Edited by Léo-Paul Dana, Mary Han, Vanessa Ratten and Isabell M. Welpe
Chapter 16: Jordan
Vanessa Ratten1 Introduction The formal conventional name of Jordan is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The kingdom covers an area of 89 300 square kilometres. Its neighbours are Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. Jordan has a strategic location as it is at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba. Arabic is the official language. The majority of the population is Sunni Muslim (Dew and Shoult, 2007). During most of its history since independence, Jordan was beset by economic difficulties. Until 1948, most of the nation’s trade was carried out with its British neighbour to the west; after Israel’s independence, the Arab boycott stopped this otherwise fruitful trade. Outside the Dead Sea, Jordan has few natural resources; however, peace with Israel has made possible the joint development of industry and of the Dead Sea – including the extraction of potassium salts for fertilizer. Present-day Jordan was formerly ruled by the Greeks, the Romans, and the Byzantines. Between about 500 bc and ad 200, this land was home to the Aramaic-speaking Nabataeans – business-minded, pre-Islamic Arabs who were prosperous traders; when they were threatened by their enemies, they would dissuade the invaders by explaining that fighting was bad for business. Situated on the cross-roads of major caravan routes linking Egypt, Arabia, and Mesopotamia, the Nabataean capital – Petra – was a hub of international trade. Here, ivory arrived from Africa, and silk from China, as well as incense from Yemen. Petra was the central storage and dispatch centre. From here, it was a month-long trip...
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