Is Jordan Safe?

Jordan is the safest country in the Middle East. Tourists are welcomed warmly and the local customs highly value hospitality towards guests. The local population are open to foreign visitors and acclimatised to tourism activity. Most visitors experience no difficulty and are instead surprised by the hospitality of locals. Both male and female solo travellers in Jordan can feel safe throughout the country. There is a strong tourist police presence to ensure visitors can travel with peace of mind.

Jordan has lower levels of crime than most European nations although you should always remain vigilant. The federal police agencies are well equipped and are intolerant of criminal activity of any kind. Acting quickly to prevent any disturbances from effecting the stability of the country.

The travel insurer World Nomads provides an assessment of risks when travelling to Jordan.

Dangers to consider in Jordan

These are things to consider in order to stay safe in Jordan:

  • Driving in Amman does not observe European driving rules. Right of way, indicating and lanes are loosely observed.
  • Public hospitals in Jordan are basic and if you need medical attention it is important to be aware of the options available to you.
  • Where prices are not listed they are negotiable (and often listed prices are also). Some visitors feel cheated when they overpay for items. However, it is important to understand that locals also receive the same pricing. It is critical to expect to negotiate as a part of almost all transactions in Jordan.
  • Heat and exhaustion are concerns in summer months. Amman is hilly and days get very warm, so make sure to drink plenty of water.
  • Care should be taken with taxi-fares and ride hailing applications are best used where ever possible
  • Female solo tourists can experience some verbal harassment, such as cat calling and attention seeking behaviour from local men.
  • Women should in general be conscious of the culture and the overall separation of men and women in most Arab cultures.
  • There is no social stigma on smoking cigarettes, and it is also very common with smoking indoors. If you have health issues or pregnancy it can be a consideration.

Female solo travellers safe in Jordan

Female solo travellers can consider Jordan a safe travel option and face no limitations in this liberal society. However, there are worthwhile adjustments to make to avoid potential problems. While large cities are culturally dissimilar from Europe, in contrast, rural areas of Jordan women are absent from public life. Within homes, there is one room where the men socialise and one room where the women socialise. It is uncommon for local women to walk on their own. In the most extreme cases, women are not permitted to meet men outside their own family.

These cultural norms have implications for western women travelling in the country. It is important to be mindful of your communication, signals and body language when visiting rural areas. Seemingly minor gestures, like a smile, a friendly hand on the shoulder or exchanging contact details, can be misinterpreted. It is important to understand that many men have very little female interaction outside their family. Although this is unlikely to lead to an unsafe situation, it can complicate your travels and it can be time consuming to try and resolve situations that arise. Therefore, the advice for female solo travellers outside major centres and touristic areas is to avoid:

  • physical contact
  • spending time one on one with men
  • exposing legs or shoulders
  • discussing topic of intimacy
  • body language and communication that signals a connection with individual men
Mushroom rock wadi rum desert, Jordan

Middle East instability

For decades, the Middle East has been in the media spotlight for its ongoing instability. Unfortunately to many observers there is no differentiation between Arabic nations. Although this assumption is inaccurate, it is understandable for external observers. Despite the Middle East experiencing instability over recent decades, Jordan has remained safe and distant from these problems. Since the 1980´s it has increasingly become an internationally recognised tourism destination in the region. Jordan is the safest and most stable country in the Middle East, along with the Emirates. It is particularly important that these Arab nations provide opportunities for visitors, offering a contrast to the negative portrayal from civil wars and terrorist groups in the region.

Fortunately, Jordan has maintained political stability and remained a powerful resistance against all negative elements in neighbouring countries. Primarily because of its major attraction at Petra, there has always been a tourism focus. Mainstream tourists however, remain cautious of the Arabian Peninsula because of its various conflicts. The oil wealth of the region has caused many Arab nations to turn their backs on their tourism sector, instead preferring to reduce international focus on their domestic issues. Jordan remains the best and most accessible option for visitors to the Middle East. It is affordable and importantly maintains its culture, allowing visitors to experience genuine interaction with Jordanian life.

