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Geography of Jordan

A Geographical and Historical Overview of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

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Red Sea at Jordan

A view of Al’Aqabah (or Aqaba), Jordan from the Red Sea.

Walter Bibikow/Getty Images
Updated March 28, 2012
Capital: Amman
Population: 6,508,887 (July 2012 estimate)
Area: 34,495 square miles (89,342 sq km)
Coastline: 16 miles (26 km)
Border Countries: Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Syria
Highest Point: Jabal Umm ad Dami at 6,082 feet (1,854 m)
Lowest Point: Dead Sea at -1,338 feet (-408 m)

Jordan is an Arab country located to the east of the Jordan River. It shares borders with Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and West Bank and covers an area of 34,495 square miles (89,342 sq km). Jordan's capital and largest city is Amman but other large cities in the country include Zarka, Irbid and As-Salt. The population density of Jordan is 188.7 people per square mile or 72.8 people per square kilometer.

History of Jordan

Some of the first settlers to enter the Jordan region were the Semitic Amorites around 2000 B.C.E. Control of the area then passed through many different peoples including the Hittites, Egyptians, Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arab Muslims, Christian Crusaders, Mameluks and Ottoman Turks. The final people to take over Jordan were the British when the League of Nations awarded the United Kingdom the region containing what is today Israel, Jordan, the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem following World War I.

The British divided this region in 1922 when it established the Emirate of Transjordan. Britain's mandate over Transjordan then ended on May 22, 1946. On May 25, 1946 Jordan gained its independence and became the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. In 1950 it was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The term "Hashemite" refers to the Hashemite royal family, which is said to have descended from Mohammed and rules Jordan today.

In the late 1960s Jordan was involved in a war between Israel and Syria, Egypt and Iraq and lost its control of the West Bank (which it took over in 1949). By the end of the war, Jordan's increased considerably as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled to the country. This eventually led to instability in the country however, because Palestinian resistance elements known as fedayeen grew in power in Jordan caused fighting to erupt in 1970 (U.S. Department of State).

Throughout the rest of the 1970s, 1980s and into the 1990s, Jordan worked to restore peace in region. It did not participate in the Gulf War of 1990-1991 but instead participated in peace negotiations with Israel. In 1994 it signed a peace treaty with Israel and has since remained relatively stable.

Government of Jordan

Today Jordan, still officially called the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is considered a constitutional monarchy. Its executive branch has a chief of state (King Abdallah II) and a head of government (the prime minister). Jordan's legislative branch is made up of a bicameral National Assembly consisting of the Senate, also called the House of Notables, and the Chamber of Deputies, also known as the House of Representatives. The judicial branch is made up of the Court of Cassation. Jordan is divided into 12 governorates for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in Jordan

Jordan has one of the smallest economies in the Middle East due to its lack of water, oil and other natural resources (CIA World Factbook). As a result the country has high unemployment, poverty and inflation. Despite these problems however there are a number of major industries in Jordan that include clothing manufacturing, fertilizers, potash, phosphate mining, pharmaceuticals, petroleum refining, cement making, inorganic chemicals, other light manufacturing and tourism. Agriculture also plays a small role in the country's economy and the main products from that industry are citrus, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, strawberries, stone fruits, sheep, poultry and dairy.

Geography and Climate of Jordan

Jordan is located in the Middle East to the northwest of Saudi Arabia and to the east of Israel (map). The country is nearly landlocked except for a small area along the Gulf of Aqaba where its only port city, Al'Aqabah, is located. Jordan's topography consists mainly of desert plateau but there is a highland area in the west. The highest point in Jordan is located along its southern border with Saudi Arabia and is called Jabal Umm ad Dami, which rises to 6,082 feet (1,854 m). The lowest point in Jordan is the Dead Sea at -1,338 feet (-408 m) in the Great Rift Valley that separates the east and west banks of the Jordan River along the border with Israel and the West Bank.

The climate of Jordan is mostly arid desert and drought is very common throughout the country. There is however a short rainy season in its western regions from November to April. Amman, the capital and largest city in Jordan, has an average January low temperature of 38.5ºF (3.6ºC) and an average August high temperature of 90.3ºF (32.4ºC).

To learn more about Jordan, visit the Geography and Maps of Jordan on this website.

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