"It was on Friday, July 20, 1951, the sec-
ond of two days that my grandfather and
I were spending in Jerusalem, that trag-
edy, the crudest of all teachers, helped
to transform me from a boy into a man/'
Thus begins the author's account of
the assassination of his grandfather,
King Abdullah, and his explanation
of how his grandfather's insistence
that he, Hussein, wear a uniform
saved the author's life.
"Only once did I have a spell of 'C.B,'
(confined to barracks) at Sandhurst. I
managed, however, to get out of it by
confessing to a crime I did not commit."
Cadets will be cadets, but this was
going too far. At least so the College
Commander thought until Cadet
Hussein ingeniously helped him
change his mind.
"It would behoove the world to become
used to this fact: that without a just solu-
tion to the Palestine tragedy there can
be no stable peace in the Middle East."
King Hussein analyzes the conflict
between the Arab States and Israel
and outlines his program for its reso-
(Continued on hack jacket)
92 H971 6
Hussein, King of Jordan, 1935-
Oheasy lies the head. [N.Y.j
B. Geis Associates; distributed
by Random House 
UNEASY LIE-S TOE HEAD
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF
KING HUSSEIN I
OF THE HASHEMITE
f KINGDOM OF JORDAN
PUBLISHED BY BERNARD GEIS ASSOCIATES
DISTRIBUTED BY RANDOM HOUSE
1962 by His Majesty, King Hussein I of Jordan
Att rights reserved under International and Pan American
Conventions. Published by Bernard Gets Associates; distributed
by Random House, Incorporated.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 62-11165
Manufactured in the United States of America
THIS BOOK IS FOR
THE PEOPLE OF JORDAN
1. The Murder of My Grandfather
My Early Days 3
2. A Prince at Harrow 26
3. A King at Sandhurst 40
4. My Inauguration as King Life in Jordan
My First Marriage 58
5. I Learn To Fly 71
6. Problems of the Arab States 83
7. The Baghdad Pact Riots 101
8. The Palestine Issue 114
9. The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha 129
10. A King Against the Government 151
11. Zerqa The Final Round 165
12. The Arab Union And a Warning 184
13. The Murder of King Feisal 197
14. Surrounded by Enemies 209
15. The Syrian MIG Attack 218
16. My American Tour 229
17. The Murder of Jordan's Prime Minister
And Plots Against My Person 246
18. I Fly to the United Nations 260
19. The Economy of Jordan 273
20. My Courtship and Marriage 288
UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
The Murder of My Grandfather
My Early Days
"The greatest single influence on my life"
WHEN i WAS A BOY, my grandfather, the King Abdullah,
used to tell me many a time that Jerusalem was one of the
most beautiful cities in the world. His first love, it is true, was
the Hejaz where he was born, that arid stretch of desert
north of Yemen, with Mecca, the birthplace of Islam, in its
heart. It was from the Hejaz that my grandfather first
marched north in the great Arab Revolt or as it is more
properly described, the Arab Awakening.
But as the years passed and he settled in the north and his
wise rule brought peace and independence to the country
that is now Jordan, he grew to love Jerusalem more and more.
He was deeply religious, and could never enter the city with*
out being aware of its spiritual significance. As a boy, I
4 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
used to see it through his eyes. The holy places, the ancient
walls, the slim minarets, the olive trees of Gethsemane, the
bustling narrow markets that cluster around the Via Dolorosa,
have all seen tragedy and bloodshed in their time. But they
have also been the birthplace of hope and faith, and when the
sun shines above Jerusalem and the air is cool and smiling,
it is a city without peer.
Jordan itself is a beautiful country. It is wild, with limitless
deserts where the Bedouin roam, but the mountains of the
north are clothed in green forests, and where the Jordan
River flows it is fertile and warm in winter. Jordan has a
strange, haunting beauty and a sense of timelessness. Dotted
with the ruins of empires once great, it is the last resort of
yesterday in the world of tomorrow. I love every inch of it. I
love Amman, where I was born, and which I have seen grow
from a township. I am still awed and excited each time I set
eyes on the ancient city of Petra, approached by a defile so
narrow that a dozen Nabataeans could hold an army at bay.
Above all I feel at home in the tribal black tents in the desert.
But it is in fair and beautiful Jerusalem that my story starts.
It was Friday, July 20, 1951, a rather warm day, the second
of two days that my grandfather and I were spending in
Jerusalem, and it was on this day, at the El Aksa Mosque
near the Dome of the Rock, that tragedy, the cruelest of all
teachers, helped to transform me from a boy into a man.
All week the atmosphere had been tense. Apart from any-
thing else, the end of the Israeli war had left the whole Arab
world stunned, angry and discontented. Even at sixteen I
could feel the atmosphere growing, slowly enveloping the
countryside like a cloud of poison gas. The previous Monday
The Murder of My Grandfather My Early Days 5
the assassination of Riyad il Sulh, the great Lebanese poli-
tician, had inflamed the passions of my people. His death
was quite unconnected with the murder that was to follow,
but it had taken place in Jordan and had a profound effect
on the country, so that now, at every street corner, one could
see the sullen faces and feel the stony silences, broken by
the sharp cries of argument or sudden violence that signaled
a moment of crisis, the razor's edge that divides sanity from
It was the first such outrage Jordan had ever known. It
was nothing compared to the crises I have surmounted since,
but it was the first one of that type. The sullen anger of the
people was not directed so much at any one man or political
party as against the unknown force that had disrupted their
peaceful way of life.
And how peaceful Jordan was when I was a little boyl A
smiling country, content to be left alone; its people worked
hard, worshiped God, obeyed the laws, and asked for
nothing more than a life that should end with a blessed place
in paradise. Then suddenly an honored visitor was slain in
our midst while enjoying our hospitality, and within a few
days the King himself was assassinated.
I have always felt that Egypt was largely responsible, for
I knew my grandfather had many enemies there. I had just
returned from school in Egypt and had already witnessed the
beginning of the campaign against my grandfather. It seemed
to me that it was a calculated plot to disrupt Jordan, but it
was not instigated by the ordinary people of Egypt. I had
lived with them. I knew them. Even at that early age I could
see the wicked class distinctions, the strange calm among the
people presaging an explosion. The Egyptians would accept
any leadership with docility-but only for a time. They are
6 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
easily swayed and, as I discovered while at school there, they
really knew very little about the Arab world. They accepted
the word of those plotting against Jordan that my grand-
father was a "defeatist" and a "traitor" (because he was so
right in his warnings and someone had to take the blame for
the failure of other Arab statesmen).
But internal opposition was mounting in Egypt. You can-
not keep a nation ill-fed and ill-educated, as most of the rich
and ruthless rulers of Egypt kept the fellahin. And as those in
power saw the danger signs mount, especially after the Arab-
Israeli operations of 1948, they resorted to the age-old trick
of looking for a scapegoat. Jordan suited them perfectly. In
the war with Israel, Jordan had taken the brunt of the
fighting and most of the blame, despite the fact that my
grandfather had warned his people years before what would
happen. His political foresight was uncanny, but he was not
always popular because he so often forecast the truth.
As we discussed the visit to Jerusalem the sense of fore-
boding was so strong that even my grandfather a man not
given to undue alarm seemed to have a premonition of
disaster. Three days before we left for Jerusalem we were
sitting talking after a day's work, and he turned to me, for no
reason that I could fathom, and said in his gentle voice:
"I hope you realize, my son, that one day you will have to
assume responsibility. I look to you to do your very best to
see that my work is not lost. I look to you to continue it in the
service of our people."
