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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 14:08 GMT
Jordan and the UK: A long and robust relationship
King Hussein and Harold Wilson
On a state visit to Britain, King Hussein meets Harold Wilson
The relationship between the desert state of Jordan and the UK is one of the closest and most enduring.

Just as war is the backdrop to King Abdullah's current visit to the UK, it was armed conflict that forged Jordan's ties with Britain more than 80 years ago.

In the thick of World War I, in 1916, Arabs, wishing to free themselves from Ottoman rule, launched the Great Arab Revolt.

Queen Muna, born Antoinette Gardiner
Queen Muna, born Antoinette Gardiner
The Ottomans had sided with the Central Powers against the Allies in the war, but in rebelling the Arabs hoped the British would grant them a unified kingdom of Arab lands.

It was during this war that one of the most enduring examples of British-Arab cooperation emerged, in the form of TE Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia.

Lawrence, a British officer, led a small but highly effective band of Arab fighters who managed to capture the strategic port town of Aqaba from Ottoman hands.

Question mark

The Allies' victory in the war left a question mark over the future governance of much of the Middle East.

TE Lawrence
TE Lawrence rallied Arab troops
But ultimately he was unsuccessful and Britain was awarded a mandate over Jordan, or Transjordan as it was known then.

Although in 1921 the British appointed Abdullah as emir, effectively Turkish rule in Transjordan had simply been replaced by that of the British.

This arrangement was renegotiated in 1928 under a treaty which meant while the UK recognised Transjordan's independence under Emir Abdullah, matters of "finance, military and foreign affairs" would remain in the hands of the British.

King Hussein at Harrow
King Hussein as a "English schoolboy" at Harrow
Full independence was finally achieved in 1946 and Abdullah became ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Yet, by then, the ties with London were well established.

Abdullah's grandson, King Hussein, maintained a largely pro-western stance after ascending to the throne in 1953. On occasion he turned to Britain for military support.

In the 1950s the UK committed troops to the king after an army coup in Iraq threatened Jordan's security. It contributed military help again, in the 1970s, after Syria entered the north of the country in support of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

The Hashemite family have also had close personal relations with Britain.


A wonderful combination of the virtues of the Bedouin Arab and the English gentleman.

Prince Charles at King Hussein's memorial service
King Hussein's second wife, Antoinette Gardiner - mother of Jordan's current monarch, Abdullah - was British, and Hussein attended both Harrow school and Sandhurst military college.

Much of Abdullah's tuition was also in England - he attended school in Surrey, followed in his father's footsteps to Sandhurst, and progressed to Oxford University.

But Jordan's links to Britain are not only on the diplomatic front.

In recent years, the country has become a popular holiday destination for the British, helped, in part, by the fact English is widely spoken.

Monastery at Petra
Petra is a powerful lure for tourists
Its historical treasures are a powerful draw, especially the ancient city of Petra, which is carved from sandstone.

But tourism across the Middle East has suffered over the past 14 months because of the unrest in neighbouring Israel and Palestinian territories.

And while diplomatic relations between Jordan and the UK remain robust, King Abdullah will be hoping his high-profile trip to London will help tempt normal Britons to pay a return visit.

See also:

24 Aug 01 | Middle East
Transcript: Interview with King Abdullah
24 Aug 01 | Middle East
Jordan's pragmatic king looks to future
13 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Jordan
24 May 01 | Middle East
Timeline: Jordan
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