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Jordan’s flag

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Jordan’s flag is adapted from the revolutionary banner of the Great Arab Revolt of 1916–17, when Arab armies under the Hashemites – a noble dynasty, now led by King Abdullah II of Jordan, which traces its origins back to the Prophet Muhammad – overthrew the rule of the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East.

The flag has three equal horizontal bands. At the top is black, representing the Abbasid Caliphate that ruled from Baghdad in the eighth and ninth centuries; in the middle is white, representing the Umayyad Caliphate that ruled from Damascus in the seventh and eighth centuries; and at the bottom is green, representing the Fatimid Caliphate that ruled from Cairo in the tenth and eleventh centuries. On the hoist side is a red triangle representing the Great Arab Revolt of 1916–17. Within the triangle is a seven-pointed white star which symbolizes the seven verses of the opening sura (verse) of the Quran; the points represent faith in one God, humanity, national spirit, humility, social justice, virtue, and hope.


In Jordan, you may see pigeons flying overhead in the sunset. Despite being recently associated with a shadier image, pigeon fancying is popular, and it involves capturing prized birds from other people's flocks rather than racing them. As the sun sets in each neighbourhood, people appear on their flat rooftops and open up their ramshackle pigeon coops, sometimes twirling a lure on a rope to keep the flock diving and swooping, sometimes holding a female bird up so that the males will circle around. When their flocks are exercised at the same time, people often try to convince one another's birds to defect. The well-trained flock can be enticed to fly off to another part of town in order to bring back new individuals. According to newspapers, pigeon enthusiasts acquire three to four new birds each week, but lose roughly the same amount.

The Royal Botanic Garden

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The five local habitats (deciduous oak forest, pine forest, juniper forest, Jordan Valley, and the freshwater wadi) as well as themed gardens (medicinal, Islamic, the five senses, bees, and more) that will be open in Jordan's Royal Botanic Garden in 2014 will be the first of their kind in the Middle East. There will eventually be 20km of scenic nature trails, concealed birdwatching hides, a butterfly house, lakeside boat trips, a wholefood café-restaurant, and ecolodge accommodation.
The mountainous area of Tell Ar Rumman north of Amman, situated on the Amman–Jerash road about 25km from the capital, overlooks King Talal Dam's lake. The garden, which covers 180 hectares, has hundreds of metres of elevation change from mountain peaks to the shoreline, can be used to cultivate most of Jordan's native plant species. Visitors can see “sustainable living and environmentally friendly designs that may easily be replicated by Jordanians” in the demonstration site. Call or visit the website for updated info (06 541 3402, w royalbotanicgarden.org).

The search for water

Of the five driest nations on the planet, Jordan is one of them. The quantity of water used per capita (measured as the quantity of renewable water withdrawn) is 170 cubic metres, compared with North America's 630 litres, 800 litres in the Middle East and North Africa, and 1,650 litres in North America. Almost one-third of Jordan's water is supplied by non-renewable or non-sustainable resources. Azraq oasis has been deprived of water as a consequence of 30 years of pumping. An enormous dam is situated on the Yarmouk River, where Jordan and Syria share it, and dams have been constructed on the country's major valleys in an attempt to trap water and keep it from draining into the Dead Sea, which has consequently shrunk as a result. Every winter, the Jordanian press publishes reports on water storage levels, and Jordanians wait for rain. Water is rationed in Amman over the summer. A scheme to pipe water to Amman from desert aquifers at Disi is already underway, and plans are afoot for desalination plants on the Red Sea, possibly – and very controversially – to be powered by a nuclear plant.

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