I remember the moment perfectly. My grandfather, a
Bedouin at heart, loved the desert so much that even in his
palace grounds he erected tents where he used to pass some
The Murder of My Grandfather My Early Days 7
of his time. In the cool of the evening he would often recline
on silken cushions, with friends who visited him, and it was
in the tent, sitting beside him as I did on so many evenings,
listening to his advice and wisdom, that I promised him
solemnly I would do as he asked. It was a promise made with
the full knowledge that one day I must redeem it But little
did I realize how short was the time ahead.
At sixty-nine my grandfather was in magnificent health.
My father, though ill, showed every promise of recovery;
obviously, it would be some years before my father reigned
and many more, I devoutly hoped, before I succeeded him.
And yet, three days later I knelt by the dead body of my
grandfather while many of those who had been around him
fled. A year later I was King of Jordan; and I like to hope now
that my promise to the man who was the greatest single in-
fluence on my life comforted him in his last days as it has
strengthened me in all my efforts since I accepted the will of
God and the wish of my people to serve them.
Throughout the week there had been ominous portents.
On Wednesday morning the day before we left for Jerusa-
lemthe United States Ambassador requested an audience.
"Your Majesty," he told my grandfather, "may I implore
you not to go to Jerusalem. I have heard there may be an
attempt on your life. I beseech you, sir, to change your plans."
My grandfather looked at him thoughtfully.
"I thank you for your warnings," he replied, "but even if
they were true, I would still go. My life belongs to my people
and my place is among them, and I will die when I am
destined to die."
During Wednesday, preparations were made for the visit
It was never originally intended that I should go, but in the
evening he sent for me, and as we sat together he said:
8 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
"You know, my son, I have asked many people to come
with me to Jerusalem tomorrow. It is very strange, some of
them don't want to come. They seem worried about some-
thing happening. I have never heard so many feeble excuses
in all my life!"
He looked at me for a long time, then added:
"Would you like to come with me, my son?"
"Certainly I would,'* I replied. "You know, sir, my life
is worth nothing compared with yours."
It was perhaps a little theatrical, but I meant it with all my
heart. My grandfather stared at me gravely and I said no
more, for I could see there were tears in his eyes.
So we went to Jerusalem together. Our day began early
that Friday, for we had promised to visit some friends in
Nablus before attending prayers in Jerusalem. We break-
fasted early and when I came to the table I was wearing an
ordinary suit. My grandfather looked at me and, for no reason
that I could understand, asked me:
"Why aren't you in uniform?"
There was no reason why I should be, and my grandfather,
whose tastes were of the simplest, and who abhorred the
extravagant trappings of office (especially at prayer time),
had never made such a request before.
I had in fact only one uniform, which I had worn the pre-
vious day during a presentation of wings to the first Royal
Jordanian Air Force pilots. It needed pressing and so, just
before breakfast, I had arranged to have it sent to Amman
in the car with some other belongings, as we were to return
later that day.
"You must wear it!" my grandfather commanded.
The Murder of My Grandfather My Early Days 9
I hurriedly sent word for the car to be stopped and my
uniform returned immediately. After some delay it arrived
and we drove to Nablus, there refusing all invitations from
friends to remain for the day. When we returned we had
some time to spare, so my grandfather held several audiences
at the small two-bedroom house where we stayed. The house
is now a museum.
One of the audiences was held with General Cooke, known
to us as Cooke Pasha, who was a new divisional commander
of the Arab Legion. He had just arrived in Jordan, and I was
delighted when my grandfather asked me to translate their
conversation, especially when he told Cooke Pasha:
"I am very proud of my grandson. I am going to give him
the cordon of an aide-de-camp tomorrow."
We little knew that for my grandfather tomorrow would
never come. But amongst us there was one man who did
know. I was standing close to my grandfather when he
arrived humbly for an audience.
His name was Doctor Moussa Abdullah Husseini, a rela-
tive of the Mufti, who had received his degree in Germany.
He bowed low before my grandfather, looked him in the eye,
expressed his loyalty, and wished him a long life and happi-
ness. Two hours later my grandfather was dead and Husseini
was so deeply implicated in the assassination that he was
My life has been very lonely since that Friday morning,
and I have often wondered what lay behind the thousands of
bland smiles and fervent expressions of loyalty I have ac-
knowledged since then.
I wonder now, looking back across the years, whether my
grandfather had an inner knowledge of the tragedy that
was so close. All were welcome in our Jerusalem house, and
10 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
just before we set off for the Mosque, a group of friends
gathered and my grandfather was telling them about the men
who had refused to come to Jerusalem with him.
"They were afraid," he declared, and then he added words
so prophetic that I would hesitate to repeat them had they
not been heard by a dozen men alive today. He was talking
about the unimportance of life and death.
"When I have to die, I would like to be shot in the head by
a nobody," he said. "That's the simplest way of dying. I would
rather have that than become old and a burden."
Somebody looked at the clock, and my grandfather rose
from his seat. It was time to go.
Sitting together in the car, we started on the route to the
Mosque. The atmosphere was heavy with foreboding; there
were precautions everywhere. Heavily armed troops guarded
the streets and I could see more and more sullen, suspicious
faces. Nobody could have done more for the Arab cause than
my grandfather; yet, driving slowly to the Mosque, hemmed
in by thousands, one had the feeling that disaster was in the
When we entered the Old City, alighted from our car and
started walking toward the Mosque, it was even worse. The
military guard was so massive that I remember turning to
an official and asking:
"What is this a funeral procession?"
I was walking behind my grandfather, a few steps to his
right. He spoke to some men on the way down and then we
reached the door of the Mosque itself. A guard of honor pre-
My grandfather was almost through the door when he
The Murder of My Grandfather M y Early Days 11
turned back and told the guard commander that he did not
think noisy military ceremonies should be performed in a
Then my grandfather turned to enter the Mosque, and as
he walked about three paces inside the main doors, a man
came out from behind the great door to his right. He did not
look normal. He had a gun in his hand, and before anybody
could do anything, he fired. He was only two yards away but
my grandfather never saw him. He was hit in the head and
fell immediately. His turban rolled away.
I must have lost my head at that moment because every-
thing happened right in front of ine. For an interminable
second the murderer stood stock-still; all power to move had
left him. At my feet lay a white bundle. I did not even realize
what had happened. Then, suddenly, the man turned to run
and I tried to rush him as he made for the inside of the
I was near the gate. As I lunged toward him I saw from the
corner of my eye and how strange that the eye and the brain
have time to notice such details in moments of agitation and
despair that most of my grandfather's so-called friends
were fleeing in every direction. I can see them now, those
men of dignity and high estate, doubled up, cloaked figures
scattering like bent old terrified women. That picture, far
more distinct than the face of the assassin, has remained with
me ever since as a constant reminder of the frailty of political
All this happened in a flash as the murderer squirmed and
darted this way and that. Shooting started from every corner
of the Mosque and then suddenly the man turned at bay. I
had a glimpse of his face; I saw his bared teeth, his dazed
eyes. He still had the squat black gun in his right hand and,
12 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
as though hypnotized, I watched him point it at me all in a
split second then saw the smoke, heard the shot and reeled
as I felt the shock on my chest. I wondered, is this what
death is like? I waited but nothing happened; nothing, that
is, except a miracle. I must have been standing at a slight
angle to the man, for as we discovered later his bullet hit a
medal on my chest and ricocheted off. I was unharmed, and
without doubt my grandfather's insistence that I wear my
uniform saved my life.
