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Jordanian flagJordan, a Brief History

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friendly camelJordan is a delightful country to visit. Jordanians are friendly and welcoming to visitors, constantly calling out "Welcome in Jordan". In the midst of the current Middle Eastern turmoil Jordan seems to retain a feeling of peace and sanity not to be found in the surrounding countries.

One thing that overwhelms visitors to Jordan is the sense of history. Amman, the ancient Rabbath Ammon of the Old Testament, is over 5500 years old. In antiquity it was taken by the biblical David's army. Later it was one of the cities of the ancient Decapolis.

Aqaba, the sea from the MuseumTo the south of Amman, at Madaba, is the famous mosaic depicting Palestine and lower Egypt, often seen in advertisments for Israel. A few km away is Mt. Nebo, one of the supposed burial places of Moses. Legend places Sodom and Gemorrah at the southern end of the Dead Sea. Before Christ was born, Nabataean stomemasons carved out their beautiful city of Petra from the surrounding towering rock walls. Nearby, at Wadi Musa, at the end of the Exodus Moses struck the ground and "water gushed forth". Aaron (also known as the Islamic prophet Harun) was buried atop Mt. Hor, overlooking Petra.

Jordan was one of many countries that emerged when the Ottoman empire collapsed after WWI. The newly formed League of Nations gave Britain a Mandate over Palestine, and shortly afterwards the new state of Transjordan was established as a separate entity under King Abdullah.

King Abdullah was assassinated in 1951. He was succeeded the following year by his grandson Hussein, who took the throne at the age of 17. King Hussein managed to hold it for 48 years until his death in 1999. His reign was plagued by insurrection attempts and major disruptions, two wars with Israel and a virtual civil war with the Palestinians.

When King Hussein finally succumbed to cancer in February 1999, it was a comparatively stable and prosperous country that was passed on to his son and nominated Heir King Abdullah II. How much that stability relied on the presence of the widely respected Hussein, and whether the new king can prove as diplomatically adept in one of the most turbulent neighbourhoods of the world, only time will tell.

Kings HighwayFirst mentioned by name in the Bible, the Kings Highway was the route Moses planned to follow as he led his people north through the land of Edom, located in what is today southern Jordan. The name may, however, derive from an even earlier episode recounted in Genesis 14, when an alliance of "four kings from the north" marched their troops along this route to do battle against the five kings of the Cities of the Plain, including the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

view of dessert from the Kings Highway Today a drive along the Kings Highway will take one through many of the ecological zones of Jordan, including: forested highlands, farmland plateaus, deep ravines, the edge of the eastern desert, and the warm tropical Gulf of Aqaba. Lining both sides of this 335-kilometre (207-mile) highway is an amazing chain of archaeological sites that reads like an index of ancient history -- prehistoric Stone Age villages, towns from the Biblical kingdoms of Ammon, Moab and Edom, Crusader Castles, some of the best preserved Christian Byzantine mosaics in the Middle East, a Roman-Herodian fortress, several Nabatean temples, two major Roman fortresses, early Islamic towns, and the awe inspiring Nabatean capital of Petra cut from the rosy rock of the region.

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Visit the other pages in the Jordan section. Click the link to go to the page.

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This page was updated on 26 November 2007.

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