Jordan Culture updated


Jordan Culture


Religion

Jordan is an inclusive Islamic nation that embraces people of all faiths. The majority, approximately 92%, of Jordanians adhere to Sunni Islam, while 1% practice Shia or Sufi traditions. Cities in southern Jordan boast the highest concentration of Muslims. Christians, constituting 6% of the population, are primarily found in Amman and the Jordan Valley, with an additional 1% representing various other religions. Muslims, as part of one of the Five Pillars, engage in the ritual of reciting prayers five times daily. Mosques announce these calls to prayer publicly, resonating across the entire Kingdom. Devotees use a small prayer rug, facing Mecca during their prayer sessions.

A significant religious practice observed in Jordan is Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, marked by fasting from sunrise to sunset. Public restaurants typically remain closed until just before sunset, and families celebrate the end of each fasting day with elaborate feasts and special sweets. Another central tenet of Islam is the Hajj, a sacred pilgrimage to Mecca, which Muslims are required to undertake at least once in their lifetime.


Classes and Castes

All social and political systems of Jordan are centered around extended patriarchal family units based on ancestry and wealth.  Family units are often led by sheikhs whose rule depends on the size of their family, their wealth, and the will of their personalities.  After the death of a sheikh, the eldest son ascends to the position of head of the family.


Marriage

Getting married and having children are top priorities.  The wedding has two celebrations:  an engagement party and a wedding party.  After the engagement party, the process of dating and getting to know each other begins.  After the engaged womans and man have signed the papers at the engagement party, they are legally married.  if they chose not to proceed, even though they have not lived together, they must divorce


Child Care

Women are the primary caregivers for the children.  After the first son i born, the father and mother take the name of the son.  If the son's name is Mohammed, the father becomes Abu Mohammed, meaning "father of Mohammed", and the mother becomes Om Mohammed, or "mother of Mohammed"


Education

Primary education is free and compulsory, starting at age 6 until a child is 16 years old.  All students are required to take an extensive exam called "Tawjehieh" before graduating from secondary school and as a prerequisite for entering universities and colleges


Secular Celebrations

Jordanians follow the Islamic calendar.  National holidays include Arbor Day (Jan 15), Arab League Day (Mar 22), and Independence Day (May 25).  Religions holidays include Id al-Fitr (the end of Ramadan), Id al-Adha (the Feast of Sacrifice), the Islamic New Year, the birthday of Mohammed, and Leilat al-Meiraj (the Ascension of Mohammed).


Social Interaction

Social customs in Jordan are characterized by a multitude of intricate verbal and behavioral rituals, many of which may go unnoticed by foreigners without consequences. However, a few noteworthy points are worth understanding. The level of enthusiasm that Jordanians invest in their social relationships can be quite intense, which may be in contrast to the more reserved nature familiar to Westerners. Strangers readily greet each other warmly, engaging in casual conversations about everyday matters. Passers-by comfortably seek advice or exchange opinions, and old friends indulge in brief exchanges involving effusive salutations, cheek-kisses, joyous arm-squeezing, back-slapping, and sincere inquiries about health, family, business, and news.

For those not accustomed to such warmth and openness in social interactions, there is a risk of being perceived as cold, disinterested, or aloof. A genuine smile, a basic understanding of standard greetings, acknowledging those who welcome you, and taking a moment to exchange pleasantries can establish quicker connections with locals than any other approach. Handshakes are a more prevalent form of greeting in Jordan than in the West, often punctuating even brief interactions to convey a sense of camaraderie. In casual settings, like strolling down the street, people tend to walk closely in small groups. It is common for close friends of the same gender to hold hands or interlock arms while conversing, symbolizing their strong bond.


Gestures and Body Language

In Arab culture, gestures carry nuanced meanings that may differ from those in your home country. Instead of nodding, a forward incline of the head with closed eyes signifies yes, while raising eyebrows, tilting the head back, and emitting a slight "tsk" indicates no. Shaking your head from side to side communicates that you don't understand. A heartfelt gesture involves placing your right hand over your heart, symbolizing genuineness or sincerity, especially useful in various daily situations.

