What is now Jordan has been inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic period. Three stable kingdoms emerged there at the end of the Bronze Age: Ammon, Moab and Edom. Later rulers include the Nabataean Kingdom, the Roman Empire, and the Ottoman Empire. After the Great Arab Revolt against the Ottomans in 1916 during World War I, the Ottoman Empire was partitioned by Britain and France. The Emirate of Transjordan was established in 1921 by the then Emir Abdullah I and it became a British protectorate. In 1946, Jordan became an independent state officially known as The Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. Jordan captured the West Bank during the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, which it later lost in 1967, and the name of the state was changed to The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1949. Jordan is a founding member of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, and is one of two Arab states to have signed a peace treaty with Israel. The country is a constitutional monarchy, but the king holds wide executive and legislative powers.
Jordan is a relatively-small, semi-arid, almost-landlocked country with a population numbering 9.5 million. Sunni Islam, practiced by around 92% of the population, is the dominant religion in Jordan. It co-exists with an indigenous Christian minority. Jordan is considered to be among the safest of Arab countries in the Middle East, and has avoided long-term terrorism and instability. In the midst of surrounding turmoil, it has been greatly hospitable, accepting refugees from almost all surrounding conflicts as early as 1948, with most notably the estimated 2.1 million Palestinians and the 1.4 million Syrian refugees residing in the country. The kingdom is also a refuge to thousands of Iraqi Christians fleeing the Islamic State. While Jordan continues to accept refugees, the recent large influx from Syria placed substantial strain on national resources and infrastructure.
Jordan is classified as a country of "high human development" with an "upper middle income" economy. The Jordanian economy, one of the smallest economies in the region, is attractive to foreign investors based upon a skilled workforce. The country is a major tourist destination, and also attracts medical tourism due to its well developed health sector. Nonetheless, a lack of natural resources, large flow of refugees and regional turmoil have hampered economic growth.
Jordan is named after the Jordan River, where Jesus is said to have been baptised. The origin of the river's name is debated, but the most common explanation is that it derives from the word "yarad" (the descender, "Yarden" is the Hebrew name for the river), found in Hebrew, Aramaic, and other Semitic languages. Others regard the name as having an Indo-Aryan origin, combining the words "yor" (year) and "don" (river), reflecting the river's perennial nature. Another theory is that it is from the Arabic root word "wrd" (to come to), as in people coming to a major source of water.
The first recorded use of the name Jordan appears in Anastasi I, an ancient Egyptian papyrus that dates back to around 1000 BC. The lands of modern-day Jordan were historically called Transjordan, meaning "beyond the Jordan River". The name was Arabized into Al-Urdunn during the 636 Muslim conquest of the Levant. During crusader rule in the beginning of the second millennium, it was called Oultrejordain. In 1921, the Emirate of Transjordan was established and after it gained its independence in 1946, it became The Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. The name was changed in 1949 to The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Hashemite is the house name of the royal family.
Jordan is rich in Paleolithic remains, holding evidence of inhabitance by Homo erectus, Neanderthal and modern humans. The oldest evidence of human habitation dates back around 250,000 years. The Kharanah area in eastern Jordan has evidence of human huts from about 20,000 years ago. Other Paleolithic sites include Pella and Al-Azraq. In the Neolithic period, several settlements began to develop, most notably an agricultural community called 'Ain Ghazal in what is now Amman, one of the largest known prehistoric settlements in the Near East. Plaster statues estimated to date back to around 7250 BC were uncovered there, and are among the oldest large human statues ever found. Villages of Bab edh-Dhra in the Dead Sea area, Tal Hujayrat Al-Ghuzlan in Aqaba and Tulaylet Ghassul in the Jordan Valley all date to the Chalcolithic period.
The prehistoric period of Jordan ended at around 2000 BC when the Semitic nomads known as the Amorites entered the region. During the Bronze Age and Iron Age, present-day Jordan was home to several ancient kingdoms, whose populations spoke Semitic languages of the Canaanite group. Among them were Ammon, Edom and Moab, which are described as tribal kingdoms rather than states. They are mentioned in ancient texts such as the Old Testament. Archaeological finds have shown that Ammon was in the area of the modern city of Amman, Moab in the highlands east of the Dead Sea and Edom in the area around Wadi Araba.
