Jordan (Arabic: الأردنّ al-'Urdunn), officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is an Arab country in Southwest Asia spanning the southern part of the Syrian Desert down to the Gulf of Aqaba. It shares borders with Syria to the north, Iraq to the north-east, the West Bank and Israel to the west, and Saudi Arabia to the east and south. It shares control of the Dead Sea with Israel, and the coastline of the Gulf of Aqaba with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. Much of Jordan is covered by desert, particularly the Arabian Desert; however the north-western area, with the Jordan River, is regarded as part of the Fertile Crescent. The capital city of Amman is in the north-west.
During its history, Jordan has seen numerous civilizations, including such ancient eastern civilizations as the Hebrew and later Israelite tribes of Menasseh, Gad, and Reuben. Other civilizations possessing political sovereignty and influence in Jordan were: Akkadian, Assyrian, Judean, Babylonian, and Persian empires. Jordan was for a time part of Pharaonic Egypt, the Hasmonean Dynasty of the Maccabees, and also spawned the native Nabatean civilization which left rich archaeological remains at Petra. Cultures from the west also left their mark, such as the Macedonian, Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman Turkish empires. Since the seventh century the area has been under Muslim and Arab cultures, with the exception of a brief period when the west of the area formed part of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and a short time under British rule.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a constitutional monarchy with representative government. The reigning monarch is the head of state, the chief executive and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The king exercises his executive authority through the prime ministers and the Council of Ministers, or cabinet. The cabinet, meanwhile, is responsible before the democratically elected House of Deputies which, along with the House of Notables (Senate), constitutes the legislative branch of the government. The judicial branch is an independent branch of the government.
Jordan is often referred to as "the Switzerland of the Middle East" because of its neutrality in regional and global conflicts, reputation as a peacemaker and mediator, political stability that attracts droves of refugees across its borders, liberal and tolerant environment that attracts thousands of political asylum seekers, and recently because of its growing financial power.
Jordan is a modern Arab nation with a predominately middle class population that lacks the vast wealth of some of its neighbors. Jordan's population is predominately Muslim with a sizable Christian minority. Jordanian society is predominantly urbanized and very ethnically diverse. Jordan is also an industrialized nation with a capitalist-oriented economy that is classified as an emerging market by the CIA factbook. Jordan is a liberal, semi-secular, and pro-Western regime that has a strong influence on regional affairs. Jordan has very close relations with the West especially with the United States, the United Kingdom and France. Jordan is one of only two Arab nations, the other being Egypt, that has relations with Israel.
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