The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; what does that mean? The Kingdom of Jordan is ruled by a king that is loved and highly respected by Jordanians. His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein is the 43rd generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, which makes him, more or less, both a king and a descendant of God. Quite a winning combination but King Abdullah and his late father, King Hussein, are legendary rulers. Their vision is to govern a moderate Arab state and act as a non aggressive regional peace-maker. Fortunately for the world they have had success in this role, but it certainly has not been easy.
At one time King Abdullah’s family members ruled Syria and Iraq, and the current Princes of Saudi Arabia are distant relatives. Many family members were assassinated including King Abdullah’s grand father who was murdered over his peace overtures with Israel. So their position has come with a price and a heavy responsibility.
One of the stupidest assumptions Americans make is classifying all Arabs as the same. That would be the equivalent of saying Russians, French, Polish and English are one group with no differences; political or otherwise. Because of its moderate and conservative government, Jordan has become the Switzerland of the Middle East. Oil money from the Gulf Sates flows into Jordan for safe investment. This has caused a building boom for Amman, the capital. It is well known as the “white city” because the buildings are
made of white limestone. The cars in our Amman neighborhood could be compared with the best Dallas subdivisions; Hummers, Mercedes Benz, BMW’s, Land Rovers, etc. We shopped in a modern Safeway grocery store which sold alcohol. You should know that in most Islamic countries (like Egypt) there are no liquor stores and few restaurants serve alcohol.
Jordanians view Egyptians like many Americans view Mexicans by thinking they’re only good for pouring concrete and their home countries are way too filthy to visit. Several Jordanians told me, “every time I go to Egypt I get diarrhea.”
Because of the King’s expectations, there is little governmental corruption and you can see this in the modern highways. When we lived in Amman we had a one hour commute on a six lane highway over the mountains to a town only a few miles from the Syrian border. Twice we did not go to work because of heavy snow storms; are you surprised? Modern highway and not so modern coffee stop along the highwy shown here.
The formation of Israel caused the Palestinians to be without a country. Jordan invited all Palestinians to move to Jordan and become citizens, an offer no other Arab government has extended. Because of this open immigration policy, which still exists today, there are more Palestinians than Jordanians living
in Jordan. Like many of the first Cubans who fled Cuba, these Palestinians were the rich and well educated and now they dominate the businesses of Jordan. In general, the Palestinians left behind in Israel are the uneducated and poor that live without hope. The Palestinians in Jordan generally are on their best behavior acting as if they are guests in a foreign country.
Jordan has a very diverse geography but suffers from a shortage of water throughout the country. The majority of Jordan is unoccupied desert lands that stretch from east of Amman to the Iraq border and also south to the Red Sea. Most of the desert is flat and harsh but there are regions with craggy mountains (Wadis) they say are interesting to explore during spring. Amman’s elevation is about 3000’ so the summers are warm but not desert hot. The winters can be very cold and rainy. Amman is surrounded by mountains and the Dead Sea is about a 25 minute drive from Amman. The Jordan Valley is
one of the most fertile regions of the world and it allows Jordan to export fresh produce: lettuce, tomatoes, bananas, beans, etc. throughout the region. Along the Syrian border are huge dry land wheat fields. On a clear day you can see the Golan Mountain Range (that Israel took from Syria) and behind them the snow capped mountains of Lebanon. Aqaba, Jordan’s only port city is located on the Red Sea. The Red Sea has some of the best diving and snorkeling in the world. We visited the Red Sea from the Egypt side.
Jordan is one of the world’s best kept tourist destination secrets. The country is very safe, and has a diverse base of things to see and do. One of the lesser known sites is Jeresh, a Roman city that once was a center of trade. As trade routes evolved, Jeresh was abandoned to only a few dwellers. French archeologists recently re-constructed parts of the city and it has now made Jeresh a world class tourist destination. Anjul is an Ottoman castle that is atop a mountain range to protect against invaders. The Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth not covered in ice at 1,083 feet below sea level and is the most salty body of water on Earth. One destination I wanted to see was the inside of the U.S. Embassy. As one of America’s strongest allies, Jordan has allowed the American government to build a hug embassy which includes a very large, domed shaped, windowless building. Use your imagination what kind of spy stuff is inside.
The best known site in Jordan is the ancient city of Petra, which was made famous in the first Indiana Jones, “Temple of Doom” movie. Petra is actually a façade that was carved in the early 1st century (between 84 B.C and 138 A.D) as the tomb of an important Nabataean king. Quite an amazing accomplishment! As the sun’s angle changes, the walls reflect differently causing the walls to change colors throughout the day. Entrance to the city is through the Siq, a narrow gorge, over 1 kilometer in length, which is flanked on either side by soaring, 80 meters high cliffs. As you reach the end of the Siq you will catch your first glimpse of Al-Khazneh (Treasury).
In summary, Jordan is a great country to live or visit and better understand a moderate and modern Islamic way of life.
Over looking the Jordan Valley and the Sea of Galilee, the ancient Roman city of Gadara is today known as Umm Qays and has very impressive ruins of colonnaded streets, vaulted terrace and two theatres.
It is also the site of the famous Christian miracle of the Gadarene swine:
But at Gadara (or Gerasa or Gergesa), Jesus sent the demons into a heard of pigs. Matthew 8:30-32 (cf. Mark 5.11-13 and Luke 8:32-33).
Prior to El Regalo
Click on Petra photos to enlarge.