Jordan has an area of 96,188 sq km, including the Dead Sea. It is located in an area around the Jordan Valley in the Middle East. It is bordered to the north by Syria, to the east by Iraq, to the east and south by Saudi Arabia, and to the west by the West Bank, and Israel, as well as the Jordan River and Dead Sea. Its only outlet to the sea is the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea in the south.
The country can be divided into three main geographical regions:
1. The Jordan Valley, which runs along the entire western border of the country and is geologically part of the 6,000 km long Great Rift Valley. The Rift Valley starts from Syria and traverses through Lebanon before entering Jordon.
Within Jordon, the Rift Valley passes through the Dead Sea and Aqaba before crossing the Red Sea onto eastern Africa. The Rift Valley was formed over 20 million years ago by forces below ground splitting the earth’s crust to form parallel fault lines, creating huge fissures, soil subsidence, Sea of Galilee and other lakes, the Red Sea, hot springs and volcanoes.
The Jordon River has several sources, the main one being the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in Syria. It flows into the Sea of Galilee (also called Lake Tiberias), which is 212 m below sea level and then into the Dead Sea (407 m below sea level), not far from Amman.
The Dead Sea,67 km wide and 18 km long, is landlocked and is saturated with salt and minerals; its salinity is about eight times higher than normal sea water. The Dead Sea always has high salt contents, but with modern irrigation systems diverting water away from the Jordan River, less water is flowing into the Dead Sea now, making it even more saline than before.
The northern segment of the Jordan Valley is called Ghor in Arabic. It is the most agriculturally productive region because of the fertile soil and the right climate year round, and about 70& of the country's food is grown there.
South of the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley continues through Wadi ‘Araba, and this region has barren and dramatic landscape. Wadi ‘Araba starts from the northern end at 300 meters below sea level. Rises to 355 m above sea level at Jabal Risha, and then descends to sea level at Aqaba. The Gulf of Aqaba with a coastline of about 40 km is Jordan’s only port and a resort area; it also is well-known for coral reefs offshore with rich marine life.
2. The highland plateau, which separates the Jordan Valley from the desert in the east, has long been populated by people as it has high rainfall and rich vegetation. Elevation in the highlands ranges from 600 m to about 1,500 m above sea level, with temperature and rainfall patterns varying accordingly.
Ancient cities (and ruins) of Jerash, Madaba, Petra and Karak were located here. These days, major cities such as Amman, Zarqa, Irbid and Karak are found on the plateau. The plateau extending from Umm Qais in the north to Ras an-Naqab in the south, is intersected by valleys and riverbeds (or wadis). All of these wadis, including Wadi Mujib and Wadi Mousa, flow in the direction of the Jordan Valley.
The northern part of the plateau, which ends at Amman, is characterized by higher elevations. Further south (from Irbid through Madaba), between the highlands and the eastern desert are steppes, but the steppes have been retreating because of desertification.
3. The Eastern Desert (Badia Region) makes up about 75% of the country and is part of the bigger North Arab Desert that covers parts of Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The elevation in this region varies between 600 and 900 m above sea level.
The desert has different rock formations. The Basalt Desert is characterised by black basalt-covered rocks and extends into Syria nd Saudi Arabia. The Rweishid Desert to the east near the Iraqi border is made up of limestone plateaus with some grassland. The Eastern and Central Deserts to the east and south of Amman have valleys and wadis, and include the Azraq Oasis and the Shomari Wildlife Reserve.
The most famous desert in Jordan is the Rum Desert, home of the Wadi Rum landscape, with huge sandstone mesas dominating. It was where Lawrence of Arabia once roamed.