Jordan: General information

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has a culture that is a blend of Arabian, Islamic and Modern influences. Archaeologists have found evidence that this area has been inhabited by humans since the Palaeolithic period. The country’s location at the crossroads of the Middle East has served as a strategic nexus connecting Asia, Africa and Europe since the dawn of civilisation. Three kingdoms arose at the end of the Bronze Age (ca. 1,500 BCE): Ammon, Moab and Edom. These lands then became part of various kingdoms and empires, most notably the Nabatean Kingdom (4th century BCE onwards), the Roman Empire (106 CE onwards), the Muslim Period (starting ca. 636 CE) and finally, the Ottoman Empire (16th until the early 20th century). After the Ottoman Empire was partitioned after World War I by Britain and France, the area became officially known as the Emirate of Transjordan in 1922. In 1946, Jordan became an independent sovereign state. The country has three official languages: Arabic, English and French.

Although the country is small, there is still a great variation in the clothing and traditions of the people due to their different life styles; for example, the agricultural societies of the north, compared to the Bedouin nomads, Palestinian communities, and settled urban societies of the south. The Jordanian people have generally been looked upon as yet another part of Bilad Esham (the Arabic term for greater Syria; i.e. Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and Transjordan), however, the various styles of Jordanian traditional dress represent the unique and ancient culture of this small Arabian country.

Jordanian dancers showing men and women in traditional costume
1. Jordanian dancers showing men and women in traditional costume

Women’s wear

The traditional dress for women is very decorative and full of superb craftsmanship, embroidery and patchwork. Jordanian woman have always had a high standard of craftsmanship, taste, and colour harmony. They also took special pride in their work and identity with their own village or clan. Time was always taken for embroidery and dressmaking despite their hard working life. It was the time used for socialising with related women as they sat and embroidered together. At one time, every Jordanian girl from every social class embroidered her own trousseau, which consisted of between six and twelve loosely-cut robes and which lasted her for a lifetime. The colours used for the embroidery range from shades of red, maroon, purple and pink, with bright additions of green, orange and gold. The main type of embroidery used is a simple cross-stitch, though it is/was used as the basis for complicated designs and recurring natural (e.g. feathers, flowers, trees or waves) and geometric motifs (zigzags or triangles).

Libis shar'i or jilbab
2. Libis shar’i or jilbab

Nowadays, there are basically three styles of clothing for women in Jordan. Westernised women dress in modern Western clothes. Very religious women wear an outfit called the libis shar’i or jilbab. This is a floor-length, long-sleeved, button-front dress worn with the hair covered by a scarf. The third type of attire is the national costume.

Highly embroidered dress from the north
3. Highly embroidered dress from the north

The national costume is a handmade dress with embroidered and cross-stitched patterns that represent the region of the country that the wearer comes from. For example, in northern Jordan, women wear black cotton dresses embroidered with multi-coloured triangles. Another type of traditional dress from Northern Jordan is called the Shirsh, which is a long outfit with tight sleeves and a decorated neckline and embroidered sides. In central Jordan, women wear dresses made from over 16 yards (ca. 16 meters) of fabric, with long, pointed sleeves measuring 10 feet (ca. 3.3 meters) in length. Blue panels are stitched around the sleeves and the hem of the dress.

Dress with long sleeves (possibly fromt he central region)
4. Dress with long sleeves (possibly from the central region)

The various tribal peoples also have special designs for their clothing such as the Rwalla (or Ruwallah a large North Arab tribe living in North Arabia) shown here.

5. Rwalla

In addition, the agricultural regions such as Al-Salt have typical clothes like the double dress in Figure 6.

Al-Salt double dress
6. Al-Salt double dress

In Amman, the capital, and its surroundings a lot of the traditional costumes have been influenced by Palestinian traditional embroidery as many Palestinians have settled in this area since the 1920s for economic reasons or as part of the Palestinian diaspora.

Men’s wear

Jordanian men’s traditional clothing is plainer and less varied than the richly decorated costumes of the women. However, it was a rich medium for visual statements about identity, age and status. It has also been subject to changes in fashion as individuals and groups sought to emulate their superiors and display their wealth.

7. Jordanian man
7. Jordanian man

The traditional clothing for men consists of tunic shirts, trousers and an elaborate over-garment (thwab or dishdashah) with a belt or cummerbund.

The dishdashah was usually made of plain cotton cloth and the Jordanian form has small slits up the side to aid in walking. Winter dishdashah are made of heavier material. A coat or jacket may be wore over the dishdashah.

Jordanian men also cover their head with the typical Arabian scarf-like turban (kufiyah), more frequently in red and white checks or just plain white (in summer) rather than black and white. The Jordanian variety has tassling along the edges with longer white cotton tassels at the ends. The headpiece is held in place with a black band (‘aqal) made of woven and wrapped goat hair. These also end in long tassels that hang down the back and so show that the man is from Jordan rather than other Arab states. Married men wear their ‘aqual straight but unmarried men wear then at an angle.



Condra Jill (2013) Encyclopedia of National dress. Traditional clothing around the world. Volume 2. ISBN 978-0313-37635-8


  1. Dancers –
  2. Libis shar’i or jilbab –
  3. North Jordanian woman –
  4. Embroidered dress Central Jordan (?) –
  5. Rwalla tribeswoman –
  6. Woman of Salt wearing a double dress –
  7. Man –

(3.2.0 )


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