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History Of Jordan

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Ancient era

Jordan is rich in Palaeolithic remains that contain evidence of settlement by Homo erectus, Neanderthals and modern humans. The oldest evidence of human settlement dates back about 250,000 years. In the Kharanah area of eastern Jordan, there is evidence of human huts from about 20,000 years ago. Other Palaeolithic sites include Pella and Al-Azraq. In the Neolithic period, several settlements began to develop, most notably an agricultural community called ‘Ain Ghazal in present-day Amman, one of the largest known prehistoric settlements in the Middle East. Plaster statues estimated to date from around 7250 BC have been uncovered there and are among the oldest large human statues ever found. The villages of Bab edh-Dhra in the Dead Sea area, Tal Hujayrat Al-Ghuzlan in Aqaba and Tulaylet Ghassul in the Jordan Valley all date from the Chalcolithic period.

Jordan’s prehistoric period ended around 2000 BC, when the Semitic nomads known as Amorites invaded the region. During the Bronze and Iron Ages, there were several ancient kingdoms in what is now Jordan whose populations spoke Semitic languages of the Canaanite group. They included Ammon, Edom and Moab, which are described as tribal kingdoms rather than states. They are mentioned in ancient texts such as the Old Testament. Archaeological finds have shown that Ammon was in the area of the modern city of Amman, Moab controlled the highlands east of the Dead Sea and Edom the area around Wadi Araba.

These Transjordanian kingdoms were in constant conflict with the neighbouring Hebrew kingdoms of Israel and Judah, whose centre lay west of the Jordan, although Israel was known to control small parts east of the river at times. Confrontations were frequent and tensions between them increased. Evidence of this is the Mesha Stele erected by the Moabite king Mesha around 840 BC, on which he praises himself for the building projects he initiated in Moab and commemorates his glory and victory over the Israelites. The stele represents one of the most important direct traditions of biblical history. Subsequently, the Assyrian Empire reduced these kingdoms to vassals. Later, when the region was under the influence of the Babylonians, the Old Testament mentions that these kingdoms helped them sack Jerusalem in 597 BC.

These kingdoms are believed to have existed during fluctuations in regional rule and influence. They passed through the control of several distant empires, including the Akkadian Empire (2335-2193 BC), Ancient Egypt (1500-1300 BC), the Hittite Empire (1400-1300 BC.), the Middle Assyrian Empire (1365-1020 BC), the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911-605 BC), the Neo-Babylonian Empire (604-539 BC), the Achaemenid Empire (539-332 BC) and the Hellenistic Empire of Macedonia. By the time of Roman rule in the Levant around 63 BC, however, the peoples of Ammon, Edom and Moab had lost their own identity and were assimilated by Roman culture.

Classic period

The conquest of the Achaemenid Empire by Alexander the Great in 332 BC introduced Hellenistic culture to the Middle East. After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, his empire divided among his generals, and in the end much of the land of modern Jordan was disputed between the Ptolemies, based in Egypt, and the Seleucids, based in Syria. In the south and east, the Nabataeans had an independent kingdom. Campaigns by various Greek generals seeking to annex the Nabataean kingdom were unsuccessful.

The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who derived their wealth from their capital Petra, whose proximity to the major trade routes made it a regional centre. The Ptolemies were eventually pushed out of the region by the Seleucid Empire. The conflict between these two groups allowed the Nabataeans to expand their empire far beyond Petra north into Edom. The Nabataeans are known for their great ability to construct efficient methods of collecting water in the barren deserts and their talent for carving structures such as the Al-Khazneh temple into solid rock. These nomads spoke Arabic and wrote in Nabataean alphabets, which were developed from the Aramaic script in the 2nd century B.C., and were known by scholars as the Arabic alphabet around the 4th century.

The Greeks founded new cities in Jordan, including Philadelphia (Amman), Gerasa (Jerash), Gedara (Umm Qays), Pella (Tabaqat Fahl) and Arbila (Irbid). Later, under Roman rule, these joined with other Hellenistic cities in Palestine and Syria to form the Decapolis Confederation, a loose confederation linked by economic and cultural interests: Scythopolis, Hippos, Capitolias, Canatha and Damascus were among its members. The most important Hellenistic site in Jordan is located in Iraq Al-Amir, west of modern Amman.

