Area: 35,637 sq. miles
Government: monarchy with democratic system
Religion: Muslim 92%, other 8%
Jordan gained independence from Britain in 1946. From 1953 to 1999 the country was ruled by King Hussein, known affectionately as the “little king” due to his short stature and the young age (17) at which he began his reign. At his death in 1999, the kingship passed to his son Abdullah.
Throughout its history, Jordan has tried to appease both its Western allies and its Arab neighbors. In 1981, Jordan refused to aid the United States in the First Gulf War. This was largely due to Jordan’s dependence on Iraqi oil. In 1994, King Hussein signed a peace agreement with Israel, causing much outrage within the region.
When Palestinians left their homeland in the late 1940s, many moved to Jordan where they have made a significant impact on the country’s demography. In 1961, the population of Jordan was less than 800,000. Today over ten million people inhabit the land. The majority of these inhabitants are of Palestinian descent. The drastic increase in population has put serious strain on the country’s scarce resources.
Jordan is mostly desert and it would be completely landlocked if it weren’t for the Gulf of Aqaba, a northeastern arm of the Red Sea that’s about 100 miles long and up to 17 miles wide. At the north of the Gulf is Jordan’s only seaport, Aqaba. In 1917 the seaport was forcefully taken from its Ottoman defenders by Arab forces under the command of Lawrence of Arabia.
Southern Jordan is the site of the ancient Nabatean city of Petra. The city’s buildings were carved into the mountain sides in the 4th century BC. Their ornate, stone façades are a reddish-pink color. The most notable of these buildings is the Treasury. According to legend, this structure hides the Egyptian Pharaoh’s treasure which he left behind while pursuing Moses in the desert.