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Atlas of Jordan

Myriam Ababsa

Chapter seven - Jordan’s Rentier Economy


Myriam Ababsa, Isabelle Crouzel et Norig Neveu

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1The tourism sector accounted for 13% of GDP in 2010 and employs nearly a quarter of the workforce, placing Jordan just after Lebanon in tourism receipts as % of GDP, but far ahead of Morocco, Syria and Egypt (fig. VII.29). The bulk of tourism comes from the Arab world, mainly the Gulf, followed by Asia, Europe and the Americas (fig. VII.30). Out of the 9.5 million people who entered Jordan in 2009 (a figure that includes tourism, but also business tourism), 8 million people came from Arab countries (including 2.6 million Jordanians, 2.2 million Syrians, 1.2 million Saudis, half a million Egyptians and 380,000 from the Palestinian territories); 609,983 came from Asia (including 233,000 Israelis and 159,000 Turks - tourists and businessmen); 582,000 came from Europe (UK, Russia, France, Germany and Italy) and only 243,000 from north America (184,000 from the USA and 35,000 from Canada).

Figure VII.29 — Tourism Receipts and Employment, 2010. | Figure VII.30 — Tourism by Source (latest available year).

Figure VII.29 — Tourism Receipts and Employment, 2010. | Figure VII.30 — Tourism by Source (latest available year).

2Amman and Aqaba airports had a total of 6.6 million passengers in 2010, of which 4.5 million were tourists (ACI and WTO 2011). These figures are quite low compared with those of Turkey (Istanbul had 32 million passengers in 2010 up from 18 million in 2002) and booming Dubai (47 million passengers in 2010 up from 17 million in 2002) (fig. VII.31).

Figure VII.31 — Middle East Airports Traffic in Million Passengers (2010).

Figure VII.31 — Middle East Airports Traffic in Million Passengers (2010).

3Petra is the main destination for tourists. Nearly a million people have visited the UNESCO world heritage site in 2010, which Internet users voted to be one of the seven new wonders of the world in 2007 (fig. VII.32). Other popular tourist sites are the ancient cities of Jerash and Umm Qays, and the biblical sites of Mount Nebo, the Baptism Site and Madaba. Jordan is a destination for Christian and Muslim religious tourism (and occasionally Jewish tourists visit Mount Aaron, near Petra).

Figure VII.32 — Main touristic sites in Jordan by number of visitors, 2010.

Figure VII.32 — Main touristic sites in Jordan by number of visitors, 2010.

4In the late 1990s the Ministry of Tourism promoted ecological tourism in the nature reserves and eco-lodges run by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. This responsible tourism involves local communities, which tend not to be sufficiently involved in decision making processes, thus leading to conflicts in the past in Dana and Wadi Rum (Chatelard 2005).

5In 2008, the Ministry of Tourism announced the promotion of a third generation of tourism that involves Jordan’s towns and villages and local heritage. Pedestrian routes have been developed in the towns of Salt, Kerak, Irbid and Madaba with the help of local shopkeepers. Jordan’s tourism sector is thriving despite the global economic crisis, with 22% growth (from 3.7 to 4.5 million tourists between 2008 and 2010) (WTO 2011).

6Syria and Lebanon have had higher rates of growth at 63% and 57% respectively: the number of tourists visiting Syria rose from 5.4 to 8.5 million (before 2011), and the number visiting Lebanon rose from 1.3 to 2.1 million over the same period.

7The 2011 Arab Spring had a strongly negative impact on the tourism sector; Europeans, who were accustomed to combining visits to Syria and Jordan, cancelled their bookings. The increase in Arab tourism from the Gulf was not sufficient to offset this shortfall.

8The Jordan Tourism Board launched a $ 3 million advertising campaign in Europe to attract tourists to Jordan-only tours, as part of the National Tourism Strategy for 2010-2015.

Medical Tourism | Isabelle Crouzel

9One effect of globalization on health is the increasing number of patients crossing borders for health care; this is called medical tourism. A market sector has developed around this activity: luxurious clinics have been built meeting Western standards, advertising «all-inclusive» stays including transport, hospital stay, as well as visits to explore the region, etc… Jordan receives nearly 100,000 foreign patients each year, and aspires to become the hospital of the Middle East.