Roman legions under Pompey conquered much of the Levant in 63 BC, ushering in a period of Roman rule that lasted for centuries. In 106 AD, Emperor Trajan annexed the nearby Nabataean kingdom without any resistance and rebuilt the royal road, which became known as the Via Traiana Nova. During Roman rule, the Nabataeans continued to flourish and replaced their local gods with Christianity. Roman remains in Amman include the Temple of Hercules on the Citadel of Amman and the Roman Theatre. Jerash is home to a well-preserved Roman city that had a population of 15,000 in its heyday. Jerash was visited by Emperor Hadrian during his journey to Palestine. In 324 AD, the Roman Empire split and the Eastern Roman Empire (later known as the Byzantine Empire) controlled or influenced the region until 636 AD. Christianity became legal within the Empire in 313 AD and became the official state religion in 390 AD after Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity.

The city of Ayla (today’s Aqaba) in southern Jordan also came under the rule of the Byzantine Empire. The church of Aqaba was built around 300 AD and is considered the first purpose-built Christian church in the world. The Byzantines built 16 churches south of Amman in Umm ar-Rasas. Administratively, the area of Jordan belonged to the Diocese of the East and was divided between the provinces of Palaestina Secunda in the northwest and Arabia Petraeim in the south and east. Palaestina Salutaris in the south was split off from Arabia Petraea in the late 4th century. The Sassanid Empire in the east became a rival of the Byzantines, and frequent confrontations sometimes led to the Sassanids controlling some parts of the region, including Transjordan.

Islamic era

Muslims from what is now Saudi Arabia invaded the region from the south. The Arab Christian Ghassanids, clients of the Byzantines, were defeated despite imperial support. While Muslim forces were defeated by the Byzantines in their first direct engagement at the Battle of Mu’tah in 629 in present-day Karak governorate, the Byzantines lost control of the Levant when they were defeated by the army of the Rashidun at the Battle of Yarmouk north of present-day Jordan in 636. The region became Arabised and the Arabic language spread.

Transjordan was an essential area for the conquest of nearby Damascus. The first or Rashidun Caliphate was followed by that of the Ummayads (661-750). Under Umayyad rule, several desert castles were built, such as Qasr Al-Mshatta, Qasr Al-Hallabat, Qasr Al-Kharanah, Qasr Tuba, Qasr Amra and a large administrative palace in Amman. The Abbasid campaign to take over the Umayyad Empire began in the Transjordan region. After the decline of the Abbasid Caliphate, the area was ruled by the Fatimids and then by the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem (1115-1189).

The Crusaders built about nine Crusader castles as part of the rule of Oultrejordain, including those of Montreal, Al-Karak and Wu’ayra (in Petra). In the 12th century, the Crusaders were defeated by Saladin, the founder of the Ayyubid dynasty (1189-1260). The Ayyubids built a new castle at Ajloun and rebuilt the former Roman fort of Qasr Azraq. Several of these castles were used and expanded by the Mamluks (1260-1516), who divided Jordan between the provinces of Karak and Damascus. During the next century, Transjordan experienced Mongol attacks, but the Mongols were eventually repelled by the Mamluks after the Battle of Ain Jalut (1260).

In 1516, Ottoman troops conquered the Mamluk territory. The agricultural villages in Jordan experienced a period of relative prosperity in the 16th century, but were later abandoned. For the next few centuries, Ottoman rule in the region was at times virtually non-existent and limited to annual visits to collect taxes. This led to a brief occupation by the Wahhabis (1803-1812), an ultra-orthodox Islamic movement that emerged in the Najd in present-day Saudi Arabia. Ibrahim Pasha, son of the governor of Egypt’s Eyalet on behalf of the Ottoman Sultan, expelled the Wahhabis between 1811 and 1818. In 1833, Ibrahim Pasha turned against the Ottomans and established his rule over the Levant. His repressive policies led to the unsuccessful peasant uprising in Palestine in 1834. The towns of Al-Salt and Al-Karak were destroyed by Ibrahim Pasha’s troops because they harboured a leader of the peasant uprising. Egyptian rule was later forcibly ended and Ottoman rule restored.

