Area and population
Jordan is a small country that occupies an area of 89,213 sq. km (34,445 sq. miles). Population 5.85 million estimated. Capital of Jordan is Amman.
Jordan has neighbouring borders with Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The weather is mainly hot and dry, during winter it is fairly cold with frost over the hills and some snow is not unusual. Only 25% of the total area of Jordan is suitable for cultivation, and as a result Jordan is not self-sufficient in regards to food.
Jordan is a kingdom; the current king is Abdullah II Bin Al-Hussein.
Ethnicity and language and religion
Arab makes 98% of the population, Circassians 1%, Armenian 1%. The United Nations Relief estimates reported around 1,900,000 Palestinian refugees and around 500,000 Iraqis resident in Jordan.
The official language in Jordan is Arabic and English comes as a second. The majority of the Jordanian people are Sunni Muslims 92%, Christians 6%, other 2%.
In 1921 and after Sharif Hussein of Mecca started the Arab revolt against the Turks. He made his son Amir (prince) Abdullah the second a ruler of the sparsely populated, largely Bedouin country (Jordan). In 1946 and after the end of the British Mandate over Jordan, the Amir (prince) of Jordan became King.
Jordan is a country with very limited resources. Because of many external problems with the neighbouring countries Jordan finds great difficulty in exporting its goods to the international market. Faced with economic challenges, unemployment and poverty, king Abdullah decided to give high priority to economic reform.
The economy is based on free enterprise. The service sector, consisting of government, tourism, transportation, communication, and financial services contributes the most to the economy, employing 70 percent of the workforce. Amman has developed into a regional business center.
Jordan’s economy is heavily impacted by its location in the Middle East, the arid landscape, its relationship with its neighbors, and its dependence on foreign aid. Its largest sectors are finance, which employs 22% of its labor force: transportation, which employs 16%; and the industrial sector, which employs 17%. Tourism offers the greatest prospect for development.
Becoming a party of the “Agadir” agreement between four countries in the Middle East and North Africa, has helped Jordan move forward in its plan to improve its economic, gaining reputation of an enthusiastic participant in the regional reform initiatives.
Certainly Jordan’s economy has improved, especially gaining benefit from the economic situation in Iraq and also its cooperation with Israel (taking advantage of the United States trade concessions).
The United Kingdom leads a large and active trade between itself and Jordan. The UK main exports to Jordan are telecommunication equipment, medicinal and pharmaceutical products, and general and specialised industrial and electrical machinery, transport equipment, textiles and yarn, scientific instruments and office machines, power generating machinery and equipment. However, the British export had been affected due to the increased competition and the strength of the pound.
Jordan is a Muslim country that values its traditions. Also the Bedouin social habits are still practiced and respected in the Jordanian society.
Jordan is the only Arab country where Palestinians can become citizens. The social gap between the Palestinian citizens, Jordanians, and Bedouin is very noticed considering the Bedouin as the purest Arab stock.
The Bedouins are travelling tribes, and as there is a scares in the water and food they roaming around freely and pay little attention to borders. The Bedouins form the core of the Jordanian army, occupying key positions, even though their political influence is diminishing. Palestinians are mainly referred to as educated and hardworking people, who have helped develop a richer and global Jordan. The Bedouin’s are starting to accept the standards of the modern Arab world.
Most people in Jordan live in small flats or houses made of concrete which allows the building of additional floors to it, for later married sons. Nomadic farmers live in tents made from the hides and fur of their animals. Amman on the other hand reflects a western influence, with modern hotel and commercial buildings. Visitors to Jordan who are using their own transportation need to be aware that mapping and finding your own way is not an easy matter!
Main dishes of rice and spices are eaten almost daily. The main meal is usually eaten in the afternoon, seated at the floor with a large tray of rice and meat placed in the centre surrounded by small dishes of yogurt and salad. Torn pieces of breaded are folded in half and used to scoop the food. The left hand similar to many other Arab countries is never used to feed oneself.
When a Jordanian family is visited, tea, Turkish or Arabic style coffee is served. Often sweets are offered with hot drinks. The main dish is called Mansaf which consists of lamb cooked in dried yogurt and served with seasoned rice on flat bread. Mansaf is always served on holidays and special family occasions, engagements and weddings.
Most women in Jordan have made advances in education and career; however their lives are still controlled by their closest male relatives. Balancing customs and traditions at home with obedience to their husbands and the demands of a career remains a difficult challenge. Working women receive benefits and sometimes equal pay. Women and men are segregated in public places, buses, restaurants etc.
Jordanians take good care with their greetings. You might be asked how you are several times and in more than one form, including phone calls greetings. If you are a visitor in Jordan you might very well be invited to one of the houses, and expect a very welcoming visit and lots of food. Shoes are often removed before entering a home, and usually you will find a flip-flop outside the bathroom and you will be expected to wear it before entering the rest room and removing it again one you are out. Most Muslims do not drink alcohol!
Exposing the bottom of your feet is disrespectful. A man does not shake a women’s hand until she offers it to him first. Same sex friends hold hands, hug and kiss in public, however there is a limited touching between men and women.
General behaviour in business follows the other Arab norm. Be prepared for great politeness and hospitality and be aware that by accepting gracefully you will be showing honour and gratitude to your host. Jordanians as other Arabs like to pay compliment so feel free to join in! The opposite gender should be showed respect however, avoid familiarity. When invited to their home or for a meal you may refuse twice before accepting the third time.
Invited to their home for a meal? Accept, and follow your host lead and always use your right hand. Depending on the family you are visiting you might be offered cutlery to eat or use your hands. Again as many other Arab countries it is gender segregated when invited for a meal.
As a businessman/women dress formally and conservatively for business in Jordan. Suite and tie for men, women suite however is mindful of the standard modesty in Arab countries.
Visitors to Arab countries should not be led astray by those locals who dress less formally. Conservative attire is still generally RESPECTED.
Always aim to be on time for your business meetings, while keeping in mind that your counterpart might very well be late. Don’t take offence if meetings are cancelled, postponed, interrupted or included other people. “Offices in Jordan have open doors!!!”
Colourful business cards with pictures will impress, making sure at the same time your details are translated into Arabic. Using titles are important in Jordan, so make sure you use them whilst conversing (e.g. Doctor, professor etc.). Again as many other Arab countries personal relationship is essential to doing business. Therefore, my advice will be to make an extra effort in knowing your partners well and build social relationships with them before getting down to business.
The working week starts Sunday to Thursday, from 9.00am to 07.00pm, with two hours lunch. Some business people might also be available on a Saturday! During the month of Ramadan there is no lunch break and work finishes between 2.00 and 3.00pm.
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