10The history of the phenomenon in Jordan is linked to the development of military healthcare, the Royal Medical Services, which used revenues in the 1970s to build several leading hospitals (the Al Hussein Medical Centre in Amman in 1973 and the Queen Alia Heart Institute in 1982), and sent its doctors to Western countries to train in their fields of medicine. These advanced medical structures enabled Jordan to become one of the first countries to practice certain technical operations in the Middle East: the first open heart surgery in 1970, infertility treatments in the 1980s, etc., thus attracting patients from neighbouring countries and the Gulf. Thus, between 1970 and the mid 90s, some 30,000 foreign patients per year went to Jordan for medical treatment or for consultations in the clinics springing up in the city. In the late 1990s, the number of foreign patients tripled with the emergence of a multitude of private hospitals in Amman, following an increase in the number of doctors due to the end of mandatory service for an entire generation of doctors trained by the Royal Medical Services, and greater economic openness enabling investments in the health sector. The country’s inefficient health insurance system for Jordanians and a public health sector that is well distributed across the country have pushed these clinics to turn to a foreign rather than national patient base, thus explaining the growth of medical tourism over this period. Today, a quarter of the patient base of private clinics is foreign.

11Jordan’s patient base is constantly changing with the crises in the region - foreign patients from around the world are drawn to Jordan’s relative abundance, creating a healthcare hub. In the 1970s, the first patients came to Jordan for healthcare from the border regions of northern Saudi Arabia, Syria and the Gulf States (Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman). In the late 1990s, however, this market declined due to improved health systems in these countries, following large-scale investment in the field. Today the remaining patients are Syrians, Saudis from the border regions (for whom geographical proximity to Amman remains key), and some patients from the Gulf, mostly Bahrainis, who come to Jordan for its less expensive healthcare. As the market slowdown coincided with the boom in private hospitals in Jordan, they had to find new markets, and turned to patients from Yemen, Libya and Sudan (fig. VII.33), where poor healthcare is the result of a lack of means (in Yemen and Sudan) or a lack of equipment (in Libya). Since 2006 there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Iraqi patients (half of whom are estimated to have come to Jordan for treatment), and to a lesser extent the number of Palestinian patients, due to the impact of conflict on their health care systems (destruction of equipment, loss of capacity). Previous leading markets have been supplanted by this last change, which clinics have endured rather than chosen.

Figure VII.33 — Origin of Medical Tourist in Jordan in 2006.

Figure VII.33 — Origin of Medical Tourist in Jordan in 2006.

Crouzel, 2007

Religious Tourism Promoted | Norig Neveu

12As descendants of the Sharifs of Mecca and Medina*, the Hashemites have a historic relationship with the holy sites of Islam. This relationship, as well as their prophetic descent and belonging to the Ahl al-Bayt, gives a special place to religion in the monarchy’s discourse and policies. Between 1948 and 1967, when the West Bank and East Jerusalem came under Jordanian rule, King ‘Abdullah I and King Hussein began the renovation of the main Christian and Muslim holy sites of Jerusalem and the promotion of Christian tourism to the holy city. After the loss of Jerusalem in 1967 and the redefining of the country’s borders, the Monarchy chiefly developed national Christian holy sites. However, the Hashemites remained responsible for Muslim holy sites in East Jerusalem and so renovated the Dome of the Rock several times. Jordan is considered part of the Christian Holy Land* thanks to archaeological discoveries at the Baptism site and Mount Nebo, and three papal pilgrimages. The Popes’ visits, in 1964 and in 2000, were an opportunity to promote and create Christian holy sites. Tourism increased considerably in the years that followed these pilgrimages. The most frequently visited sites today are Mount Nebo, the Baptism site and the mosaic of the Holy Land in Madaba (Katz 2001, 2003). They are the subject of a major advertising campaign by the Jordanian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (brochures, Ministry website, promotions in travel agencies, etc.).

13Since the 1990s, the Ministry of Awqaf* undertook a major programme to rebuild holy sites, mainly in the Jordan Valley. Currently, some forty sites linked to the prophets or the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad* have been renovated. These sites promote a nationalist ideology that creates a historical continuity between, on the one hand the early days of the Islamic conquest of the Bilad al-Sham* and its leaders, and on the other hand modern Jordan and its monarchy. This new sacred topology also makes the country part of the Muslim Holy Land* (fig. VII.34). This reconstruction programme was an opportunity to promote Islamic tourism, especially since the development strategy of domestic tourism (2004 – 2010, developed by the Ministry of Tourism in partnership with USAID) regards the development of religious tourism as a priority.

