Jordan - Unavailable
Figure 4. Topography and Drainage
The country consists mainly of a plateau between 700 and 1,000
meters high, divided into ridges by valleys and gorges, and a few
mountainous areas. Fractures of the earth's surface are evident in
the great geological rift that extends southward from the Jordan
Valley through the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea, gradually
disappearing south of the lake country of East Africa. Although an
earthquake-prone region, as of early 1989 no severe shocks had been
recorded for several centuries.
By far the greatest part of the East Bank is desert, displaying
the land forms and other features associated with great aridity.
Most of this land is part of the great Syrian (or North Arabian)
(see Jordan -
fig. 4). There are broad expanses of sand and dunes,
particularly in the south and southeast, together with salt flats.
Occasional jumbles of sandstone hills or low mountains support only
meager and stunted vegetation that thrives for a short period after
the scanty winter rains. These areas support little life and are
the least populated regions of Jordan.
The drainage network is coarse and incised. In many areas the
relief provides no eventual outlet to the sea, so that sedimentary
deposits accumulate in basins where moisture evaporates or is
absorbed in the ground. Toward the depression in the western part
of the East Bank, the desert rises gradually into the Jordanian
Highlands--a steppe country of high, deeply cut limestone plateaus
with an average elevation of about 900 meters. Occasional summits
in this region reach 1,200 meters in the northern part and exceed
1,700 meters in the southern part; the highest peak is Jabal Ramm
at 1,754 meters. These highlands are an area of long-settled
villages. Until about the 1940s, persons living in these villages
depended upon rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood.
The western edge of this plateau country forms an escarpment
along the eastern side of the Jordan River-Dead Sea depression and
its continuation south of the Dead Sea. Most of the wadis that
provide drainage from the plateau country into the depression carry
water only during the short season of winter rains. Sharply incised
with deep, canyonlike walls, whether wet or dry the wadis can be
formidable obstacles to travel.
The Jordan River is short, but from its mountain headwaters
(approximately 160 kilometers north of the river's mouth at the
Dead Sea) the riverbed drops from an elevation of about 3,000
meters above sea level to more than 400 meters below sea level.
Before reaching Jordanian territory the river forms Lake Tiberias,
the surface of which is 212 meters below sea level. The Jordan
River's principal tributary is the Yarmuk River. Near the junction
of the two rivers, the Yarmuk forms the boundary between Israel on
the northwest, Syria on the northeast, and Jordan on the south. The
Az Zarqa River, the second main tributary of the Jordan River,
rises and empties entirely within the East Bank.
A 380-kilometer-long rift valley runs from the Yarmuk River in
the north to Al Aqabah in the south. The northern part, from the
Yarmuk River to the Dead Sea, is commonly known as the Jordan
Valley. It is divided into eastern and western parts by the Jordan
River. Bordered by a steep escarpment on both the eastern and the
western side, the valley reaches a maximum width of twenty-two
kilometers at some points. The valley is properly known as the Al
Ghawr (the depression, or valley, also seen as Al Ghor; see
Jordan - Water
, ch. 3).
The rift valley on the southern side of the Dead Sea is known
as the Southern Ghawr and the Wadi al Jayb (popularly known as the
Wadi al Arabah). The Southern Ghawr runs from Wadi al Hammah, on
the south side of the Dead Sea, to Ghawr Faya, about twenty-five
kilometers south of the Dead Sea. Wadi al Jayb is 180 kilometers
long, from the southern shore of the Dead Sea to Al Aqabah in the
south. The valley floor varies in level. In the south, it reaches
its lowest level at the Dead Sea (more than 400 meters below sea
level), rising in the north to just above sea level. Evaporation
from the sea is extreme due to year-round high temperatures. The
water contains about 250 grams of dissolved salts per liter at the
surface and reaches the saturation point at 110 meters.
The Dead Sea occupies the deepest depression on the land
surface of the earth. The depth of the depression is accentuated by
the surrounding mountains and highlands that rise to elevations of
800 to 1,200 meters above sea level. The sea's greatest depth is
about 430 meters, and it thus reaches a point more than 825 meters
below sea level. A drop in the level of the sea has caused the
former Lisan Peninsula to become a land bridge dividing the sea
into separate northern and southern basins.
Data as of December 1989