Jordan: Situated on the Eastern Limits of the Levant, Jordan Is a Fledgling Country in an Ancient Land. Its Modern Borders Encompass Biblical Kingdoms, Roman Provinces and Great Hill Cities Dating Back to Civilisation's Early Days-All Set in Some of the Most Spectacular Scenery in the Middle East. Jo Bourne Profiles This Archaeological Wonderland

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Jordan at a glance

A snapshot of modern Jordan, its people and its geography

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, created in 1946, has a complex modern history. On the eve of the First World War, the land from Turkey in the north to Yemen in the south and across the eastern Mediterranean to Iraq had been under Ottoman role for 400 years. With the outbreak of war, the Ottoman Empire sided with the Axis powers, declaring jihad on the Allies. The British countered by offering support to the Arabs in their fight for independence from the Turks, and the Arab Revolt of 1916-18 ended in victory.

But the British had agreements with France and Russia to partition the land according to their own needs, despite promises made to the Arab leaders. In addition, British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour had agreed in 1917 to the establishment of a "national home for the Jewish people" in Palestine.

In 1920, elected Arab delegates declared Arab leader Sharif Hussein's son Faysal King of the Levant, and his brother Abdullah King of Iraq. But British and French reaction was swift and harsh. Within just six weeks they had established a 'mandate' (administrative control) over the Middle East and drawn new borders, granting Palestine and Iraq to the British and Syria and Lebanon to the French, with Transjordan in the middle.

Arab discontent ran high and, in November 1920, Abdullah left for Damascus to declare war on the French. In March 1921, he arrived in Amman, where rebellion was quelled by British Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill, who negotiated Abdullah's abdication from the Iraqi throne in favour of his brother Faysal. Abdullah subsequently took the temporary title of emir, or prince, of Transjordan.

In May 1923, Abdullah was formally recognised under the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty as head of the Emirate of Transjordan. He established Amman as his capital and, with judicious use of British funds and support, ruled as emir until 1946, when Transjordan was granted independence and he was awarded the title of king by the Treaty of London. The treaty also accorded Transjordan the name Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, after the king--head of the Hashemite dynasty.

In 1951, Abdullah I was assassinated in Jerusalem by a Palestinian gunman and was succeeded by his grandson, King Hussein, A popular and accomplished statesman, Hussein ruled for 46 years and was, on his death, the longest-serving executive head of state in the world. Jordan flourished under his rule. Outmoded forms of agriculture were abandoned in favour of more forward-thinking and progressive industries. The country now specialises in communications, 11 and a broad spectrum of services, including tourism.

Today, Jordan is ruled by King Hussein's son Abdullah II. Born in 1962, he attended Deerfield Academy, Sandhurst and Oxford. Abdullah continues his father's work in developing Jordan, focusing heavily on economic reform. Like Hussein, he's a popular figurehead for the Jordanian people, who--with their typical disarming sincerity--are justly proud of their king and country.

Water in Jordan

Jordan's most pressing environmental problem is its water shortage. Per capita, it has one of the lowest usage levels in the Arab world: in 1996, levels were estimated at 175 cubic metres for all uses (1,000 cubic metres is considered water poor; the world average is 7,700; and in the USA the figure is 110,000). With the Jordan River now dammed in several places by Israel, much of the water now used is fossil water from the south. Both political and technological solutions will be required if the current overexploitation continues, and the 1994 Jordanian-Israeli Peace Treaty includes measures for the construction of dam on the Yarmouk River at Adassiya. In September 2002, the two countries agreed on a plan to pipe water from the Red Sea to the shrinking Dead Sea. The US$800 million project is the nations' largest joint venture, but has yet to be implemented. …