Weird Laws in Jordan & How They May Affect You

There are some laws in Jordan that may seem strange to visitors. As weird as they may seem, you have to follow them or risk imprisonment or deportation.

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To be totally honest, these laws will only seem 'strange' if you remain ignorant to the fact that although a modernsied country, much of Jordanian law is rooted in its Arab heritage.

A little bit of respect and understanding will prevent you falling foul of these laws:

Religion and Faith

Around 92% of the population are Muslim (93% of them are Sunni). While Jordan is home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world (and about 4% of Jordanians are Christian), it's illegal to encourage conversion to the Christian faith, and certain sects of Christianity – such as Jehovah's Witnesses – are not officially recognized as religions.

Attempting to convert Muslims is illegal. Judaism is legal, but only just. This has been going on for centuries, so as a visitor, it's a good idea to stay out of it!

Sexuality

If the muslim faith doesn't like it, Jordan doesn't like it either. This includes homosexuality, consumption of alcohol outside of approved venues, and possession of pornographic material – whether in public or private.

It should be noted that homosexuality is not strictly illegal in the country. But, public displays of affection (including those between men and women) are frowned upon.

Adultery is defined as sexual relations with anyone you aren't married to, and the only legally-recognized marriage in Jordan is between a man and a woman. Due to negative public opinion, visiting homosexuals may be judged and punished for violating the adultery law far more severely than visiting heterosexuals.

Drugs and Controlled Substances

Alcohol is a controlled substance in Jordan, but fines for public intoxication or drinking outside a bar are far less serious than those for possession, use, or trafficking in harder drugs.

If you bring marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or any other drug into the country and you're found out, the authorities will be very heavy-handed. Leave the recreational substances at home.

Driving

If you rent a car, be very careful. The driver is always guilty in an accident, and may be imprisoned or have to cough up heavy compensation payments to everyone else.

Death Sentence

It's important to note that extremely serious offenses may result in the death sentence. It would have to be extremely serious, such as inciting treason, and you won't be stupid enough to do something that bad.

But with the recent civil unrest in the Middle East, the Jordanian government is more anxious about foreign nationals speaking out against the status quo. If you attempt to make a political point during your stay in Jordan, you may find the law comes down hard on you.

Luggage

On your departure from Jordan, your luggage may be searched for security reasons to check for illegal drugs, and to prevent the removal of antiquities.

Sensitive Photos

Taking pictures of government and military buildings in Jordan (as in many places around the world) is forbidden. Depending on the mood of the guards, it could get you a stern warning, a fine, or short imprisonment.

Though this is not illegal, it's considered extremely rude (almost to the point of public indecency), to take a picture of someone without his or her consent.

Customs and Habits

The two main things that you should remember about proper behavior in Jordan:

  • Show respect for Islam
  • Show respect for the monarchy.

People will understand if you don't know all the finer points of custom and manners, though you will do yourself a favor by attempting to learn. However, a basic level of respect for how other people conduct their lives is essential. Cultural pride is a huge part of what it means to be Arabian and Jordanian.

If you visit during the holy month of Ramadan, or when visiting places of religious significance, always display the utmost level of respect for their practices – regardless of your feelings about politics or philosophy. You are in someone else's home, this is what you are supposed to do, no matter where you are. Dress modestly, behave courteously, and follow everyone's lead.

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14 Comments

  • jade said

    my friend and I think this is ridiculous who wants to be slapped on the wrist for taking a photo of a military building.....

  • Lashyn said

    This makes Jordan seem way nicer and friendlier than it actually is. XD

  • Nina said

    It would not surprise me if that rule about taking pictures of military buildings is an American rule. America plays a giant role in Jordan's military.

    My husband is Jordanian. I have noticed that what you do wrong is never pointed out to you, so you either have to be extremely careful to see people's reactions and ask, or watch as you see fewer and fewer people. They just stop showing up if they are offended in some way.

  • Jordanian said

    The US embassy in Jordan is the most strict about taking pictures of it's building! It has signs of "no pictures" spread all around it's premises. So it's not a Jordanian "thing" no. If you take a picture of the US embassy you might as well get shot by one of the guards outside!

  • William Clouse said

    I've lived in Jordan for roughly 55 years, and I've never experienced any of this. First of all, Narcotics are like everywhere else, illegal. The death penalty is not something that happens, it's legal, but it doesn't happen, also if you're a foreigner, your respective embassy will take responsibility for you. You can take pictures of people, but just don't be a dick about it, don't take a photo of them in their swim shorts and so on. There are Jews in Jordan, they don't appreciate them, but there are jews. Amman is a beautiful cosmopolitan, while it doesn't have many lavish western entertainments (strip clubs and night clubs), it has its beauties. I wouldn't recommend listening to any of the bullshit that comes out of Mr. Sylvester's mouth, all I can say is that it's a different experience.

  • jehad malkawi said

    this is just bullshit, if you go around taking pictures of people in america you'll get the same response this dickhead is making jordan seem like a dictatorship.

  • Cara said

    So basically they have strong morals and you couldn't understand it?... I see. Bro please review your articles before publish them and ask people around you "read this, does it look ignorant or poorly written" because this is ignoran and poorly written. You're going to a different country with deep culture embrace it.