These Transjordanian kingdoms were in continuous conflict with the neighbouring Hebrew kingdoms of Israel and Judah, centered west of the Jordan River, though the former was known to have at times controlled small parts east of the River. Frequent confrontations ensued and tensions between them increased. One record of this is the Mesha Stele erected by the Moabite king Mesha in around 840 BC on which he lauds himself for the building projects that he initiated in Moab and commemorates his glory and victory against the Israelites. The stele constitutes one of the most important direct accounts of Biblical history. Subsequently, the Assyrian Empire reduced these kingdoms to vassals. When the region was later under the influence of the Babylonians, the Old Testament mentions that these kingdoms aided them in the 597 BC sack of Jerusalem.
These kingdoms are believed to have existed throughout fluctuations in regional rule and influence. They were under the control of several distant empires, including the Akkadian Empire (2335–2193 BC), Ancient Egypt (1500–1300 BC), the Hittite Empire (1400–1300 BC), the Middle Assyrian Empire (1365–1020 BC), the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC), the Neo-Babylonian Empire (604–539 BC), the Achaemenid Empire (539–332 BC) and the Hellenistic Empire of Macedonia. However, by the time of Roman rule in the Levant around 63 BC, the people of Ammon, Edom and Moab had lost their distinct identities, and were assimilated into Roman culture.
Alexander the Great's conquest of the Achaemenid Empire in 332 BC introduced Hellenistic culture to the Middle East. After Alexander's death in 323 BC, his empire split among his generals and in the end, much of the land of modern-day Jordan was disputed between the Ptolemies based in Egypt and the Seleucids based in Syria. In the south and east, the Nabataeans had an independent kingdom. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who derived wealth from their capital Petra, whose proximity to major trade routes led to it becoming a regional trading hub. Campaigns by different Greek generals aspiring to annex the Nabataean Kingdom were unsuccessful.
The Ptolemies were eventually displaced from the region by the Seleucid Empire. The conflict between these two groups enabled the Nabataeans to extend their kingdom northwards well beyond Petra in Edom. The Nabataeans are known for their great ability in constructing efficient water collecting methods in the barren desert and their talent in carving structures into solid rocks — notably the Khazneh (treasury). These nomads spoke Arabic and wrote in Nabataean alphabets, which were developed from Aramaic script during the 2nd century BC, and are regarded by scholars to have evolved into the Arabic alphabet around the 4th century AD.
The Greeks founded new cities in Jordan including Philadelphia (Amman), Gerasa (Jerash), Gedara (Umm Qays), Pella (Tabaqat Fahl) and Arbila (Irbid). Later under Roman rule, these cities joined other Hellenistic cities in Palestine and Syria to form the Decapolis League, a loose confederation linked by economic and cultural interests: Scythopolis, Hippos, Capitolias, Canatha and Damascus were among its members. The most remarkable Hellenistic site in Jordan is Qasr Al-Abd at Iraq Al-Amir, just west of modern-day Amman.
Roman legions under Pompey conquered much of the Levant in 63 BC, inaugurating a period of Roman rule that lasted for centuries. In 106 AD, Emperor Trajan annexed the nearby Nabataean Kingdom without any opposition, and rebuilt the King's Highway which became known as the Via Traiana Nova road. During Roman rule the Nabataeans continued to flourish and replaced their local gods with Christianity. Roman remains in Amman include: the Temple of Hercules at the Amman Citadel and the Roman theater. Jerash contains a well-preserved Roman city that had 15,000 inhabitants at its zenith. Jerash was visited by Emperor Hadrian during his journey to Palestine. In 324 AD, the Roman Empire split, and the Eastern Roman Empire (later known as the Byzantine Empire) continued to control or influence the region until 636 AD. Christianity had become legal within the empire in 313 AD and the official state religion in 390 AD, after Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity.
