During the 1st millennium BCE, the land was settled by the Ammonites and Moabites, both Semitic people related to the Arameans, the Phoenicians, and the Israelites. The former's capital was Amman, then known as Rabbath-Ammon. Both of them are mentioned in the Old Testament as neighbors and frequent enemies of the Israelites. The region was collectively called in the Bible as Ever HaYarden, which means "Beyond the Jordan River". It was translated as Peran tou Jordanou in Greek, and finally Trans Jordania in Latin. Later in the millennium, the Nabateans, an Arab tribe, took over southern Jordan and created a prosperous kingdom. Their capital was Petra, whose design, as with many of their settlements, was inspired by Greco-Roman architecture. They submitted to The Roman Empire in the 1st century CE.
Transjordan was invaded by the Rashidun forces in the 7th century and incorporated as part of the Damascus and Jordan military districts, both part of the larger Bilad ash-Sham ("land of the left-hand") province. The population, then mostly speaking Aramaic and Christian, was subsequently Arabized and Islamized. It would then pass through various Arab kingdoms and empires, plus a brief period of less than 70 years when it was controlled by the Crusaders. The Arabs lost the region in 1516 to the Ottoman Empire, who included it within the Damascus Eyalet (later Syria Vilayet). Until the 20th century, Transjordan was an underpopulated area relative to Palestine to the west and widely seen as not worth taking.
After World War I and the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Transjordan fell to the sphere of British influence and originally put under the administration of the Kingdom of Syria. When Faisal of Syria was deposed by France, Transjordan became a lawless land for several months until Abdullah, brother of Faisal and son of the Sharif of Hejaz, arrived and declared Transjordan an emirate under British supervision. Some British politicians and Zionists wanted the region included into Mandatory Palestine and therefore the future Jewish homeland, but this was vetoed hard by the British government. It received independence in 1946 as the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan, later shortened in 1949 as Jordan. After the 1958 revolution in Iraq, which deposed Faisal II (Abdullah's grandnephew), Jordan became the last surviving Hashemite monarchy.
Jordan initially did not take Israel's founding well, and participated in the first ArabIsraeli Conflict. Jordan held the West Bank until 1967, when it was taken by Israel. It later renounced its claim to the West Bank on King Hussein's orders, saying that it was now the Palestinians' responsibility to gain independence from Israel. Later, it became the second Arab country (after Egypt) to sign a peace treaty with Israel, and relations between the two countries are nowadays cordial; Israel has helped Jordan to modernize with its technological expertise, while those Muslim pilgrims who want to visit the Holy Land can do so via a transit in Jordan.
Today, it is struggling to improve its standard of living and employment and the King has had to contend with protests for more economic opportunities and political freedom. While the country provides among the most extensive civil liberties in the Arab world, it is classified as an authoritarian state by the Economist Intelligence Unit, as the king continues to hold sweeping powers over politics, despite his pledge to improve democracy. Unlike the Gulf Arab countries, it has little to no oil, but it had the luck of having ample phosphate deposits which it developed. The fact that it was the site of ancient states like Ammon as well as being the site of the Roman city of Petra, a Mecca for Christian pilgrims, also aided its bottom line.
Jordan is mostly composed of Arabs, with a Circassian minority from the Caucasus. These are descendants of refugees from Russia who came in the 1800s due to religious and ethnic persecution. Some of them form an elite royal guard over the King. As one of the most stable nations in the region, Jordan hosts an enormous population of Palestinian refugees from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it's estimated that as many as a half of the population are Palestinians. In fact, the current king's wife, Rania, is a Palestinian. Since the start of the Syrian Civil War, Jordan has been hosting more than 650,000 Syrian refugees, the third largest number in the world.
The Jordanian flag
- Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
- King: Abdullah II
- Prime Minister: Omar Razzaz
- President of the Senate: Faisal al-Fayez
- Speaker of the House of Representatives: Atef Tarawneh