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The 132nd RCA Talk Salon            Jordan: The Mosaic and Black Iris 

The 132nd RCA Talk Salon was held at Ryokuen Club House on Sat., April 28. 
Our guest speaker was Mr. Rami M. Al-Kharabsheh, Second Secretary of the Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  Ms. Yu Arai of the Embassy also participated in the Talk Salon and kindly served as co-interpreter.
Mr. Al-Kharabsheh’s speech included, but not limited to, the following:


A. Overview of Jordan

1. Basic Information:
Location: Jordan is located in the heart of the Middle East, Northwest of Saudi Arabia, south of Syria, Southwest of Iraq, and east of  Israel and the Occupied West Bank.  Jordan has access to the (Red Sea) via the port city of Aqaba, located at the northern end of the Gulf of Aqaba.  

Population: 9,508,887 (2018 est.) (6.6 Million Jordanian Citizens.  A large number of the refugees from the neighboring troubled areas including the West Bank and Syria are taking shelter in Jordan.)


Population Growth Rate:  - 2.05 % (2017 est.) 
Total Area: 89,342 sq. km
Land: 88,802 sq. km
Water: 540 sq. km

Capital: Amman – 4 Million (2018 est.)
Language: Arabic is the official language, but English is widely spoken.

Currency and Exchange Rates: Jordan's currency is the Jordanian Dinar, or JD.  It is subdivided into 1000 fils. The rate of exchange is 1JD=1.4$ & 1JD=153 Yen. (One of the audience asked about the prices of goods in Jordan.
Mr. Al-Kharabsheh’s  example made us realize the prices of Japanese goods here seem to be relatively more expensive than those of Jordanian goods.)

Climate and Geography: Jordan has a combination of Mediterranean and arid desert climates, with Mediterranean
climates prevailing in the north and west of the country, while the majority of the country is desert. Generally, the country has warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters.

The Political System: The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a monarchy with a representative government.  
The reigning monarch, His Majesty King Abdullah II, is the Head of State, the Chief Executive, and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces.  Since 1989, all elements of the Jordanian political spectrum have embarked together on a road to greater democracy, liberalization and consensus building.

2. State Symbols:
A. Flag:  The flag of Jordan is based on the flag of the Great Arab Revolt. The flag consists of horizontal black, white, and green bands that are connected by a red chevron.  The colors represent the Abbasid (black band), Umayyad (white band), and Fatimid (green band) caliphates.  The red chevron is for the Hashemite dynasty, and the Great Arab Revolt.  The seven points represent the seven verses of Al Fateh in the Quran.
B. Coat of Arms: Declared in 1934, the Crown Symbolizing the monarchy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
C. National Flower: The Black Iris is the national flower of Jordan and can be found all across the country,
particularly in the Karak Governorate. It blooms in the spring with dark black petals and is a national symbol of growth, renewal and change.
D. National Dish: The national dish of Jordan is mansaf. It is the most distinctive Jordanian dish. It consists of lamb cooked in a creamy sauce made of yogurt, served on a bed of rice. Feasting of Mansaf is taken very seriously, and it can take many hours to prepare. If mansaf is on the menu, Jordanians consider this to represent the height of generosity.  It is usually served to mark special events, such as a graduation, a wedding or a holiday.


3. The Economic Profile:
Labor Force: 2.5 Million (2018 est.)
GDP: 38 Billion USD (2016 est.)
GDP Growth Rate: 2.5% (2016 est.)
Main Exports: Clothing, Fertilizers, Potash, Phosphates, Vegetables, Pharmaceuticals.
Main Imports: Crude Oil, Machinery, Transport Equipment, Iron. 

B. History (From Antiquity to Modernity)

 Jordan is a land steeped in history. It has been home to some of mankind’s earliest settlements and villages, and relics of many of the world’s great civilizations can still be seen today. Climate participated in shaping the history of Jordanas the northern highlands and the Jordan Valley areas have received enough rainfall to support large populations.

Therefore, these areas have always been more settled by farmers, villagers and     townspeople. The water resources and fertility of the land can be linked to population shifts between large urban centers and more
 dispersed, nomadic tribal
groups .

 As the crossroads of the Middle East, the lands of Jordan and Palestine have served as a strategic nexus connecting Asia, Africa, and Europe. Thus, since the dawn of civilization, Jordan’s geography has given it an important role to play as a conduit for trade and communications, connecting east and west, north and south. Jordan continues to play this role even today.

 Parts of Jordan were included in the dominions of ancient Iraq, including the Sumerian, Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian and Mesopotamian Empires. From the west, Pharaonic Egypt extended its power and culture into Jordan, while the nomadic Nabateans
built their empire in Jordan after migrating from the south.

 Jordan was incorporated into the classical civilizations of Greece, Rome and Persia, the relics of which are scattered across the Jordanian landscape. Since the mid-seventh century AD, the land of Jordan has remained almost continuously in the hands of various Arab and Islamic dynasties.

  After the demise of the Ottoman Empire in the region (The Great Arab Revolution 1916), Jordan was under the British Mandate
 (Emirate of Transjordan). In 25/5/1946 Jordan became an Independent State.


C. Historical Locations & Tourism:

·     Petra:

     The ancient city of Petra in Jordan is located in Wadi Musa 246 km from the Jordanian capital Amman, the ancient city is 128 km away in the Gulf of Aqaba.  Archaeologists, scientists and engineers from various parts of the world are today involved in the task
of rebuilding Petra.  So far, they could unearth only one – twentieth of the ancient city.

·     Jerash:

Jerash is located north of the capital Amman. Inhabited since the Bronze Age, it’s known for the ruins of the walled Greco-Roman settlement of Gerasa just outside the modern city.

·     Al-Maghtas:

Is an archaeological World Heritage site in Jordan on the east bank of the Jordan River, officially known as Baptism Site "Bethany Beyond the Jordan" (Al-Maghtas). It is considered to be the original location of the Baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist and has been venerated as such since at least the Byzantine period.

·     Mount Nebo:

Is an elevated ridge in Jordan, approximately 710 meters above sea level, mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land. The view from the summit provides a panorama of the Holy Land and, to the north, a more limited one of the valley of the River Jordan. The West Bank city of Jericho is usually visible from the summit, as is Jerusalem on a very clear day.

·     The Dead Sea:

The Dead Sea – bordering Jordan, the West Bank and Israel – is a salt lake whose banks are more than 400m below sea level, the lowest point on dry land. Its famously hyper saline water makes floating easy, and its mineral-rich black mud is used for therapeutic and cosmetic treatments at area resorts. The surrounding desert offers many oases and historic sites.

Surface elevation: -430 m. Area: 605 km² Max. Depth: 298 m.

·     Wadi Rum:

Also known as The Valley of the Moon, is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in southern Jordan 60 km to the east of Aqaba; it is the largest wadi in Jordan. Wadi Rum is Arabic for "Sand Valley", as Rum means sand, especially light sand that can be carried by wind, so you could even do sand surfing. 

D. Jordan - Japan Relations
  Diplomatic Relations:

  • 1954 diplomatic relations established
  • 1974 Jordanian Embassy opened in Tokyo
  • 1974 Japanese Embassy opened in Amman
  • Friendship between Imperial and Royal is maintained favorably.

Bilateral Treaties and Arrangements:

  • 1985 Technical Assistance Agreement came into effect. Currently cooperative Solar Energy project is underway.
  • 1995 Aviation Agreement came into effect.
  • 1997 Reciprocal Visa Fee Waiver Agreement came into effect.
  • 2012 Agreement for Cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy came into effect.

Number of Residents:
    Number of Japanese Nationals residing in Jordan: 307 (as of October 2016)
  Number of Jordanian Nationals residing in Japan: 155 (as of December 2016)

Trade with Japan: (in yen)
  Exports: ¥ 3.98 billion (2016) (fertilizer, phosphorus ore).
  Imports: ¥ 68.71 billion (2016) (transport machinery, machinery).

E. Hollywood Movies in Jordan:
 1.     The Martian (2015)
 2.     Queen of the Desert (2015)
 3.     Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
 4.     The Mummy Returns (2001)
 5.     Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)
 6.     Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)
 7.     Lawrence of Arabia (1962)  (One of the audience inquired about this film which was filmed in Wadi Rum.  
  He said he remembers vividly the scene in which Peter O’Toole (acting as T.E.Lawrence) shouted out “A-qa-baaa…”  

In the speech Mr. Al-Kharabsheh let us know why he chose the Title--Jordan: The Mosaic and Black Iris as ollows:
·       The Main reason for choosing the title of this presentation is to give you a sincere hint, about the exquisite nature of Jordan; in the demographic variety and the rich history which intertwines to create the modern state,  where we adopt and enhance richness and diversity in society, religion, and culture.

·       And the Black Iris is a symbol of beauty, resilience, and grace in a region that has carried many challenges and turmoil.  Jordan remains strong and open to embrace those who seek it to enjoy its culture and history. Or to find safety and peace, away from the ongoing political and military challenges surrounding it.


We welcomed the guest speaker from Jordan for the first time to our Talk Salon.  Owing to Mr. Al-Kharabsheh, we, the residents of Ryokuen learned a lot about the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.  The two hours with him allowed us to have the overview of Jordan from historic, geographical, political, economic and cultural view points to say the least.  It was really a very precious time for us.