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Clans and Communities

Bedouin life in the Jordan desert
Bedouin life in the Jordan desert
Tribes still play a significant role in Jordanian society. The overriding demographic division is between East Bank Jordanians and Jordanians of Palestinian origin, all of whom ended up living in the East Bank, along with other ethnic minorities.

Historically, tribes came to the kingdom from around the region and settled there for various reasons. Jordan has always been a route for Arab migrations from al-Jazira (Saudi Arabia) to Bilad al-Sham (Greater Syria). Migrating tribes would settle for a time in southern Jordan before moving north to Syria, through Wadi Araba to Palestine, or through the Sinai to Egypt and then North Africa. Members of tribes might stay behind in Jordanian lands, while some of the tribes returned from Palestine, Syria, and Lebanon to settle in Jordan, retaining only the memory of their ancestral lands. Most of Jordan’s tribes immigrated from the south; only rarely did tribes come to Jordan from Iraq through Syria.

Many of the tribes returned to Jordan during the latter days of the Ottoman Empire, to work in trade or agriculture, to return to their mother tribe for protection, or for other reasons. Many Christian tribes fled southern Syria after clashes with other tribes; other (Druze) tribes arrived after the Syrian revolution against the French.

The tribes have always been considered the backbone of the Jordanian monarchy. They have demonstrated their unlimited loyalty to the King, pledging to protect the monarchy and prevent any action aimed at disrupting the country’s political balance.

Jordanians of Palestinian origin who fled their land during the wars of 1948 and 1967 and the 1991 Gulf War make up more than half of the population in the kingdom. They play an important role in Jordan’s social, political, and economic life. According to UNRWA, which aids Palestinian refugees in the region, Jordan hosts over two million registered refugees from the Palestinian territories.

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