As the assassin in turn fell to his death, still shooting, I
turned back to my grandfather's body. I was so dazed as I
knelt by his side that I could only think in a fury, at the very
moment when I had lost him, that most of those he had
brought up, most of those he had taught and helped, had fled.
I undid the buttons of his robe while his doctor examined
him, hoping that he was still alive, but it was all over. We
covered up the body in the robes that had once been white.
We made a stretcher out of a carpet and carried him to the
hospital. I wanted to stay, but a doctor gently urged me to
leave and in the next room gave me an injection for shock,
I was told. I still could not really believe what had happened
until we made our way to Jerusalem airfield.
Suddenly I felt very, very lonely.
I stood apart from the others on the airstrip, for what could
those around me say at this moment of disaster other than the
Alone on the runway, how I wished that my father was
not being treated for his mental illness in Switzerland at a
time like this. But this was my first lesson, the first of many
times I have stood apart in the midst of my fellow men.
When I think back of my life since that day, I know that
The Murder of My Grandfather Af y Early Days 13
the price I have had to pay for position is not the unending
work that I love, not the poor health that has dogged me, but
a price much higher. It is that I have gone through so much
of my life surrounded by people, crushed in by them, talking
to them, laughing with them, envious of their casual, happy
relationships, while in my heart I was as lonely as a castaway.
As I stood there, bewildered by what had happened, a man
in Air Force uniform hesitated, then strode toward me. He
had a rugged, weather-beaten face with strong teeth and
sandy hair. Very shyly he said to me in his thick Scottish
accent, "Come with me, sir. Ill look after you."
He steered me to a twin-engined Air Force plane, a Dove,
and bade me squeeze into the co-pilot's seat next to him.
Then he revved up the motors and we flew back to Amman.
The man was Wing Commander Jock Dalgleish, of the
British Royal Air Force. I little thought, on that day when a
page of history was turned, that two years later Dalgleish
would teach me to fly, and that seven years later Jock and I,
in a similar aircraft, would be fighting for our lives when
attacked by Nasser's Syrian MIGs.
The next day I carried a gun for the first time in my life.
I have decided to start these memoirs with the murder of
my grandfather since he, above all men, had the most pro-
found influence on my life. So, too, had the manner of his
Many men were afraid of him, but not I. He loved me
very much, that I know, and I in my turn loved him to the
point where I no longer feared his rather austere outward
appearance, and I think he knew and appreciated this. To me
14 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
he was more than a grandfather, and to him I think I was a
I was, of course, deeply attached to my parents, for
throughout my early days our family lived simply but
happily. My mother, Queen Zein, who has remained by my
side all my life, watched me grow up with tenderness and
love. She is a remarkable woman, not only beautiful, but very
wise. She still lives in Amman. Her wisdom, her courage, her
never-failing advice and encouragement to me made her a
major factor in my life. For our family life was far from easy.
We were at times very poor. Even in 1950 my father as Crown
Prince received only $3,000 a year from the State and before
that it was much less. And none of us have private fortunes.
When I was only a year old my mother had a baby
daughter who died after a month in the bitter cold of an
Amman winter. She died of pneumonia because we simply
could not afford good heating facilities in our small house.
I can just remember as a toddler visiting my cousin Feisal
in Baghdad and playing with his wonderful teddy bear. I was
heartbroken when I had to return to Amman without it. The
next morning my mother bought me one after selling her last
piece of jewelry.
All through my life, with its crisis after crisis, her en-
couragement has given me strength. And it is certainly true
that had it not been for my mother's patience and devotion,
my father would never have been able to rule Jordan, even
for the short period that he did. And if my father, with my
mother by his side, had not stepped in after the murder of
my grandfather, the history of Jordan might have been
When I was a boy we lived on Jebel Amman, one of the
capital's seven hills, in a modest five-room villa, with only one
The Murder of My Grandfather My Early Days 15
bathroom, and set in a small plot of land. My cousin Feisal
in Iraq seemed to me, at that age, to move in a world of
It was so splendid that when at the age of ten I visited
Baghdad, Feisal gave me a farewell gift. It was a magnificent
British-made bicycle. It shone and sparkled and I felt that
never in my life would I own anything more beautiful. When
the time came for us to return to Amman, arrangements were
made to send the bicycle on to me. I kept that bicycle
polished and spick-and-span for twelve months. In the morn-
ings, before school, I would polish each spoke, and at the end
of a year it looked as new as the day I received it.
Then one day my mother came to me.
"I know this is going to hurt," she started gently, "but our
financial position is a bit difficult, so to keep going, we shall
have to sell a few things. Will you be upset, my dear son, if
we sell your bicycle?"
I fought to keep back the tears. My bicycle! Anything else
could be sold but surely not that. . . .
"You know that all through life you will have to stand up
against disappointments/' she tried to console me. "Be brave;
one day you will forget this bicycle when you are older and
are driving big, shiny cars/'
I did drive those cars, but I have never forgotten that
bicycle. It was sold the next day. It fetched $15.
It does one no harm to be poor. We had never been rich,
and consequently our modest mode of living meant that I
could, for those first few years, lead a more normal life than
later, and also appreciate the value of money, so that now I
think I enjoy all the more the pleasure of helping those in
Poor though we were, by normal royal standards, we had
16 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
a relatively happy life. I went to seven schools in all, either
in Amman or Alexandria. I loved, more than I can ever say,
being with other boys, being treated as everybody else was
treated. But though I had many friends, I never had any who
were really close.
Perhaps this was because I changed schools so often, and
so never stayed long enough to make lasting friendships.
Opposing forces always seemed to be tugging away at my
study courses. I would be comfortably installed in one school,
then my grandfather who, to say the least, had a domineer-
ing character would decide that I needed special tuition in
religion, so back to the house I would go for extra private
lessons. Then my father would decide that I needed more
tuition in Arabic and I would have to change again.
Finally, however, I managed to go to boarding school, and
I was enrolled at Victoria College in Alexandria, a school
with excellent instruction in Arabic and English. A whole
new world opened up for me. Football, cricket, books, com-
panionshiphow I loved my days at Victoria College. I can
see in my mind's eye to this day the long Spartan dormitory
which I shared with about thirty other boys, the cold showers
every morning, the uniform of gray flannels and college
blazer. And I can also remember sitting one afternoon on the
edge of my bed, after I had torn my blazer, struggling to
thread a borrowed needle, and finally sewing up the rip be-
cause I knew my parents could not possibly afford to buy me
My grandfather helped to pay for my tuition, otherwise I
would never have been sent there. It may seem odd that I
had to sell my bicycle and darn my socks yet I could go to
school in Egypt, but the reason is quite simple. My father
received a very modest annual sum, and with a large family
plus the title of Crown Prince, life was far from easy.
The Murder of My Grandfather M y Early Days 17
My grandfather, as King, also received an allowance from
the State a monthly salary if you like-which was not very
large by normal palatine standards and barely sufficient for
his station, but it was out of this that he helped pay for my
education and aided us in many other ways. Yet, when it
came to actual cash, we were often very badly off, and so
the anomalous situation arose in which I was educated at an
excellent school yet my weekly pocket money was barely
sufficient for my needs.
All this did me some good; without doubt the habit,
acquired very early in life, of having to watch every penny
encouraged me later on to keep a much more critical eye on
the finances of my country than is perhaps usual in responsi-
My two years at Victoria College were among the happiest
in my life. As well as learning the routine lessons and sports,
I took courses in Arabic and religion and became increasingly
proficient at fencing, always the subjects my grandfather
first looked for when scrutinizing my reports. During my last
term at Victoria, I won a medal in fencing and got a good
report, and my grandfather was so pleased he gave me the
honorary rank of captain.
