A Quick Guide to Local Laws and Customs in Jordan

Whether you’re a solo traveler or a couple, here’s what you need to know about public displays of affection and how to behave as an unmarried couple.

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Photo © iStock/Joel Carillet

Perhaps you'd like to take your partner to see the ancient city of Petra, or the ruins of Crusader forts. But, before you indulge in a passionate fling in a desert tent, there are some local rules, laws, and customs to be across.

Respect the culture of Jordan

From the bittersweet taste of cardamom, to richly scented pipes and perfumes, from the bustle of the market to the silence of the desert, the sensuality and rich variety provided by Jordan – and indeed the entire Middle East – is incredibly sexy to many. Add this to the famed passion for life enjoyed by many Jordanians, and it would seem like the perfect place for a romantic vacation.

However, don't be fooled by how the place sounds, looks, or feels. Laws regarding sexuality and relationships are incredibly conservative by Western standards, and travelers have landed in serious trouble for flaunting them.

While the country is rapidly reforming its economy and international standing in the world, Jordan is still very culturally conservative. You will be welcomed as long as you don't behave in a way that would make locals embarrassed about your liberal ideas about sex, love, and relationships.

Tips for singles

There are only two rules you have to remember if you're single and traveling in Jordan.

1) In Jordan, sleeping with any unmarried member of the opposite sex is considered adultery.

2) In Jordan, adultery is punishable by up to three years in prison.

Most vacations tend to last between a week and a month. After three years in a cell, you'll probably start to miss home just a little bit. So remember that when passion seems to be taking hold, and you'll find you sober up real quick.

These rules apply whether or not you or your partner are Jordanian citizens. If you're going to nightclubs in Amman and you meet a cute traveler, you should seriously consider keeping your budding romance in the friend zone until you get out of the country. There are plenty of exciting things to do in Jordan that don't involve twisting the sheets.

If sexual relations are urgent, you should maintain lodgings at a Western-style hotel rather than a locally run place, and you should make sure to close the door, shut the windows, and keep it quiet so you don't disturb anyone else. Be smart about it.

Furthermore, even public displays of affection such as holding hands, caressing, or kissing in public are frowned upon. If they're construed as being overtly sexual in any way, you could be charged with public indecency or worse.

By no means does this mean you can't become friends with members of the opposite sex. Jordan is very pro-Western in many respects: women are not required to wear the veil, and they enjoy many of the same freedoms that men do, especially compared to many other Middle Eastern countries. Western clothing is the norm, especially in the cities, as is the Western concept of having personal and professional friends of both genders.

Nevertheless, if you are caught getting too close to a member of the opposite sex in Jordan, you may be charged with adultery – especially outside of the cities.

Finally, because of Jordan's conservative culture, it's doubtful you'll have an easy time finding condoms or other forms of protection, making it difficult for singles to engage in spontaneous, safe, romance.

Tips for same-sex couples

First, if you're a couple but not married – even if you're both not citizens of Jordan – having sexual relations is against the law.

Some hotel proprietors will be quite forward and ask if you're married. They may even ask to see a marriage certificate, though this is quite rare unless one of you is a Jordanian citizen. The best plan is to say that you are married to your significant other – that way hotel owners will allow you to share a room.

If you are a married couple, but you like to engage in PDA, it's advisable to keep it to a minimum as you travel through Jordan. As mentioned, it's dubiously legal to fondle another person in public, even if that person happens to be your husband or wife.

Tips for homosexual couples

Homosexulity is legal in Jordan, but as a Muslim nation, homosexual behavior is frowned upon at best, and criminalized at worst.

If you are caught engaging in sexual activity with a member of the same gender, even if you are legally married in your home country, it will be considered adultery. Public displays of affection between members of the same gender might be considered a disruption of the public peace, and could be prosecuted.

That being said, Jordan is one of the most progressive Middle Eastern countries in this area. Homosexual couples traveling in Jordan will be okay, as long as they simply act like good friends while in public, and make sure to stay in Western-style hotels.

Final thoughts

Whether or not you're in a relationship or if you're just holding out the possibility that something might come up on your trip to Jordan, it's important to be aware that you can't necessarily behave the same way you might behave at home. Indiscretion could lead to a prison sentence or worse, depending on where you are and who catches you. There's so much to see in Jordan that there's little reason to risk your good vacation on the consequences of a romantic fling.

Whether you're a man or a woman, keep it friendly – but not too friendly – and your trip to Jordan will go smoothly.

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2 Comments

  • Waleed said

    Okay. I am Canadian but also a Jordanian citizen. I have lived in Jordan for 18 years and though this article mentions quite good thing, not all of them are true. Couples( not the same gender) are NOT restricted from showing love in public as long as it’s reasonable. For example, couples are allowed to hold hands and kiss but on the cheek and the hands but NOTHING more as it’s against our culture. Furthermore, performing sexual activity is okay as long as it’s discrete (please refrain from making noise even if you are in a hotel such as HILTON.) Condoms are found almost in every pharmacy and big supermarkets such as carrefour. Finally, dressing is not as stricter as you read online. Women are free to dress however they feel like BUT, there are a couple of pieces a women SHOULD REFRAIN from those pieces are crop-tops, leggings (never wear leggings even if your are going to the gym), any skirt that is above the knee and any see-through shirts( if you would like to wear a see-through shirt, please wear another t-shirt under it.) As for men, don’t listen to those online article, you can wear WHATEVER, you want. However, when going to the local downtown area, please refrain from wearing shorts as the people there are not as educated and open minded as the rest of Jordan.

    -When going to the local downtown, women please wear jeans and a long sleeve shirt and it’s for the best if you refrain from holding hands and maybe getting intimate with your partner (THATS ONLY FOR THE LOCAL DOWNTOWN AREA)

    ****IMPORTANT****
    When going to areas such as “ As-Salt”, please keep reasonable distance between you and your partner and NEVER EVER, kiss or hold hands. Also, please wear respectful clothes (both men and women) as those areas are filled with clans that are VERY religious.

  • D said

    I'm Jordanian and although this article has some advice but..
    You can buy condoms anywhere in Jordan, pharmacies and supermarkets, also you can have sex anywhere in Jordan as long as you're discrete about it.
    And you can hold hands anywhere in Jordan.

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