Russian persecution of the Sunni Muslim Circassians and Chechens led to their immigration to the region in 1867, where they now form a small part of the country’s ethnic fabric. However, the overall population declined due to oppression and neglect. Urban settlements with small populations include: Al-Salt, Irbid, Jerash and Al-Karak. The underdevelopment of urban life in Jordan was exacerbated by the fact that the settlements were sometimes raided by Bedouins. Ottoman oppression prompted both non-Bedouin and Bedouin tribes in the region to revolt, including Bedouin tribes such as Adwan, Bani Hassan, Bani Sakhr and the Howeitat. The most notable uprisings were the Shoubak Revolt (1905) and the Karak Revolt (1910), which were brutally put down. Jordan’s location is on a pilgrimage route where Muslims make pilgrimages to Mecca, which helped the population economically when the Ottomans built the Hejaz railway connecting Mecca to Istanbul in 1908. Before the railway was built, the Ottomans built forts along the Hajj route to secure the pilgrims’ caravans.

Modern era

Four centuries of stagnation during Ottoman rule ended during World War I when the Arab Revolt erupted in 1916, driven by long-standing Arab resentment of the Ottoman authorities and the rise of Arab nationalism. The revolt was led by the Hashemite clan of Hejaz, claiming descent from the Islamic prophet Muhammad, under the leadership of Sharif Hussein of Mecca. The conquest of Transjordan had the support of the local Bedouin tribes, Circassians and Christians. The uprising was supported by the allies of the First World War, including Britain and France.

The Great Arab Revolt successfully gained control over most of the Hejaz and Levant, including the region east of the Jordan River. However, it failed to gain international recognition as an independent state, mainly because of the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 and the Balfour Declaration of 1917. This was seen by the Hashemites and the Arabs as a betrayal of their earlier agreements with the British, including the McMahon-Hussein correspondence of 1915, in which the British declared their willingness to recognise the independence of a united Arab state stretching from Aleppo to Aden under Hashemite rule. The region was divided and Abdullah I, the second son of Sharif Hussein, arrived by train from the Hejaz in Ma’an in southern Jordan, where he was welcomed by the Transjordanian leaders. Abdullah founded the Emirate of Transjordan in 1921, which then became a British protectorate.

The first organised army in Jordan was founded on 22 October 1920 and was named the Arab Legion. The Legion grew from 150 men in 1920 to 8,000 men in 1946. After the Hashemite leadership took power in the region, many difficulties arose. In Transjordan, small local rebellions in Kura were put down by Emir Abdullah with the help of British forces in 1921 and 1923. Wahhabis from Najd regained strength and repeatedly raided the southern parts of his territory between 1922 and 1924, seriously threatening the Emir’s position. The Emir was unable to repel these raids without the help of the local Bedouin tribes and the British, who maintained a military base with a small RAF detachment near Amman.

In September 1922, the Council of the League of Nations recognised Transjordan as a state under the British Mandate for Palestine and the Transjordan Memorandum, and excluded the areas east of the Jordan River from the Mandate’s provisions dealing with Jewish settlement. Transjordan remained a British Mandate until 1946.

Post-independence

The Treaty of London, signed by the British government and the Emir of Transjordan on 22 March 1946, recognised the independence of Transjordan after ratification by the parliaments of both countries. On 25 May 1946, the Emirate of Transjordan became the “Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan”, as the ruling Emir was reappointed “King” by the Parliament of Transjordan on the day the Treaty of London was ratified. The name was changed to “The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” in 1949. Jordan became a member of the United Nations on 14 December 1955.

On 15 May 1948, Jordan invaded Palestine along with other Arab states as part of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. After the war, Jordan occupied the West Bank and on 24 April 1950, Jordan formally annexed these territories. As a result, some Arab countries called for Jordan’s expulsion from the Arab League. On 12 June 1950, the Arab League declared that the annexation was a temporary, practical measure and that Jordan held the territory as a “trustee” until a future settlement.

