Planning a trip to the Hashemite Kingdom? Here are the best books about Jordan to learn about its history, people, and useful travel tips before visiting the country.

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Books About Jordan

Though it did not achieve full independence as a country until 1946, the area we know as Jordan has been inhabited since the beginning of human history. The result is a beautiful landscape of both mountainous deserts and lush green hills with an incredibly complex culture and past. It’s a land of incredible food, generous people, and is an oasis of peace in a politically turbulent region of the world.

Most people only think of Petra when they think of Jordan, but there is so much more to experience and understand about this amazing country. That’s why if you’re planning a trip to the Hashemite Kingdom (or dreaming about doing so) it’s helpful to do some reading beforehand! I asked some fellow travel bloggers for their recommendations for the best books about Jordan and the result is this list of fiction, memoirs, travel guides, and historical books. There’s something on this list to appeal to every reader!


Appointment with Death

Hercule Poirot takes on another international murder mystery, this time set among the red stone cliffs of Petra. In Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Deaththe corpse of Mrs. Boynton is found alone in the ancient desert city, a tiny puncture wound the only sign of the fatal injection that killed her.

With only 24 hours available to solve the mystery, Hercule Poirot recalled a chance remark he’d overheard back in Jerusalem: ‘You see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?’ Mrs. Boynton was, indeed, the most detestable woman he’d ever met.

Another jet-setting classic by the Queen of Mystery, this is one of the best books about Jordan to read for fans of detective stories.

books about jordan agatha christie

Pillars of Salt

Pillars of Salt is the story of two women confined to a mental hospital in Amman, Jordan, just after the end of the British mandate in 1921. Author Fadia Faqir, born in Amman herself, interweaves ancient Arabic storytelling traditions, with Muslim and Christian theological sources and modern facts, to capture an alternative picture of Jordanian history – the continuing repression of Arab women whose daily contributions to the nation’s economy and struggle for independence are stifled in a male-dominated society.

The two women, a Bedouin peasant named Maha from the Jordan Valley, and Um Saad, the wife of a prosperous butcher in Amman are forced to share a room in the Amman mental hospital to which they have been confined. At first, Um Saad refuses to speak with a “filthy Bedouin,” but the two women gradually become friends, united in a fierce struggle to survive the inhuman rigors of the institution.

The life stories they share with one another are simultaneously horrifying and mesmerizing. Maha’s husband Harb, a heroic member of the Resistance, was the love of her life. After he is killed by the British, their love is not enough to protect her from the violence and repression that surround her. Um Saad yields, too, to the humiliation of her husband bringing home a new young wife.

While fictional, Pillars of Salt provides insight into the still ongoing issues women face in a male-dominated society. This is one of the best fiction books about Jordan to read to better understand Arab culture.

books about jordan pillars of salt


Married to a Bedouin

Married to a Bedouin is the perfect book to put on your Jordan packing list! It tells the story of a New Zealand nurse, Marguerite van Geldermalsen, who fell in love with a local souvenir seller in Jordan’s ancient Nabataean capital, Petra, in the late 1970s. It is probably the most authentic book about Jordan that you will find.

Married to a Bedouin recounts the couple’s simple cave life and what life was like for the Bedul tribe when they were moved out of Petra to the newly built village nearby.

Marguerite still lives in the local village outside of Petra and has her own bookshop at the site. For anyone who has visited Petra, van Geldermalsen’s book paints vivid pictures of the now-abandoned caves and allows readers to bring to light what it was like when locals lived in what is now Jordan’s most popular tourist site. This is one of the essential books about Jordan every visitor should read.

Recommended by: Lindsay from Step into Jordan

books about jordan

Desert Queen

If you’re headed to Jordan soon, you need to put the book Desert Queen by Janet Wallach at the top of your reading list. It tells the story of Gertrude Bell, who rejected the elitist lifestyle of the “eminent Victorians” and instead explored, charted, and excavated the Arab world.

She was enlisted by British intelligence during World War I and was instrumental in gaining the support of Arab leaders. Her extensive network and intelligence complemented T.E. Lawrence’s ambitions. Post-war, Bell played a significant role in shaping the modern Middle East and was hailed as the most influential woman in the British Empire at the time.

In this expertly crafted biography, Janet Wallach introduces us to the woman behind these accomplishments – a woman whose fervent passion and independent spirit were at odds with the restrictive norms of her native England. For too long, Bell has been overshadowed by Lawrence, but she finally takes center stage as a pivotal figure in modern history, whose life was both a heartrending tale and an extraordinary adventure. Certainly one of the best books about Jordan to read before your trip!