Internal harmony

Internally Jordan has remained stable for several decades despite turmoil in neighbouring countries. The royal family are genuinely liked by the population, and provide fair leadership. Furthermore, they experience greater freedom of speech than their neighbours. Although there are some concerns of the effectiveness of the government with longstanding economic issues, Jordan has a democratic process to elect parliamentary representatives. There is high unemployement, but most see a future within the existing framework.

Unlike the wider region, Jordan does not rely on oil revenues. This has allowed it to avoid geopolitical pressures that have seen external powers influence nations in the region. Instead Jordan has an undeveloped economy and is reliant on tourism. This increases reliance on stability and promotes an acceptance of other values. Due to Jordan’s reliance on  tourism and western support, Jordan’s economy and culture is better integrated into the global economy.

Jordan’s relatively moderate Islam is also a factor. Historically the nations near to Jerusalem have a more diverse ethnic and religious makeup. Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt all have major minority religions and practice tolerance of alternate views. This has led to a fusion of ideas and a broadening of interpretation, promoting acceptance of different approaches to faith.

External factors contributing to stability

There are a variety of external reasons that have contributed to Jordan’s stability.

Firstly, its geographic location has meant that both Israel and the US have had an interest in ensuring a safe zone between Israel and the major Arab nations. Other than short borders in the north with Lebanon and Syria and a mostly uninhabited desert border with Egypt in the south, majority of Israel’s land borders are with Jordan. All major Israeli cities are in the middle of the country. Therefore stability in Jordan is critical to Israeli security, with Amman just over 50km from Jerusalem.

Secondly Jordan has operated as the caretaker of the Palestinian population since mid 20th century. As such they have the support of the Arab nations in this role. This offers them greater influence in the region than would be the case otherwise. A population of 2 million Palestinians live in Jordan and the Hashemite Kingdom continue to hold custodianship of Jerusalem’s holy sites.

Hiking and trekking in Wadi Rum

History of 20th century Middle East conflicts

Issues in the region stem primarily from:

  • The tribal allegiances set by the Allies after the fall of the Ottoman empire
  • The oil wealth and global significance of the resource for major economies
  • The establishment of the state of Israel and the ensuing Arab-Israeli conflict
  • The Sunni-Shia power struggle

  • The emergence of terror organisations financed by foreign interest groups

World Wars and reallocation of lands

At the beginning of the century most of the Arabian Peninsula was under the control of the Ottoman empire. There was relative stability despite tribal uprisings against the central power. That ended in World War I when the Ottoman aligned with the Germans. Ultimately they would lose the war, but during the conflict the English would sponsor several uprisings against them. The English gained support of the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula by promising them autonomy and power.

The years between the wars saw the region separated into protectorates of the French and English. Initially there was unrest from the Turkish under Ataturk who fought for a larger independent Turkish nation. The other area that experienced significant unrest was the English protectorate of Palestine. Under the Belfour declaration the British had promised Zionist’s their holy lands. When post WWI allocations were finally made, the Jewish agreement in addition to the Kurdish and others were not honoured. The following decade Zionist terrorist groups emerged in Palestine that would attack British interests, attempting to force a change.

After the World War II

Otherwise things were relatively stable in the region until after World War II. Following the creation of the state of Israel, the Arab nations attacked the newly created state of Israel. The Arab invasion was defeated and Israel sovereignty was claimed.

In 1956 with European backing, Israel invaded Egypt in an unprovoked offensive known as the Suez crisis. International condemnation of the attack would result in the Sinai Peninsula to be returned to Egypt and the UK to lose its global standing. In 1967 Israel again invade Egypt in what their military called a pre-emptive attack. They would again claim control of the Sinai and occupy it for 15 years. This occupation would lead to an Egyptian attack in alliance with Syria in 1973. In 1979 Egypt and Israel would sign a peace agreement brokered by the US that would put an end to confrontation between the two nations.

In 1978 Israel send a military operation into southern Lebanon, this would begin over 30 years of conflict between the nations. Culminating in the 2006 conflict between the two nations.

These conflicts formed the basis of the ongoing Arab-Israeli tensions and undermined negotiations for a common agreement.

