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When people think of Jordan, they think of Petra, one of the seven New Wonders of the World, and Amman, the capital. Surprise! There is so much more to Jordan! It is both a beautiful and culturally rich country. It is filled with historical sites, interesting geography, friendly people, and delicious food. Whether you travel with a group or solo, here are some key things to know about Jordan culture before you go.

1. Jordan’s Geography And History Are Unique

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is located in the Middle East and considered a part of the Holy Land. Jordan shares borders with Israel and Palestine to the west, Saudi Arabia to the south, Iraq to the northeast, and Syria to the north. The medicinal Dead Sea is located on its western border. Also, Jordan has a small coastline along the Red Sea.

Jordanians are 98 percent Arab. The other two percent of the population is Chechen and Armenian. While Arabic is the primary language, English is widely spoken. Religion plays an important role in the lives of Jordanians. The official religion is Islam and a very small percent of the population is Christian, Druze, and Baha’i.

2. Family Life And Rites Of Passage Are Extremely Important

Jordanians value their families and traditions. Extended families tend to live in multi-leveled homes. A young person’s wedding is an important rite of passage in the Jordanian culture. A wedding is a huge celebration and so is the birth of a child. After marriage, a son will bring home his bride to live with his family. The bride and groom will raise their children in the family home.

Religion and recognizing major holidays are also important to Jordanians. The weekend consists of Friday and Saturday while Sunday is the beginning of the workweek. Friday is considered a day of rest. Jordanians recognize and celebrate Muslim holidays including Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, First of Muharram, and Mawlid An-Nabawi, and you may get to witness some of these celebrations depending on the time of your trip.

Cassandra Washington trying on a traditional Jordanian headscarf
Cassandra Washington

3. Traditional Clothing Is Worth Noting

As in other Middle Eastern countries, dress in Jordan is typically conservative. Clothing also varies by region. In Amman, you may see more westernized dress worn by men and some women. You will see some women wearing long-sleeved, maxi-length dresses called a libis shar’i or jilbab along with scarves or hijab to cover their hair. You’ll also see handmade dresses featuring embroidery and cross-stitched patterns. The dresses are representative of the specific region of Jordan the woman wearing the garment is from.

In rural areas, you will see more traditional dress worn by men and women. Men wear thobes, ankle-length garments with long sleeves. A thobe is similar to a robe or tunic. Along with the thobe, many men wear keffiyeh, a traditional headscarf that is usually red and white.

Wearing tight clothing, short skirts or dresses, or shoulder-baring outfits is not permitted. During your visit, dress conservatively and adhere to the norms of the country.

Cassandra Washington at a Petra Kitchen cooking class
Cassandra Washington

4. Jordanian Food Brings People Together

If you are a foodie, Jordan is the perfect place to visit. Jordanians take pride in their delicious dishes. One traditional dish you must try is mansaf -- a special-occasion dish that combines chunks of tender lamb, yogurt sauce, and a sprinkle of pine nuts and herbs. It is served with rice and kishk, a dough made of flour, yogurt, and salt. You will also find common appetizers like hummus, ful medames, and baba ganuj served with pita bread. Don’t forget the olives! Jordan is among the top olive-producing countries in the world.

During your trip to Jordan, consider participating in a cooking lesson. Visit Petra Kitchen, where you’ll prepare a delicious meal and meet new friends. You can chop vegetables, mix seasonings, and cook a Jordanian feast with the help of the kitchen’s chefs. The homemade meal I helped prepare included lentil soup, cucumber and tomato salad, baba ganuj, tahini salad, tabbouleh, mana’eesh, and of course some Jordanian wine. Don’t wait until the last minute to book this experience -- reservations are required for Petra Kitchen’s cooking lessons.

5. The Historical Sites Of Petra Are A Point Of Pride

Jordanians are proud of the country’s history and sites. Jordan is home to archeological sites and artifacts dating back thousands of years. Jordan’s place in religious and political history is also fascinating, and you will learn both well- and little-known facts during your stay.

Odds are, you’ll begin in Amman, sometimes referred to as the White City. It is the capital of Jordan and a mix of old and modern. Visit one of Jordan’s archeological sites, the Citadel. Located on the highest hill in Amman, the site includes the Temple of Hercules and Umayyad. From the same site, you can enter the Archaeological Museum to view artifacts dating back from prehistoric times to the 15th century. The Jordan Museum is also located in Amman. On display are many artifacts including the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Next visit Jerash, which is north of Amman. There you will see colonnade streets from a well-preserved Roman city. It is an absolutely amazing historical site. Continue on to Ajloun Castle, built in 1184 A.D. It sits on Mount Auf and has wonderful views of the Jordan Valley. Your next stop should be Mount Nebo. It has significant biblical importance and is considered part of the Holy Land.

Of course, Petra is what most tourists come to Jordan to see. One of the Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO site, Petra is more glorious in person than in photos. It is called the Rose Red City and was hand sculpted from a mountain range by the ancient Nabateans in the third century B.C. You will need comfortable walking shoes because Petra is a huge site to explore.

After visiting Petra, travel to the Wadi Rum desert. Admire the rock formations during a Jeep tour. Join Bedouins for tea or ride across the desert on camels to watch the sunset.

A colorful photo of the Dead Sea in Jordan

6. The Seas Play An Important Part

Jordan has a small stretch of coastline on the Red Sea, and visitors can explore the port city of Aqaba. You can sail on the Red Sea, eat dinner, and watch the sun set. Or, during the day, you can relax poolside or at the beach at one of Jordan’s seaside resorts.

Of course, one cannot leave Jordan without floating in the Dead Sea. The water is so extremely salty that you’ll float with ease. The salty water is believed to have many medicinal properties for the skin and body.

Whether you are a history buff or an adventurer, Jordan has something special for you. Planning your trip? Don’t miss the best off-the-beaten-path spots in Jordan.

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