The culture of Jordan is based on Arabic and Islamic elements with significant Western influence. The Jordanian Kingdom had always been the intersection of the three continents of the ancient world and always seemed to have a form of diversity at any given point due to its location. Notable aspects of the culture include the music of Jordan as well as an interest in sports, particularly football and basketball as well as other imported sports mainly from western Europe and the United States.
The national dish in Jordan is called mansaf, a dish that is associated with Bedouin traditions. Despite these rural roots, it is shared by Jordanians of many diverse backgrounds, not just Bedouins or those who can trace their ancestral lines back to Bedouins. The dish is composed of bread, lamb, yogurt, rice, nuts, and seasoning, and served on a large, circular platter. The ingredients are combined to form several layers. The first layer is made of thin, unleavened bread, shredded and soaked in yogurt broth. Next is a layer of rice which covers the bread. Large chunks of lamb that have been simmered in the same type of yogurt broth are placed on top of the rice. The head of the lamb is placed in the center of the tray. Pine nuts, almonds, and parsley are sprinkled atop the meat and rice. The final step involves pouring a yogurt broth over the entire dish, which is then added periodically throughout the meal to keep the dish warm and moist. Traditionally, mansaf is eaten while sitting on the floor, using ones hands to eat from a large, circular communal tray. This tradition still persists, although in modern years, many people have taken to eating the dish with silverware. Most admit, however, that mansaf tastes better when eaten with the hand. The dish takes hours to prepare and thus is primarily served only on special occasions
One of the key aspects of Jordanian culture is the hospitality shown by hosts to their guests. This is felt even by walking around the streets of Jordan where the phrase “ahlan wa sahlan” (“I welcome you”) is heard nearly everywhere a person goes.
Old proverbs such as the following one show that traditions of hospitality date back many years:
The host must fear the guest. When he sits shares your food, he is company. When he stands leaves your house, he is a poet” (Lazim al-mu’azzib yikhaf min al-dhayf. Luma yijlis howa dhayf. Luma yigum howa sha’ir).
Some of the traditions of hospitality come from Jordanian Bedouin culture. For example, oftentimes, the host and his/her guest are to share a cup of black coffee. The host drinks out of the cup first, ensuring that the coffee is the right temperature. The guest then drinks what remains of the first cup. A second cup is served to the guest, and then a third. The host also serves the guest copious amounts of food and is careful to make sure the guest is comfortable and stays as long as he/she would like. Such displays are referred to as karam, the Arabic word for “generosity” or “hospitality” that also has implications of “nobility,” “grace,” and “refinement.”
In addition to wanting to be hospitable, the host also has a reputation at stake when inviting over a guest. If a guest has an unpleasant experience, such as one including lukewarm tea or insufficient food or a feeling of being rushed off, then he/she could tarnish the reputation of the host in their shared community.