Ayla city (modern day Aqaba) in southern Jordan also came under Byzantine Empire rule. The Aqaba Church was built around 300 AD, and is considered to be the world's first purpose built Christian church. The Byzantines built 16 churches just south of Amman in Umm ar-Rasas. Administratively the area of Jordan fell under the Diocese of the East, and was divided between the provinces of Palaestina Secunda in the north-west and Arabia Petraea in the south and east. Palaestina Salutaris in the south was split off from Arabia Petraea in the late 4th century. The Sassanian Empire in the east became the Byzantines' rivals, and frequent confrontations sometimes led to the Sassanids controlling some parts of the region, including Transjordan.
Muslims under the Rashidun Caliphate from what is now Saudi Arabia, invaded the region from the south. The Arab Christian Ghassanids, clients of the Byzantines, were defeated despite imperial support. While the Muslim forces lost to the Byzantines in their first direct engagement during the Battle of Mu'tah in 629, in what is now the Karak Governorate, the Byzantines lost control of the Levant when they were defeated by the Rashidun army in 636 at the Battle of Yarmouk just north of modern-day Jordan. The region was Arabized, and the Arabic language became widespread.
Transjordan was an essential territory for the conquest of nearby Damascus. The first, or Rashidun, caliphate was followed by that of the Ummayad (661–750). Under Umayyads rule, several desert castles were constructed, such as: Qasr Al-Mshatta, Qasr Al-Hallabat, Qasr Al-Kharanah, Qasr Tuba, Qasr Amra, and a large administrative palace in Amman. The Abbasid campaign to take over the Umayyad empire began in the region of Transjordan. After the decline of the Abbasid Caliphate, the area was ruled by the Fatimid Caliphate, then by the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem (1115–1189).
The Crusaders constructed about nine Crusader castles as part of the lordship of Oultrejordain, including those of Montreal, Al-Karak and Wu'ayra (in Petra). In the 12th century, the Crusaders were defeated by Saladin, the founder of the Ayyubids dynasty (1189–1260). The Ayyubids built a new castle at Ajloun and rebuilt the former Roman fort of Qasr Azraq. Several of these castles were used and expanded by the Mamluks (1260–1516), who divided Jordan between the provinces of Karak and Damascus. During the next century Transjordan experienced Mongol attacks, but the Mongols were ultimately repelled by the Mamluks after the Battle of Ain Jalut (1260).
In 1516, Ottoman forces conquered Mamluk territory. Agricultural villages in Jordan witnessed a period of relative prosperity in the 16th century, but were later abandoned. For the next centuries, Ottoman rule in the region, at times, was virtually absent and reduced to annual tax collection visits. This led to a short-lived occupation by the Wahhabi forces (1803–1812), an ultra-orthodox Islamic movement that emerged in Najd in modern-day Saudi Arabia. Ibrahim Pasha, son of the governor of the Egypt Eyalet under the request of the Ottoman sultan, rooted out the Wahhabis between 1811 and 1818. In 1833 Ibrahim Pasha turned on the Ottomans and established his rule over the Levant. His oppressive policies led to the unsuccessful peasants' revolt in Palestine in 1834. The cities of Al-Salt and Al-Karak were destroyed by Ibrahim Pasha's forces for harbouring a peasants' revolt leader. Egyptian rule was later forcibly ended, with Ottoman rule restored.
Russian persecution of Sunni Muslim Circassians and Chechens led to their immigration into the region in 1867, where today they form a small part of the country's ethnic fabric. Overall population however declined due to oppression and neglect. Urban settlements with small populations included: Al-Salt, Irbid, Jerash and Al-Karak. The under-development of urban life in Jordan was exacerbated by the settlements being sometimes raided. Ottoman oppression provoked the region's both non-Bedouin and Bedouin tribes to revolt, Bedouin tribes like: Adwan, Bani Hassan, Bani Sakhr and the Howeitat. The most notable revolts were the Shoubak Revolt (1905) and the Karak Revolt (1910), which were brutally suppressed. Jordan's location lies on a pilgrimage route taken by Muslims going to Mecca, which helped the population economically when the Ottomans constructed the Hejaz Railway linking Mecca with Istanbul in 1908. Before the construction of the railway, the Ottomans built fortresses along the Hajj route to secure pilgrims' caravans.
