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Jordan
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 INFORMATION STATION
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Facts at a Glance
 Full country name: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

Area: 89,206 sq km (34,800 sq mi)

Population: 4.6 million

Capital city: Amman (pop 1.7 million)

People: Arab (60% Palestinian, many refugees), Circassians, Chechens, Armenians

Language: Arabic, English

Religion: 96% Sunni Muslim, 4% Christian

Government: Constitutional Monarchy (fledgling democracy)

Head of State: King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein (Hussein II)

Prime Minister: Ali Abu al-Ragheb


Environment
 

Jordan is bounded to the north by Syria, to the north-east by Iraq, to the east and south by Saudi Arabia and to the west by Israel. Jordan has three distinct geographic zones: the fertile Jordan Valley which runs down the western side of the country; the East Bank plateau, where most of the main towns are; and the East Bank, a desert which stretches east into Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Jordan is a smallish country with a strange shape. An apocryphal story holds that the lumpy eastern border was created by Winston Churchill after a very liquid lunch.

The pine forests of the north give way to the cultivated slopes of the Jordan Valley, covered in cedar, olive and eucalypt. Further south, towards the Dead Sea, vegetation can't survive and the landscape is dominated by mud and salt flats. The desert regions of the country support the usual desert fauna - camels, desert fox, sand rats, hares and jerboas - while the hills to the north-east of the Dead Sea are home to boars, badgers and goats. Jordan is particularly noted for its aquatic life, and the Gulf of Aqaba has a huge variety of tropical fish and coral. The country's biggest sanctuary is the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve in the east, where gazelle and oryx, once common throughout Jordan, have been reintroduced.

Climate varies dramatically from one end of the country to the other. The Jordan Valley can be incredibly hot in summer (usually around 40°C), while Amman and Petra occasionally get snow in winter. The Plateau area is usually warm and dry, fluctuating between the low 20s and high 30s, while the desert suffers extremes of temperature - baking dry heat interspersed with freezing winds from Central Asia.




Economic Profile
 GDP: US$15.5 billion

GDP per head: US$3500

Annual growth: 5%

Inflation: 4%

Major industries: Minerals, petroleum refining, tourism, agriculture

Major trading partners: India, Saudi Arabia, UAE, European Union, United States, Iraq


Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: All foreigners need a visa to enter Jordan. You can get one at the border or airport when you arrive, or from consulates in your country. Visas are valid for two weeks from entry, but can be easily extended up to three months. Cost depends on where you're from: Australians are charged $45, Americans pay US$60, while some nationals can enter for free. Keep your passport on you whenever you're near the Israeli border, as there are lots of military checkpoints.

Health risks: No particular risks, but you should consider vaccinations for hepatitis, typhoid, polio and tetanus and diphtheria.

Time: GMT/UTC plus 2 hours

Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz

Weights & measures: Metric


Money & Costs
 Currency:Jordanian dinar
Relative Costs:
Meals

  • Budget: US$1-2
  • Mid-range: US$2-7
  • Top-end: US$7 and upwards




  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$2.50-7
  • Mid-range: US$7-30
  • Top-end hotel: US$30 and upwards
  • Jordan is at the top end of the Middle Eastern range - cheaper than Israel, but more expensive than Egypt. Although you could conceivably get by on $15 a day, you'll be living on felafel and slumming it in some pretty dodgy dives. If you want the odd beer, soft drink or restaurant meal, and if you'd like a hot shower occasionally, plan for about $20 a day. If you want a little more luxury - a couple of restaurant meals a day, a room with its own bathroom, a fair bit of travel and entry to at least one sight a day - budget around $50.

    You shouldn't have a problem changing any hard currency in Jordan. Most banks will change travellers' cheques, and the British Bank of the Middle East takes Eurocheques. Everywhere will charge you about JD5 to change cheques. Amex are the most widely accepted. If you find you can get a good rate outside the country, buy up, as you can import as much Jordanian currency as you want.

    Higher end restaurants will expect a tip of 10%, but most other places don't go in for tipping. Bargaining, particularly for souvenirs, is essential, but you are unlikely to get shopkeepers to stray far from their original price.




    When to Go
     

    The best time to visit Jordan is in spring or autumn, when you can dodge the baking sun of summer and the freezing winds of winter. Although winter can be bitterly cold in most of the country, the Red Sea area and Aqaba are still very pleasant. If you're planning to travel through the rest of the Middle East, try heading north into Turkey around spring, or south into Egypt by autumn.


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