The Circassians are a non-Arab Islamic people originally from the Caucasus region of western Asia. Southward Russian expansion during the 19th century forced between 1.25 and two million Circassians to emigrate south. Many of these perished along the way, but around one million reached the Ottoman Empire, where they settled first in the Balkans and later in the Levant region of the Middle East.
Circassians first arrived en masse in Jordan in 1878, where they settled in Amman, Wadi Seer and Na’ur. Today, Circassian populations can be found also in Jerash, Sweileh, Zarqa, Azraq and other parts of northern Jordan. Estimates of the Circassian population vary from 20,000 to 80,000.
The Ottomans managed the resettlement of the Circassians to some extent, recruiting them into the police and governmental structures. Until the 1940s, they continued to overwhelmingly prefer service in the army or government, but now they are represented in a diverse assortment of sectors and professions. Today, Circassian Jordanians are a well-educated people who continue to play a role in Jordan’s political, economic and social life, larger than their numbers would indicate.
Circassian culture places strong emphasis on respect for the elderly and closely-knit extended families. Marriage with anyone sharing the same surname of either parent is strictly forbidden. Circassians are also well known for their honesty. In fact, Jordanian Circassians constitute King Abdullah’s ceremonial guard.