Jordan – according to the official name – the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – is a country located in the Middle East, in South-West Asia. Warsaw and Amman, or the capital of Jordan, are about 3,500 km apart. It is a country with an area of about 89 thousand. km².
The Jordanian Kingdom has its borders with Israel (238 km), Palestinian Autonomy (97 km), Syria (375 km), Iraq (181 km) and Saudi Arabia (744 km). The total length of the jordanian borders is 1635 km. Jordan also has a small access to the sea, in the Gulf of Aqaba (Red Sea), and the length of the coast is only 26 km.
Jordan is a constitutional monarchy, and the current ruler is the king Abdullah II, son of King Hussein, descendant of the Hashemite dynasty. The Hashemites are an aristocratic Arabian tribe from the Quraysh tribe, descended from the grandfather of Prophet Muhammad, Hashim ibn Abd al-Manaf.
Southern Jordan is the area located between Wadi Hasa and the Gulf of Aqaba, which can be also described as the historical land called Edom. It is an area divided along the meridional axis to: rocky-mountainous areas located on its western side and desert-highlands lying on its eastern side. In the west the boundary is also marked by the rift of the Jordan River, which is the northernmost part of the Abyssino Rig, which belongs to the Great African Ramps. Areas in the east of the region pass into the vast deserts of the Arabian Peninsula – the largest peninsula in the world.
Through the area of southern Jordan one of the most famous trade and pilgrimage routes of antiquity and the Middle Ages are running, i.e. famous King’s Road. There are also clearly visible in the region relics of the eastern border of the Roman Empire – Limes Arabicus and the Roman road built by Emperor Traian – Via Nova Traiana. Southern Jordan contains also the most famous monuments associated throughout the world with Jordan – the red rocks and tombs of Petra – and the extraordinary landscapes of Wadi Rum, which played the role of Mars in many Hollywood movies and productions.
It is worth knowing, however, that the southern Jordan has much more to offer for the visitors! We will find here dozens of places marked by human presence from the earliest to modern times. Archaeological sites from the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages, as well as countless relics of the Nabateans and Romans are the landmarks of this exceptional area. It is also impossible not to notice the extraordinary heritage of the Middle Ages with the magnificent Shawbak Castle and the crusader strongholds in Al-Habis and Al-Wueira, as well as many Byzantine cities and buildings scattered all over Southern Jordan.
Rich and fascinating cultural landscape of southern Jordan attracted Polish archaeologists, naturalists and popularizers of science and became the place of their work for years. For several years, scientists have been conducting excavation and environmental research here, expanding our knowledge about the history and nature of the region. Their work is currently concentrated in the At-Tafila and Ash-Shawbak districts.
The language and dialects used in this area are also an interesting topic. It is worth noting that the area of southern Jordan is still inhabited largely by the Bedouin population and there are dialects that belong to the Bedouin group of dialects. However, this does not change the fact that Bedouins in the south of the country speak a completely different way than Bedouins in the middle of Jordan. Bedouin accents vary depending on the tribe and you can see significant differences in them. Inhabitants of central and southern Jordan are able to understand the Amman, because it is the most popular dialect in Jordan, it is also the closest to the classical Arabic language. It would be harder to come the other way – a resident of the capital would probably not understand the Bedouins if he did not have contact with them before. What may be a surprise for some, Bedouin inhabitants of the desert, despite the fact that they still have a traditional, nomadic lifestyle, are able to speak fluent in classical Arabic. All this thanks to television and the Internet. While watching various programs, they have contact with the classical language all the time, which does not change the fact that it is a bit unnatural for them, and sometimes even funny because none of them speak to each other in everyday life. Generally, throughout Jordan, people easily change fluently to literary language, which mainly results from the fact that the vast majority of society is educated and that the Jordan dialect is very similar to the language of the Koran, so it is easy to learn it.
Inhabitants of the south of the country, based on a few minutes’ talk, are able to tell where the interlocutor comes from. They are very sensitive to the accent, because it determines the perception of their origin among other people. However, this does not prevent them from communicating; dialects in this part of Jordan are so close to each other that the inhabitants understand each other without any major problems.
It is also worth remembering that all the countries of the Middle East region share a common history, culture, and above all religion, which is extremely important to them. Anyway, it is the Koran – the holy book of Muslims – which is written in the classic language and is thus a model of Arabic style and grammar. Literary language is common to the whole community not only Arab but Muslim in general. Muslims around the world are praying in Arabic because they used to believe that the Koran cannot be translated into any other language.
Traditional costumes of the population living in the region are richly decorated, and especially the women’s clothing is characterized by jewelry dripping from gold, silver and precious stones. Wealth and traditions of men’s clothing can be admired, for example, by looking at the traditional costumes of policemen who wear them, for example, in the Archaeological Park in Petra.
The Jordan cuisine is very strongly rooted in traditions that have developed in the present Jordan for millennia. We will find in it clear influences of Mediterranean cuisine – Lebanese and Syrian, Palestinian or Egyptian, as well as many elements of the native Bedouin tradition. The most important dishes common to the whole region are of course known to everyone: hummus, ful, mutabal, falafel, shawarmah and tabouleh. We’ll all be interested in the right moment. Let’s focus on the national dish of Jordan – mansaf. Everyone who travels alone to Arab countries or have friends in the Middle East is well aware of the Arabic saying – “The guest is in the power of the host.” Hospitality and giving honor to guests is revealed here not only by the wealth of dishes appearing on the table (under normal conditions seldom eaten by the hosts in such abundance), but also by their sizes, often many times exceeding the capabilities of people gathered at the table. The guest cannot leave hungry, cannot refuse an addition or just be content to try dishes. It should be eaten with gusto, absorbing the largest portions of respect for the hosts. However, this is not an unpleasant duty but a pure pleasure to immerse yourself in the fabulous world of flavors and aromas.
Mansaf is an unusual dish and is not served every day, it is a symbol and ritual associated with the reception of the most important guests or important events such as the wedding or childbirth, or the welcome of a family member returning from a long journey. Its roots should be sought in the Bedouin tradition, in which meat and milk always had a special meaning. The invitation to the mansaf is therefore an expression of the highest respect on the part of the inviting person. On a large tray lined with bread and sprinkled with rice, served with the appropriate spices, served with baked yoghurt or sour cream lamb or less-orthodox chicken pieces. The whole is topped with roasted pine nuts or almonds and sometimes with chickpeas, it tastes great.
Interesting are also the habits associated with the consumption of mansaf, which determine many aspects of this, delightful to our taste, activities. The size of the bowl with the dish itself indicates sympathy for the guest – the more respect and respect for the hosts, the more respect and respect they have. In addition, the pieces of meat located on the rice bed should not be bigger than the cat’s head, and their separation is handled personally and only the host. The tastiest morsels are given by the host to the favorite or distinguished guests.
Consuming mansaf in a group of friendly people whose presence makes us happy and talking with them fills us with optimism and inspires, is a rare experience. As rare as rare in today’s world is true friendship and unlimited cultural willingness to look kindly at others, sometimes very different from us. And this is probably the most important “taste” of this amazing dish – obtained from the most difficult, growing only in our hearts, spices …
Intangible cultural heritage is passed down from generation to generation, practices, knowledge, ideas, ideas and values, skills, traditions, messages, but also related artifacts, objects and places. It creates our group, national, ethnic or religious identity. In southern Jordan, it is a collection of many important elements derived from the tradition and history of the region. Two of them have been particularly emphasized on international UNESCO list – customs defined collectively as As-Samer and the Cultural Space of the Bedouin Tribes in Petra and Wadi Rum.