Petra, the Dead Sea, and the desert are some of the things we immediately associate with Jordan, but besides these what is Jordan famous for?
Located in Western Asia, Jordan is at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe. It shares borders with Saudi Arabia (to the south and east), Iraq (northeast), Syria (north), and Israel and West Bank (west). Jordan doesn’t border Egypt, as the golf of Aqaba separates the two countries.
Jordan is a hotspot for religious tourism, but it’s also popular among young people due to adventure tourism, historic sites, and most importantly, Petra. Amman is the capital city and the economic, cultural, and historical center of Jordan.
But, without further ado, let’s dive in and explore what is Jordan famous for?
8 Things Jordan is famous for
With 251 km, the Jordan river rises in Mount Hermon at the border of Syria and Lebanon, flowing from north to south, through the Sea of Galilee and emptying into the Dead Sea. Both Jordan, the country, and West Bank are named after this vital river.
Jordan River has huge significance both in Judaism and Christianism, making it one of the most sacred rivers in the world. There are countless references to the river in the bible, but the most prominent is possibly the baptism of Jesus of Nazareth by John, the Baptist. The land where the Jordan flows is considered sacred by many people, and its waters have spiritual significance.
Don’t expect to find a huge river like it’s described in the bible, for most of the course the Jordan is rather small, less than 10 meters wide and 2 meters deep. Yet, the Jordan is the only major river in the region making it one of the most significant features in the whole territory. Its water is a vital resource in the region and thus another source of friction in the region – not that it needs more…
A large part of the Jordan course is on the Jordan Rift Valley, flowing well below sea level, making it the river with the lowest elevation in the world.
Located in Jordan Rift Valley at the mouth of the Jordan River is another world-famous natural landmark, the Dead Sea. Bordered by Jordan (east), Israel, and the West Bank (north), the Dead Sea is a salt lake whose harsh conditions make it impossible for plants and animals to grow, thus its name.
The Dead Sea’s surface is 430 meters below sea level, which means its shores are the lowest land-based elevation on Earth. Despite being quickly receding, the Dead Sea is still a large lake almost 600 km2 – 500 km long and 15 km wide. In 1930, it was double the size, with 1,050 km2.
The lowest point on earth is also an unique environment, where its water is almost 10 times saltier than the sea, making it one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water and the deepest hypersaline lake. All this salt also makes swimming almost impossible. It feels more like floating than swimming.
Visiting the lowest place on earth and floating on the Dead Sea attracts visitors for thousands of years. The region is also considered one of Earth’s first health resorts, and it has supplied the world with a variety of products, particularly mud and salt.
Petra is clearly the most famous destination in Jordan, and naturally the most visited one. Originally known as Raqmu, Petra is a historic and archaeological city that used to be the capital of the Nabataeans during the second century BC.
Petra’s proximity to the incense trade routes established it as an important regional hub and made the Nabataeans considerable revenues. Petra became a wealthy city in the 1st century AD when the famous Al-Khazneh (mausoleum of Nabataean king Aretas IV) was constructed. By this time, Petra had a peak of 20 000 people living there.
Famous for the impressive rock-cut architecture and water system, Petra is a UNESCO heritage since 1985. It is usually called the “Red Rose City” because of the color of the rocks where it was carved and it became one of the new 7 wonders of the world in 2007.
UNESCO has defined Petra as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage” and anyone who has visited can only agree with it. As Jordan’s most famous symbol, Petra received about 1 million tourists per year before the pandemic.
We don’t usually include people and personalities in these articles, but Queen Rania will be an exception as she became such an influential person internationally. She was even named one of the world’s most powerful women by Forbes Magazine.
Born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents, she fled to Amman in 1991 after the Gulf War. In Amman, she met Prince Abdullah of Jordan, and they married in 1993. Since the marriage and particularly after becoming Queen, Rania has been working on social causes both internally and internationally. She usually advocates on topics related to health, children, cross-cultural dialogue, and micro-finance.
