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Jordanians

Jordanians

PRONUNCIATION: jawr-DAY-nee-uhns
LOCATION: Jordan
POPULATION: 6.1 million
LANGUAGE: Arabic; English
RELIGION: Islam (majority Sunni Muslim)

INTRODUCTION

The land of Jordan lies along an ancient and well-used trade route, making it very valuable geographically. Many powers have ruled the land, under many different names. The modern Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, however, was established relatively recently, on 25 May 1946, when it finally reached full independence and King Abdullah Hussein, of the Hashemite line descended from the prophet Muhammad, took the throne. The current King Abdulla is Abdullah's great grandson and has reigned since his father's death in 1999. His father King Hussein's rule lasted 46 years and began when he was barely 18 years old. King Hussein survived many near-disasters and threats to his rule to create a fairly stable, growing nation based on a constitutional monarchy with a democratically elected parliament. Both King Hussein and King Abdulla have pushed for further strides toward democracy because they know that long-term stability and progress for Jordan depend on the participation of its people, not on military strength, foreign aid, or the personal and political contacts of its monarch.

LOCATION AND HOMELAND

Jordan is located on the East Bank of the Jordan River, with the Palestinians as its neighbors on the West Bank. South of the West Bank, Jordan shares a border with Israel. To the north lies Syria, and to the east and south lies Saudi Arabia. Iraq shares a northeastern border with Jordan. Jordan has three distinct natural zones: the Jordan River valley, which is green and fertile; mountainous regions in the north and south, which have a cool, Mediterranean climate; and the main bulk of the country, which is an arid desert. Among the 6 million people who populate Jordan, there is a centuries-old distinction between the peoples of the desert (descended from fiercely independent desert tribes who strictly controlled and protected their territories) and the people who live in the Jordan River valley, the "valley people" (taller and more heavily built than the desert people, believed to be descended from the ancient Canaanites with a blending of other cultures). The desert people are believed to be "pure" lineage, thought to be indistinguishable from the desert populations of Syria and Saudi Arabia. This difference of "blended" versus "pure" extends also to the local national culture: the valley people have absorbed aspects of the surrounding cultures, whereas the desert people have remained firmly committed to their own traditions. Those considered the "truest" Jordanians are the Bedouins (see Bedu), the nomadic sheep and goat herders of the desert, who are regarded as Jordan's indigenous people. In addition to this native Jordanian segment of the population, there is a large population of Palestinians in Jordan. Tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees were either forcibly exiled or fled to Jordan following the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, during the ensuing war and again following the Israel annexation of the West Bank in 1967. They lived in tent camps that were eventually replaced by homes of galvanized steel, aluminum, and asbestos. Most of the refugee camps are located in northwestern Jordan near major cities.

The land of Jordan was not always so arid, but serious deforestation has led to desertification. During the 7th century AD, the Omayyad caliphs (who ruled from 638–658) built castles in the midst of the forest as big-game hunting lodges. Now, those castles stand in barren desert. The severe water shortage became even worse after a drought of the 1970s. Surface water, wells, and streams are extremely scarce. A new environmental awareness is beginning to take hold in Jordan, and it has declared a National Environment Strategy, the first Middle East country to do so. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature puts a high priority on reforestation and saving what woodlands are left, and a severe shortage of water has led to urgent studies on water conservation and preservation. Jordan has also played a key part in saving the Arabian oryx from extinction through a program of captive breeding and reintroduction to the wild.

LANGUAGE

The official and most commonly spoken language of Jordan is Arabic, a language spoken by up to 422 million people worldwide, both as native and non-native speakers. Arabic has many distinct dialects, so that people living as few as 500 km (about 310 mi) apart may not be able to entirely understand one another. The written form of Arabic is called Classical Arabic, or, for today's literature and press, Modern Standard Arabic. It is the same for all literate Arabs, regardless of how different their spoken dialects are. Arabic is written from right to left in a unique alphabet that makes no distinction between capital and lower-case letters. It is not necessary for the letters to be written in a straight line, as English letters must be. Punctuation rules are also quite different from those of English.

