Jordan . Culture . Middle East . History . Activities . Attractions .

A land steeped in rich history, culture and traditions, Jordan has been a hub for hospitality since the dawn of civilization. In fact, when you visit this generous country, you’re likely to hear “ahlan wa sahlan” — which translates to “make yourself at home!” With a welcome so warm and people so honest, the most endearing memory of Jordan is most likely to be the Jordanian people themselves.

It seems only right that you should give in return some of that respect by adhering to the basic aspects of Jordanian and Islamic culture. To generalize, three things that most annoy the locals about foreign tourists in Jordan are \lack of social respect, provocative clothing, and public displays of affection. Read on to go through these customs and traditions in depth:

Dress code: modesty is the best policy


Jordanians tend to be fairly traditional about their dressing. They find it hard to reason why foreigners would stroll around in shabby clothes or dress like paupers if they aren’t. It's recommended to skip revealing or scruffy clothes.

Women typically dress modestly. Here is a place where shorts and short skirts are highly unusual; it’s recommended to wear loose-fitting, opaque clothes that cover your legs, arms, and chest. Jordan is certainly less conservative than some of its neighbors, though; just be aware that it's better to err on the side of modesty, and covering more of your skin will keep it safe from the sun!

Men, on the other hand, have less need of such tips. If you'd like to look especially put-together, it's recommended to wear buttoned shirts tucked into neat trousers. People will appreciate that you're making an effort!

All in all, dressing reasonably modestly and keeping yourself well groomed vastly improves your impression on the local people and cuts short any negative attention. Jordanians are accustomed to tourists and their clothing, but they are deeply receptive to efforts at cultural sensitivity.

The Art of Interaction: Keep it light and Friendly


The social scene in Jordan is brimming with all sorts of verbal and behavioral customs, some of which might be unfamiliar to travelers. Here are a few things that you should know before approaching the locals when in Jordan: 
Jordanians are true aficionados who put great energy into social relationships. They greet strangers like buddies and chit-chat happily about anything casual, and embark on friendly salutations and cheek-kisses, ecstatic back-patting or joyful arm-squeezing! 
Westerners who are more used to keeping a distance from the strangers might be misinterpreted as cold, apathetic and snooty people. Therefore, it is advisable to greet them with a flooding smile and learn one or two standard phrases of Arabic, as it’ll help you break the ice and sound friendlier to the locals.  

  • Salam or Marhaba: Hello
  • Ibtihki ingleezi? : Do you speak English?
  • Jameel: Beautiful
  • Ismi…: My name is…
  • Shukran: Thank you
  • Afwan: You’re welcome (Reply to “shukran”)

Acknowledging those who are welcoming you and exchanging pleasantries which will only bring you closer to people more quickly than anything else.
Pro tip: Jordanians shake hands as a mark of fraternity. Incorporating a gentle handshake into your routine can work wonders for you to bond with people there.

Limit public displays of affection 

While the mesmerizing beauty of the ancient rock-cut Petra might make you want to inch towards your partner and hug them, give a second thought before expressing your love publicly. Simply put, hugging, kissing or any other form of public display of affection between men and women is not acceptable in Jordan.

Even if you’re married, it is still rare for couples to walk arm-over-shoulder or arm-around-waist as it is likely to be perceived as deeply objectionable – as if you’re transporting the closeness of the bedroom to the public sphere.

While this rule might not be carved in stone here, it’s better to avoid PDA and get accustomed to the rules and restrictions of the place you are at. 

The etiquette of gifts and invitations


In Jordan, it’s a common practice for people to invite the guests for a cup of tea, either in their shop or their home. In fact, it’s quite likely that you’ll also be invited for a typical Arabic meal at some point.

One of the most significant characteristics of the Jordanian culture is its hospitality. People pay the highest regard to their guests and are genuinely interested in talking to you and making you feel at home! However, invitations tend to flow quite thick and fast and it becomes difficult to agree to everyone.  At times, people are so eager that it may sound potentially rude to refuse outright.

First and foremost, even if you’re not interested, chat gently and respectfully. Remember there’s nothing ruder than making an impatient gesture or walking without saying a word. If you want to say ‘NO’ to the invitation, it is advisable to lower your head with a broad smile, putting your right hand over your heart and say “shukran shukran” (“thank you so much”). This makes a clear but a socially acceptable response. Adding the phrase “marra okhra, insha’allah” which translates to “another time, if Allah wills it”, goes an extra mile to soften the “no,” indicating that you are grateful for their kind gesture! 

In case you do decide to accept the invitation, do not forget to bear a gift as a token of gratitude. At first, they might say, “it was not needed” or “you shouldn’t have taken the trouble,” but insist once with a flooding smile and the gift will be accepted straight-away. 

Pro Tip: A box full of sweets makes a great gift for Jordanians. 

Jordan is a rich Country in history and culture, while visiting Jordan make sure to make the best use of your tour through selecting one of Jordan vacations!

Related Tours
Related Articles