Additional gestures include an upturned palm with all five fingertips pressed, signaling "wait," and a side-to-side wrist-pivot with curled fingers, meaning "what do you want?" A flat palm with an index finger drawing a line across indicates a request for relevant documents or, commonly, a passport. Pointing with an index finger is avoided; instead, gesture imprecisely with two fingers or wave your hand in the desired direction.

Cultural nuances extend to beckoning, where using your palm facing the ground with all fingers together is more appropriate than palm-up motions. Directly pointing with an index finger is associated with the evil eye; opt for imprecise gestures or wave your hand vaguely. Revealing the soles of your feet or shoes is considered an insult, so be mindful when crossing your legs. Sitting with both feet on the floor, as per Jordanian tradition, is considered respectful. Also, avoid putting your feet up on chairs or tables.

Another cultural consideration involves dental hygiene. Instead of using fingers to pick your teeth, discreetly use toothpicks provided by most diners and restaurants, ensuring cultural sensitivity behind your palm. Understanding and respecting these gestures contributes to a smoother cultural exchange in Jordan.



Music

Music plays a vital role in the cultural mosaic of Jordan, embodying a unique blend of tradition and regional identity. Distinguished by a five-tone scale, Jordanian music diverges from the familiar seven-tone system of the West, offering a melodic structure that resonates with authenticity. Elaborate rhythms infuse songs with narratives of family, honor, love, and life's journey.

Collaboration defines Jordanian music, with instrumentalists often accompanying vocalists, embracing improvisation for a personalized touch. Key instruments include the oud, mizmarmujwiz, nay, rababah, and gerbeh, creating a diverse sonic palette. Lap-played drums maintain rhythmic cohesion.

This musical tradition is a cultural bridge, connecting communities through its rich tapestry of melodies and rhythms. In Jordanian music, one can hear the echoes of heritage, community, and the universal emotions that bind us all.




Handicrafts

Jordan's rich tradition of handicrafts echoes through generations, dating back to a time when self-sufficiency was woven into daily life. The craftmanship, born out of the need to create rugs, earthenware vessels, and utensils, reflects a cultural fusion of Arab and Islamic influences.

Jordanian crafts showcase a diverse array of skills, from the artistry of handmade glass and the functional elegance of earthenware to the finesse of basket and carpet weaving, and the intricate beauty of embroidery. Artisans also produce smaller-scale crafts, such as artistically adorned sand bottles, finely chiseled sculptures, and uniquely crafted silver jewelry, showcasing creativity and attention to detail.

These crafts serve as both artistic expressions and tangible links to the past, preserving a cultural heritage that continues to thrive in the hands of skilled artisans across Jordan. Each piece is a testament to the melding of tradition with contemporary aesthetics, offering a glimpse into the artistry that defines Jordanian handicrafts.


The Meaning of Coffee

In the traditional bedouin culture, where a man's character is often judged by how he treats his guests, and where unspoken gestures carry significant weight, coffee serves as a deeply symbolic element. In certain regions, the mere act of preparing coffee serves as a signal to neighboring families in tents, signifying that something is happening. By pounding freshly roasted beans in a mihbash, a form of pestle and mortar, with a distinct rattling or jangling sound, a man (typically) silently invites those nearby to gather around his tent.

The process involves brewing the coffee with cardamom in a dalleh, a long-spouted pot set in the embers. The brewed coffee is then served to everyone present in small thimble-sized cups, starting with the guest of honor and proceeding clockwise around the circle. The first cup, known as l’thayf ("for the guest"), symbolizes hospitality. The second, l’kayf ("for the mood"), indicates a relaxed atmosphere. The third, l’sayf ("for the sword"), signifies the dissipation of any lingering animosity. Only after this ceremonial coffee ritual concludes can social interactions or discussions commence.