Many Jordanians also speak English. "Hello" in Arabic is "marhaba" or "ahlan," to which one replies, "marhabtayn" or "ahlayn." Other common greetings are "As-salam alaykum" ("Peace be with you"), with the reply of "Walaykum assalam" ("and to you peace"). "Ma'assalama" means "Goodbye." "Thank you" is "Shukran," and "You're welcome" is "Afwan." "Yes" is "na'am" and "no" is "la'a." The numbers one to ten in Arabic are: wahad, itnin, talata, arba'a, khamsa, sitta, saba'a, tamania, tisa'a, and ashara.

Common names for boys are Talal, Muhammad, and 'Abdullah. Common names for girls are: Fadwa, Leila, Fatima, Noor,and Reem. The queen's name is Rania.

FOLKLORE

Jordanians are superstitious people and firm believers in fate and omens. When someone is sick or injured, it may be attributed to ghire (jealousy) and hassad (envy). "Coffee ladies" read fortunes in the dregs of a cup of coffee, and to ward off the "evil eye," incense is burned, a lamb is offered to the poor, and a blue eye-shaped amulet medallion is worn around the neck. This is also common to many Middle Eastern cultures. To fend off hassad, some families guard their homes by stamping the exterior walls or doors with a palm of lamb blood.

Jordanian folk tales, particularly those of the Bedouin (Bedu), often feature themes of honor, generosity, and hospitality, all considered important Arab attributes. One folk story revolves around the legendary Hatim al-Ta'i, whose name is synonymous with generosity. Before Hatim's birth, when his mother was newly married, she dreamt that she was offered a choice: She could either bear ten brave sons or she could have one son, Hatim, who would possess superior generosity. She chose to have Hatim, and indeed he proved to be highly generous. When Hatim was sent to take the family's camels to pasture, Hatim proudly returned to tell his dismayed father that he had given away every one of the camels, and that this no doubt would bring fame to the family name. This story typifies the importance that Jordanians place on generosity.

There are several dances and musical genres specific to Jordan, most of which are adaptations of the dabke (a group line dance that involves stomping and jumping in unison) and various tribal dance sequences that incorporate the sword. The bagpipe has quickly become a symbol of the Jordanian army's regalia and is often played at ceremonies to indigenous and folkloric tunes.

Also much of the Jordanian folklore of the past several decades has been greatly influenced by the large Palestinian population in the country.

RELIGION

More than 90% of Jordanians are Sunni Muslim, the majority sect of Islam, whose followers believe that the caliph (ruler) must be a member of the Koreish, the tribe of Muhammad. The remaining minority belong to a wide range of Muslim and Christian sects.

Islam is the youngest of the world's main monotheist religions, having begun in the early seventh century AD when the prophet Muhammad received his revelations from Allah, the one true God (according to Islam). Within just a few years of Muhammad's death in AD 632, Islam had spread throughout the entire Middle East, gaining converts at a dynamic rate.

Born into the Koreish tribe of Mecca (c. AD 570), Muhammad was later driven from the city because of his outspoken denunciation of the pagan idols worshipped there (idols that attracted a lucrative pilgrim trade). The year of Muhammad's flight from Mecca, called the Hegira, is counted as Year One in the Muslim calendar. Eventually, Muhammad returned to Mecca as a triumphant religious and political leader, destroyed the idols (saving the Black Stone, an ancient meteorite housed in the Kaaba, or Cube, building, which has become a focal point of Muslim worship), and established Mecca as the spiritual center of Islam. All prayers are said facing Mecca, and each Muslim is expected, and greatly desires, to make a pilgrimage there (called a Haj or Hadj) at least once in his or her lifetime.

Islam is a simple, straightforward faith with clear rules for correct living. It is a total way of life, inseparable from the rest of one's daily concerns. Therefore, religion and politics and faith and culture, are one and the same for Muslims. There is no such thing as the "separation of church and state" or any distinction between private religious values and public cultural norms in an Islamic country such as Jordan. The Hashemite family of King Hussein traces its descent from the prophet Muhammad himself and, in the Muslim mind, it is this lineage that makes the Hashemites qualified to rule.