Timeline of major Arab-Israeli conflicts

1948 Arab coalition invade Israel

1956 Israel invade Egyptian Sinai

1967 Israel invade Egyptian Sinai (Israel would occupy the Sinai for 15 years with sporadic fighting)

1973 Egypt and Syria attack Israel in attempt to regain control of Sinai and Golan heights

1978 Israel invade Lebanon to suppress terror groups taking refuge in south of country

1982 Israel invade Lebanon

2006 Israel invade Lebanon

Fight for Oil

The discovery of vast oil deposits in the region has ensured constant international interest. Middle East nations have been effected by global geopolitical pressures because of their strategic importance as oil supplying nations. The worlds super powers have long considered these supplies of critical importance. Major external influence over leadership and policy has played a role, particularly in Iran and Iraq. The Saudi’s have remained loyal to the US throughout, with their government well supported over the duration.

Although oil has provided great economic wealth, it has also required these nations to carefully navigate world geopolitics. Leaders have therefore been required to cautiously monitor their political relationships to ensure support from world powers. Where they have not conformed to the needs of the most influential nations they have often experienced upheaval.

Timeline of major conflicts in the Middle East

1980-1988 Iran – Iraq War where US supported Iraq

1990-1991 Gulf War – Iraq invade Kuwait

2003-2020 Iraq Invasion – overthrow of Saddam Hussein

2011-2020 Syrian war – US backs militia groups to overthrow Bashar al-Assad

2015-2020 Invasion of Yemen – Saudi financed supported by UK mercenary logistics

Religious conflict

The Arab-Israeli conflict which is primarily territorial, however originates from religious difference. This conflict has caused ongoing unrest and dangers within Israel and Palestine. Despite this conflict has been contained within Israel and along its borders. The competing agendas have maintained tension, with no solution in sight.

The division between Sunni and Shia caused further regional unrest. The two major sects of Islam have competed for influence in the Muslim world for centuries. In the 21st century Iran, Shia, and Saudi Arabia, Sunni, have emerged as the two central powers on either side of the battle. This has been further compounded by them being the world’s two major oil exporting nations. Most countries in the region are majority Sunni, ensuring they support Saudi policy. Iran subsequently pushes for influence in the marginal nations where it aims to gain support. Saudi Arabia continues to have a strong relationship with the US, which subsequently has influenced US policy towards Iran and encouraged other smaller nations to align with Saudi Arabia. These alliances have dictated sides during regional conflicts.

Terrorist networks

Terrorist organisations have unfortunately become synonymous with Islam. Disregarding the obvious element that these people are not true Muslims, they nevertheless negatively impact Islam and the region. Sadly, most of these groups are financed by external donors who attempts to use extremist groups for political influence. As was the case with ISIS, where US government agencies provided major financing to support an overthrow of the Syrian government.

The matter that these groups are on the fringes of society and have minimal community support is overlooked by global coverage. When this is considered in addition to the financial backing from often western sources, the disconnect from local communities becomes more obvious. The major conflicts that then occur force desperate people to take sides seeking safety during the conflict. The choice sometimes between a disorganised central government and a well financed and equipped extremist group.

Fortunately, Jordan has kept these elements out of the country and take a hard-line approach with any religious extremism to ensure it does not develop in the country. As with any country, terrorist threats are always a possibility, and in big cities you will see metal detectors in big malls, and other measures to keep the population safe.

campfire under the stars in Wadi Rum Bedouin camp with full moon

Contrast of Jordan to the region

Jordan has managed to remain unaffected by the negative factors in the region, primarily because of:

– Publicly popular royal family

– Freedom of speech and opinion

– No oil production

– Proximity to Israel and Jerusalem

– Role as caretaker in Jerusalem

– Population of refugees

– Hard-line policy against religious extremism

This allows the country to provide a safe place surrounded by the chaos of the region. Important as it offsets the incorrect connection between violence and both Islam and Arabs. At Arabian Nights we value our role greatly in providing an example of good Muslims and removing the stigma that the recent past has attached to both our religion and broader people group.