It has consistently followed a pro-Western foreign policy and traditionally has close relations with the United States and the United Kingdom.

Geography

Jordan is situated in the Middle East, northwest of Saudi Arabia, with a total land area of 91,971 sq km.

Historical background

The history of Jordan began around 2000BCE, when Semitic Amorites settled around the Jordan river in the area called Canaan.

It was the focus of successive invaders until the end of world war one, when the League of Nations, as the body with the mandate over Palestine and Trans-Jordan, awarded the territory, comprising Palestine, to the United Kingdom.

The mandate over Trans-Jordan ended on 22 May 1946 and on 25 May and the country became the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Trans-Jordan. It ended its special defence treaty relationship with the United Kingdom in 1957.

Modern political history

Most of Jordan’s modern history is linked to King Hussein who ruled the country from 1953 to 1999.

Jordan took part in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967. The Arab countries' defeat led to a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians living in Jordan, mostly refugees who were forcibly expelled by Israel. In June 1970, a war broke out between various Palestinian factions and the Jordanian army.

King Abd Allah II, who succeeded his father Hussein following the latter’s death in 1999, reaffirmed Jordan's peace treaty with Israel and its good relations with the US.

Official name: Hashemite Kingdom of Jordon
Capital: Amman 
Form of government: Constitutional monarchy
Gained independence: 25 May 1946

Economy

Jordan is a small country with limited natural resources. It is classified by the World Bank as a "lower middle income country".

Currency: Dinar (JOD) - 1 USD = (app.) 0.7 JOD
Natural resources: Phosphates, potash, shale oil
Major industries: Phosphates, oil refining, cement, potash, light manufacturing
GDP: $22.8bn (2002 est)
GDP annual growth rate: 4.9% (2002 est)
Per capita GDP: $4300 (2002 est)
Imports: 66.5% of GDP (2002 est)
Exports: 46.0% of GDP (2002 est)

Military

Jordan's military branches are made of ground, naval, air, marine, and other defence or security forces.

Military budget: $1bn (2002 est)
Army size: 100,240 active troops

Culture

Like the rest of the Arab world, hospitality is a cornerstone of Jordanian life. Travellers are likely to be welcomed into homes and shops to share the ubiquitous cup of tea or coffee.

Population: 5,473,000 (2003 est)
Languages: Arabic (official), English
Religions: Islam 92% (official), Christian 6%
Ethnic diversity: Arab 98%, Armenian 1%, Circassian 1%
Literacy rate: 91.3%
Important media: Al Dustour (daily Arabic newspaper), Jordan Times (daily English newspaper), The Star (weekly English newspaper), Jordan Radio and Television

Sources: World Bank, countryreports.org, MSN Encarta, politinfo.com, The Almanac