The lack of separation of religion and politics is exemplified by the recent inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood party in parliamentary elections. The Brotherhood wishes to see more Islamic legislation enacted in Jordan. Members of the party have won parliamentary seats and have been placed in political positions within which they can influence national policy on education and social matters.

MAJOR HOLIDAYS

Friday is the Islamic day of rest, so most businesses and services are closed on Fridays. Muslim holidays follow the lunar calendar, moving back 11 days each year, so their dates are not fixed on the standard Gregorian calendar. The main Muslim holidays are: Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim year, during which Muhammad received his first revelations, celebrated by complete fasting from dawn until dusk each day of the entire month; Ayd Al-Fitr, a three-day festival at the end of Ramadan; Ayd Al-Adha, a three-day feast of sacrifice at the end of the month of pilgrimage to Mecca (known as the Haj)—families who can afford it slaughter a lamb and share the meat with poorer Muslims; the First of Muharram, or the Muslim New Year; Mawoulid An-Nabawi, the prophet Muhammad's birthday; and Ayd Al-Isra wa Al-Miraj, a feast celebrating the nocturnal visit of Muhammad to heaven.

Fixed public holidays in Jordan include the secular New Year on January 1, Tree Day (January 15), Arab League Day (March 22), Labor Day (May 1), Independence Day (May 25), Arab Renaissance Day (commemorating the Arab Revolt) and Army Day (both on June 10), King Hussein's accession to the throne (August 11); King Hussein's birthday (November 14); and Christmas (December 25).

RITES OF PASSAGE

Weddings are the most important event in a Jordanian's lifetime, and the cost of the celebration is second only to that of buying a home. The guest list can number anywhere from 200 to 2,000 people. Even though social and religious customs encourage people to marry when they are in their 20s, many men from middle- and low-income families must wait until they are in their 30s because they cannot afford the cost of a wedding until then. Births are also joyfully celebrated, with the mother's family providing the child's first wardrobe and furniture. The circumcision of males used to be part of the rite of passage into adulthood, performed by a local barber when a boy was 13 years old, followed by a huge party. Now, it is usually done in a hospital shortly after birth.

The aza, or condolence period, following a death is a very important ritual in Jordanian society. It is essential to attend the aza of a neighbor or colleague, or even the relative of a neighbor or colleague. During the aza, men and women sit in separate rooms in the house of the deceased or a mosque and drink black, unsweetened Arabic coffee. For 40 days after the death, the aza is reopened every Monday and Thursday at the deceased's home. Jordanians wear black for mourning, contrary to the Islamic custom of white or beige.

INTERPERSONAL RELATIONS

Jordanians may appear to foreigners as introverted and conservative, yet they are extremely hospitable. Marhaba and Ahlan wa-sahlan, words for "welcome," are a constant refrain. When invited to a Jordanian home, a guest is not expected to bring a house gift. In personal encounters, Jordanians are formal and polite. Saltis (people from the city of Salt) are the frequent butt of jokes because of their unique mannerisms, as are the people of Tafilie, who have a similar reputation.

LIVING CONDITIONS

Before 1979, few houses had piped water. Most houses have home storage tanks and rely on water deliveries by truck. Because of a severe water shortage, rationing is in effect. A major water and sewage improvement project was initiated in 1979 with an emphasis on long-term needs.

Today, Jordan has a good highway network. Most roads are paved, and international roadways connect Jordan to Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. Bridges connect Jordan with the West Bank. Most Jordanians live in stone masonry houses called "villas" or cement-based apartments. Most of the villas are modest in appearance, but many are large and luxurious and reflect the wealth of their owners. Hotels, including Marriott and Sheraton, are plentiful throughout Jordan, catering to the tourists who come to see the Dead Sea, Petra (Biblical Sela that is now one of the modern world wonders), and the Gulf of al-'Aqaba on the Red Sea, and to ease their aches and pains in the spas and springs of the Ma'in Spa Village resort area, located southwest of Amman.

