Since its founding in 1948, Jordan has enjoyed relative peace and stability compared to its neighbors in the Middle East. (Jordan shares borders with Syria, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt.) While leaders throughout the Middle East have had their authority challenged during the Arab Spring, it is important to note that, unlike Syria or Egypt, which have been ruled by military dictators, Jordan’s king is part of the Hashemite dynasty and a direct descendant of the prophet Mohammed. King Hussein and his son Abdullah II understood the importance of establishing a modern Arab state with democratic foundations. Therefore, while reformers would like changes to the country’s constitution, no one is questioning Abdullah II’s authority to govern.
In fact, Jordan’s role as a legitimate leader in the Middle East has long thrust the tiny country into a pivotal position as dealmaker and peacemaker. Hussein signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, but the government remains a major supporter of Palestinian rights and UN Resolution 242, the “land for peace” proposal, which calls for Israeli withdrawal “from territories occupied” in 1967. Visitors to Jordan will learn about the plight of Palestinian refugees (they make up more than half of the country’s population) and tensions in neighboring countries, but are unlikely to see any unrest.
Most itineraries will offer a mix of fascinating ancient history (Jerash and Petra); religious history (Jordan is where Moses died and Jesus was baptized); and natural wonders (the Dead Sea, Wadi Rum and the Red Sea).
Of course, if you are interested in current affairs, you will find many perspectives on what is occurring in the Middle East and the West’s role by reading local newspapers, watching local TV and soliciting opinions from residents, which adds a fascinating element to a wonderfully rich cultural destination.
- Language: Arabic is the official language but you will find English spoken widely as it is required in school.
- Currency: The official currency is the Jordanian Dinar (referred to as jaydee). Most banks outside of Jordan do not carry the currency so you will need to use exchanges in Jordan. ATMs that accept foreign bank cards are prevalent in Amman and Aqaba, and generally offer the best exchange rates. Dollars and Euros are also accepted many places.
- Tipping: It is customary to add ten percent to restaurant bills for good service.
- Time Zone: Two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time.
- Entry Requirements: Visas are required for most foreigners and can be obtained at most entry points. Payment must be made in Jordanian dinar. Passports must be valid for more than six months.
While Jordan is quite modern, when walking around, one should not wear clothes that are too revealing out of courtesy to Muslim customs. Women should cover their shoulders, and wear long pants or skirts. Crime is not an issue, but it is advised not to wear valuable jewelry.
From New York the best way to fly is direct to Amman or via European and Asian capitals. It is possible to drive from Israel and Egypt as well but border crossings can take a number of hours, so we recommend flying.