The Jordan Valley is a low-lying strip which cleaves down the western border of the country. It is part of the Great Rift Valley, which extends down southwards into East Africa. The Jordan Valley is divided into several distinct geographic sub-regions. Its northern part is known as the Ghor, and it includes the Jordan River. Several degrees warmer than the rest of the country, its year-round agricultural climate, fertile soils and water supply have made theGhor the food bowl of Jordan. The Jordan River rises from several sources, mainly the Anti-Lebanon Mountains in Syria, and flows down into Lake Tiberias (the Sea of Galilee), 212 meters below sea level. It then drains into the Dead Sea which, at 400 meters below sea level, is the lowest point on earth. South of the Dead Sea, the Jordan Valley turns into the hot, dry Wadi ‘Araba, the "wilderness" or "Arabah desert" of the Bible.
People first started to abandon the nomadic lifestyle and plant crops in the Ghor about 10,000 years ago. Villages were built, water-harnessing schemes were implemented, and by about 3000 BCE, produce from the valley was being exported to neighboring regions. The area’s fertile lands were chronicled in the Old Testament, and the Jordan River is revered by Christians as the place where John the Baptist baptized Christ.
After 1967, when Israel conquered the "West Bank" of the Jordan River, the population of theGhor fell from 60,000 down to about 5,000 by 1971. During the 1970s, however, new roads and villages were built, and the population has now soared to over 100,000. There are no major cities along the Jordan River.
In the last few decades, modern methods of farming have vastly expanded the agricultural output of the area. The latter years of the 1950s witnessed the construction of the East Ghor Canal (now known as the King Abdullah Canal), which runs down the east bank of the Jordan Valley for 69 kilometers and has brought substantial areas under irrigation. The recent introduction of portable greenhouses has brought about a seven-fold increase in productivity, allowing Jordan to export large amounts of fruit and vegetables year-round.