Although it is a relatively young country, Jordan has managed to develop quickly into a technological society with decent housing, excellent roadways, efficient postal and communications services, and good health care. About 70% of Jordanians live in urban areas, most of them in the capital city of Amman (considered one of the cleanest and most efficient cities of the Arab world). Jordan is among the top 10 countries of the world in reducing infant mortality, and life expectancies are fairly high: 67 years for men and 71 years for women.

However, unemployment and poverty are widespread problems, and many Jordanians must struggle for a living. Because of the difficulty in finding employment in Jordan, particularly for skilled workers, many Jordanians go abroad in search of work. The majority go to the Gulf oil states, whose small populations require them to import laborers from neighboring states. Working in the Gulf allows Jordanians to earn steady incomes, which are sent in the form of remittances to family members in Jordan, thus helping the Jordanian economy. Similarly, Jordan allows laborers from neighboring states such as Egypt, to seek employment in Jordan. It has been found that the income derived from remittances sent to Jordan far exceeds that sent out by foreign workers; thus, the exchange has been favorable for Jordan. Jordan is a technologically advanced country.

FAMILY LIFE

Family values are of top priority to Jordanians, leading to a strict moral code that ensures a low crime rate. Prostitution is illegal (and the law is strongly enforced), public drunkenness is not tolerated, gambling is illegal, and even belly dancing is restricted to a few large hotels. Very few nightclubs exist, and a "good family" would never allow a daughter to marry a man seen frequenting them. Marriages usually result from family introductions, if not outright matches, but couples are almost never forced to marry against their will. Upper-middle-class couples court each other in the Western style. Suitable brides and grooms must be from proper families with a respectable lineage, have decent wealth and education, be of the same religion, and never have been married before. Brides also must be "virtuous" (never had sexual intercourse), although this restriction may not apply as rigorously to the grooms. Less than 1% of marriages today are polygamous, largely because of the prohibitive cost of weddings.

One out of five marriages ends in divorce, and divorced women are faced with the uphill battle of combating the stigma of a failed marriage to go into wedlock again. The average Jordanian family has seven children, giving Jordan one of the highest birth rates in the world. Because sons are often more spoiled than daughters, girls tend to grow up and become independent more quickly than boys. Women are guaranteed equal rights in the Jordanian constitution, but social custom and religious interpretation often undermine this. There are a few women in the Jordanian Parliament, suggesting their improved status.

Homes are built so that floors can be added when sons marry; the son brings his bride home and they raise their family there. Most Jordanians live in three- or four-story homes containing extended families that eat together. Daughters-in-law are expected to do most of the cooking. Until recently men were not expected to cook or share in the household labor.

CLOTHING

The tradition of women covering their faces with veils is being revived as a result of a spiritual quest for identity on the part of Arab women and as a rejection of Western values. Everyday Jordanian dress is generally conservative, particularly for women, who do not wear tight clothes, sleeveless blouses, shorts, short skirts, or low-cut backs on shirts or dresses.

There are basically three styles of clothing for women in Jordan. "Westernized" women, of whom there are many, dress in the typical Western style with dresses, skirts, and slacks, while avoiding overly revealing or suggestive clothing. Very religious women (increasingly more common in Jordan), wear an outfit called the libis shari or jilbab. This is a floor-length, long-sleeved, button-front dress worn with the hair covered by a scarf. Stores catering to religious women have sprouted up all over Jordan, and women from other parts of the Middle East, particularly from the West Bank, purchase shar'i clothing while visiting Jordan. The third type of attire is the traditional dress or national costume. This is a hand-made dress with embroidered and cross-stitched patterns that vary from region to region. In northern Jordan (around Irbid and Ramtha), women wear a black cotton dress whose bodice is stitched with triangular, multicolored borders. In central Jordan (i.e., in Salt), women's traditional dresses are made of 16 m (52 ft) of fabric, with sleeves measuring 3 m (10 ft) in length. Around the sleeves and the hem, blue panels are stitched. The costume of southern Jordan is made from a variety of silk fabrics in a combination of colors. A silk cloak, called a 'abaya, is draped over the head.

