Background information


Timeline
Natural history
People and culture

Timeline

Abridged from the History section in Jordan: the Bradt Travel Guide

Pre–c20,000BC

Paleolithic period

c20,000–10,000BC

Mesolithic period

c10,000–4500BC

Neolithic period and the start of agriculture in the Jordan Valley

c4500–3300BC

Chalcolithic period

c3300–1900BC

Early Bronze Age

c1900–1550BC

Middle Bronze Age

c1550–1200BC

Late Bronze Age

c1200–539BC

Iron Age: Transjordanian kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom founded

539–332BC

Persian period and Christianity becomes official religion

333BC

Alexander the Great conquers the Persians

332–63BC

Hellenistic period

323BC

Death of Alexander the Great

312BC–AD106

Nabatean period and the founding of Petra

63BC–AD324

Roman period and the founding of the Decapolis cities

0

Birth of Jesus of Nazareth in Bethlehem

AD324–635

Byzantine period

AD570

Birth of Prophet Muhammad

AD629

Battle between Muslims and Christians at Mu’ta near Karak

AD632

Death of Prophet Muhammad

AD632–661

Early Islamic Rule

AD636

Battle of Yarmouk with Muslims’ victory against Byzantine troops

AD636

Jordan converts to Islam

AD661–750

Umayyad Dynasty of Muslim caliphs; Damascus declared the capital city

AD750–969

Abbasid Dynasty assume power from the Umayyads

AD969–1171

Fatimid Dynasty rules Jordan

1096

Beginning of the Crusades

1099

Jerusalem captured by the Crusaders

1171–1263

Ayyubid Dynasty assumes power

1187

Battle of Hattin and victory of Saladin against the Crusaders

1250–1516

Mamluk Dynasty rules Jordan

1516–1917

Ottoman period under several sultans, including Suleiman the Magnificent

1912

Nabatean city of Petra rediscovered

1916

Beginning of the Arab Revolt inspired by Colonel Lawrence of Arabia

1918

End of the World War I; Ottoman Empire collapses

1920

Transjordan and Palestine come under British mandate

1921

Creation of the Emirate of Transjordan

1921

Abdullah I becomes Emir of Transjordan

1946

Country becomes the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan

1946

Abdullah I becomes king of the new independent state

1950

Renamed Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

1950

West Bank and East Jerusalem annexed from Jordan; refugees flee

1951

King Abdullah I assassinated

1951

Talal bin Abdullah becomes King Talal of Jordan but abdicates in 1952

1952

Hussein bin Talal becomes King Hussein of Jordan at the age of 16

1967

Six-Day War that sees Israel seize the West Bank and Jerusalem

1973

Arab-Israeli War

1994

Israel–Jordan Treaty of Peace signed

1999

King Hussein I dies

1999

Abdullah bin al-Hussein becomes His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan.

2001

His Majesty King Abdullah II inaugurates a joint electricity link with Egypt and Syria

2002

Israel–Jordan project begins piping water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea

2003

Local elections show support for His Majesty King Abdullah II

2004

Syria–Jordan Wahdah Dam project unveiled

2007

Petra is named as one of UNESCO’s New Seven Wonders of the World

2009

His Majesty King Abdullah II announces new economic reforms

2011

Awn al-Khasawneh appointed new prime minister.

Natural history

Abridged from the Natural history section in Jordan: the Bradt Travel Guide.

Jordan is home to some fine nature reserves and protected areas, each packed with wildlife. Its landscape of deserts and their oases, mountains blanketed with pine trees, wetlands, rich green valleys created by a network of wadis, and the remarkable coral reef ecosystem and its abundance of vividly coloured fish in the Gulf of Aqaba provide one of the most varied combinations of natural wildlife habitat in the world. Add to this list the Dead Sea and you could be forgiven for thinking that Jordan has it all.

Flora

While the Dead Sea waters cannot support any form of animal or plant life because of their high mineral and salt composition, the surrounding area (and indeed the rest of Jordan’s topography), helped by its climate, has an eco-system well refined so as to support a diversity of flora and fauna.

Spring is an especially colourful time in Jordan. From February through to May, the landscape becomes carpeted with more than 2,000 different species of plants and wildflowers, many of them endemic. It is a time when the soil and sand, still damp from the winter rains, begin to heat with the springtime warmth and this promotes plants’ natural growth. Poppies and anemones turn the landscape red, while Jordan’s national flower the Black Iris (Iris nigricans) can be seen in fields, on hillsides and on the edge of the forests. Madaba, especially, is known for having field after field of Black Iris.

