Cultural Connect Civilisational Linkages and Beyond

Cultural Diplomacy

The cultural exchange programme between India and Jordan must be reviewed for mutual benefit of both countries, says Surbhi Arora

Jordan, born out of the ruins of World War II, is a young state with a long history. The region was always positioned at the fringes rather than the centre of empires, but its strategic position ensured passage of all great early civilisations. The Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Hittites, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Turks and Crusaders all traded, built cities and fought their wars here, leaving behind rich cultural influences. In Biblical times, this region comprised the lands of Edom, Moab, Ammon, and Bashan.

Taken from the Turks by the British in World War I, Jordan, formerly known as Transjordan, was separated from the Palestine mandate in 1920, and in 1921, was placed under the rule of King Hussein. In 1923, Britain recognised Jordan’s independence, subject to the mandate. In 1946, grateful for Jordan’s loyalty in World War II, Britain abolished the mandate. The part of Palestine occupied by Jordanian troops was formally incorporated by action of the Jordanian parliament in 1950.

Jordan’s culture is based on Arabic and Islamic elements with significant Western influence. The Jordanian Kingdom, positioned at the intersection of the three continents of the ancient world, always enjoyed tremendous diversity 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 sports imported mainly from western Europe and the United States.

Preserving Cultural Heritage

The Hashemite Kingdom attaches great importance to cultural issues at both the governmental and non-governmental levels, and Jordan continues to see the significance of its culture for sustainable development and dialogue. The Cultural Heritage concept shapes the basic elements of identity and social cohesion among the country’s various communities and minorities. The Jordanian-National Agenda clearly defines the main challenges relating to the country’s culture sector, including cultural heritage issues.

In recent years, some Jordanian universities have established a small number of cultural heritage related academic programs. Almost all focus on the management, conservation and restoration of tangible cultural heritage. A number of institutions share the responsibility of managing, safeguarding and utilising tangible and Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) like the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Tourism, and Department of Archaeology, Jordanian universities, Ministry of Education and a number of civil society institutions.

Regular Exchange Promotes Cultural Understanding

The Government of India offers a number of scholarships every year to international students, who wish to pursue their studies in India. Offers of scholarships are sent to the respective governments through Indian diplomatic missions abroad. Nominations are received from the respective governments in the Indian diplomatic missions concerned. Every year, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations  (ICCR) administers scholarships to international students according to the terms and conditions of the Cultural Exchange Programme signed between the Government of India and the government of the respective country for studying, training and research in various fields.

There is a lot of interest in Jordan in Indian art and culture. There is regular cultural exchange, including the visits of performing troupes and exhibitions between our two countries, which have helped promote mutual cultural understanding. A Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) for the year 2007-09 was signed in December 2006 during the King’s visit to India. A Sitar Group and a Bharatanatyam troupe, sponsored by ICCR, participated in the Jordan Festival in July 2009. Odissi dancer Rajashri Behera, sponsored by ICCR, performed in Amman in November 2009. Jordanian children have participated in cultural and scholastic events in India.

In May 2010, Jordan won ten awards in the annual Shankar International Children’s Competition (SICC) open to children below the age of 16. Seven students from the King Hussein Foundation’s (KHF) Jubilee School returned to Jordan triumphant after ranking first and third in the 16th QUANTA, the International Competition for Science, Mathematics, Electronics and Computer Science held in Lucknow from November 9-12, 2010. The Embassy of India in Amman has actively participated in various events in this regard.

During a cultural event organised by the Asian Ambassadors’ Ladies in Amman (AALIA) on May 4, 2011, a group of women from India, dressed in their traditional attire, performed the ‘raas garba’. The highlight of the event was a song by the then Indian Ambassador’s wife, Mrs. Rita Dash. Muzaffar Ali, well-known Indian film producer and director and member, Board of Prasar Bharati, visited Amman from June 26-28, 2011. On June 27, 2011, a publicity event coinciding with the visit was organised by the Mission.

In February 2013, India’s Amity University Online and the Talal Abu-Ghazaleh University signed an agreement paving the way for access to online higher education in a range of streams.

The East Bank in Jordan is an area of immense historical interest, with some 800 archaeological sites, including 224 in the Jordan Valley. Jordan’s notable tourist attractions include the Greco-Roman remains at Jerash, the Gerasa of Antiquity, which was one of the major cities of the Decapolis. The capital Amman under the name of Philadelphia was another. Today, it is one of the best preserved cities of its time in the region. Petra (Batra), the ancient capital of Nabataea in southern Jordan, carved out of the red rock by the Nabataeans, is East Bank’s most famous historical site. Natural attractions include the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, which – at 392 m below sea level – is the lowest spot on Earth. Biblical attractions include Bethany-Beyond-the- Jordan, where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist and Mount Nebo, where Moses saw the Promised Land.

The beaches on the Gulf of Aqaba offer holiday relaxation for Jordanians, as well as tourists. Sports facilities include swimming pools, tennis and squash courts, and bowling alleys. Eastern Jordan has modern hotel facilities in Amman and Al-Aqabah, and there are government built rest houses at some of the remote points of interest.

The cultural exchange programme between India and Jordan needs to be reviewed for mutual benefit of both the countries. Jordan has a small industrial base and its economy is dependent on external aid from abroad, tourism, expatriate worker remittances and the service sector.

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Surbhi Arora

Surbhi Arora is faculty in Glocal University. She may be reached at

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