Jordanian men dress in basically Western clothing, with suits and ties being the preferred attire for the office, and casual slacks and shirts worn for informal socializing. Some men wear a Jordanian kaffiyyeh, or scarf-like headpiece. The Jordanian kaffiyyeh is red and white, in contrast to the black and white Palestinian kaffiyyeh. The kaffiyyeh is folded in a triangle and laid over the head. It is secured to the head with a double-coiled rope called an i'gal.

FOOD

Jordan has one of the world's most elaborate and sophisticated cuisines, largely borrowed from its neighbors. Few dishes are unique to Jordan; one unique dish is mansaf, chunks of stewed lamb in a yogurt-based sauce served with rice. Mansaf, also called fatiyyeh, is the traditional Jordanian meal served for special occasions. Jameed is required for the preparation of mansaf. Jameed is made of yogurt seasoned with salt. The yogurt is drained, molded or shaped into balls that fit into the palm of a hand, and then allowed to dry until the balls harden into rocks. A recipe for mansaf follows.

Mansaf

3 balls jameed
3 pounds lamb chunks
2 quarts water
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 loaves pita bread, or 2 loaves shraj bread
3 cups cooked white rice
½ cup sautéed pine nuts
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground allspice
dash of salt

Soak balls of jameed overnight to soften; purée them in a blender with a quart of water and a dash of salt. Cook lamb chunks in a quart of water. Once the water boils, add chopped onion to the water and meat. Add black pepper and ground allspice. When the lamb chunks are tender (about 1 hour), add the puréed jameed to the stewed lamb and water. Cook for another hour.

In the meantime, cut up pieces of thin pita bread (or, if available, shraj, a paper-thin bread). Spread the bread in 2 layers in a large round pan until the bottom is covered. Cover the bread with about 2 cups of the cooked jameed sauce, and allow to soak 10 minutes. Spread rice over the soaked bread. Sprinkle another cup of jameed sauce over the entire pan, and cover the rice with all of the lamb chunks. Sprinkle pine nuts over the lamb.

At home, all courses are served together, but in restaurants, mezze or muqabalat (appetizers) are brought first. Typical mezze are hummus (puréed chickpeas with tahina [sesame paste], lemon juice, and garlic), baba ghanouj (puréed eggplant mixed with tahina, lemon, garlic, and salt), and taboula (a salad of chopped fresh parsley, tomatoes, green onions, and fresh mint mixed with soaked bulgur wheat and lemon juice). Then, a meat or fish course is served. The meal usually ends with seasonal fruit.

Jordanians love sweets and eat lots of them. A favorite kind of sweet is layers of filo pastry filled with nuts or creams, similar to baklava.

EDUCATION

Jordanians are very well educated, and their country has the highest number of university graduates per capita in the Arab world. Its main export is skilled labor and professionals to other Arab countries. At 82% (with a target of 95% by the year 2005), Jordan also has one of the highest literacy rates in the Arab world. One-third of Jordan's population is students, partly due to the fact that more than half of Jordan's population is under the age of 16. Education is free and compulsory from grades one through ten, and then it continues to be free for another two years. Literacy training is free to all Jordanian residents. To make sure that Jordan keeps pace with the rest of the world, computer studies are mandatory in the 10th grade and optional in the 11th and 12th grades. Girls must attend school through the 10th grade and are encouraged to finish secondary and even higher education. More than half of the 39,000 students at the University of Jordan in Amman are women, whom enroll in 18 faculties.

CULTURAL HERITAGE

The Islamic prohibition against the depiction of the human figure has significantly shaped Jordanian art. Western-style fine arts became popular in the late 20th century as more Jordanians traveled abroad. Recently, however, there has been a revival of more traditional Jordanian art forms, especially stylized Islamic calligraphy.