  • Jordanian said

    I see you very shy on writing this article!
    Most of things you didn't explain very well and actually they are way worse than what you wrote!
    I would like to add one point, most of the Jordanian nationals are greedy and they try to fool any foreigner, taking advantage of us foreigners or try to take money in an indirect way but never directly ask for it! If you say right in their face, they go like : Well I have morals and principles of cheating people like you! WTF

  • Kelly said

    In most countries it's not legal to take pictures of military or even government buildings. Laws around drugs, homosexuality & marriage....almost exactly the same as Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Asian Sub-continent, Latin America & Sub-Saharan Africa. Respect for Islam, yes of course, the same is expected when you visit Christian countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Buddhist (checked the laws in Myanmar lately?) & Hindu majority India. Respect the monarchy? Same goes for Thailand - disparaging comments about the royal family could land you in jail. Drugs in Southeast Asia- life in prison or w]execution. This article is misleading and makes it sound like Jordan is unique with such considerations - it is not. Any well travelled person would now this - so whose the audience? If you're not prepared to respect the country you're traveling to - do us all a favour & stay home.

  • R said

    And what is the root of these "weird" and "strange" laws? Islam, of course.

  • Sanousy Howari said

    Jordan people are very nice people

    If you take special cases in your article its ok, but the general case people there welcome forigners and smile in their faces

    Jews and other religions co-exist in jordan

    Hate speech you will not hear there only if they see local news about Israeli army killing innocents by tons of bombs like in Gaza ( which your local TV will not show the truth about it)

    Life is simple ... cars are old ... people are not so rich and always busy in less paying jobs because it is all what they have ... no luxury shops or clothes ... taxes and prices are relatively high ... gas and fuel prices are higher than USA's

    No weapons in citizens hands there is no need ... police is so powerful to manage situation ... most people are caring about their daily bread they cannot smile all the day because they are running after essential life needs.

    No fruitful trees ... no rivers or plenty of water ... nothings grows by its own as a gift from the sky .. no wild ducks or rabbits or even doves ... hunting is allowed .. but there is nothing to hunt ...

    Sheeps are the only creatures can live in the hard geographic nature and lack of grass .. even wolves and hyenas left to better countries ... roards are old and have a alot of humbs and digs ... speed is at maximum up to 100km in the best situations ... you will see 100s of shops selling the same low quality goods imported from china with labels to look from europe ...

    Its just a place for people who find no other place to live .. thats why you find peoples in war leave their luxurous countries around jordan and refugee there .. hearts are broken no money no life ... but they still can smile and offer a free cup of coffee to forigner visitors and a smile with dark eyes and faces tired of running after daily bread over the years ...

  • firyal said

    lemme alter a few things here based off of my own experience living in Jordan.
    i hardly saw anything "weird and strange" about these laws? the country has firmer morals and is more conservative than European culture, i mean obviously tho? and the law about the driving thing has been changed recently, so you should update that. i dont know why as a tourist you would want to get stinking drink in public in jordan anyways, but its fine if you do that at a designated place for it like a club or bar or house party, we got those.
    and the thing with drugs if u wanna do it so much, (again as a tourist i don't know why you'd come here to do that), do it at home if you're you've got one here or at your friend's house if they don't mind, it' not like soldiers are gonna come barging in the second you hit a blunt in your bathroom (unless you're at a hotel obvs).
    it's true public affection is not cool here, sure there's traditional reasons but like we also find it obnoxious and gross anyways (holding hands is fine tho if youre straight). the truth is tho we have plenty of gay people here, i have several friends that are, and i mean they're treated like everyone else bc like... they're people and there's not much difference as long as you don't make out with a dude of your gender in the mall or smthn.
    i can see one of the article's points implying antisemitism here, and i'd like to clarify that. There is a difference between Jews and Zionism that we do in fact differentiate. We do not discriminate against Jews that are unrelated to the Zionist movement, however Zionism is super touchy due to the sensitive situation in neighboring Palestine and Israel. We know sides to the story you'll never hear on Western radios nor would you want to hear (although there are quite a few articles online from BBC and Washington Post etc). Again, unless you're preaching Palestine doesn't exist from the roof of a building or something no one honestly cares tho?? if ya mind your business everyone else does too. Jordanians just like to look. we glance at everything going around us, you'll notice that, but we don't do messed up stuff (except the catcalls on Thursday/weekend nights when fuckboys prowl the streets).

    if there's one thing i do wholly agree on with this article it's the point about the monarchy. lmao people love the royal family here they're a point of national pride, and for those that don't, well, if with a group of people they'll just get totally bashed and told to shut up.

    anywho, that's my take on the whole thing. we're no Switzerland but we're definitely not Egypt either. I guess my final tip is just that if you're Caucasian looking or sounding you will be scammed an extra half dinar or so, it's inevitable, whether by a taxi or a vendor or at a stall at a bizarre. good luck!

  • Sharon Dolores said

    I just got back from a month-long trip in the Middle East with Jordan being my second stop. I am a single older woman who travels alone and can't say enough wonderful things about Jordan. I felt safe and was respected everywhere I went. I met wonderful people and found Arab men particularly helpful coming to my aid and offering to help me in Jordan and in Israel. Jordanians are easy going, happy, fun and go out of their way to help Tourist. I have learned much about Islam and have a deep respect for this beautiful culture. I found nothing weird about this beautiful country and wish people in the U.S. were more respectful and open to Islam. I met a gay Jordanian man on my second day and we hung out together for several days, He acted as a guide and helped me tremendously in maneuvering through the city. I did get charged a couple of times too much by taxis drivers but that happens even in many countries in Europe. I am planning on going back again it is my favorite country. I have made many friends in Jordan and am a changed person as a result of the sites, ancient history and personal interactions I had on this trip.

  • roz said

    Why did the fornicating JORDAN Customs idiot take my yarn when leaving the country. I guess his wife needed expensive cotton yarn from very special Wisconsin Sheep. I hope she is making a noose for him, if she does not, I WILL>

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