The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
National name: Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniya al-Hashimiyah
Ruler: King Abdullah II (1999)
Prime Minister: Adnan Badran (2004)
Land area: 35,510 sq mi (91,971 sq km); total area: 35,637 sq mi (92,300 sq km) excludes West Bank
Population (2006 est.): 5,906,760 (growth rate: 2.5%); birth rate: 21.2/1000; infant mortality rate: 16.8/1000; life expectancy: 78.4; density per sq mi: 167
Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Amman, 2,677,500 (metro. area), 1,293,200
Other large cities: Zarka, 512,200; Irbid, 267,200; As-Salt, 200,400
Monetary unit: Jordanian dinar
Languages: Arabic (official), English
Ethnicity/race: Arab 98%, Circassian 1%, Armenian 1%
Religions: Islam (Sunni) 92%, Christian 6% (mostly Greek Orthodox), other 2%
Literacy rate: 91% (2003 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $27.86 billion; per capita $4,800. Real growth rate: 5.9%. Inflation: 5%. Unemployment: 12.5% official rate; unofficial rate is approximately 30% (2004 est.). Arable land: 3%. Agriculture: wheat, barley, citrus, tomatoes, melons, olives; sheep, goats, poultry. Labor force: 1.46 million; services 82.5%, industry 12.5%, agriculture 5% (2001 est.). Industries: textiles, phosphate mining, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, petroleum refining, cement, potash, inorganic chemicals, light manufacturing, tourism. Natural resources: phosphates, potash, shale oil. Exports: $4.226 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): clothing, phosphates, fertilizers, potash, vegetables, manufactures, pharmaceuticals. Imports: $8.681 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.): crude oil, textile fabrics, machinery, transport equipment, manufactured goods. Major trading partners: U.S., Iraq, India, Saudi Arabia, China, Germany (2004).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 622,600 (2003); mobile cellular: 1,325,300 (2003). Radio broadcast stations: AM 6, FM 5, shortwave 1 (1999). Television broadcast stations: 20 (plus 96 repeaters) (1995). . Internet hosts: 3,160 (2004). Internet users: 457,000 (2003).
Transportation: Railways: total: 505 km (2004). Highways: total: 7,301 km; paved: 7,301 km; unpaved: 0 km (2002). Ports and harbors: Al 'Aqabah. Airports: 17 (2004 est.).
International disputes: 2004 Agreement settles border dispute with Syria pending demarcation.
The Middle East kingdom of Jordan is bordered on the west by Israel and the Dead Sea, on the north by Syria, on the east by Iraq, and on the south by Saudi Arabia. It is comparable in size to Indiana. Arid hills and mountains make up most of the country. The southern section of the Jordan River flows through the country.
Constitutional hereditary monarchy.
In biblical times, the country that is now Jordan contained the lands of Edom, Moab, Ammon, and Bashan. Together with other Middle Eastern territories, Jordan passed in turn to the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, and, about 330 B.C., the Seleucids. Conflict between the Seleucids and the Ptolemies enabled the Arabic-speaking Nabataeans to create a kingdom in southeast Jordan. In A.D. 106 it became part of the Roman province of Arabia and in 633–636 was conquered by the Arabs. In the 16th century, Jordan submitted to Ottoman Turkish rule and was administered from Damascus. Taken from the Turks by the British in World War I, Jordan (formerly known as Transjordan) was separated from the Palestine mandate in 1920, and in 1921, placed under the rule of Abdullah ibn Hussein.
In 1923, Britain recognized Jordan's independence, subject to the mandate. In 1946, grateful for Jordan's loyalty in World War II, Britain abolished the mandate. That part of Palestine occupied by Jordanian troops was formally incorporated by action of the Jordanian parliament in 1950. King Abdullah was assassinated in 1951. His son Talal, who was mentally ill, was deposed the next year. Talal's son Hussein, born on Nov. 14, 1935, succeeded him.
From the beginning of his reign, Hussein had to steer a careful course between his powerful neighbor to the west, Israel, and rising Arab nationalism, frequently a direct threat to his throne. Riots erupted when he joined the Central Treaty Organization (the Baghdad Pact) in 1955, and he incurred further unpopularity when Britain, France, and Israel attacked the Suez Canal in 1956, forcing him to place his army under nominal command of the United Arab Republic of Egypt and Syria. The 1961 breakup of the UAR eased Arab national pressure on Hussein, who was the first to recognize Syria after it reclaimed its independence. Jordan was swept into the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, however, and lost East Jerusalem and all of its territory west of the Jordan River, the West Bank. Embittered Palestinian guerrilla forces virtually took over sections of Jordan in the aftermath of defeat, and open warfare broke out between the Palestinians and government forces in 1970.
Despite intervention of Syrian tanks, Hussein's Bedouin army defeated the Palestinians. The Jordanians drove out the Syrians and 12,000 Iraqi troops who had been in the country since the 1967 war. Ignoring protests from other Arab states, Hussein, by mid-1971, crushed Palestinian strength in Jordan and shifted the problem to Lebanon, where many of the guerrillas had fled. As Egypt and Israel neared final agreement on a peace treaty early in 1979, Hussein met with Yasir Arafat, the PLO leader, on March 17, and issued a joint statement of opposition. Although the U.S. pressed Jordan to break Arab ranks on the issue, Hussein elected to side with the great majority, cutting ties with Cairo and joining the boycott against Egypt.
Jordan's stance during the Persian Gulf War strained relations with the U.S. and led to the termination of U.S. aid. The signing of a national charter by King Hussein and leaders of the main political groups in June 1991 meant political parties were permitted in exchange for acceptance of the constitution and the monarchy. King Hussein's decision to join the Middle East peace talks in mid-1991 helped restore his country's relations with the U.S.
In July 1994, King Hussein and the Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin signed a declaration ending the state of belligerency between the two countries. A peace agreement between the two countries was signed on Oct. 26, 1994, although a clause in it calling the king the “custodian” of Islamic holy shrines in Jerusalem angered the PLO. In the wake of the agreement, Jordan's relations with the U.S. and with the moderate Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, warmed. In 1997, Jordan, determined to attract foreign investment, began negotiating with the United States about membership in the World Trade Organization. In Jan. 1999, King Hussein unexpectedly deposed his brother, Prince Hassan, who had been heir apparent for 34 years, and named his eldest son as the new crown prince. A month later, King Hussein died of cancer, and Abdullah, 37, a popular military leader with little political experience, became king.
The first parliamentary elections under King Abdullah took place in June 2003 and resulted in a two-thirds majority for the king's supporters. In 2005, the king, unhappy with the slow progress on reforms, replaced his cabinet.
Three suicide bombings by Iraqis blasted hotels in Amman, Jordan, on Nov. 2005, killing at least 57 people and wounding 115—almost all of whom were Jordanians. The terrorist group, al-Qaeda in Iraq, claimed responsibility, contending that Jordan had been targeted because of its friendly relations with the United States.