Jordan, officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is an Arab country in Western Asia, on the East Bank of the Jordan River. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and the east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and Israel and Palestine (West Bank) to the west. The Dead Sea is located along its western borders and the country has a short 26-kilometre (16 mi) coastline on the Red Sea in its extreme south-west, but is otherwise landlocked. Jordan is strategically located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe. The capital, Amman, is Jordan's most populous city as well as the country's economic, political and cultural centre.
Jordan is a relatively small, semi-arid, almost landlocked country with an area of 89,342 km2 (34,495 sq mi) and a population numbering 10 million, making it the 11th-most populous Arab country. Sunni Islam, practiced by around 95% of the population, is the dominant religion in Jordan and coexists with an indigenous Christian minority. Jordan has been repeatedly referred to as an oasis of stability in the region.
The country is a major tourist destination, also attracting medical tourism due to its well developed health sector.
Jordan has three commercial airports, all receiving and dispatching international flights. Two are in Amman and the third is in Aqaba, King Hussein International Airport. Queen Alia International Airport in Amman is the major international airport in Jordan handling over 16 million passengers annually.
The Port of Aqaba is the only port in Jordan. In 2006, the port was ranked as being the "Best Container Terminal" in the Middle East by Lloyd's List. The port was chosen due to it being a transit cargo port for other neighboring countries, its location between four countries and three continents, being an exclusive gateway for the local market and for the improvements it has recently witnessed
Winters in Jordan are generally short and cool. January is the coolest month, with temperatures of 5-10°C. 70% of the average rainfall in the country falls during this period.
Amman can be especially cold in January and February and snow is not uncommon. However, during these months the Jordan Valley and the area around Aqaba are reasonably warm during the day, with chilly evenings. Winter in the Eastern Desert, however, can be bitterly cold and dry. The central spine of hills can receive snowfall during winter months.
Spring starts in March, when wildflowers emerge, valleys are green and temperatures stay between 15 to 20°C.
June, July and August are usually rainless and daily temperatures can reach 40°C and above, especially when the Sirocco (a hot, dry southerly wind) blows. At times, these winds can be very strong and can cause sandstorms.
In July, Jordan receives 13.1 hours of sunshine per day on average. Summers can be intensely hot in the Jordan Valley, the area around Aqaba and the Eastern Desert.
For diving in Aqaba, the best time is September, October and early November, when water is a warm 26°C, plus marine life is abundant during this time including eagle rays and turtles.
Jordan sits strategically at the crossroads of the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, in the Levant area of the Fertile Crescent, a cradle of civilization. It is 89,341 square kilometers (34,495 sq mi) large, and 400 kilometers (250 mi) long between its northernmost and southernmost points; Umm Qais and Aqaba respectively. The east is an arid plateau irrigated by oases and seasonal water streams. Major cities are overwhelmingly located on the north-western part of the kingdom due to its fertile soils and relatively abundant rainfall. These include Irbid, Jerash and Zarqa in the northwest, the capital Amman and Al-Salt in the central west, and Madaba, Al-Karak and Aqaba in the southwest. Major towns in the eastern part of the country are the oasis towns of Azraq and Ruwaished.
In the west, a highland area of arable land and Mediterranean evergreen forestry drops suddenly into the Jordan Rift Valley. The rift valley contains the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. The Yarmouk River, an eastern tributary of the Jordan, forms part of the boundary between Jordan and Syria (including the occupied Golan Heights) to the north. The highest point is Jabal Umm al Dami, at 1,854 m (6,083 ft) above sea level, while the lowest is the Dead Sea −420 m (−1,378 ft), the lowest land point on earth.
Over 2,000 plant species have been recorded in Jordan. Many of the flowering plants bloom in the spring after the winter rains and the type of vegetation depends largely on the levels of precipitation. The mountainous regions in the northwest are clothed in forests, while further south and east the vegetation becomes scrubbier and transitions to steppe-type vegetation. Forests cover 1,500 km2, less than 2% of Jordan, making Jordan among the world's least forested countries, the international average being 15%.