It was toward the end of these two years, when I was about
sixteen, that I became closer and closer to him, especially
during the long holidays, for to my grandfather any holiday
always meant a golden opportunity for studying harder
and how he put me through my paces!
My grandfather was a full-blown extrovert who did not
lightly brook refusal. Sir Alec Kirkbride, the British Minister
to Transjordan, once described him as a monarch with a
twinkle in his eye. He was a man of desert ways who had
been brought up as a child among the Bedouin tribes. He was
fierce and warlike and woe betide the enemy who crossed
18 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
him. He always felt, to his dying day, that he had been a
leading figure in the struggle for Arab independence and felt
that total victory had been snatched from him by duplicity.
Yet he was much more than a soldier. He was a diplomat
and an extremely able one at that. He was also a classic
scholar; he recited poetry by the hour and was himself a poet;
he played chess like a master.
He was a wonderful old man, truculent and sometimes
autocratic, who transformed Transjordan, as it then was, into
a happy, smiling country "The only country in the world,"
as one American journalist told Glubb Pasha, "where every-
body without exception praises the Government/'
4 My father, later King Talal, was utterly different. He was
the kindest of men, gentle and possessed of great charm. As
children we would sit at his feet and listen as he wove one
miraculous story after another for us. The love that united
our little family gave us enormous spiritual benefit. His
honesty was a byword and I never met a man who did not
like him. Only the terrible mental illness of schizophrenia
from which he suffered prevented him from reigning long
and wisely. Even in the short term of his monarchy he suc-
ceeded in patching up the strained relations between Jordan
and Saudi Arabia and Egypt. He was largely responsible for
our new constitution.
But alas, family differences exist between monarchs as
much as between their subjects, and the truth is that my
grandfather and my father never got on well together. The
two were separated by different lives and different ages
and by opportunists. But worst of all my grandfather never
truly realized until the end of his life how deeply afflicted
my father was.
The Murder of My Grandfather My Early Days 19
He could not conceive that a man at times gentle and sen-
sible, but at other times very, very ill, was not being just awk-
ward or difficult. My grandfather was so healthy and tough,
he could not appreciate what illness was. We in the family
knew. We watched our father with loving care, but my
grandfather, who lived partly in the heroic past, saw him
from outside. He had wanted a brave, intrepid Bedouin son to
carry on the great tradition of the Arab Revolt. He was in-
capable of accepting an invalid in place of his dream. It was
the bitterest disappointment of his life.
I remember one incident illustrating this, and which I hesi-
tated for some time to include in these memoirs, because it
is so personal, but I think it should be mentioned. It was the
day the Lebanese politician was assassinated, the Monday be-
fore my grandfather's death. Our visitor was killed in my
grandfather's car. My grandfather's aide-de-camp was with
him at the time. I heard the news in the afternoon and rushed
up to the palace. Never had I seen King Abdullah in such a
towering rage. That a visitor should have been killed in Jor-
dan! As the details trickled in, and my grandfather became
more and more enraged, his aide-de-camp, who had escaped
death, dashed in. My grandfather looked at him scornfully
"How dare you remain alive I"
My uncle, Prince Naif (the younger half-brother of my
father), was supposed to be in attendance. At one crucial
moment he was not present and my grandfather shouted to
"Where's your uncle? Go and find him."
I rushed out to look for him. I found him, but a tew minutes
later he disappeared again. More and more people came in,
and suddenly my grandfather looked around and cried to me:
"He's vanished again! Where the devil is your uncle?"
20 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Once again I ran for him, and when the crisis was over and
I alone remained, my grandfather looked at me with a face
torn by suffering. He put his hand to his forehead and cried,
as though to the gods:
"This is the cruelest blow of my life. One son illand an-
other who can't even stand still in a crisis."
Looking back now, I can see how and why, toward the end
of his life, my grandfather lavished such affection on me as
he grew older. I had possibly become the son he had always
Once he took me in hand, especially during that last holi-
day, he was relentless. My grandfather always rose at dawn
a habit useful to me in later life so most mornings I got up
about six, had a quick wash in our little villa and drove to the
King's palace by 6:30 A.M.
Everything was ready for me. One room in the palace had
been reserved as our schoolroom. But my tutor was to take
second place, for my grandfather invariably started our day's
"Now, my son" he would open a volume of Arabic or reli-
gion-"we will start at this page!" And then, with a frosty look
at the teacher, "Make sure the Prince learns the lesson well."
Having finished my two hours of lessons, my grandfather
would either fetch me himself, or I would go to his office and
watch him at work. He had already accomplished much of
his day's work and expected me to have done the same, and
he was so expert in most of my curriculum that one could
never bluff him. One day I was learning Arabic under a tutor
chosen by my grandfather, when, like a school principal, he
bustled into the room and started to question me. He was so
dissatisfied with my answers, he ended up by cross-examin-
ing the teacher instead.
The Murder of My Grandfather Af y Early Days 21
Some days we shared a modest breakfast around 8:30 A.M.
Bedouin coffee flavored with the delicate scent of carda-
mom, or tea with mint and some flat cakes of bread without
butter or jam. My grandfather believed one worked better on
a nearly empty stomach.
Many times at his office in the palace he would honor me
by asking me to act as translator, for though he understood
English, he did not speak it. I always liked this duty, but I
had to be very wary, for though he did not speak English,
many a translator was caught out during diplomatic confer-
ences if so much as a word was changed. My grandfather had
an uncanny ability to seize on one single word which a trans-
lator altered, perhaps because he thought it was better that
way. I did a great deal of translating for him. But he never
caught me out.
It was this part of my education that has served me so well
since, for most days I returned to the palace before evening
prayers and dined with him, so that over the evening meal I
would listen to him talking about the subtleties and pitfalls
of the hazardous profession of being a King, or I would sit at
meetings with notables, or listen to him dictate or, fascinated,
watch him play chess until long after dark, when he would
say, looking at my drooping eyes, "Go to your home, my son,
sleep and prepare for the morrow/'
He let me accompany him everywhere; it was he who
taught me to understand the minds of my people and the in-
tricacies of the Arab world in which we lived. He taught me
the courtly functions, how to behave and perhaps because
he was a sadly disappointed man who had been deceived by
the British and French he taught me how to come to terms
22 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
with adversity as well as with success. And he taught me
above all else that a leader's greatest duty is to serve.
I also remember the devastating way he would crush peo-
ple when he was angry. He was dining one night with a visit-
ing diplomat and the talk turned to Saudi Arabia. My grand-
father often had differences with the Saudis and the visitor
asked my grandfather if he did not think it would be better
for the cause of Arab unity if the quarrel with Saudi Arabia
were patched up.
"How old are you?" asked my grandfather.
"Er about forty-five, sir."
"And may I ask" my grandfather's voice became increas-
ingly sarcastic "how old you were at the time of the Arab
"I suppose about nine, Your Majesty." The visiting diplo-
mat began to look pale.
"At that time/' my grandfather retorted, "I happened to
be commanding the Eastern Army liberating the Arabs. And
now you tell me how to serve the Arab cause!"
What an astonishing man he was! He had all sorts of talents
hidden from the world. One morning I wanted his advice and
went to his palace earlier than usualit must have been be-
fore seven o'clock. I walked into his bedroom for the first
time. He was still in bed, but awake. To my astonishment I
saw some scientific equipment with which my grandfather
had been experimenting. Against the walls was a formidable
array of scientific books.
He also had a wonderful sense of humor. He always used
snuff, and one day mislaid his small snuffbox. As I brought it
to him I examined it with the normal curiosity of a boy.
