BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Middle East
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 2 November, 2001, 17:20 GMT
Profile: King Abdullah of Jordan
King Abdullah cheering Jordanian team (Associated Press)
Abdullah is one of the new generation of Arab leaders
Before taking on one of the hardest jobs in the Middle East at the age of 37, Abdullah bin Hussein had a successful career in the Jordanian army, a body which forms the bedrock of support for the Hashemite monarchy.

King Abdullah stands before portrait of his father (Associated Press)
The king has sought to follow in his father's footsteps
Abdullah had not been groomed for the crown. His uncle Hassan had been Crown Prince for many years, while the late King Hussein was known to favour Prince Hamzah - his son by Queen Noor - as a possible successor.

In the event, the teenage Hamzah may have been considered too young to fulfil the dying king's wish, and the succession was switched from Hassan to Abdullah only days before King Hussein's death in February 1999.

Since his emergence from relative obscurity, Abdullah has followed a policy of continuing his father's paternalistic style of rule and moderate, pro-West political viewpoint.

But the pro-Western stance of the Jordanian monarchy has been under severe pressure since the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000 and the 11 September suicide attacks on the US.

King Abdullah biography
Born on 30 January 1962
Married with three children
Educated in UK and US
Commander of Jordanian Special Forces
The king has spearheaded efforts to defuse the violence between Israel and the Palestinians - a conflict which has enflamed public opinion in Jordan whose population is mainly of Palestinian origin.

Jordan has also often voiced solidarity with the Palestinian people and offered medical and other services to them.

In the wake of 11 September, King Abdullah has emphasised to Washington the importance of finding a route to Middle East peace for the anti-terror campaign, while giving the least ambiguous backing to US military action in Afghanistan of any Arab leader.

King of disguise

These crises came after a long honeymoon period in which the king won praise for the sincerity of his efforts to improve the lives of Jordanians, who are still waiting for the economic bonanza that was promised after the historic1994 peace treaty with Israel.

He famously donned disguises - as a TV reporter and a white-bearded sheikh - to see what conditions were really like in his kingdom.

Young Prince Abdullah with mother Toni Gardiner (Associated Press)
Abdullah's mother is UK-born Princess Muna
These forays have formed part of anti-corruption efforts and initiatives to stimulate business and foreign investment, efforts which culminated in the free trade agreement with the US that was recently approved in Washington.

The outings must also have given the king a rare taste of the civilian life of his subjects.

The son of King Hussein's British-born second wife, Princess Muna (nee Antoinette "Toni" Gardiner), Abdullah was schooled in England from the age of four and completed his high school education in the United States.

He later took one-year courses in international affairs at Oxford and Georgetown Universities writing a masters degree thesis on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Military man

In 1980 he joined the British military academy at Sandhurst and served in the British army in West Germany and Britain.

He served in Jordan's 41st and 90th armoured brigades, the air force's Helicopter Anti-tank Wing and the Second Guards Brigade.

In 1993 he was appointed deputy commander of the Special Forces, assuming command one year later.

His main role was in a highly specialised commando unit dedicated to maintaining internal order, which helped to quell riots in southern Jordan in 1996.

Prince in uniform of Special Forces commander (Associated Press)
He became special forces commander before learning of his succession
In 1998 he led a high-profile special forces operation to storm the hideout of gunmen who had killed eight people in Amman. When the shooting was over Jordanians chanted his name on the streets.

Although he speaks colloquial, barrack-room Arabic fluently, Abdullah speaks English better than Fusha or classical Arabic - although he has made great strides in improving his Fusha, which protocol demands for official appearances.

He is a qualified diver and pilot and a keen free-fall parachutist. His other interests include car racing (he is a former Jordanian National Rally Racing Champion), water sports, scuba diving and collecting ancient weapons.

See also:

30 Jul 01 | Middle East
Jordan's king of disguise
09 Jun 99 | Middle East
King Abdullah: Jordan's hope
14 Oct 01 | Middle East
Jordan's unease over air strikes
24 Aug 01 | Middle East
Jordan's pragmatic king looks to future
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Middle East stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Middle East stories