Jordan, as we know it today, is a very recent state, as it was created in the mid-twentieth century as a result of the reorganization of the geopolitical landscape in the region after World War II. However, that does not mean, by any means, that it does not have a history: Jordan can boast of having hosted on its territory some of the most fascinating civilizations and iconic figures of the past.
Current tourism is largely based on the rediscovery of all of this. That is why we dedicate a page here to the history of Jordan. Knowing it will serve you to better understand what your eyes will see during your trip and to appreciate the merit of its preservation in our days.
Below we explain in-depth all the periods of Jordan’s history. But it will also be useful for you to know them at a glance, with their corresponding dates to ‘organize’ in your mind all the historical information that we show you below and that the guides will tell you during your trip.
First settlements in the Fertile Crescent. The region is a precursor in the Neolithic, with activities such as animal breeding and domestication, as well as their use in the diet. Ain Ghazal, near Amman, is one of those settlements, around 8,000 BC.
The territory of present-day Jordan lacks political and social unity. There are three main kingdoms: Edom in the south, Moab in the center (Wadi Mujib valley), and Ammon in the north (with the capital in present-day Amman). Different nomadic and foreign peoples pass through and set their eyes on this area, such as the Hittites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, and Persians. Also, the Israelites, and in fact, many of the details of Jordan’s history during this period are known through mentions in the Bible.
The Nabateans establish themselves in Petra, taking refuge from the Seleucid kings (Hellenistic). They enjoy a certain autonomy, developing a flourishing trade, under the watchful eye of the permissive Greeks first, and then the more influential Romans who controlled the north of present-day Jordan: some of their cities were part of the Roman Decapolis. The main monuments of Petra are built. The main Christian events take place in Jordanian territory, such as the Baptism of Christ in 26 AD or the beheading of John the Baptist at the hands of Salome.
The Romans annex this territory as a province and call it Arabia Petra, with its capital in Petra, in the time of Emperor Hadrian. The so-called ‘golden age’ of Roman Arabia begins, as attested by the monuments of Jerash.
Consolidation and triumph of Christianity, first in the time of the ‘united’ Roman Empire and then in the time of its successor, the Byzantine Empire, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Some places become part of pilgrimage routes, such as Madaba, as evidenced by its extraordinary map mosaic.
A key moment in Jordan’s history due to the emergence of Islam and the Arab conquest of the entire region. First domination by the Umayyads and then by the Abbasids. The current king’s lineage (Hashemites) is related to Muhammad through one of his great-grandfathers, and his tribe was a rival of the Umayyads.
European Crusaders controlled the territory of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, spurred on by the “holy war” decreed by Pope Urban II. Castles were built, some of which still remain, such as Karak.
Restoration and consolidation of Arab dominion over the territory by the Ayyubids of Saladin first and the Egyptian Mamluks later (1258), who strengthened themselves after repelling Mongol conquest attempts.
The Ottoman Empire imposed its influence over the Safavid Persian Empire and became the dominant power over the territory. Gradually, starting in the 19th century, what we now know as Jordan began to attract increasing interest from European powers, while the crisis of the Ottoman Empire deepened.
The period of British protectorate. A new Arab nationalism emerged after World War I and Transjordan was delimited to the east of the Jordan River, which largely corresponds to the territory of present-day Jordan. On the other side was Palestine, which roughly encompassed what is now Israel and the West Bank.
Another key moment in Jordan’s history was its proclamation as an independent state after World War II, in the form of a monarchy (Hashemite). This period was marked by the creation of the state of Israel on the other side of the Jordan River and regional conflicts, leading to massive refugee movements towards Jordanian territory.
The current period in Jordan’s history began with the signing of the peace treaty with Israel. Since then, Jordan has sought to play a mediator role between Israel and the Arab countries in the region, as well as between them and the United States and the West.