With a strategic location in the Middle East – sharing borders with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq – Jordan is home to one the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. It is also one of the most popular expat destinations in the region. It is also rather beautiful, with the stark and rocky desert scapes of the northern Arabian peninsula complementing the old-world charm of much of the country's architecture perfectly.
Living in Jordan as an expat
Phosphate mines in southern Jordan have made the country one of the world’s largest producers and exporters of this mineral, while agricultural produce is another large contributor to the economy. Besides mining, oil and gas, expats tend to work for international companies in IT, communications, transport and investment, while some teach English.
Newcomers to Jordan should be aware that Islam is the state religion. Nevertheless, Jordan is one of the most liberal countries in the Middle East and expats are unlikely to face discrimination for practising a religion other than Islam. Expats should, however, show respect for local customs and etiquette – women, in particular, should dress modestly and preferably wear their hair up or cover it with a headscarf.
That said, expats tend to live a sheltered life in Jordan, and most choose to rent accommodation in one of the many Westernised compounds in and around Amman.
Jordanians are known for being friendly, warm and welcoming to foreigners. Arabic is the official language but most Jordanians can speak English, and expats should not have a problem communicating in professional settings and business dealings, particularly in Amman. Still, expats are likely to experience some level of culture shock, particularly if they are unused to life in the Middle East.
Expats relocating to Jordan need not worry about good medical facilities. The country has one of the best healthcare systems in the Middle East, with both private and public hospitals providing a high standard of care.
Cost of living in Jordan
Jordan is undeniably expensive, and accommodation is usually an expat's biggest expense. Expat housing is usually in the form of compound townhouses and apartments, and these don't come cheap. Salaries in Jordan also tend to be lower than those offered in the UAE, for instance, but this depends on an expat's field of work.
Expat families and children
Expats are often surprised at how family friendly Jordan is. Compounds often have wonderful amenities such as swimming pools, sports facilities, clubhouses, playgrounds, as well as expats from similar backgrounds, which make family life easy.
Jordan has a high literacy rate and the government views education as a priority. The language of instruction at local schools is Arabic, and expats seeking to continue their children’s education from home will be pleased to know that there are a number of international schools in Jordan, catering for a variety of different nationalities. These are mostly located in Amman.
Climate in Jordan
Jordan has a Mediterranean-style climate with hot summers and wet winters. Expats expecting year-round sizzling temperatures may be surprised to learn that the country does experience colder temperatures too, not to mention rain and even a bit of snow in the winter months. However, those who enjoy sunshine can rest assured that such conditions are very much the exception, and Jordan is by and large a warm and sunny country.
Jordan will be what an expat makes of it. It could be a wonderful adventure and an enriching experience for an expat family who are open to new ways of life and cultural differences. It's also a great base from which to travel internationally.
Population: Nearly 10.3 million
Capital city: Amman
Neighbouring countries: Jordan is bordered by Israel and Palestine to the west, Syria to the north, Iraq to the north-east and Saudi Arabia to the south and east.
Geography: Largely landlocked except for an 16 mile (26 km) coastline at the south-west edge of the country, most of Jordan is situated on a plateau. The East Bank of Jordan is largely arid desert, while the West Bank is mostly rough mountain terrain with a few sections of highly arable land used for farming.
Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Major religion: Islam
Main languages: Arabic is the official language, but English is also widely spoken
Money: The Jordanian Dinar (JOD) is divided into 10 dirham, 100 qirsh, or 1,000 fils. It is easy for an expat to open a bank account in Jordan and ATMs are ubiquitous, especially in the cities.
Tipping: Most of the better hotels and restaurants will add a 10 to 12 percent service charge to the bill, but smaller establishments usually expect a tip. It is customary to round up the price of a taxi trip.
Time: UTC+2 (UTC+3 during daylight savings time)
Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. A variety of plugs are used in Jordan, including European two-prong round-pin plugs and British plugs with three flat blades.
Internet domain: .jo
International dialling code: +962
Emergency contacts: The general emergency number is 911. Ambulances in major urban centres usually arrive quickly.
Transport and driving: Driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Traffic can be heavy and drivers can be erratic. If driving in Jordan, expats should keep an eye out for livestock such as camels crossing the road. Buses and taxis are the most common forms of public transport.