Four centuries of stagnation during Ottoman rule came to an end during World War I by the 1916 Arab Revolt; driven by long-term Arab resentment towards the Ottoman authorities, and growing Arab nationalism. The revolt was launched by Sharif Hussein of Mecca, a member of the Hashemite clan of Hejaz who claim descent from Muhammad. Locally, the revolt garnered the support of the Transjordanian Bedouin tribes, Circassians and Christians. The Allies of World War I, including Britain and France, offered support.
The Great Arab Revolt started on 5 June 1916 from Medina and pushed northwards until the fighting reached Transjordan in the Battle of Aqaba on 6 July 1917. By 1918, the revolt — with the Allies' support — successfully gained control of most of the territories of the Hejaz and the Levant, including Damascus. However, it failed to gain international recognition as an independent state, due mainly to the secret 1916 Sykes–Picot Agreement and the 1917 Balfour Declaration. This was seen by the Hashemites and the Arabs as a betrayal of their previous agreements with the British, including the 1915 McMahon–Hussein Correspondence, in which the British stated their willingness to recognise the independence of a unified Arab state stretching from Aleppo to Aden under the rule of the Hashemites. The region was divided into French and British spheres of influence. Abdullah I, the second son of Sharif Hussein arrived from Hejaz by train in Ma'an in southern Jordan on 11 November 1920, where he was greeted by Transjordanian leaders. Abdullah established the Emirate of Transjordan on 11 April 1921, which then became a British protectorate.
In September 1922, the Council of the League of Nations recognised Transjordan as a state under the British Mandate for Palestine and the Transjordan memorandum, and excluded the territories east of the Jordan River from the provisions of the mandate dealing with Jewish settlement. Transjordan remained a British mandate until 1946, but it had been granted a greater level of autonomy than the region west to the Jordan River.
The first organised army in Jordan was established on 22 October 1920, and was named the "Arab Legion". The Legion grew from 150 men in 1920 to 8,000 in 1946. Multiple difficulties emerged upon the assumption of power in the region by the Hashemite leadership. In Transjordan, small local rebellions at Kura in 1921 and 1923 were suppressed by Emir Abdullah with the help of British forces. Wahhabis from Najd regained strength and repeatedly raided the southern parts of his territory in (1922–1924), seriously threatening the Emir's position. The Emir was unable to repel those raids without the aid of the local Bedouin tribes and the British, who maintained a military base with a small RAF detachment close to Amman.
The Treaty of London, signed by the British Government and the Emir of Transjordan on 22 March 1946, recognised the independence of Transjordan upon ratification by both countries' parliaments. On 25 May 1946, the Emirate of Transjordan became The Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan, as the ruling Emir was re-designated as King by the parliament of Transjordan on the day it ratified the Treaty of London. The name was changed to The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1949. Jordan became a member of the United Nations on 14 December 1955.
On 15 May 1948, as part of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, Jordan invaded Palestine together with other Arab states. Following the war, Jordan controlled the West Bank and on 24 April 1950 Jordan formally annexed these territories. In response, some Arab countries demanded Jordan's expulsion from the Arab League. On 12 June 1950, the Arab League declared that the annexation was a temporary, practical measure and that Jordan was holding the territory as a "trustee" pending a future settlement. King Abdullah was assassinated at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in 1951 by a Palestinian militant, amid rumours he intended to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
Abdullah was succeeded by his son Talal, who would soon abdicate due to illness in favour of his eldest son Hussein. Talal established the country's modern constitution in 1952. Hussein ascended to the throne in 1953 at the age of 18. Jordan witnessed great political uncertainty in the following period. The 1950s were a period of political upheaval, as Nasserism and Pan-Arabism swept the Arab World. On 1 March 1956, King Hussein Arabized the command of the Army by dismissing a number of senior British officers, an act made to remove remaining foreign influence in the country. In 1958, Jordan and neighbouring Hashemite Iraq formed the Arab Federation as a response to the formation of the rival United Arab Republic between Nasser's Egypt and Syria. The union lasted only six months, being dissolved after Iraqi King Faisal II (Hussein's cousin) was deposed by a bloody military coup on 14 July 1958.