The traditional dance of Jordan is the dabkeh, a group dance performed by both men and women, either together or separately. Traditional musical instruments include the qassaba and nay, woodwinds; the rababa, a one-stringed instrument; the kamanja, resembling a violin; the oud (lute), with five double strings; the qanun, a zither-like instrument with 26 strings; and the daff and durbakkeh, percussion instruments.

Arabic literature abounds with stories of love, honor, generosity, hospitality, exile, political turmoil, war, lost lands, and lost identities. The Arabic word for poet is sha'ir, which translates literally into "he who feels."

WORK

Working conditions are regulated by law, including minimum wages, minimum age for employment, vacation and sick leave, maternity leave, health benefits, social security and retirement pensions, maximum hours and overtime compensation, advance notice before firing or layoffs and severance pay, worker's compensation for job-related injuries, and labor disputes. There is no compulsory retirement age. Unions are legal.

Although women are guaranteed equal rights in Jordan's constitution and are just as well educated as men, women make up only 12.5% of the labor force due to the traditional belief that a woman's job is to marry well and have many children (particularly sons). Unemployment has become a serious problem since about 300,000 expatriates returning from Kuwait in 1991 (after the Gulf War) glutted the labor pool. Many Jordanians now take jobs for which they are overqualified simply to survive.

SPORTS

The most popular sports in Jordan are soccer and basketball. Also enjoyed are horse and camel racing. The Royal Jordanian State Stud is a stable devoted to maintaining the purity of the Arabian breed of horse. Stud services are offered worldwide in a highly regulated way in order to prevent the breed from being lost through crossbreeding.

In the 1950s, car rallying was begun as a weekend sport attracting a few spectators. It has since developed into one of Jordan's major sporting events. The royal family strongly supports the car races, with King Hussein himself having raced in the rallies. King Hussein's eldest son, Prince 'Abdullah, also competes in the national rallies. Competitions are international, with most racers representing countries of the Middle East, such as Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

ENTERTAINMENT AND RECREATION

All films in Jordan, both in cinemas and in video form, are censored for kissing and sex scenes. Martial arts and low-grade action movies are popular among Jordanian youth.

Jordan has two domestic television stations, one providing Arabic entertainment and news, and the other providing foreign-language programming. The latter features predominantly English-language programming, but also provides French cartoons, dramas, and news broadcasts. Jordanians film many of their own shows. A particular favorite is a soap-opera-like drama, called a musalsal, which is shown in sequels every night. Often, the theme of the drama is love and honor among the Bedouins, and the stories take place in Bedouin tents. Jordanians also produce dramatic shows with religious themes, which are predominantly nonfiction representations of prominent figures and stories in Islamic history. Jordan is also a major hub for the production and translation of Arabic language children's programs. Most animations from Japan and the United States are translated in Jordanian studios and then broadcast to all 22 Arab countries.

English-language programming includes domestically produced news and a myriad of American and British shows. These include Dynasty, Murder She Wrote, The Benny Hill Show, 90210, 24, The Bill Cosby Show, Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Cartoons, including Disney productions and classics, such as Tom and Jerry, remain popular among Jordanian children.

Jordan receives Arabic radio broadcasts from around the Middle East and also has its own domestic stations. A favorite among young people is the English-language Jordanian station, for it plays all of the latest music that is enjoyed in the West. "Radio Monte Carlo" and U.S.-based Radio Sawa also play Western music. Jordanians listen more to European-based pop music than American, but the billboard top hits remain popular among teenagers. Today, Jordanians have access to hundreds of satellite stations from around the world that makes their options for entertainment television virtually unlimited.

FOLK ART, CRAFTS, AND HOBBIES

There are many traditional folk arts and crafts in Jordan, among them pottery, silver and gold jewelry making, glass blowing, and basket weaving. Textile arts are women's crafts, particularly embroidery and cloth weaving. As young girls learn embroidery stitches from older women, they are initiated into the culture. Patterns, colors, and fabrics show the village, tribe, social status, wealth, and period in which the woman lives (or lived). Until very recently, almost every Jordanian girl embroidered her own trousseau, consisting of six to twelve loosely cut robes to be worn over a lifetime, her bridal dress (which would also serve for other special occasions), cushions and pillows for bed and sofa, and often even her burial shroud. It is often said of Jordanian women that they are never idle, their hands ever busy stitching and sewing while chatting with each other.

