Jordan Geography and Population

Jordan – geography

Most of Jordan is located on a plateau, which at an altitude of 700-1000 m continues into the neighboring countries to the north, east and south. To the west, the terrain drops abruptly down towards the Jordan River on the border with Israel and the West Bank. From the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south, the course of the river falls from 200 to 400 m below sea level.

Jordan is a dry country and less than 5% is egl. agerland. The loss of the West Bank in 1967 was a hard blow in this context, as the area was the country’s most fertile. Many resources are now being used to establish irrigation, especially in the northwestern part of the Yarmuk and Zarqa rivers. The climate is subtropical Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and rather mild winters with no rain, less frequent snow. The precipitation is greatest to the northwest and falls to the east and south.

Population. Jordan has not recently held a census and demographic information is uncertain, but the population is estimated at 5.9 million (2006). It is estimated that approximately 70% of the population is under 30, and with declining mortality and continued high birth rates, the country has one of the world’s highest population increases. Jordan has received many refugees, partly from the Arab-Israeli wars, partly after the Gulf War 1990-91, in which 350,000 Jordanian Palestinians were expelled from the states on the Arabian Peninsula, especially from Kuwait. approximately 95% of the population are Muslims, most of them Sunnis. In addition, there are small groups of Cherkess, Armenians and other Christians. The boundaries between native Jordanians and Palestinians have gradually become blurred, but it is estimated that the Palestinians now constitute a majority.

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To the east and south, Jordan is extremely sparsely populated. Here live the remnants of the traditional nomadic population. Incidentally, the country is heavily urbanized, and the capital Amman alone houses over a third of the country’s population. The social divides are significant; a very large part of the population has no or little education, and a small group is highly educated. There is a great shortage of middle-educated labor.

Industries. Jordan’s business life in the 1990’s was marked by the aftermath of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gulf War. The main agricultural areas are located near the Jordan River; here, among other things, tomatoes, citrus fruits and melons. In the drier areas, e.g. wheat, barley and olives. 9% of the land area is stated as grazing areas; it is predominantly sparse vegetation for the nomadic flocks of sheep and goats. Forest is only found in a few places.

Upon the return of large crowds of guest workers to Jordan after the Gulf War, the country lost important foreign exchange earnings that had previously been sent home to the families; the sudden return led to major problems and expenses, although many of the returnees were young, economically active and relatively wealthy, which has stimulated the economy with capital inflows, construction activity and significant growth in the trade sector. Jordan continues to be burdened by persistently high unemployment and foreign debt and is facing demands from the World Bank for economic reforms and loan repayments. A difficult problem is posed by the large public sector, which employs approximately 50% of the workforce.

Most of the industry is newly established and predominantly located in Amman, but so far there is very limited production. The largest growth is in the raw material processing sector: cement factories and production of specialized oil products (including jet fuel) at a large oil refinery at Zarqa. Following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Jordan has had to shift its oil imports from Iraq to imports from other Gulf states. Jordan’s exports to Iraq were briefly affected by the war, but have partially managed to adapt to the market for building the neighboring country to the east.

Until the Gulf War, Aqaba served as an important shipping port for both Jordan, Syria and Iraq. The port has modern facilities and is on its way back to the utilization of capacity in earlier times. From here also emerges a small but rapidly growing fishery.

Before 1967, Jordan had large tourist revenues, from the many visitors to Jerusalem. In the 1990’s, an increasing tourist visit is seen again; after the peace treaties with Israel, the many archeological sites begin to attract tourists. Most famous are the temples at Petra.

Resources and environment. In addition to the large phosphate deposits, which are predominantly exported as crude phosphate, Jordan has few natural resources. Among other things. one is dependent on oil imports from Saudi Arabia. The biggest problem, however, is the very limited water resources, a problem that has been exacerbated several times by the conflict with Israel, which also exploits the Jordan River. The October 1994 peace agreement contains important sections on the mutual recognition of the two countries’ right to use common water resources. With foreign help, development work is being done with irrigation technology, e.g. through the use of evaporation-limiting equipment such as plastic pipes, greenhouses and drip irrigation. A declining groundwater table and recurring droughts underscore the enduring nature of the problems.

Plant and animal life is varied with many rodents, lizards (lizards, chameleons) and bird species. At intervals, grasshopper invasions occur. The plant growth is of the Mediterranean type in the west and goes east into grass steppe and decidedly desert with only a few oases. Azraq east of Amman is known for a large bird migration and rare animal species, the Arabic oryx.

Jordan – religion

Of Jordan’s population is approximately 95% Sunni Muslims, approximately 4% belong to different Christian denominations, and approximately 1% are Druze. Islam is Jordan’s official religion, and the royal family invokes direct kinship with the Prophet Muhammad (see Hashimites). Islamic law applies to family law matters, marriage, divorce, inheritance, testamentary provisions, etc. for the country’s Muslim population, while the Christian population is similarly subject to Christian law. Since the country’s official religion is Islam, the country’s mufti plays a role in legislation. Imams at many of the country’s mosques are public servants as are many pastors who work at the local churches. Formally, they are subordinate to the Ministry of Religious Affairs. For culture and traditions of Jordan, please check animalerts.