"You seem very interested/' He looked at me.
I said nothing.
The Murder of My Grandfather M y Early Days 23
"You had better try it/' my grandfather urged me, and took
a pinch himself.
I had no idea how strong snuff was; I think I must have
sniffed half the box. For an hour I could not stop sneezing.
For an hour my grandfather could not stop laughing. It cured
me I have never used snuff since.
It is true that I was not afraid of him for I loved him and
respected him, but I did have one secret. Though I was only
fifteen, I had managed to learn to drive a car, squeezing in a
few lessons in my spare time.
I was not sure whether or not my grandfather knew; I
rather fancy he pretended ignorance, but I was afraid that if
I mentioned the matter he would object, so I never told him.
He discovered my secret shortly before his death. I drove to
his palace for dinner and then prepared to leave. I always
took my leave inside the palace and he never accompanied
me to the door.
I walked out, closed the doors behind me and jumped into
my car. I was just starting to drive off when my grandfather
came out. I simply froze. I got out of the car and went around
"I see you are going home," he said.
"Yes, sir/' I stammered.
"Well, take it easybe careful/' was all he said.
I drove home. I had not been in the house a minute when
the telephone rang. It was my grandfather.
"I just wanted to make sure that you'd got home safely /*
he said. "Good night."
This was the man who taught me so much, who loved me
so dearly, and to whom I owe more than I can say, the man
who sat facing me one evening and told me:
"Remember, the most important thing in life is to have
24 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
the determination to work, to do your very best, regardless
of all the setbacks and all the difficulties that will occur. Only
then can you live with yourself and with God/'
Now, at 1 the age of sixteen, I was on the threshold of a life
in which one day I would have to try to put into practice all
the principles he had taught me; and if, as I say, his influence
on my life was profound, it was his death which taught me
the ultimate lesson.
The Arab lands are not like other lands. Life is all too often
held cheaply, and death often passes unheeded. Yet his mur-
der was the first time that violence had touched me person-
ally and on that terrible day I learned much, even if I did not
immediately realize it. First of all, I learned the unimportance
of death; that when you have to die, you die; for it is God's
will. Only thus have I found that particular inner peace
granted to those who do not fear death.
If you believe this, if you believe in fate, it behooves a man
to give of his utmost in the brief span which can end as
swiftly as my grandfather's, as swiftly as the puff of smoke
from the killer's gun was lost in the shimmering air above
I believe I must live with courage and live well, serving and
abiding by my principles in life, regardless of any difficulties
I face, so that when the time comes for me to lose my life, I
will at least have done my best.
These beliefs have helped me greatly to bear the loss of my
grandfather, and they have served me well in moments of
crisis and danger. Without doubt, it was the death of my
grandfather that brought me face to face with myself and
made me clarify my philosophy of life for the first time.
The Murder of My Grandfather My Early Days 25
I learned one more thing. If life is cheap, man is cheaper
yet. For the rest of my days, nothing can ever blot from my
memory the falseness of man as I saw it on that day; many of
those whom my grandfather had defended, government of-
ficials and members of his entourage whom he had trusted,
had placed in positions of importance, at one moment so staid
and so faithful as they clustered around his person, slowly
marching to the Mosque, yet the next second scurrying like
cowards and leaving only a few of us to mourn my grand-
I was very bitter at that time. The behavior of my grand-
father's so-called friends distressed me so deeply that I had
no wish then to reign as King of Jordan and it was with relief
that I learned that my father, who was being treated in Swit-
zerland, appeared to be recovering. On his return I hoped I
could go back to Victoria, away from the power lust and ava-
rice that followed my grandfather's death as rapacious poli-
ticians fought for the crumbs of office, sullen, determined,
hating each other, like the money-hungry relatives who
gather at the reading of the will.
Within a matter of hours the politicians were starting to
fight. There were those who whispered, Was my father well
enough to succeed to the throne? They were the ones who
hoped he would never reign, simply because they themselves
wanted power. Powerless for the moment, I was forced to
watch how some of his former friends changed without a
thought for our country; I saw his great work jeopardized by
weakness on the part of those around him, by the way they
permitted opportunists to step in, even if it meant the ruin
of little Jordan,
A Prince at Harrow
"I was rather unhappy at first' 1
MY GRANDFATHER had wanted me to go to Harrow, but
shortly before his death I managed to persuade him that I
would do better if I stayed on at Victoria College in Alex-
andria where I was already settled so well. I had been there
for two years and was almost ready to take my school certifi-
cate in the summer of 1951 and wanted very much to pass.
So after much discussion, my grandfather agreed.
When he was killed so suddenly, however, everything
changed. It was felt that the antagonistic Egyptian attitude
toward Jordan had played its part in Jordan's crisis. Cairo's
continued attacks on Jordan had made relations between the
two countries bitter and angry. As Crown Prince which I
had become automatically it was impossible for me to re-
turn to school in Egypt. So I had to start all over again.
My father was still in Europe and until he could return it
was necessary for me to remain in Jordan. I could not stom-
ach the squabbling I saw around me, the politicians jockeying
A Prince at Harrow 27
for position, arguing as to whether or not my father should be
King. I ignored most of them as much as possible. My uncle,
Sherif Nasser, returned from Iraq, and with a cousin, Sherif
Zaid, we formed a trio and concentrated on meeting the peo-
ple of my country. We toured everywhere and spent many
nights in the desert. It was much more rewarding, and most
Eventually my father returned and then, with a heavy
heart, I set off for England to a new school, attended by boys
I did not know (except my cousin Feisal), who played Rugby
instead of football, and whose colloquial English was bound
to complicate the strain of fitting into a new educational pat-
The school chosen was Harrow, and I was, in fact, rather
unhappy at first during my early months there in 1952. I do
not think it was entirely my fault. I could not fit in with the
other boys easily. I immediately discovered that my English
pronunciation was far worse than I had imagined. After two
years at an English-speaking school in Egypt, I found that
an entirely different language was spoken at Harrow. In Alex-
andria we spoke English with a lilt and at a leisurely pace. At
Harrow, everybody seemed to gabble at double speed. On
the few occasions when my schoolmates deigned to talk to me
in those first few weeks, I could not understand them half the
In class it was even worse. I had done well at Alexandria
and now I tried my best. But the difficulties were so great that
frequently I could not even start to learn my lessons properly.
In Alexandria my main subjects had centered around the
Arabic language, but now I had to start to think in English.
My best subjects at Harrow were history and English litera-
ture, but at first the extra strain of trying to understand as
well as learn was enormous.
28 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Psychologically, too, I was at a disadvantage. Most young-
sters learn gradually how to be a public-school student. In
using the term "public school/' I am, of course, referring to a
type of institution that, in England, is more or less equivalent
to the private schools of America. Preparatory schools in Eng-
land lay the foundations, and the whole process of becoming
a senior public-school boy follows a well-defined pattern. But
I had never even seen the inside of such a public school until
I was sixteen. I knew nothing of the rigid codes and shib-
boleths that existed among the boys of Harrow. At sixteen I
was more "raw" than the newest drudge. Yet paradoxically I
was far more adult than they were in non-scholastic matters.
Because of my grandfather's teaching, my position at home
and what I had been through, I was a man among boys.
Perhaps this was the reason that I was not immediately
accepted; or maybe this is an attitude that all boys take to
newcomers. I felt it more keenly than most because sixteen
is so late to join Harrow or any English public school. I
also imagine they regarded me as a bit of an oddity. It may
seem a trifling reason for being a fish out of water, but Feisal
and I were just about the only two boys at Harrow who did
not have surnames. English public-school boys are sticklers
for protocol (they are much more rigid than we are in our
palaces in Amman!) and they could not accustom themselves
to switching from names like Smith, Minor or Brown, Major
to just Hussein and so very rarely called me anything at all.