SOCIAL PROBLEMS

Jordan's economy is struggling due to a lack of resources, the sudden influx of expatriates and refugees after both the 1967 war with Israel (in which Jordan lost the West Bank territory) and the Gulf War in 1990–91, and massive foreign debt. Almost one-third of the population lives below the poverty level, and the percentage is increasing. A severe water shortage also causes difficulties in both the public and private sectors.

There is an ongoing conflict between the government's desire to maintain ties with Western powers and popular support for the Palestinians and Iraq. Support for the Palestinians is necessary because more than 60% of the population is Palestinian, about 2.7 million inhabitants of Jordan. Palestinians serve on the parliament, thus exerting an influence over political policies. Because Jordan is on the East Bank of the Jordan River and Palestine is on the West Bank, there is a strong emotional bond that makes Jordanians particularly sensitive to the plight of the Palestinians. This makes the forging of peace between Israel and Jordan a sensitive matter to Jordanians, who wish to see justice for the Palestinians enacted in any peace agreement. Jordan has now signed a peace agreement with Israel and, generally speaking, this has gone smoothly. Some emotionally sensitive matters, such as whether or not Jordan should permit Israelis to purchase Jordanian land while Palestinian land remains under Israeli control, lead to fervent debate in the parliament. The king's father, Hussein, also found himself in a complicated situation with the Palestinian population in his country. In his opposition to the growing Palestinian resistance within his country, he took several drastic measures to eliminate this presence. The outcome led to the killing of many Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) members and militias by the Jordanian army, often described as "Black September," which drove the organization out of Jordan and into Lebanon.

The U.S.-led war in Iraq, which commenced in March 2003, is similarly important to Jordanians. Iraq has been home to thousands of Jordanian and Palestinian expatriates, providing jobs that have been vital to the Jordanian and Palestinian economies. Historically, Iraq has also been a major source of oil for Jordan. Thus, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the Jordanian government announced its opposition to the invasion and refused to participate in Operation Desert Storm, which was organized by the United States. Jordan wished—and wishes— to maintain its good ties with Iraq, and this has caused tension between Jordan and the United States, an important ally.

GENDER ISSUES

Jordanian women have received much media attention in the last two decades for several notable examples of honor killings, which were strongly condemned by the human rights groups and the international community. This topic has since subsided as several high profile campaigns against honor killings have been launched nationwide.

Today, the public visibility of women in the Jordanian royal family has changed the tone of discussion about Jordanian women. Queen Noor, the wife of the late King Hussein, and Queen Rania, the wife of King Abdullah, both have very public portfolios and are extremely vocal and involved in issues pertaining to women's rights domestically, regionally, and globally. They serve on the board of advisors of many organizations working in the area of public awareness and advocacy for women's issues. Queen Rania recently created her own online video channel, allowing people worldwide to post videos responding to her questions or allowing her to respond to the world's questions. This is thought to be a unique way of bridging the intercultural divide.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Facts About Jordan: Factsheet No. 1. Washington, D.C.: Jordan Information Bureau, n.d.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan: Facts and Figures. Washington, DC: Jordan Information Bureau, n.d.

Jordan: Issues and Perspectives. No. 16, November/December 1993. Washington, DC: Jordan Information Bureau, 1993.

Massad, Joseph A. Colonial Effects: The Making of Modern Identity in Jordan. New York: Columbia University Press, 2001.

Noor, Queen. Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life. New York: Miramax, 2003.

Stannard, Dorothy, ed. Insight Guides: Jordan. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

Welles, Sam, ed. The World's Great Religions. New York: Time, Inc., 1957.

—revised by Amal Daraiseh and Adel Iskandar

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