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Is Jordan safe? This is a question many travelers to the Middle East find themselves asking in recent years. As with any region with a mixed reputation, answers range from “Of course!” to “Absolutely not.” And as always, the answer is not as cut and dry as some would have you think. Keep reading to learn the truth about safety in Jordan.
Terrorism in Jordan
A quick look at the map reveals Jordan’s precarious situation. Current events in the neighboring regions of Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Palestine can easily make one nervous about travel to the area. The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to “consider the risks of travel to and throughout Jordan due to persistent terrorist threats.” They also plainly state that “The threat of terrorism remains a major concern in Jordan.”
Jordan was the victim of a terrorist attack in December 2016. There was series of shootings in the city of Al-Karak in southern Jordan that disrupted what was an already fickle tourism industry. Prior to this attack, the 2005 Amman bombings was the last major terrorist attack in the country. It should be noted that Amman is the capital of Jordan, and the major tourist attraction of the country.
With that in mind, terror attacks are statistically uncommon in Jordan. In 2016, the country was 58th on the Global Terrorism Index. That’s just behind Australia. In 2017 it understandably slipped to 51st (behind Sweden) as conflict in border countries increased. In spite of the slip, The Jordan Times reported in March 2017 that tourist arrivals had almost doubled during the first two months of 2017. This is an impressive figure, given the chaos in the immediate region.
Travelers to Jordan recommend staying away from political and religious demonstrations. Within this region of the world, demonstrations can turn violent at a moment’s notice. You could be seen as a sympathizer to radicals or as their opposition, so it’s best to stay away altogether. Apart from avoiding demonstrations, be aware of which dates and locations have more potential for attacks. Within the region, religious holidays are often marked for attacks, with main city mosques and tourist hotels being potential targets. It’s also widely discouraged to travel near Jordan’s borders with Syria and Iraq.
It should also be noted that there is some anti-American sentiment in the country. A 2015 Pew Research Center survey found that 83% of Jordanians have an unfavorable view of the U.S., significantly above a global median of 31%. However, don’t think that an unfavorable opinion of the U.S. as a country means an unfavorable opinion of American tourists. Jordanians are generally welcoming and will be more likely to judge the individual for their own personality, not their home country.
Crime in Jordan
The official word from the U.S. Department of State is that “Amman is a low-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. Government interests.” At the same time, they report that Amman’s Regional Security Office continues to track an increasing trend in crime. They have the usual recommendations: travel in groups, carry valuables in front pockets, and be vigilant in high-risk areas.
The vast majority of crimes directed against tourists are petty crimes. The latest official crime statistics from the State Department are from 2015, which are in line with the country’s five-year average. Attempted theft, criminal theft, and auto theft are below the five-year average. Attempted murder, aggravated assaults, and kidnapping are at five-year highs. However, there were no kidnappings of U.S. citizens in 2016.
Jordan ranks favorably compared to many Western countries according to Numbeo. Its “Crime Index for Country 2017 Mid-Year” ranks Jordan 55th, just behind Belgium. That’s better than Italy, France, Norway, and the U.S. It’s hypothesized that Jordan’s relatively good standing in crime is due to harsh punishments in the country for committing crimes.
Is Jordan Safe for Women?
Reports for and from women vary widely. In 2016, the U.S. Embassy received a decreased number of sexual harassment reports from U.S. citizens. This includes inappropriate physical contact and stalking. Female tourists visiting Amman report that Jordanian women dress in a modern fashion, with many choosing to not cover their heads.
Other reports are less encouraging. Utne Reader reports that sexual harassment is a serious problem in the country. The magazine reports that “harassment is a culture”, and that even academics are hesitant to confront the issue. They report local women dealing with an alarming frequency of inappropriate physical contact.
Unwanted advances from taxi drivers can be particularly problematic. Rideshare services such as Uber and Careem are preferred, although the services are at odds with the Jordanian government. If you must take a taxi, it’s recommended to have your hotel make the phone call, and that you always sit in the back seat.
Regardless, modest dress and modest behavior are recommended. The less conservative you dress, the more unwanted attention you will receive. Likewise, belligerent and obnoxious behavior will not go over well with locals. Also, keep in mind that smaller towns and rural areas will be less open-minded to modern social conventions and fashion.
So, is Jordan safe? Context is everything when discussing the safety of Jordan. Compared to other countries in the region, it’s remarkably safe. Petty crime is the most likely transgression, and even that may be less common than in your native country. It can’t be denied that many visitors come and go without a negative experience.
However, there are other realities that cannot be ignored. Terrorism is rare, but the threat is high enough to warrant warnings from the U.S. Department of State. There are some parts of the country that are completely off limits. And Westerners, especially women, must be smart and attentive in their dress and behavior.