Jordan signed a military pact with Egypt just before Israel launched a preemptive strike on Egypt to begin the Six-Day War in June 1967, where Jordan and Syria joined the war. The Arab states were defeated and Jordan lost control of the West Bank to Israel. The War of Attrition with Israel followed, which included the 1968 Battle of Karameh where the combined forces of the Jordanian Armed Forces and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) repelled an Israeli attack on the Karameh camp on the Jordanian border with the West Bank. Despite the fact that the Palestinians had limited involvement against the Israeli forces, the events at Karameh gained wide recognition and acclaim in the Arab world. As a result, the time period following the battle witnessed an upsurge of support for Palestinian paramilitary elements (the fedayeen) within Jordan from other Arab countries. The fedayeen activities soon became a threat to Jordan's rule of law. In September 1970, the Jordanian army targeted the fedayeen and the resultant fighting led to the expulsion of Palestinian fighters from various PLO groups into Lebanon, in a civil war that became known as Black September.
In 1973, Egypt and Syria waged the Yom Kippur War on Israel, and fighting occurred along the 1967 Jordan River cease-fire line. Jordan sent a brigade to Syria to attack Israeli units on Syrian territory but did not engage Israeli forces from Jordanian territory. At the Rabat summit conference in 1974, Jordan agreed, along with the rest of the Arab League, that the PLO was the "sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people". Subsequently, Jordan renounced its claims to the West Bank in 1988.
At the 1991 Madrid Conference, Jordan agreed to negotiate a peace treaty sponsored by the US and the Soviet Union. The Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace was signed on 26 October 1994. In 1997, Israeli agents entered Jordan using Canadian passports and poisoned Khaled Meshal, a senior Hamas leader. Israel provided an antidote to the poison and released dozens of political prisoners, including Sheikh Ahmed Yassin after King Hussein threatened to annul the peace treaty.
On 7 February 1999, Abdullah II ascended the throne upon the death of his father Hussein. Abdullah embarked on aggressive economic liberalisation when he assumed the throne, and his reforms led to an economic boom which continued until 2008. Abdullah II has been credited with increasing foreign investment, improving public-private partnerships and providing the foundation for Aqaba's free-trade zone and Jordan's flourishing information and communication technology (ICT) sector. He also set up five other special economic zones. During the following years Jordan's economy experienced hardship as it dealt with the effects of the Great Recession and spillover from the Arab Spring, including a cut in its petroleum supply and the collapse of trade with neighbouring countries.
Al-Qaeda under Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's leadership launched coordinated explosions in three hotel lobbies in Amman on 9 November 2005, resulting in 60 deaths and 115 injured. The bombings, which targeted civilians, caused widespread outrage among Jordanians. The attack is considered to be a rare event in the country, and Jordan's internal security was dramatically improved afterwards. No major terrorist attacks have occurred since then. Abdullah and Jordan are viewed with contempt by Islamic extremists for the country's peace treaty with Israel and its relationship with the West.