Plant species and genera include the Aleppo pine, Sarcopoterium, Salvia dominica, black iris, Tamarix, Anabasis, Artemisia, Acacia, Mediterranean cypress and Phoenecian juniper. The mountainous regions in the northwest are clothed in natural forests of pine, deciduous oak, evergreen oak, pistachio and wild olive. Mammal and reptile species include the long-eared hedgehog, Nubian ibex, wild boar, fallow deer, Arabian wolf, desert monitor, honey badger, glass snake, caracal, golden jackal and the roe deer, among others. Bird include the hooded crow, Eurasian jay, lappet-faced vulture, barbary falcon, hoopoe, pharaoh eagle-owl, common cuckoo, Tristram's starling, Palestine sunbird, Sinai rosefinch, lesser kestrel, house crow and the white-spectacled bulbul.
The official language is Modern Standard Arabic, a literary language taught in the schools. Most Jordanians natively speak one of the non-standard Arabic dialects known as Jordanian Arabic. Jordanian Sign Language is the language of the deaf community. English, though without official status, is widely spoken throughout the country and is the de facto language of commerce and banking, as well as a co-official status in the education sector; almost all university-level classes are held in English and almost all public schools teach English along with Standard Arabic. Chechen, Circassian, Armenian, Tagalog, and Russian are popular among their communities. French is offered as an elective in many schools, mainly in the private sector. German is an increasingly popular language; it has been introduced at a larger scale since the establishment of the German-Jordanian University in 2005.
The culture of Jordan is based in Arabic and Islamic elements with significant Western influence. Jordan stands at the intersection of the three continents of the ancient world, lending it geographic and population diversity. Notable aspects of the culture include traditional music and clothing of Jordan, and interest in sports. These include football and basketball as well as other imported sports, mainly from Western Europe and the United States.
One of the key aspects of Jordanian culture is the hospitality shown by hosts to their guests. This is felt even while walking around the streets of Jordan, where the phrase "ahlan wa sahlan" ("I welcome you") is heard nearly everywhere you go.
Some of the traditions of hospitality come from Jordanian Bedouin culture. For example, the host and the guest often share a cup of black coffee. The host drinks out of the cup first, ensuring that the coffee is the right temperature. The guest then drinks what remains of the first cup. A second cup is served to the guest, and then a third. The host also serves the guest copious amounts of food and is careful to make sure the guest is comfortable and stays as long as they would like. Such displays are referred to as karam, the Arabic word for "generosity" or "hospitality" that also has implications of "nobility," "grace," and "refinement."
There is a wide variety in the Jordanian style of cooking. The authentic Jordanian cuisine can range from baking, sautéing and grilling to stuffing of vegetables (grape leaves, eggplants, etc.), meat, and poultry. Also common in the Jordanian style of cooking is roasting or preparing foods with special sauces.
As one of the largest producers of olives in the World, olive oil is the main cooking oil in Jordan. Herbs, garlic, spices, onion, tomato sauce and lemon are typical flavors found in Jordanian food. The most common and popular of the appetizers is hummus, which is a puree of chick peas blended with tahini, lemon, and garlic. Ful Medames is another well-known appetizer.
The most distinctive Jordanian dish is Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan. The dish is a symbol for Jordanian hospitality and is influenced by the Bedouin culture. Mansaf is eaten on different occasions such as funerals, weddings and on religious holidays. It consists of a plate of rice with meat that was boiled in thick yogurt, sprayed with pine nuts and sometimes herbs. As an old tradition, the dish is eaten using one's hand. Simple fresh fruit is often served towards the end of a Jordanian meal, but there is also dessert, such as baklava, hareeseh, knafeh, halva and qatayef, a dish made especially for Ramadan. In Jordanian cuisine, drinking coffee and tea flavored with na'na (mint) or meramiyyeh (garden sage) is almost a ritual.