King Abdullah was assassinated in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1951 by a Palestinian militant following rumours that he was about to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Abdullah was succeeded by his son Talal, but he soon abdicated due to illness in favour of his eldest son Hussein, who ascended the throne in 1953. On 1 March 1956, King Hussein dismissed a number of British servants serving in the Jordanian army, an act of Arabisation designed to ensure Jordan’s complete sovereignty. Neighbouring Iraq was also ruled by a Hashemite monarchy; Faisal II of Iraq, who was a cousin of Hussein. In 1958, the Arab Federation was formed between the two kingdoms, in response to the formation of the United Arab Republic between Egypt and Syria. The Union lasted only six months and was dissolved after Faisal II was deposed in a military coup.

Jordan signed a military pact with Egypt shortly before Israel launched a pre-emptive strike against Egypt to start the Six-Day War in June 1967, in which Jordan and Syria participated. It ended in Arab defeat and the West Bank came under Israeli control. Jordan also fought in the War of Attrition, which included the Battle of Karameh in 1968, in which the combined forces of the Jordanian Armed Forces and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) repelled an Israeli attack on Karameh camp on the Jordanian border with the West Bank. Although the Palestinians took limited action against the Israeli forces, the events in Karameh gained widespread recognition and acclaim in the Arab world. As a result, the post-battle period saw an upsurge in support for Palestinian paramilitary elements (the Fedayeen) in Jordan by other Arab countries, and the Fedayeen soon became a threat to the Jordanian rule of law. In September 1970, the Jordanian army targeted the Fedayeen, and the resulting fighting led to the expulsion of Palestinian fighters from various PLO groups into Lebanon, in a civil war that became known as Black September.

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Arab League forces waged war against Israel and fighting broke out along the 1967 Jordan ceasefire line. Jordan sent a brigade into Syria to attack Israeli units on Syrian territory, but did not attack Israeli forces from Jordanian territory. At the Rabat Summit Conference in 1974, Jordan agreed with the rest of the Arab League that the PLO was the “sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”. As a result, Jordan renounced its claims to the West Bank in 1988.

At the 1991 Madrid Conference, Jordan agreed to negotiate a peace treaty supported by the USA and the Soviet Union. The peace treaty between Israel and Jordan was signed on 26 October 1994. In 1997, Israeli agents allegedly entered Jordan with Canadian passports and poisoned Khaled Meshal, a senior Hamas leader. Israel provided an antidote for the poison and released dozens of political prisoners, including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, after King Hussein threatened to annul the peace treaty.

On 7 February 1999, Abdullah II ascended the throne after the death of his father Hussein. Since then, Jordan’s economy has improved. Abdullah II has been credited with increasing foreign investment, improving public-private partnerships and laying the groundwork for the Aqaba Free Trade Zone and Jordan’s thriving information and communications technology (ICT) sector. He also established five other special economic zones. As a result of these reforms, Jordan’s economic growth doubled to 6% annually compared to the second half of the 1990s. However, the Great Recession and regional unrest in the 2010s severely crippled the Jordanian economy and its growth, making the country increasingly dependent on foreign aid.

Al-Qaida, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, carried out coordinated explosions in three hotel lobbies in Amman on 9 November 2005, killing 60 people and injuring 115. The bombings, which targeted civilians, sparked great outrage among Jordanians. The attack is considered a rare event in the country, and Jordan’s internal security was drastically improved afterwards. Since then, there have been no major terrorist attacks.

The Arab Spring began in 2011 in the Arab world, where large-scale protests broke out demanding economic and political reforms. However, many of these protests led to civil wars and more instability in some countries. In Jordan, in response to the domestic unrest, Abdullah II replaced his prime minister and introduced a series of reforms, including amending the constitution and establishing a series of government commissions. The King called on the new Prime Minister to “take swift, concrete and practical steps to initiate a genuine process of political reform, strengthen democracy and give Jordanians the dignified life they deserve”.

How To Travel To Jordan

By plane Jordan's national carrier is Royal Jordanian Airlines. In addition, Jordan is served by a number of foreign airlines, including BMI, Air France, Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Egypt Air, Emirates, Alitalia and Delta Airlines. The low-cost airline Air Arabia flies between Jordan and destinations throughout the Middle East. The British...

How To Travel Around Jordan

By plane The only domestic flight connection is between Amman and Aqaba. By bus The bus company JETT offers connections from Amman to Aqaba, to the King Hussein Bridge (to get to Israel), and to Hammamat Ma'in. Private buses (mainly from the Hijazi company) run from Amman to Irbid and Aqaba. Minibusses...

