Photo: Susan Stark


Jordan has one of the most amazing cities ever built in all of history. 

AFTER World War I, Jordan, an Arab kingdom in the Middle East was governed by Great Britian. Before that it was part of what was called the Ottoman Empire. In 1946 Jordan became an independent state. The official name of the country is the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. For many years the country was ruled by King Hussein who looked for ways to establish peace with the countries that surround Jordan: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Today, the country is ruled by his son, His Majesty King Abdallah Il ibn al-Hussein. In 2010 Jordan was given “advanced status” with the European Union. It is one of the countries which started what is called the “Arab League”.  Today the people of Jordan are asking that the country be given even more political, social and economic reforms.


Like many countries in the Middle East, the history of Jordan includes many different periods when it was attacked and ruled by other empires.  Years of war and being governed by other nations always shapes the way a people think and view life. But all these different nations also left part of their culture there. And so, Jordan is a rich country in culture.  The conquering nations brought and left their languages, alphabets, writings and ideas. They brought their arts and ways of building cities and homes.

     One group of people who lived a long time in what is today modern-day Jordan were the Nabateans. The Nabateans built the city of Petra.  The city was so amazing for its architecture [the way its buildings were designed and built] that today it is called one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.


     First, please look at twenty picture of Petra HERE.

     Petra is a city carved of stone. Petra is the Greek word for “rock”. It became an important Christian center, but it was first established 300 years before the birth of Jesus. It is one of the oldest metropolises [capital or chief city of a country] in the world. It is famous for buildings cut out of rock and for its water conduit system. A water conduit system is a way to store and move water through a city. Without this, people could not have lived in Petra. Petra is also called the Rose City, because the color of the rock is a soft red color. A poet once described the city as, “the rose-red city half as old as time”. This city is Jordan’s most-famous and most-visited tourist center. Some of the buildings are over 2000 years old. It was the center of caravan trade. People passed through Petra from China, India, Egypt, Greece, Rome and Syria to trade spices and silk, as well as works of art.

     The city was one of the most important in the world when it was home to more than 30,000 people.  But then, after it was taken over by Rome in the year 106, it slowly began to lose its importance as a trading center. People began to trade by ships, sailing over the oceans, because it was so much easier than traveling by land. Finally, Petra sat empty and without purpose for many hundreds of years. In 1816 a Swiss explorer, dressed as a Bedouin, discovered the amazing city and its wonders. Today, only 15% of this incredible city has been uncovered.  There is still 85% of it buried underground!




Lake waves

WATER is like gold [money] in Jordan.  There is almost nothing more important to the future of Jordan than finding ways to bring people fresh water. Jordan is one of the 10 places in the world where there is the least amount of water.  Jordan’s water supply comes from the Jordan River and the Yarmouk River. But, sadly, much of the water from the Jordan River is moved in a different direction by Israel so that Israel will have more water.  Much of the Yarmouk River is moved into Syria by the Syrian government.  In recent years these countries have made promises to give water back to Jordan.   

    Q. All people need water to survive: to drink, to grow food, to wash, to raise cows and goats.  Try to live one or two days without water and you will quickly understand  how valuable water is. 

     The people of Israel need water.  The people of Syria need water.  But the people of Jordan also need water.  Today, most of the water from the 2 main rivers are moved away from Jordan and into Israel and Syria.  As a result, there is very little water left for Jordan.  Let us say that you are a lawyer and a diplomat from Jordan.  You are sent to Israel and to Syria to find ways to share the river water fairly.  

     1) What will be your biggest problems in getting Israel and Syria to share more water?

     2) List at least five possible solutions as to how you would solve this problem of sharing the water. 

     Today in Amman, the capital of Jordan, there are efforts to try to bring more water to the country in new creative ways.  In all big cities, water is delivered to the people once a week.  But in the village areas, water is delivered to the people only once every 12 days. There is also a problem of how to keep the water clean.  The government is working hard to find ways to clean the water it has and to protect it.  In village areas, almost 30% of the people collect rain water to drink.  In other areas, people buy bottled water.

    Q. All people on earth need to learn to use water more wisely and learn how to keep it clean. Already there are many cases of people fighting for water, and people using lawyers to try to make their neighbors change how they use water.  Let us say that you are a judge and must make some important decisions about how water is used in your city. Before hearing the cases in your community you stop to consider these questions:

     1) Where you live, what are some practical things people could do to use water more wisely?

     2) What things do people do that make the water dirty in your country?

     3)  What could you do to correct the problems you listed in question #2?

    There are very, very important new groups of young people, men and women, who are working to help educate people about the importance of using water wisely and caring for it.  One group is called the “Water Wise Women of Jordan”.  Please watch the interesting video here about their work.

     One thing is very clear when it comes to the subject of water.  The next heroes and real leaders of the world will be those who learn how to care for water and all our earth’s resources!




     Jordan is a country that has played a special role in bringing together three cultures: Arabic, Islamic and western. It has been able to accept diversity [different ways of thinking and living].  This is a very special and important part of the history of Jordan. 

     More than 60% of Jordan’s population [people] live in Amman.  Amman is a very modern city with new shops, successful businesses and new buildings. English is spoken by many people. And here you can find students from all over the world.  

     Like all cultures, Jordan has its own rich music, writing, and art. But here we will focus on the hospitality [the welcome] that Jordan is famous for. As you walk down city streets, everywhere you will hear the words “ahlan wa sahlan”.  It means, “I welcome you.”  Coffee is a very loved drink and is served to guests.  There is a special tradition for how you give a guest coffee.  If you are a guest in someone’s house, the host will first drink out of your cup to make sure the coffee is not too hot or too cold. If it is just right, he will then give the coffee to the guest.  A host should also serve plenty of food and make sure the guest feels free to stay as long as he wants.  It is considered a great honor to know how to welcome a guest properly.  

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