As I struggled to settle down, wandering alone in the corri-
dors of that wonderful school, trying to grapple with my
study assignments, searching for a friendly smile in the sea of
faces at meals, I tried to analyze what separated us. They all
seemed so sure of themselves; they all had their own sets of
friends, and actually many of them seemed to me to be rather
snobbish. In those first weeks, my conversations consisted
A Prince at Harrow 29
almost entirely of "Good morning," "Good afternoon" or
"Good evening," and I sometimes felt lucky if anybody
bothered to answer me at all.
Even the food was different and, though not bad by ordi-
nary public-school standards, I longed occasionally for some
Arab dishes, such as tea that tasted like tea, and coffee that
tasted like coffee. Britain was still severely rationed. We
needed coupons for sweets and I seem to remember that we
were allowed only one egg a week.
But youth is resilient. Oddly enough, the first thing I began
to enjoy was this very food I had begun by despising. I sud-
denly realized how much I liked the eating habits of the Eng-
lish, especially the regularity with which food appeared
breakfast, a snack at eleven, lunch, tea and supper. One won-
derful day, canned peaches were de-rationed. We wallowed
in them, and to this day I never eat peaches without remem-
bering the tins I used to take into my room in the evenings.
Gradually everything began to sort itself out, almost with-
out my noticing it. One day I seemed to be lonely, the next
I was surrounded by friends. I enjoyed playing Rugby enor-
mously. I played scrum half, and I remember the glow felt
one day when a boy threw me a long, low pass, shouting, "Get
moving, Hussein! It's all yours."
I escaped "fagging," the British public-school institution in
which younger boys perform various menial chores for the
seniors, such as making toast or shining shoes. I was too old
for it by the time I arrived, though too young to have such
I had a small room, on one wall of which I carved my ini-
tials. It was a funny little room, containing the most extraordi-
nary bed I have ever seen. Made of rope and canvas, it fitted
into the wall during the day so that when I had made it up
each morning it would be pushed back and hidden while I
30 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
used my room as a study. As extra furniture I was allowed to
buy a small wooden desk and a strip of carpet. Otherwise I
had one upholstered armchair, and a cupboard in which I
kept my clothes and an assortment of tinned food to supple-
ment school meals.
I arose about seven o'clock each morning and after my
"tosh" (cold bath), which I rather disliked, I tidied my room,
polished my shoes and made sure my trousers were neatly
pressed. (I achieved this by putting them under the mattress
during the night.) I enjoyed looking after myself. I have al-
ways been neat, though I hope not finicky, and I liked polish-
ing my shoes and took great pleasure in keeping my study
spotless. I think I was subconsciously starting to live more
of the life for which I yearned that of an independent man
making his own way.
I liked the challenge, and the knowledge that the results
were entirely up to me.
In addition to our regular lessons, I took extra courses in
the Arabic language, and fencing, for my grandfather had
always been very proud of my ability at this sport.
I also found, a little to my surprise, that I was in need of
extra tutoring in another subject. This was dancing. A special
course was arranged for me with a lady instructor near the
school. One afternoon a week I went to the dance studio
where a lady partner was awaiting me. An elderly lady pro-
vided the only accompaniment on a rather tinny piano, beat-
ing out a steady rhythm as I plodded my way through the
fox trot, waltz and the South American dances.
But above all else, at Harrow I first enjoyed a pleasure not
included in the curriculum. A friend of my father's presented
me with my first automobile. It was a sky-blue Rover. I had
A Prince at Harrow 31
learned to drive in Amman but it had never been satisfactory
since I had always to borrow the family car. Now at last I had
my own, and almost the first thing I did was to get a driving
license. Ridiculous though it may seem, I could never get a
license when driving in Amman. Nobody would take the re-
sponsibility of authorizing me to drive. They knew I was driv-
ing, but giving permission for me to do so was another thing.
In fact, I had to go all the way to Britain to get a license to
drive in Jordan! For with my British license, I had the right
to an international licensewhich included Jordan. So when
I returned as King, it was with a British driving license.
Garaging the new Rover posed a problem. It could not be
garaged at school, but after a day in London, the Jordanian
Ambassador, who was driving me back to school, suggested
that we look for a garage as near Harrow as possible.
We found it at a place called Sudbury, about a mile from
the school. There for the first time I met Maurice Raynor,
who has worked in Jordan almost ever since. Raynor was a
man whose only interest in life was cars. I was a boy who
shared exactly the same passion. We got on together fa-
mously from the first moment. Raynor found a little lock-up
near the main garage where he had just been appointed man-
ager. I got into the habit of going down to Sudbury just to
sit and chat with him. I was allowed a certain amount of
leave and together we invented new ideas for making my
beautiful car even more attractive. We put little lights every-
where; we fitted eagles on the sides which lit up at night. I
became so enthusiastic that if I could not go to the garage
I would telephone Raynor and he would come out to me,
so that we could talk about the car.
When I had received my English driving license, I said to
32 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Raynor, "You're an expert, do you really think you can drive
faster than I can?"
Raynor looked a bit startled and said with some caution:
"Sir, I really cannot tell."
"Let's find out," I said. "Come on, get the Rover out."
We drove until we came to a stretch of road not far from
Sudbury. I drove from A to B. Raynor timed me with a stop
watch. When I got to point B we turned the Rover around
and I timed Raynor as he drove the car to A.
This was the start of my love for fast cars and very soon I
began to think of bigger and better ones. Then I had a stroke
of luck. I received another wonderful giftthis time a Bristol,
a beautiful maroon sedan (the color known as Bristol Red)
that would do ninety miles an hour without trying.
I took my cousin Feisal out in it once strictly against or-
ders. We naturally became very close friends at Harrow. We
were both a little different from the other boys and that threw
us into each other's company. But poor Feisal was never al-
lowed to leave school during term. It seemed to me a wicked
shame, so one weekend I smuggled him out of Harrow and
we went for a drive. He loved cars, but as his father had been
killed in a car crash, there was an absolute veto on speeding
when Feisal was in a car.
With this in mind I thought it better not to drive Feisal
myself, so I let Raynor drive and sat with Feisal and kept
my eyes off the speedometer as we raced along the flat road
past Northolt Airport.
Life at Harrow, however, did not consist solely of driving
fast cars or eating canned peaches. We had to work hard. But
what I liked about Harrow was that, though the discipline
A Prince at Harrow 33
was strict in some respects, a boy of sixteen was allowed con-
siderable liberty and given many privileges as long as he
didn't abuse them. I am all in favor of teachers allowing boys
to discipline themselves so that a boy growing to manhood is
given the opportunity to prove himself capable of behaving
like a man, and so earn special privileges. If he worked hard
at Harrow, and made progress, he earned the right to use his
leisure as he thought best. Without doubt this is why the best
British public schools have such a formative influence on
character in later life. It is no accident that so many national
leaders come from the British public schools.
The academic side at Harrow was first-class and I received
an enormous amount of attention. Equally important, how-
ever, was the fact that I was not only expected to work hard,
but to learn how to accept punishment and to face up to the
difficulties in life. A young boy had to do the menial jobs ac-
cording to custom, however rich he was. An older boy had to
learn tolerance in his treatment of younger boys serving him.
This is good training. So, too, is the fact that at a school like
Harrow everybody is equal. My youngest brother is now at
my old school. I believe profoundly that boys who may one
day inherit responsibility must learn to mix and see all the
facets of life.
