A few guidelines…
Jordan can be regarded as a typically Arab country as its people are very warm, friendly and hospitable. Jordanians are typically happy to forgive foreigners who innocently ‘break the rules’ of etiquette. However, visitors seen to be making an effort to observe local customs will undoubtedly win favor.
Joining local people for a cup of tea or coffee can be a wonderful way to learn more about local culture. If you are invited yet are unable to attend, then it is perfectly acceptable to decline. Place your right hand over your heart and politely make your excuses.
Many families, particularly in rural areas, are very traditional and, if you visit their house, you may well find it is divided between the men and women. Foreign women are often treated as honorary ‘men’.
Local women in Jordan enjoy considerable freedom when compared with many other countries in the region. Women are entitled to a full education, they can vote, they can drive cars, and they often play significant roles in business and politics. Arranged marriages and dowries are still common.
Jordan is primarily a Muslim country, although the freedom of all religions is protected. Muslin women’s clothing often covers their arms, legs and hair. Western women are not subject to these customs, but very revealing clothing is never appropriate, and conservative dress is advisable for both men and woman in downtown Amman and outside the cities.
Shorts are rarely worn by either sex, and would be out of place in the downtown area. Topless sunbathing is prohibited and one-piece swimsuits are preferred, although two-piece swimsuits are acceptable at hotel pools. Public displays of affection are rare; however, it is not considered unusual for friends to hold hands, regardless of their gender.
Jordan is an ideal destination for those seeking cultural knowledge and spiritual enrichment. Jordan values its ethnically and religiously diverse population, consequently providing for the cultural rights of all its citizens. This spirit of tolerance and appreciation is one of the central elements contributing to the stable and peaceful cultural climate flourishing within Jordan. More than 92% of Jordanians are Sunni Muslims and approximately 6% are Christians. The majority of Christians belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, but there are also Greek Catholics, a small Roman Catholic community, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and a few Protestant denominations. Several small Shi’a and Druze populations can also be found in Jordan.
As Jordan is predominantly an Islamic country, one may explore the principles of Islam through direct interaction with the people of this monotheistic religion. As the capstone of a long tradition beginning with Judaism and Christianity, Muslims believe that Islam completes the revelation of God’s message to humankind. Islam – which in Arabic means “submission” – is an assertion of the unity, completeness, and sovereignty of God. Muslims believe that God, or Allah, as He is known in Arabic, revealed his final message to humankind through the Prophet Muhammad and the Holy Qur’an, which is the divine immutable word of God. Islam focuses heavily on the equality of all humans before the one true God, and therefore it is in many ways a return to the original doctrine of the pure monotheism that characterized the early Judeo-Christian tradition.
Islamic tradition has crystallized five fundamental observances, or “pillars,” that are as important as faith in defining Islamic identity and strengthening the common bond that ties all Muslims together. They are Confession of Faith, Daily Prayer (five times per day facing the holy city of Mecca), Fasting during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Almsgiving, and Pilgrimage to Mecca.
Alcohol is widely available at bars and hotels across Jordan. During Ramadan, drinks are only available to visitors in their hotels. Alcohol can also be bought from supermarkets.
Ramadan is a holy month of fasting, the date of which varies according to the Islamic lunar calendar. During Ramadan, alcohol is not sold, except to non-Muslims in larger hotels. Smoking, eating and drinking in public is prohibited during the hours of daylight. As a sign of respect, visitors are kindly requested to refrain from these activities in public during fasting hours. During Ramadan, many stores, banks and offices open late at 09:00 and close early at 14:00.
Tentative dates for Ramadan according to the Gregorian calendar: