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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Jordan

Historic Diet

Jordanian Food - Kebab

For the country's historic Bedouin population their culinary roots contain nothing more than camel's milk and dates. For the rest of the people, particularly those living along the Jordan River valley in the country's north and west, their food was and continues to be similar to Levantine food, also known as Lebanese or Middle Eastern food. The Arabs in these regions, the west and north, grew wheat and barley while producing dairy products like their very popular yogurts.

Culinary Influences

As food throughout the entire region developed, new flavors were added to the Jordanian plate. Mediterranean influence introduced olives, lemons/limes, and garlic while Levantine and Persian influences brought cinnamon, saffron, and increased the popularity of nuts.

Today, Jordanian food has much in common with Lebanon and Levantine food, but is more diverse in a number of ways. Jordan's location between Arabia, Persia, Lebanon, Turkey, Israel, & the Mediterranean has brought dishes from all these places to the country today.

Staple Foods

Dairy: yogurts and milk-based drinks are very common in Jordan and often served as a side
Meats: meat is common in Jordan, although pork is forbidden by Islamic law; lamb and mutton are very common

Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes

Falafel: mashed chickpeas (garbanzo beans) deep fried and served on bread with fresh vegetables like tomatoes and onions
Hummus: chickpeas (garbanzo beans) mashed with lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil among other seasonings
Mansaf: Jordan's national dish is seasoned lamb, cooked in yogurt & served over a bed of rice, traditionally served with nuts
Shwarma: seasoned meat (usually lamb or chicken) served in lavash (thin bread) and at times topped with vegetables or a sauce

Dining Etiquette

As a primarily Muslim country, many dining traditions in Jordan are dictated, or influenced by the Islam religion. Most noticeable, pork and alcohol will be absent from most menus. In more conservative families men and women even eat separately, however this is rare outside conservative homes. Less noticeable, but still very important is the local tradition of washing your hands immediately before and after eating as well as only using your right hand to eat. In fact, Jordanians don't use their left hands to eat; neither touching their food with their left hand, nor even placing their left hand on the table.

You will also notice that locals never place their feet on a foot rest or cross their legs since it's considered rude to show the bottom of your foot to another person.

Food can be served in a number of ways. Restaurants typically serve food on individual plates, however many families (and some restaurants, particularly local restaurants) serve food in one large bowl or plate, from which everyone eats or serves themselves. While cutlery (silverware) is common, many foods can and are eaten with thin bread; picking up food with the bread and eating both together. Whatever you take, however you must finish so your plate is clean when you're done.

Due to the variety in etiquette, just follow the locals' lead. In formal business settings you may be required to follow European customs, such as using your knife in the right hand and fork in the left, in less formal settings you may not even have forks or knives.

Tipping in Jordan is common and expected in nicer restaurants and hotels. Rates are roughly equivalent to Europe at about 5-10% for food service at a nice restaurant.

Celebrations & Events

When it comes to celebrations, festivals, and holidays, the only consistent in Jordanian cuisine is the vast amount of foods offered and the huge variety that will be present. With any celebration you will be offered cold meze, hot meze, drinks, breads, and grilled meats. Desserts are also common, although you may not be hungry after your first round of meze.

There are two major food holidays in Jordan including Eid al Fitr, which takes place after Ramadan, a religious holiday that requires fasting for 30 days. To celebrate the end of this fast Eid al Fitr is filled with numerous foods, which differ from family to family and region to region but general consists of various meats and fish as a base with other grains and vegetables.

The second major food holiday is Eid al Adha, which is only celebrated after a pilgrim returns from haj, the mandatory journey for every able Muslim to go to Mecca. Again, this festival contains a large number of rice and meat dishes, including many of those served during Eid al Fitr.


Nearly every popular international beverage is available in Jordan. This includes international brand name soft drinks as well as local juices, tea, milk, and perhaps the most popular, coffee.

As a primarily Muslim country, Jordan has little alcohol available, but it can be purchased and many people do drink. Alcohol is more common in Amman and other cities, but even today cafes tend to be more popular for going out.

There are arguments on the cleanliness of the tap water in Jordan. Some argue that it is safe to drink, especially in the larger cities, like Amman. However others claim it is not safe and should be avoided. Due to the uncertainty, it is best to avoid all tap water. Be sure to also avoid anything with ice as it may have been made from the tap water. Salads and fruits may have also been washed in the tap water so be careful with those foods as well.

This page was last updated: March, 2013