I do not see how a man in these modern times can rule a
country unless he knows something more of its people than
what he learns from his advisers. Nor can a man be a good
officer unless he has gone through the ranks and so under-
stands the problems of, and sympathizes with, the men in
I look back on my schooldays at Harrow as one of the most
vital periods of my training for the responsibility I was later
34 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Nowadays I number many old Harrovians as my friends. I
still feel great pride because I went to Harrow. It gives me
real pleasure to wear my Harrovian tie and I shall always be
glad that I attended one of the greatest schools in the world.
If I have any criticism of the British public-school system,
it is this: I believe the way in which boys are cut off from the
outside world each term tends to increase any natural shyness
and thus makes them too remote from everyday life. You
cannot expect a boy of sixteen to live like a monk for several
months, be let loose into the world for a few weeks and then
be returned to the monastery. It is too unsettling. School life
is a preparation for the battle for existence and only the
strong can overcome this unbalanced life. But there are run-
of-the-mill boys at school as well as potential leaders and they
would benefit if they were given more preparation for the
future instead of being kept so isolated.
I know I longed for a breath of the real world, not only to
enjoy myself, but as a contrast to the make-believe of Harrow.
I know, too, that Feisal felt the same way.
I think also, on reflection, that there is on the whole too
much "roughing it* at Harrow and other British public
schools. This sort of thing can be overdone. I do believe in
youngsters being toughened so they can cope with what is in
store for them, but without exaggeration.
The only time Feisal or I ever experienced a privilege
denied the others was when a visiting diplomat interrupted
our lessons. Our names would be called out in class and how
welcome each visitor was as a break from the routine of
French or math!
Once, too, we escaped our lessons when we were inter-
A Prince at Harrow 35
viewed by a group of Egyptian journalists. This sort of con-
ference was arranged by our embassies; we only (very will-
ingly) did as we were told.
The newspapermen first went to see Feisal and one of them
asked him if I had a nickname.
"He certainly has," replied Feisal. "The boys here call him
Next the journalists came to interview me. I took them to
my room, showed them my wonderful bed (which intrigued
them as much as it did me) and then one of them asked:
"I hear the boys call you Hussie."
"Hussie? I've never heard the name," I replied.
"That's what we heard," said one.
"Who told you?" I asked.
"Feisal/' said another journalist.
"Oh, did he?" Some boys happened to be passing and I
shouted to them, "What do you call me?"
They all answered "Hussein."
"And what do you call Feisal?"
"Fuzz," one replied.
And "Fuzz" was what King Feisal became in an Egyptian
newspaper the following morning. I did not think it prudent
to tell the other boys that "fuzz" in Arabic means "aloof."
Most of our visitors, however, were on a diplomatic level.
I was now heir to the throne, and so Jordanian government
leaders would come to see me whenever they visited England.
Invariably I was kept fully informed about the state of my
father's health, and at first I was very hopeful that his mental
condition was improving.
At forty-one he had everything to offer his country. Born
36 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
in Mecca, he had studied at Sandhurst, learning to be a
soldier, and then joined the Arab Legion as a cavalry officer.
After a period as a judge of the Tribal Courts, he had at times
acted as deputy in my grandfather's absence.
How wonderful it would be if his health permitted him to
rule. But the occasional warning filled me with doubt. Once
I had to be excused during a period in order to receive a per-
sonal telephone call from the family in Amman asking
whether I would meet them in Paris. It was obvious my
father's health was causing deep concern, and I knew that if
anything happened I would have to return.
I hated the idea. I loved my family. I loved my country, but
I felt the responsibility of leading Jordan and serving it was
far too much for me to undertake. At this time I did not want
to be King. Not only was I disillusioned by the way I had seen
men react to my grandfather's death, but I wanted, before it
was too late, to live a normal life. I wanted to finish my edu-
cation and then get a job on my own merits. It did not matter
what it was; I wanted to prove that I was capable of holding
down an ordinary job, not to impress other people. It was a
dream I never realized.
The summer term ended at Harrow, and though I was by
now enjoying myself, like any other schoolboy I was de-
lighted at the prospect of the holidays. As soon as we broke
up, I went to die Beau Rivage Hotel on Lake Geneva where
my mother, who was receiving medical treatment, and my
brothers and sister were due to meet me. The first few days
were heavenly. The summer of 1952 was glorious and world
affairs seemed remote from that corner of Switzerland where
everything marches in such orderly fashion.
A Prince at Harrow 37
On the morning of August 12, my mother and the others
went out shopping in the arcades that branch off the Place
St. Franois. I was alone in my bedroom looking at the swans
on the lake and the white steamer coming into port, when
there was a knock on the door and a hotel page came in with
a cablegram on a silver tray. I did not need to open it to know
that my days as a schoolboy had ended. One glance at the
envelope was enough. It was addressed to "His Majesty, King
I looked out of the balcony, holding the envelope in my
hand. For a long time I did not open it. What I had always
feared had come to pass. The very title on the envelope told
its story with such brutal frankness that the message inside
It was still nine o'clock in the morning and the heat had
not yet seized upon the day. With a sigh, I slit open the enve-
lope. The message was from the Prime Minister advising me
with that cold courtesy typical of diplomacy that he regretted
my father had abdicated and I was now King of Jordan. The
decision, he informed me, had been taken by the two Houses
of Parliament and my presence in Jordan was expected as
soon as possible.
There it was, the moment I had dreaded. At seventeen I
knew the end of a dream. I would never be a schoolboy again.
Would I ever even live the life of a private individual? All
my hopes were shattered by that cablegram, and I shall never
forget the shock from the fateful envelope the page so casu-
ally handed me.
How hard my father had struggled to overcome his mental
illness! How brave had been his efforts, not only for his own
sake, but because he knew his country needed him. My im-
agination flew from the stilted furniture of the Louis Quinze
38 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
bedroom, the big windows looking out on the unruffled waters
of the lake, and suddenly I was back in Amman so different,
brown instead of green, high in the mountains, the dust
swirling in the streets, the motley crowds. I could imagine the
turmoil in the Basman Palace where I would shortly be. How
wicked of me to wallow in self-pity when my father, so far
away, had suffered so much.
It was hard to realize the drama and the desperate sadness
of what must have taken place the previous day. Only later
did I learn the truth about August 11. I had known in my
heart we had all known that my father's mental condition
was such that he could not rule the country much longer. He
was a victim of schizophrenia, which had grown increasingly
worse during the twelve months since he ascended the throne.
But we had still dared to hope. Like any wife and son, my
mother and I had hoped until all hope was gone that he
would recover. Now we knew at last what we had refused to
admit. His reign was at an end. Only a month before, I re-
ceived the cable telling of his return to Amman after seeking
treatment in Europe. His popularity as monarch was enor-
mous, but even before he returned he must have known that
his future was in doubt, for he sent a cable and in retrospect
how honest yet pathetic it sounds-to the Prime Minister say-
ing, "I am coming back to my country to put myself sincerely
at your disposal."
On the morning of August 11, both houses of the Jordanian
Parliament met in private for ten hours while the King rested
in his palace. The Prime Minister at that time was Tewfik
Pasha Abdul Huda. Gravely he told the House that the King,
my father, was no longer fit to exercise his constitutional
powers. "Much though I hate to say so," he said, "I fear that
there is little use in waiting for His Majesty's recovery from
A Prince at Harrow 39
his schizophrenia." The Prime Minister submitted to the two
houses of Parliament reports on my father's health made a
month previously by two foreign doctors and other reports
made by three Jordanian doctors.