Recommended by: Victoria from Guide Your Travel

books about jordan desert queen

Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans

Petra is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its rock-cut structures. The book Petra and the Lost Kingdom of the Nabataeans by Jane Taylor puts this mysterious rose-red city in the spotlight.

One of the essential books about Jordan, the book takes you on a journey through the great Nabataean kingdom. Dating back to the 4th century BC, the Nabataeans were known for their great engineering feats and impressive architecture.

The book gives a deep dive into the culture and the people who once inhabited Petra and the Arab peninsula around it. It details how the city, located on a popular trade route, prospered but then eventually fells into shambles. It is evident from the writing that the author, bitten by her wanderlust, has traveled extensively to Petra.

The highlight of the book is the striking photographs that the author herself has taken. With archaeological ruins as enigmatic as the ones from ancient Rome and Greece, Petra remains one of the biggest tourist landmarks in Jordan.

Recommended by: Vidyut from Nomading Solo

books about jordan petra


Lonely Planet: Jordan

If you’re planning your first visit to Petra or Jordan in general, it’s a great idea to pick up Lonely Planet’s travel guide for Jordan, which was recently updated to stay current for travelers in 2022 and 2023.

Lonely Planet is known for being a leading company in the travel industry, and this book has lots of info on noteworthy places in Jordan like Amman, Petra, Aqaba, Wadi Rum, and much more. They cover popular tourist spots as well as some hidden gems.

The book has tips on where to stay in Jordan, where to eat, and where to shop, plus some more basic info on things like culture, WIFI, and ATMs.

Last, but not least, Lonely Planet’s guide for Jordan has dozens of maps and color photos, so it’s very enjoyable to read and dig into. If you’re planning a visit to the region, this is one of the most helpful books about Jordan you can read!

Recommended by: David and Intan from The World Travel Guy

books about jordan lonely planet

Lawrence in Arabia

Practically everyone has heard of T.E. Lawrence, better known as “Lawrence of Arabia,” but very few know the history of this fascinating man. But Lawrence was extremely influential in shaping the future nation of Jordan and the modern Middle East. Scott Anderson’s Lawrence in Arabia is, yes, a history of Lawrence himself, but also of the making of the Arab region that we know today.

During World War I, the Arab Revolt was a sideshow compared to the greater conflict happening in Europe. And yet several key figures, Lawrence among them, understood its potential for major ramifications for both the present war and the future of the Arab region. Lawrence in Arabia tells the story of how this awkward, enigmatic Englishman became the most important link between the Arabs and the British army at the time. It details his exploits in blowing up Ottoman trains and negotiating with Arab royalty.

But this is a sweeping account of not just Lawrence of Arabia, but also other key figures in WWI instrumental in crafting the quagmire that is the Middle East today. It connects the dots between Lawrence’s Arab revolt, the Zionist movement, and the French-British land agreement. It’s a tale of adventure and heroism, wartime trauma and sacrifice, political maneuvering, and imperial vanity with tragic consequences. It’s one of the best books about Jordan to understand how the nation came to be.

Recommended by: Maggie (me!) from Pink Caddy Travelogue

books about jordan Lawrence in Arabia

Leap of Faith

Leap of Faith is the dramatic and inspiring story of an American woman who won her way into the heart of a Jordanian king and his people. Born into an Arab-American family outside of Washington, DC, Lisa Halaby joined the first freshman class at Princeton to have women and graduated in 1974. While later visiting her father in Jordan, she was casually introduced to King Hussein. After the tragic death of his wife, Lisa and the King reconnected and fell in love. They soon married and Lisa Halaby became Noor al Hussein, Queen of Jordan.

The memoir speaks about the challenges Noor faced as a young bride in the royal Jordanian court, surrounded by people who believed that her one job was to make her husband, the king, happy. She struggled to juggle being a mother to four kids while helping her husband pursue his mission of peace in the Middle East.

The book provides a compelling portrait of the late King Hussein and his lifelong effort to bring peace to his wartorn region, and an insider’s view of the growing gulf between the United States and the Arab nations. It is also the refreshingly candid story of a mother coming to terms with the demands the king’s role as a world statesman placed on her family’s private life. But most of all it is a love story, the intimate account of a woman who lost her heart to a king, and to his people. To learn about modern-day Jordan and it’s ruling family, this is one of the best books about Jordan to dive into.

books about jordan leap of faith

Other Bookish Posts

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Books about Turkey

Books about the UK

Books about Greece

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Planning a trip to the Hashemite Kingdom? Here are the best books about Jordan to read before your trip! Including memoirs, fiction books, and true histories. #jordan #petra #bedouin    Planning a trip to the Hashemite Kingdom? Here are the best books about Jordan to read before your trip! Including memoirs, fiction books, and true histories. #jordan #petra #bedouin

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