Tourism in Jordan

Tourism is one of the most important sectors in the Jordanian economy. In 2010, over 8 million tourists from various countries visited Jordan, with tourism revenues amounting to about $3.5 billion. Another $1 billion was earned from medical tourism to the Kingdom. In 2011, Jordanian tourism lost $1 billion...

Weather & Climate in Jordan

The climate in Jordan varies considerably. As a general rule, the further the land is from the Mediterranean, the more temperature contrasts occur and the less rainfall there is. The average elevation of the country is 812 m (2664 ft) (SL). The uplands over the Jordan Valley, the Dead...

Visa & Passport Requirements for Jordan

Jordan is one of only three countries in the Middle East that tolerate Israeli citizens in their country. Therefore, entry into Jordan is not a problem for holders of an Israeli passport.Visitors from most countries require a visa to enter Jordan, which is readily available on arrival at almost...

Destinations in Jordan

Cities in Jordan Amman - Capital of the KingdomAjlun - a mountain town in northern Jordan, known for the impressive ruins of the 12th-century castle now known as Ajlun Castle.Aqaba - located on the Gulf of Aqaba / Eilat, with connections to the Sinai and the Red Sea.Irbid - the second-largest...

Accommodation & Hotels in Jordan

Amman has an abundance of 5 and 4 star hotels. In addition, there are a good number of 3-star hotels and there are many 2-star and 1-star hotels in downtown Amman that are very cheap and there are many tourists, especially those who are passing through staying in these...

Things To See in Jordan

The capital Amman is located in the north of Jordan, and features are spread along the entire length of the north-south side of the country. North Jordan North of Amman is also the ancient city of Jerash, where you can visit some of the most impressive Roman ruins in the eastern...

Things to do in Jordan

Go diving or snorkelling in the Red Sea near Aqaba. The Red Sea has some of the most famous coral reefs in the world and is a popular place for diving and snorkelling. Turtles, octopus, clownfish and a sunken tank are just some of the underwater sights. Equipment can...

Food & Drinks in Jordan

Jordanian cuisine is very similar to that in other parts of the region. The daily staple is khobez, a large, flat bread sold in bakeries throughout the country for a few hundred fils. Delicious when freshly baked. Breakfast is traditionally fried eggs, labaneh, cheese, zaatar and olive oil along with...

Money & Shopping in Jordan

The currency is the Jordanian dinar (currency code: JOD), sometimes shown locally as "JD" before or after the amount, or in Arabic as دينار or sometimes as £, and is divided into 1000 fils and 100 piasters (or qirsh). Coins come in denominations of 1, 5 and 10 piasters...

Festivals & Events in Jordan

Holidays in Jordan DateEnglish nameLocal nameCommentsOfficial business1 JanuaryNew Year's DayRas Assanah al-MiladiClosed1 MayLabour DayEid el-OmmalClosedDate variesEaster SundayEid Al Fiseh Al AtheemCelebrated by Christians. Easter is celebrated in Jordan by all denominations according to the Eastern Church calendar.Open25 MayIndependence DayEid al-IstiklaalClosed9 JuneThe accession of King Abdullah to the throneEid al-JolousOpen25 DecemberChristmas...

Traditions & Customs in Jordan

Jordan is a very hospitable country for tourists and foreigners will be happy to help you if you ask. In turn, Jordanians will respect you and your culture if you respect theirs. Respect Islam, the dominant religion, and the King of Jordan. Wear modest clothing at important religious sites. Respect...

Culture Of Jordan

Art, cinema, museums and music in Jordan Many institutions in Jordan aim to raise cultural awareness of Jordanian art and represent Jordan's artistic movements in fields such as painting, sculpture, graffiti and photography. The art scene has developed in recent years and Jordan has become a haven for artists from...

Stay Safe & Healthy in Jordan

Stay safe in Jordan Jordan is very safe. There is virtually no unsafe part of Jordan except on the Iraqi border. Although the rural parts of Jordan have limited infrastructure, the fellahin (or villagers) are happy to help you. Jordan is one of the most liberal nations in the region. Women...

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