For all this, Queen Rania is very popular in Jordan and internationally. She is possibly one of the most famous Jordanians and one of the most popular on Social Media, with millions of followers on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube. She uses those channels mainly to promote and publicize some of her causes like stopping child abuse, social change, and education.
Another thing Jordan is known for is its “out-this-world” sceneries. The landscapes are marked by sand, red rocks of unique shapes, and a myriad of hues during the day. As Lawrence of Arabia once said of Wadi Rum and the Jordanian desert it is “vast, echoing and God-like”.
Wadi Rum, in particular, is one of the most extraterrestrial-looking places on Earth, which easily explains why it is used so many times as a movie setting for other planets like in The Martian, Star Wars Rogue One, and the rise of Skywalker, and Dune.
Since 2011, Wadi Rum is also a UNESCO heritage site. Besides being a wonderful and unique place on earth, it is also home to many archaeological sites. In Wadi Rum you can find thousands of rock carvings and inscriptions. As the popular destination that it is, there are also plenty of adventurous and outdoor activities like buggy and jeep tours, hot air ballooning, star-gazing, rock climbing, and horse and camel riding.
Besides the fascinating landmarks and the “out-of-this-world” sceneries, refugees are one of the first things that come into my mind, when I’m asked what is Jordan famous for. Why?
Jordan has accepted millions of refugees over the years from multiple countries in conflict. Jordan has received Palestinian refugees since 1948, particularly during the Arab-Israel war of 1948, the 6 days war in 1967, and the Gulf war in 1990. Many of these refugees were even granted citizenship.
Though it’s far from being only Palestinians, during the second Gulf war, more than a million Iraqis were allowed to enter Jordan, and since 2010 almost 1.5 million Syrians escaped to Jordan. Christian Iraquis also sought refuge after being persecuted by the Islamic state. Finally, with much smaller numbers, Libyans, Lebanese and Yemenis, and Sudanese have also been accepted in Jordan.
So, in hindsight, whenever there are wars or conflicts in the region (and there have been a lot of them), people try to escape to Jordan and have accepted them. According to the world bank, almost 3 million out of the 10 million people in Jordan are refugees or illegal immigrants.
This is an astonishingly large number, which naturally places a substantial strain on infrastructure and resources. On the other hand, it’s something Jordan should be proud of, praised for, and aid.
The Bedouins are the nomadic people who typically live in the desert regions of the Levant, Arabian Peninsula, and North Africa. The name Bedouin comes from badawī in Arabic, which means literally desert dweller.
Despite being divided into tribes, the bedouins share a common culture and characteristics, such as herding animals (camels, goats, sheep), living in tents, and well-known hospitality. They are also experts in living with extreme conditions and the ways of the desert.
With about 1 300 000 Bedouins, Jordan is one of the countries with more bedouins in the world, thus one of the best places to experience their hospital and discover their distinctive lifestyle. The best way to encounter this legendary hospitality is by visiting the local Bedouin people and staying at one of their campsites and directly learning about their food, culture, and dessert living. They usually also offer trekking, camel and horse riding, and jeep tours.
What is Jordan famous for food? Well, mainly for typical Levantine food, Bedouin food, and a mix of the two. Jordanians love eating and sharing that love with their guests and neighbors.
Mansaf is the most traditional national dish and one Jordanians are proud of. With Bedouin roots, It consists of rice, lamb (sometimes are used other meats instead), and jameed. Jameed is a kind of hard, dried-out, and fermented goat milk yogurt. The rice is usually fatty as it is stirred with heavy margarine until boiled. It is delicious and served over very thin bread, on a big serving tray. Traditionally, you eat Mansaf with your hands.
But the variety and diversity of dishes that you’ll find in Jordan are amazing and what we really enjoy in their food. Some of the most typical ingredients will also include za’atar, tahini, olive oil, and olives, lemon, garlic.
Thus, you will find local versions of most of the levant’s typical dishes, like falafel, hummus, lebaneh, kibbeh, tabouleh, bread, and many others. Popular desserts include baklava, knafeh, halva, and fruits like figs and nuts. The most famous is obviously baklava, but knafeh is really our favorite.