Nestled in the heart of the three continents of the ancient world, Jordanian culture has been heavily influenced by its history as a vital part of the trade route. Jordan’s past as a host country to travelers from all over the world continues to this day, as tourists flock to top bucket-list destinations like Petra and Wadi Rum. The essence of Jordanian culture is centered around one word: hospitality, so prepare to be welcomed with sincerity and curiosity. Before you set off on your adventure, study our Guide to Jordanian Culture & Customs to make sure you’re well versed in how to respect and appreciate this rich and hospitable culture.
Jordanian culture is a harmonious blend of ancient, modern, religious and secular. As a predominantly Muslim country, Jordanians practice their religion as a personal spiritual journey and are accustomed to welcoming travelers from abroad whose practices differ from their own. That being said, while many tourists explore the country wearing shorts and tank tops without any issues, opting for loose-fitting clothing and minimizing skin exposure will be received with appreciation and respect. Don’t forget to bring a scarf, which will come in handy to cover your head as you enter religious sites and to shelter you from the powerful Jordanian sun.
Jordanian Greeting Customs
In Jordan, it’s customary for men and women to shake hands or kiss the cheeks of members of their own gender when greeting each other, but members of the opposite gender generally abstain from contact. When in doubt, simply placing your hand on your heart will suffice. Public displays of romantic affection are considered inappropriate, so although couples commonly engage in PDA while traveling in Jordan, abstaining from doing so will be highly appreciated by the locals.
Jordanian culture has hospitality down to an art form, so whether you’re visiting a tourist attraction or being welcomed into a family’s home, you’re guaranteed a warm reception. You will receive an abundance of invitations into shops or restaurants, which you can accept or politely decline by placing your hand over your heart and murmuring “la, shukran”, which means “no thank you” in Arabic. When accepting invitations, you will be welcomed with hot coffee, tea, sweets, or even a traditional feast if you’re lucky! Make sure to communicate your appreciation by offering compliments about your host’s house, shop, and most importantly, food. Just be careful when doing so, as Jordanian culture dictates that if a guest expresses an interest in a particular item in one’s home, it should be presented as a gift! Shoes are considered unclean, so be sure to remove them when entering a home or mosque.
With its rosy-hued landscapes and world-renowned historical sites, Jordan is a photographer’s dream. Just one click of the camera produces breathtaking results, with minimal effort and no filter necessary. With so much beauty to capture, its only natural to want to include the local people inside the focus of your lens. Since Jordan’s economy relies heavily on tourism, and the locals are very accustomed to travelers in search of their next Instagram shot, Jordanians probably won’t blink an eye if you photograph them without permission. However, as a matter of respect, it’s highly recommended that you do!
If you’re visiting Jordan during the holy month of Ramadan, consider yourself lucky to be able to witness this important part of Jordanian culture. It is important to be sensitive to some religious norms in order to be respectful, especially during this sacred time. During the month of Ramadan, observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, so it’s advisable to avoid eating and drinking in public during the daylight hours out of respect. Observant Muslims abstain from alcohol at all times, so practice sensitivity when offering or imbibing in alcoholic beverages.
Jordanian Negotiating Culture
There is a saying in Jordan that “everything is always negotiable.” Jordanians consider negotiating to be a sport, and take pride in their abilities. When in Jordan, test your haggling skills when negotiating the price of everything from souvenirs to camel rides. The first price is never the final price! One exception: regardless of where you are in the world, when getting in a taxi, always insist on using the meter. Even in a country that is world-renowned for its sincere and warm hospitality, the meter is always your friend.
Punctuality in Jordanian Culture
Like its Mediterranean neighbors, Jordan has its own concept of time. Perhaps you’re already familiar with the concept of five Greek minutes, which Hellenic locals joke is equivalent to half an hour in standard time. If you’ve been to Israel, you’re aware that Israelis don’t exactly run on London time either. When in Jordan, embrace the laid back lifestyle and don’t expect things to run exactly on schedule, as Jordanians perceive appointed time as suggestions rather than instructions. It’s all part of the experience, so prepare to dial down the intensity of regular life and go with the flow.