The Arab Spring began sweeping the Arab world in 2011, where large-scale protests erupted demanding economic and political reforms. However, many of these protests in some countries turned into civil wars and more instability. In Jordan, in response to domestic unrest, Abdullah replaced his prime minister and introduced a number of reforms including: amending the Constitution and establishing a number of governmental commissions. Proportional representation was re-introduced to the Jordanian parliament in the 2016 general election, a move which he said would eventually lead to establishing parliamentary governments. Although some local opposition groups called his reforms inadequate, other observers praised them. They took place amid unprecedented regional instability: an influx of 1.4 million Syrian refugees into the natural resources-lacking country and the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Jordan sits strategically at the crossroads of the continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, in the Levant area of the Fertile Crescent, a cradle of civilization. It is 89,341 square kilometres (34,495 sq mi) large, and 400 kilometres (250 mi) long between its northernmost and southernmost points; Umm Qais and Aqaba respectively. The kingdom lies between 29° and 34° N, and 34° and 40° E. The east is an arid plateau irrigated by oases and seasonal water streams. Major cities are overwhelmingly located on the north-western part of the kingdom due to its fertile soils and relatively abundant rainfall. These include Irbid, Jerash and Zarqa in the northwest, the capital Amman and Al-Salt in the central west, and Madaba, Al-Karak and Aqaba in the southwest. Major towns in the eastern part of the country are the oasis towns of Azraq and Ruwaished.
In the west, a highland area of arable land and Mediterranean evergreen forestry drops suddenly into the Jordan Rift Valley. The rift valley contains the Jordan River and the Dead Sea, which separates Jordan from Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Jordan has a 26 kilometres (16 mi) shoreline on the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea, but is otherwise landlocked. The Yarmouk River, an eastern tributary of the Jordan, forms part of the boundary between Jordan and Syria (including the occupied Golan Heights) to the north. The other boundaries are formed by several international and local agreements and do not follow well-defined natural features. The highest point is Jabal Umm al Dami, at 1,854 m (6,083 ft) above sea level, while the lowest is the Dead Sea −420 m (−1,378 ft), the lowest land point on earth.
Jordan has a diverse range of habitats, ecosystems and biota due to its varied landscapes and environments. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature was set up in 1966 to protect and manage Jordan's natural resources. Nature reserves in Jordan include the Dana Biosphere Reserve, the Azraq Wetland Reserve, the Shaumari Wildlife Reserve and the Mujib Nature Reserve.
The climate in Jordan varies greatly. Generally, the further inland from the Mediterranean, greater contrasts in temperature occur and the less rainfall there is. The country's average elevation is 812 m (2,664 ft) (SL). The highlands above the Jordan Valley, mountains of the Dead Sea and Wadi Araba and as far south as Ras Al-Naqab are dominated by a Mediterranean climate, while the eastern and northeastern areas of the country are arid desert. Although the desert parts of the kingdom reach high temperatures, the heat is usually moderated by low humidity and a daytime breeze, while the nights are cool.
Summers, lasting from May to September, are hot and dry, with temperatures averaging around 32 °C (90 °F) and sometimes exceeding 40 °C (104 °F) between July and August. The winter, lasting from November to March, is relatively cool, with temperatures averaging around 13 °C (55 °F). Winter also sees frequent showers and occasional snowfall in some western elevated areas.
Over 2,000 plant species have been recorded in Jordan. Many of the flowering plants bloom in the spring after the winter rains and the type of vegetation depends largely on the levels of precipitation. The mountainous regions in the northwest are clothed in forests, while further south and east the vegetation becomes more scrubby and transitions to steppe-type vegetation. Forests cover 1.5 million dunums (1,500 km2), less than 2% of Jordan, making Jordan among the world's least forested countries, the international average being 15%.
Plant species include, Aleppo pine, Sarcopoterium, Salvia dominica, black iris, Tamarix, Anabasis, Artemisia, Acacia, Mediterranean cypress and Phoenecian juniper. The mountainous regions in the northwest are clothed in natural forests of pine, deciduous oak, evergreen oak, pistachio and wild olive. Mammal and reptile species include, the long-eared hedgehog, Nubian ibex, wild boar, fallow deer, Arabian wolf, desert monitor, honey badger, glass snake, caracal, golden jackal and the roe deer, among others. Bird include the hooded crow, Eurasian jay, lappet-faced vulture, barbary falcon, hoopoe, pharaoh eagle-owl, common cuckoo, Tristram's starling, Palestine sunbird, Sinai rosefinch, lesser kestrel, house crow and the white-spectacled bulbul.
