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Culture & Identity of Jordan

Introduction

Jordanian Culture - Bedu on a Camel in Petra
Bedu on a Camel in Petra

The way of life in Jordan varies from person to person and region to region. Jordan is home to numerous Palestinians, creating some diversity between their way of life and the lifestyle of the Jordanians. The urban and rural settings also strongly dictate the way of life as city life in a place like Amman is vastly different from life in the desert.

Jordanian Culture - Bus Ride
Sleeping Child

Most of the people in Jordan are urbanized though, with over 80% living in cities. For many of these people life may appear to be similar to life anywhere in the world as public transportation dominates, many people have regularly scheduled jobs, and socialization is central to the life of many young people going out with friends. For these regular jobs most people work from about 8:00 am to about 2:00 pm with Fridays and Saturdays off of work since Friday is Islam's holy day (although many public jobs, like markets are often open and busy during these days).

In fact, religion does take on a significant role in the way of life in Jordan. Many women cover their hair and wear long-sleeved shirts and pants, but western clothing is common and many times this clothing is quite tight-fitting. Dating is also a delicate subject in Jordan, but going out to meet friends and dating is becoming more and more common with each passing year. For most young people going out means finding a cafe or restaurant and spending the night socializing, but alcohol is available and legal at some establishments.

While nearly everyone is Muslim, the people are divided ethnically, or culturally, as many Palestinians who have fled from Israel have settled in Jordan. However, few have settled permanently so there hasn't yet been much integration between the two cultures. They tend to view each other as friends and brothers, but not as one people. This means there is a significantly different lifestyle between the two groups, especially considering relatively few of the Palestinians have settled down in the country so housing tends to be fairly basic and community is the center of life.

Jordanian Culture - Amman Market
Market in Amman

No matter a person's ethnicity or way of life, the people in Jordan tend to live their lives based on family, friends, community, and only secondary on religion. Religion is important to varying degrees for the people, but it has greatly contributed to the culture in the way of dress, food, dating, and daily life.

Identity

Jordanians tend to identify as either Jordanian or Palestinian, both of which are defined by religion, culture, history, and to a degree ethnicity. Both groups of people are Arabs and both are Muslim, but the two cultures and histories are significantly different. Their ethnicities and accents are also slightly varied. The most striking difference for an outsider is in the way they dress; the Palestinians often wear a black and white checkered keffiyeh (head scarf), while the Jordanians generally wear a red and white checkered keffiyeh.

This identity is at the root of how each person defines him or herself, particularly the Palestinians; cities, regions, and the country are divided by the two groups. They get along fine, but the Palestinians view Jordan as a temporary home and the Jordanians view the Palestinians as a friend and neighbor who needs a place to stay.

This page was last updated: December, 2013