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Jordan

21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Jasmine to K

Jordan, officially Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, country in southwest Asia, bordered by Israel to the west, Syria to the north, Iraq to the northeast, and Saudi Arabia to the south and east. The capital is Amman.

Land and climate

The area east of the Jordan River, with 94% of the country's area, is mostly desert. West of this area is the Jordan Rift, which includes the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and the Araba, a low, dry riverbed extending down to the Gulf of Aqaba. West of the Jordan River is the most fertile part of the country, the West Bank. It was incorporated into Jordan in 1950 but has been occupied by Israel since June 1967. In addition to the Old City of Jerusalem (annexed by Israel in 1967), the West Bank contains the cities of Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Jenin, Ramallah, and Tulkarm.

People

The population is mainly Arab, and about half are Palestinians, most of whom live in the urban centers. Almost 95% of the people are Sunni Muslims, the remainder Shi'te or Christians. The official language is Arabic.

Economy

Jordan's economy is largely agricultural, with wheat, barley, and fruits the principal crops. Most industry is limited to food processing and textiles, although there is some oil refining, and cement and fertilizer manufacturing. Phosphate is mined. The economy was greatly disrupted by the loss of the West Bank, and Jordan relies heavily on remittances and foreign aid, mostly from Saudi Arabia and the US.

History

The region that is now Jordan has been ruled by many different empires, including Alexander the Great's, the Roman, and the Byzantine. It was conquered by the Arabs in the 7th century and from then on was part of the various Arab dynasties, including the Umayyads and Abbasids. In 1516 the Ottoman Empire took control, and until the end of World War I Jordan was ruled by the Turks. After the war, it became part of the mandate of Palestine. The Hashemite family, driven out of Arabia by the Saudis, became the local rulers. In 1946 Jordan became an independent state, with the Emir Abdullah as king. In the 1948 war with Israel, the Jordanian army conquered the West Bank. In 1951 Abdullah, who had made a truce with Israel, was assassinated; his grandson, Hussein, was enthroned the following year. Jordan's subsequent involvement in the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War cost it the West Bank, which was occupied by Israel. In 1970 the growing power of the Palestinian guerrillas in Jordan led to a bitter civil war after which the Palestinian fighters were expelled from the country. In 1974, however, Hussein recognized the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and in 1988 he renounced Jordan's claim to the West Bank. In 1994 Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty.

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