Jordan is a unitary state under a constitutional monarchy. Jordan's constitution, adopted in 1952 and amended a number of times since, is the legal framework that governs the monarch, government, bicameral legislature and judiciary. The king retains wide executive and legislative powers from the government and parliament. The king exercises his powers through the government that he appoints for a four-year term, which is responsible before the parliament that is made up of two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The judiciary is independent according to the constitution.
The king is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the army. He can declare war and peace, ratify laws and treaties, convene and close legislative sessions, call and postpone elections, dismiss the government and dissolve the parliament. The appointed government can also be dismissed through a majority vote of no confidence by the elected House of Representatives. After a bill is proposed by the government, it must be approved by the House of Representatives then the Senate, and becomes law after being ratified by the king. A royal veto on legislation can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in both houses. The parliament also has the right of interpellation.
The 65 members of the upper Senate are directly appointed by the king, the constitution mandates that they be veteran politicians, judges and generals who previously served in the government or in the House of Representatives. The 130 members of the lower House of Representatives are elected through party-list proportional representation in 23 constituencies for a 4-year term. Minimum quotas exist in the House of Representatives for women (15 seats, though they won 20 seats in the 2016 election), Christians (9 seats) and Circassians and Chechens (3 seats).
Courts are divided into three categories: civil, religious, and special. The civil courts deal with civil and criminal matters, including cases brought against the government. The civil courts include Magistrate Courts, Courts of First Instance, Courts of Appeal, High Administrative Courts which hear cases relating to administrative matters, and the Constitutional Court which was set up in 2012 in order to hear cases regarding the constitutionality of laws. Although Islam is the state religion, the constitution preserves a degree of religious and personal freedom. Religious law only extends to matters of personal status such as divorce and inheritance in religious courts, and is partially based on Islamic Sharia law. The special court deals with cases forwarded by the civil one.
The capital city of Jordan is Amman, located in north-central Jordan. Jordan is divided into 12 governorates (muhafazah) (informally grouped into three regions: northern, central, southern). These are subdivided into a total of 52 nawahi, which are further divided into neighbourhoods in urban areas or into towns in rural ones.
The current monarch, Abdullah II, ascended to the throne in February 1999 after the death of his father Hussein. Abdullah re-affirmed Jordan's commitment to the peace treaty with Israel and its relations with the United States. He refocused the government's agenda on economic reform, during his first year. King Abdullah's eldest son, Prince Hussein, is the current Crown Prince of Jordan. The current prime minister is Hani Al-Mulki who received his position on 29 May 2016. Abdullah had announced his intentions of turning Jordan into a parliamentary system, where the largest bloc in parliament forms a government. However, the underdevelopment of political parties in the country have hampered such moves. Jordan has around 50 political parties representing nationalist, leftist, Islamist, and liberal ideologies. Political parties contested a fifth of the seats in the 2016 elections, the remainder belonging to independent politicians.
According to Freedom House, Jordan is ranked as the 3rd freest Arab country, and as "partly free" in the Freedom in the World 2017 report. The 2010 Arab Democracy Index from the Arab Reform Initiative ranked Jordan first in the state of democratic reforms out of 15 Arab countries. Jordan ranked first among the Arab states and 78th globally in the Human Freedom Index in 2015, and ranked 55th out of 175 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) issued by Transparency International in 2014, where 175th is most corrupt. In the 2016 Press Freedom Index maintained by Reporters Without Borders, Jordan ranked 135th out of 180 countries worldwide, and 5th of 19 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. Jordan's score was 44 on a scale from 0 (most free) to 105 (least free). The report added "the Arab Spring and the Syrian conflict have led the authorities to tighten their grip on the media and, in particular, the Internet, despite an outcry from civil society". Jordanian media consists of public and private institutions. Popular Jordanian newspapers include Ammon News, Ad-Dustour and Jordan Times. The two most-watched local TV stations are Ro'ya TV and Jordan TV. Internet penetration in Jordan reached 76% in 2015.