Figure VII.34 — Religious Tourism Sites in Jordan and Popes’Pilgrimages.

Figure VII.34 — Religious Tourism Sites in Jordan and Popes’Pilgrimages.

14Islamic tourism has developed since 2001 across Muslim countries but remains marginal in Jordan. Shiite tourists visited the mausoleum of Ja‘far bin Abi Talib* in 2005 and 2006 but access to the site is now limited. Every year a few tourists, mainly from East Asia (Malaysia and Indonesia) and Turkey go on “Islamic tours”, which are organised by several travel agencies in Jordan. There are various forms of tours, lasting between 1 and 6 days; some only include visits to Jordanian mausoleums while others combine visits to these shrines with archaeological sites. Most tourists just do a one-day tour, usually in the Jordan Valley, since Jordan is often simply a stage on the pilgrimage route (hajj) or part of a religious tour of Syria or Palestine.

15The renovation of national holy sites shows that the state is reinvesting in Christian, Muslim and mixed* sites of devotion. This map shows the official holy sites. In the Ajlun region (see detail), but also across the country, there are many holy places associated with Weli, the Sufi sheikhs (especially in the north), the ancestors of tribes, that have not been renovated and are disappearing through lack of use or destruction. Locally, these shrines were of great economic, political and social importance. Until the 1970s and 1980s, every year there were religious practices and pilgrimages to some of these sites, such as to Mount Haroun (in Petra).

Peace Treaty between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Article 9: Historic and religious sites and interfaith relations

2. In this regard, in agreement with the Washington Declaration, Israel respects the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s current role concerning Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem. When negotiations are held to decide on permanent status, Israel will give high priority to Jordan’s historic role in these holy sites.

* Definitions

  • Ahl al-Bayt: People of the House; the Prophet’s descendants.

  • Waqf (plural Awqaf): In Islamic law, founding a charitable institution. Today the Ministry of Awqaf manages these institutions and their income.

  • Companions of the Prophet Muhammad: al-sahaba, key characters in the early history of Islam, considered as the trustworthy transmitters of the Prophet’s teachings and instructions. Many Companions were killed during the first battles of the Islamic conquest: Mu’ta (634), Fahl (635) and Yarmuk (636).

  • Sharif of Mecca: The Sharif of Mecca and Medina ensured the supplies of holy cities, the smooth running of the annual pilgrimage (hajj) and the safe passage of caravans during the hajj. Between the tenth century and 1924, when the Saud conquered the city of Mecca, the Hashemite family was responsible for the Sharif of Mecca and Medina.

  • Mixed sites of devotion: Islam recognizes all Hebrew and biblical prophets; therefore many holy sites and some Weli are visited by Christians and Muslims. For example, the prophet Khidr, regarded by Muslims as the prophet of eternal life, corresponds to St. George for Christians.

  • Ja‘far bin Abi Talib: Ja‘far’s father, Abu Talib, was the brother of the Prophet’s father, he also seems to have been the chief of the Hashim clan. Jafar is the brother of the Caliph (Imam for Shiites) ‘Ali, hence the importance of his mausoleum as a Shiite shrine. He was one of the closest figures to the Prophet Muhammad.

Holy Land

  • Christian: According to the Gospels, the Holy Land includes all the lands visited by Christ.

  • Muslim: the expression al-ard al-muqadassa appears in the Qur’an (5, 21) and does not refer to a circumscribed territory. According to tradition it encompasses a very large area that stretches from the Euphrates to the Hijaz in the north, down to Aqaba and the Sinai desert in the south, and from the desert in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. Other sources say that the term refers only to Jerusalem.

  • Weli: mentioned in the Qur’an, literally “friends God”, those close to him; Saint.

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure VII.29 — Tourism Receipts and Employment, 2010. | Figure VII.30 — Tourism by Source (latest available year).
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k
Titre Figure VII.31 — Middle East Airports Traffic in Million Passengers (2010).
Fichier image/jpeg, 124k
Titre Figure VII.32 — Main touristic sites in Jordan by number of visitors, 2010.
Fichier image/jpeg, 188k
Titre Figure VII.33 — Origin of Medical Tourist in Jordan in 2006.
Crédits Crouzel, 2007
Fichier image/png, 75k
Titre Figure VII.34 — Religious Tourism Sites in Jordan and Popes’Pilgrimages.
Fichier image/jpeg, 357k

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 2013

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