The subtle blue-green of the olive tree leaf creates a hue over the landscape of the Jordan Valley throughout the year, with the pale pink flower of the almond tree dusting it in spring. The region hosts spectacular trees from the cedar family as well as eucalyptus. In the highlands and forests, evergreen oak (Quercus calliprinos) and Aleppo pine trees thrive, along with wild pistachio (Pistacia palaestina), carob (Ceratonia siliqua), strawberry trees (Arbutus andrachne), and a wealth of woodland flowers. In the deserts, cacti and trees of the acacia family – Acacia albida, Acacia tortilis and Acacia iraqensis – thrive in the hot climate.

Wildlife

Mammals

Red fox Ajloun Forest Reserve Jordan by Visit JordanThe habitat of Jordan supports a whole host of mammals. The Arabian oryx (Oryx leucoryx) is one of the most celebrated. This impressive white antelope with its long, pointed horns and elegant stance became extinct in Jordan in the 1920s. By the 1970s it was extinct worldwide in the wild and would have been lost had it not been for an international rescue initiative launched by the World Wildlife Fund. Through careful breeding and attention, this wonderful mammal was reintroduced to the wild. Jordan’s Shaumari Wildlife Reserve received 11 in 1978, and continues the work to save it from extinction to this day. It is still endangered, but in Jordan, at least, it is thriving and now there are over 200 in the reserve.

In the Mujib Nature Reserve more than ten species of carnivore thrive, including the red fox (Vulpes vulpes), the caracal (Caracal caracal) from the lynx family, and the Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr). While in the Ajloun Forest Reserve you will see foxes, wolves and herds of wild boar. The park is an important breeding ground of the roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), which almost became extinct in the wild through excessive hunting. It is now the subject of a protect-and-release programme in order to reintroduce it back to the wild. The Dana Nature Reserve is one of the few breeding places of the striped hyena (Hyaena hyaena), one of the true hyenas of the Middle East and one that is classified as Near Threatened.

(Photo: Red fox, Ajloun Forest Reserve © www.visitjordan.com)

People and culture

The people of Jordan are generally well educated, have good literacy levels and enjoy a quality of life that is higher than in some other countries in the region. Social reforms have long been on the political agenda, and as a result there has been investment in town and city infrastructures to create homes, jobs, better educational opportunities and enhanced leisure opportunities. Millions have been invested in the country’s healthcare system, to the point that it is now seen as one of the finest in the region.

In the main, Jordanians are polite and friendly, and you will be greeted with a smile and the offer of help. They are a conservative people who appreciate good manners, smart dress and modesty. Most live very well, although there are still several thousand who live below the poverty line. In 2008, His Majesty King Abdullah II launched a five-billion-dinar Decent Housing for a Decent Living initiative that aimed to give all poorer families, including refugees, the chance of owning their own home. A total of 100,000 affordable homes costing around 24,000 dinar each are currently being built throughout the country, with provision for a further 100,000 if demand requires.

Amman Jordan by Visit Jordan
Amman © www.visitjordan.com

The country’s 6.5 million population, which has grown rapidly over the past 50 years, is made up almost entirely of Sunni Muslim and Christian Arabs who equate to 98% of the total. Many hail from Palestine and fled during the 1948 Palestine War and the Six-Day War in 1967. The remaining 2% of the population are either Circassian, from the territory that includes Turkey, parts of Russia, Syria and Iraq, or Armenian from the Republic of Armenia in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Most Jordanians live in rural areas; in fact, a total of around 80% of the population. The remainder, around 2.2 million, live in the country’s capital Amman.

Jordan has a vibrant cultural scene that in many ways reflects the personality of its modern monarchy. A passionate follower of the arts and sports, and well travelled, His Majesty King Abdullah II is committed to promoting cultural activities for his people to enjoy and has introduced programmes designed to preserve the country’s archaeological, artistic and historical heritage. Amman is the cultural hub of the country, and it is here you will find most of the artistic and performing arts venues and sports facilities, but other towns, such as Aqaba, are seeing an increase in the number of venues opening. The ‘Life’ section of the Jordan Times and Go Magazine are two of the best publications that give comprehensive information on all the major arts and cultural events taking place in Amman and around the country. Jordanians are enthusiastic when it comes to festivals. Some of the many festivals that appear in the annual calendar are religious, while others are cultural.

Heritage

The cultural and creative heritage of Jordan is especially prolific in the country’s many museums, craft centres and souks. You’ll see tapestries produced with bold patterns or delicately woven scenes showing stories. Goat-hair rugs and tents are still made by hand, as are ceramics and pottery, and leatherwork. Jordan’s heritage is evident, too, in stories, songs and ballads that have been handed down through the generations, and are a key part of a traditional Bedouin family’s evening. Although more and more Bedouins now live in buildings rather than tents, these age-old stories and songs still play a vital part of everyday life. Villages have their own dances and songs for births, weddings and funerals, and host festivals to mark the start of the agricultural growing season and the subsequent harvesting of crops that have their origins set deep in tradition. Jordan is a modern country that celebrates its history in a grand style.

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