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Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

History of Jordan

history of Jordan
Palestinian refugees living in Jordan march in Al-Hussein Palestinian refugee camp in Amman, Oct. 31, 2014 /Photo Imago Stock & People GmbH

Jordan was the cradle of many civilizations. After separation from ancient Palestine, Jordan’s borders included the biblical kingdoms (Moab, Gilead, and Edom) and Petra, the capital of The Nabataean Kingdom (312 BC). Jordan was a vassal of the Ottoman Empire until 1918. After that, the country was a British colony. In 1946, Jordan obtained its independence.

Jordan region witnessed the emergence of several civilizations. The most ancient is the civilization of ‘Ain Ghazal (8500 – 4500 BC), which was called after ‘Ain Ghazal region. It was one of the largest areas in the Neolithic Age in the Levant.

During the Iron Age, three new political entities emerged in Jordan: Edom in the south, Moab in the middle, and Ammon in the northern mountains. One of the most probable reasons for these kingdoms’ growth is the trade route passing through Jordan.

In 539 BC, Persians were able to annihilate the Babylonian state, which ruled and subjugated vast areas of the ancient east, including Jordan.

The Macedonian armies were able to end the Persian reign over the Levant in 330 BC. After the death of Alexander the Great, Jordan became under the rule of the Seleucid Empire.

The country became a part of the Nabataean Kingdom in 168 BC. This ancient Arab kingdom included the Negev desert, Sinai, Jordan, and parts of the Arab Peninsula. The Nabataean state was able to sustain its existence for more than 4 centuries. Afterward, Romans took over Petra in 106 BC.

In the first century, Jordan was given the name of “Pella” as it was the place where Christians escaped from Rome’s persecution. During the 5th and 6th centuries, an extensive architectural activity took place in Jordan. Architectural sacral milestones were obtained when the Byzantine Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion.

From the Advent of Islam to the Ottomans (635-1516)

Once Islam prevailed in the Arab peninsula, Muslims moved on to spread Islam outside the peninsula. They started with the Levant, and Jordan was the closest territory to them. As a result, Jordan embraced Islam at an early stage. The first decisive battles took place in Jordan, such as the battle of Fahl (635) and the battle of Yarmouk (636).

Umayyads established their own caliphate in 661. Being close to the Umayyads’ capital Damascus helped Jordan prosper during that era. The importance of Jordan’s strategic geographical location shone, as was on the pilgrimage route passing by holy places. The Arabic language gradually replaced Latin as an official language. During this period, Christianity remained a religion for many of Jordan’s populace.

The Abbasids established Baghdad in 750 to be the new capital of the Islamic world. Consequently, Jordan was neglected as it was distant from the caliphate’s center. When the Fatimids ruled over the Mediterranean coast in Africa (969), Egypt became their center, and their Caliphate included Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Sicily, the Levant, and the Hijaz.

In 1258, Salah Al-Din Al-Ayoubi founded a dynasty that ruled for 80 years over a major part of Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. Afterward, the Mamluks took over and ruled Egypt; then, they annexed Jordan and Syria. After the battle of Ain Jalut, Baibars – the Mamluk Sultan – unified Syria, Egypt, and Jordan under the Ayyubids and the Mamluks’ flag.

The ottomans (1516-1918)

The Ottoman reign came in 1516 and lasted for 4 centuries. During the late years of the Ottoman reign, Jordan suffered a general stagnation. The Ottomans paid special care to the sites located on the pilgrimage route. This forced Bedouins to distance themselves and live in the deserts, escaping the ottoman oppression and their excessive taxes.

After the Circassians migrated to Jordan in 1864 and Chechens in 1902, they took part in Jordan’s political life. These groups worked in agriculture and craftsmanship with the Jordanian natives.

From the British mandate to Current Jordan (1922-2020)

In 1922, the League of Nations recognized British dominance in the East of Jordan. In 1946, the United Nations recognized Jordan as a Sovereign and independent Kingdom. After a brief period of independence, Jordan became home for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees after the Israel Declaration of Establishment in 1948. Battles between Arabs and Israel forced thousands of Palestinians to escape to the West Bank and Jordan.

In 1950, Jordan annexed the West Bank. A year later, King Abdullah was assassinated by an armed Palestinian, thinking that the king plotted Israel to divide Palestine.

In 1952, Hussein announced a King after announcing that his father – Talal – is not mentally able to rule. In 1957, the British forces completed their withdrawal from Jordan.

During the Six-Days War in 1967, Israel took control of Jerusalem and the West Bank. This led to a mass influx of refugees to the east bank of the Jordan River.

In 1970, major clashes broke out between the government forces and the Palestinian fighters. This led to the death of thousands in what was called “Black September.”

Ending an official state of war that lasted for 46 years, Jordan signed the Peace Treaty with Israel in 1994.

In February 1999, King Hussein died, and his eldest son – Emir Abdullah – succeeded him. Abdullah II remains king ever since.