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History of Jordan from Past to Present

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

Jordan was a cradle of many civilizations. After separation from ancient Palestine, Jordan’s borders included the biblical kingdoms (Moab, Gilead, and Edom), in addition to 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 amongst them 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 put an end to 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 more than 4 centuries. Afterwards, 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 the persecution of Rome. 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 territories to them. As a result, Jordan embraced Islam on an early stage. In addition, 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 under their rule. 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 by that the ottoman oppression and their excessive taxes.

After the Circassians’ migration to Jordan in 1864, and Chechens in 1902, they took part in the political life in Jordan. 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 the British dominance on the East of Jordan. In 1946, the United Nations recognized Jordan as a Sovereign and independent Kingdom. After a brief period of its 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 after, King Abdullah was assassinated by an armed Palestinian, thinking that the king plotted with Israel to divide Palestine.

In 1952, Hussein was 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 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.

Further Reading

The first inhabitants of the territory that would become Jordan lived there in the Paleolithic period (500,000-17,000 BCE), leaving behind tools of flint and basalt. Some settled agriculture developed in the Neolithic period (8,50...
In March 1921 Abdullah moved north to Amman. That month a conference of British officials in Cairo resolved that Abdullah should govern Transjordan under the British high commissioner in Palestine.
In November 1947 the UN voted to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, triggering open war. The divided, poorly led, and ill-equipped Palestinians were no match for the Zionists.
On 29 April 1950 the West Bank was formally annexed.
In the first half of his reign, King Hussein's position was frequently under threat. The 1950s and 1960s were the heyday of a radical anti-Western Arab nationalism that demanded the liberation of Palestine, pan-Arab unity and soci...
In February 1958 his two arch-enemies, Syria and Egypt, merged to form the United Arab Republic. The same month Jordan and its fellow Hashemite kingdom, Iraq, countered by forming an Arab Federation.
In defiance of Jordanian policy, Palestinian guerrillas mounted attacks into Israel and the occupied West Bank, prompting bloody reprisal raids, and by the late 1960s the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), headed by Yasser A...
On 31 July 1988, as the first Palestinian Intifada, or uprising, raged in the Palestine, and following the decision of an Arab summit in Algiers in June 1988 that Arab aid for the Palestinians under Israeli occupation should be ch...
Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 sparked the final major crisis of King Hussein's reign. During the 1980s Jordan had developed intimate commercial and political ties with Iraq. The UN sanctions closed the vital I...
In September 1993, however, the PLO itself made peace with Israel by signing the Oslo Accords. After Oslo, King Hussein felt free to follow suit. On 26 October 1994 the two sides signed a full peace treaty.

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