GEOGRAPHY: Jordan is bounded on the north by Syria, a rival and frequent antagonist, on the east by allies Saudi Arabia and Iraq, and on the west by Israel. A country of mountains, rolling plains and rocky deserts, it is part of the Fertile Crescent but only about 10 percent of the land is agricultural, much of that through irrigation projects in the Jordan River Valley. About two-thirds of the food Jordanians consume is imported. The country's climate is Mediterranean, averaging about 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the rainy season from November to March and rising to about 90 degrees Fahrenheit at the height of the dry season in August.
POPULATION: The 2 million people in Jordan are divided almost evenly between East Bankers of Bedouin origin and Palestinian Arabs who fled across the Jordan River after the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars. There are an estimated 704,000 Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan.
The Palestinian refugees and displaced persons who settled in Jordan were given citizenship and many now hold influential positions in commerce, the professions and in government. Jordan's ambassador to the United Nations is Palestinian.
Jordanians are increasingly urban with nearly half clustered in the cities of Amman, Zerka and Irbid. The population growth, estimated at 3.6 percent annually, is one of the highest in the world.
ECONOMY: Jordan is heavily dependent on loans and economic aid, most of it coming from oil-rich Arab states. But that aid is supplemented by earnings of light industry, tourism, shipping through Aqaba in the south, mineral extraction projects and commercial and financial facilities.
There is full employment, with labor shortages in many professions. Inflation has forced the government to adopt austerity measures.
POLITICAL SYSTEM: King Hussein shares authority with a bicameral National Assembly. He appoints a prime minister and Cabinet, orders elections and dissolves the assembly. The assembly, in joint session, can overrule his veto and it approves treaties.
HISTORY: Jordan was ruled by Ottoman Turks from the 16th century until after World War I, when the League of Nations awarded the land now Israel and Jordan to Great Britain as the mandate for Palestine and Transjordan. In 1922, the British divided the mandate, establishing the semi-autonomous Emirate of Transjordan ruled by the Hashemite Prince Abdullah, Hussein's grandfather.
Prince Abdullah had no connection with the vast stretch of sparsely populated desert and mountain that became Jordan. He lived hundreds of miles to the south in Mecca, where members of his family were the traditional guardians of the holy cities.
The establishment of Transjordan was partial fulfillment of an earlier British promise to Abdullah's family to establish an independent Arab state there as a reward for the family's revolt against the Turks.
The country became the independent Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan in 1946, when Britain ended the mandate. Two years later the British mandate over Palestine ended and the state of Israel was formed. Transjordan joined other Arab states in war against Israel and Jordan annexed the West Bank. In 1950, the country was renamed the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to reflect the new acquisitions.
Jordan joined Syria, Egypt and Iraq in the 1967 Six Day War against Israel, which ended with Israel occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem.