National Geographic : 1964 Dec
Holy Land, My Country By HIS MAJESTY KING HUSSEIN OF JORDAN IN THE COURSE of a year, I meet several hundred visitors to Jordan. Unfortunately, the meetings are so brief and the groups so large that I cannot talk intimately with them about what the country and people are like, and all the other things I want to know about when I visit a foreign nation. So I am grateful to the National Geograph ic Society for this chance to show you Jordan in pictures and to tell you things about this ancient land that I hope some day you will see for yourselves. One of the members of NATIONAL GEO GRAPHIC's Senior Editorial Staff, Mr. Luis Marden, has come to know us rather well. He journeyed extensively through Jordan at my invitation, and at times in my company. He has caught in his camera-and in his article that follows-not only the sights of Jordan, but also the feeling and spirit of the nation. New and Ancient, Green and Parched Jordan is a new state politically, having gained independence under the leadership of my grandfather, King Abdullah, only in 1946. But archeologically we are as old as the hills, and historically as old as man. My country's shape is rather like the head of a hatchet (map, pages 786-7). Yet that shape really spans two Jordans: a green and fertile hill strip to the west, a dry and stony expanse to the east. The first is hallowed ground, familiar to many and sacred to Chris tian, Jew, and Moslem alike. This is the old yet-new Jordan, the area I write about. Mr. Marden concentrates largely on "the other side of Jordan"-to use the apt phrase-a land seldom seen by outsiders. Jordan's population, according to current estimate, nears two million. Our capital, Am man, has more than 300,000 inhabitants. Arab Jerusalem, our spiritual capital, has 70,000. Ten years ago we were almost exclu sively agricultural, but industry, mining, and tourism have grown at such a rate that our economy is becoming well diversified. Visitors always ask, and regretfully I have to answer: No, we have not yet found oil in Jordan. But we still have hope, and we do have two assets more valuable than oil-our people and our country. At the southwest tip of Jordan's hatchet lies Aqaba, our only outlet to the sea. Before the Palestine "troubles of 1948," all our traffic went west to the Mediterranean ports of Haifa and Jaffa; after 1948 we had to re-route our commerce, first to the Mediterranean ports in Lebanon and Syria and, later, south to newly built port facilities on the Gulf of Aqaba, which opens on the Red Sea. Until World War I, when it was captured from the Turks by forces of the Arab Revolt, Aqaba had never been more than a small fish ing village. Today it is a pleasant resort town with a fine beach, excellent sport fishing, and extraordinary underwater scenery. We now have a first-class road connecting Aqaba with Amman and other centers of pop ulation. In Amman, we are building a modern and rapidly expanding city. Here stood the Biblical capital of Rabbah, whither David, in love with Bathsheba, sent her husband Uriah to certain death in battle. Later the site be came Philadelphia, an important stronghold of Greco-Roman times; one relic of that peri od is a well-preserved Roman theater in the Young ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Al-Hussein ibn Talal proudly holds blue-eyed Crown Prince Abdullah, his elder son by Princess Muna, his English wife. Hussein, now 29, was educated in Egypt and at Harrow and Sandhurst in England. Since ascending the throne in 1953, he has survived several attempts on his life. KODACHROMEBY LUIS MARDEN, NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSTAFF C) N.G.S .