Our constitution contains an article specifically stating that
in the event of any Jordanian King being incapacitated by
mental illness, the Council of Ministers has the right to
invite Parliament to meet. If the illness is confirmed, the Parlia-
mentary body has the right to depose the King and transfer
the royal prerogative to his heir.
xj That is what had happened. The Committee's decision was
adopted and by a majority vote they resolved to terminate the
rule of my father. So, at the age of seventeen, I became the
King of Jordan after only a few months at Harrow. I was too
young to be a king in anything but name and in my absence a
Regency Council of three was formed.
Even so, I had to return swiftly to Amman. Putting the
envelope in my pocket I went downstairs to the hotel court-
yard and into my car. It took me only a few minutes to reach
the Place St. Francis in the heart of Lausanne, and I parked
my car and looked into one or two shops until I found my
"It's come." I handed her the cable.
She put her arm on my shoulder and then returned with
me to the hotel. I sat down in front of the small French writ-
ing table and composed a cable to the Prime Minister advis-
ing him that I would return as soon as possible and that I
would be pleased and honored to serve my country and the
Arab world to the best of my ability.
Within a matter of days I said good-by to Europe and flew
back to Amman.
A King at Sandhurst
"Only once did I get C.B."
i FLEW BACK to Jordan in a BOAC Argonaut after the news
of my father's abdication, and when we touched down at
Mafraq airstrip I hardly knew what to expect from my new
life. I had left Jordan a prince, I returned a king.
It was a very hot afternoon and a vast number of officials
jammed the airfield to receive me. I inspected the Guard of
Honor and shook hands with scores of my country's leaders.
I remember seeing Glubb Pasha of the Arab Legion standing
there telling his beads.
This was my official welcome home. It was genuine and
warm but inevitably protocol and formality dominated it. I
thought, as we walked in solemn procession toward the wait-
ing cars, "This is what it will always be like now that I am
King. People will never be able to unbend." Then I remember
also thinking, "All the same, I'm going to have a jolly good
try at getting them to unbend."
A King at Sandhurst 41
How different only a few days before, driving unrecog-
nized along the shores of Lake Geneva! How different, only
a short while before, a schoolboy eating canned peaches after
study hours. That life had ended. Never again would I be
able to escape the barriers that surround a monarch. But
there again, I was determined to remove as many of those
barriers as possible, and try to bring about more of a family
spirit in my country.
The royal car was awaiting me, and I climbed in, driving
slowly up the short airport road and turning left for Amman.
As my car swung out of the airport, which had been very
closely guarded, and we set off toward the capital, something
happened. Though Arab Legion troops lined the streets, I
suddenly found myself in the midst of frenzied crowds
screaming, shouting, dancing and crying, "Long live Hussein!
Welcome to Hussein!" They knew nothing of protocol or dip-
lomatic niceties. As they cheered, some tried to stop the car
by clambering on the running boards. Then the troops, pow-
erless to keep order any longer, joined in the melee. It was a
Lausanne and England seemed very far away from the pale
brown stone houses and desert sweeping to the skyline. On
the flight out I had felt lonely and depressed, but all my mis-
erable forebodings evaporated as I drove toward the Basman
Palace. I could not have explained why, for though the cheer-
ing excited me, I was not then as well versed in crowd psy-
chology as I am now. Since that day I have had much experi-
ence with crowds ugly or otherwise and can instinctively
and quickly judge the temper of a mass of people. But I was
unable to analyze the reason for my sudden happiness. I did
not realize that the crowd was not only cheering, but sending
out waves of sympathy and encouragement to a boy of seven-
42 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
teen suddenly a king. It was a very curious, exhilarating emo-
tion, as though my subjects were sharing the day with me
rather than merely applauding me.
The Prime Minister was sitting next to me and as we
turned up the hill to the palace I remarked, "No man could
receive a welcome like this without promising himself and
God to do everything to justify the people's faith. I hope they
realize I am going to do this."
Though my journey from Lausanne had been both men-
tally and physically exhausting, I retired to bed that night a
very happy man and awoke the following morning refreshed
and eager to face any problem.
I did not know what my immediate duties would be, for I
had to wait several months before assuming my constitutional
powers at eighteen-actually, just before eighteen, as my age
was determined by the Arabic calendar. In the intervening
months, the Regency Council would continue to rule, and I
decided that I would profit from this period by getting better
acquainted with my people, mastering the technical intri-
cacies of my new life, though without wielding any power.
In the beginning, this is exactly what happened. In order
to meet my subjects at close quarters, I made a three-weeks'
tour of my country in which I visited every major city and
town, and scores of villages, and met thousands of Jorda-
nians. I traveled, sometimes by air, sometimes by car, to the
remotest corners of my kingdom. It was a wonderful experi-
ence to see for myself, among the people who formed the
backbone of Jordan, how devoted they were to their King and
At one Bedouin encampment where I attended a mansef
A King at Sandhurst 43
(an Arab feast), hundreds of tribesmen danced, fired their
guns in the air and made me join in the dancing, and as I
stood there, the brown tents merging into the desert, I
thought to myself, With men like these, Jordan will always
But when the tour was over, what next? I am a restless in-
dividual who cannot bear idleness. What could I do? What
did happen was the one thing I had dreamed of, but could
not believe would ever occur.
One morning my uncle, Sherif Nasser, and the Prime Min-
ister came to see me. We talked at first of unimportant mat-
ters. Servants brought in small glasses of sweet tea with mint
leaves floating in them. Then my uncle, a very kindly and
wise man, who has stood four-square by my side throughout
my reign, turned to me and said:
"Do you think, Your Majesty, you will employ your time
profitably, staying here till your accession to the throne?"
"Can you suggest anything better for me to do?" I asked
"Yes, I can," he replied. "Something far better. Something
I know your father would like you to do and something
your grandfather would have wished/'
Suddenly I realized what my uncle was driving at. My
"You mean Sandhurst?"
My uncle nodded. "Why not?" he asked. "Your father went
to Sandhurst. I remember him telling me that Sandhurst is
the greatest military academy in the world and the finest
place for a man to learn to be a king/ 9
My mind flashed back to a day many years before. I was
playing soldiers on the hearth rug, and my father turned to
44 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
me and said (and this was many years before he was king):
"No man can rule a country without discipline. No man can
be a good soldier without discipline. And nowhere in the
world do they teach men discipline like they do at Sand-
What a wonderful chancel Though I was prepared to do
anything my country demanded, my accession had been so
sudden, and I was so young, that I was overjoyed at the pros-
pect of living just a little longer as an ordinary man. It was a
respite, a breathing space. And at seventeen, six months is a
long, long time.
The Prime Minister and General Glubb attended to the
details and arranged with the War Office that I should have a
special shortened course, cramming the regular curriculum
into six months. Almost exactly a month after the news that
proclaimed me king had reached me in Lausanne, I changed
my royal title and became Officer Cadet King Hussein of the
Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. I remember I was al-
lotted room 109, Inkerman Company, the Old College. It was
September 9, 1952.
A new world opened up for me at Sandhurst. Looking back
on those carefree days (carefree providing one did not flout
discipline) I think in many ways they were the most forma-
tive of my life. There was a great difference between Harrow
and Sandhurst. I had liked Harrow but there I had been
treated as a boy. At Sandhurst I was treated as a man an
ordinary man. I was given responsibilities and trusted. I had
to study hard, yet my studies were more interesting than at
Harrow. We Arabs are a martial people, so perhaps I took
easily to the tough life of a cadet. I enjoyed the discipline; I
A King at Sandhurst 45
liked my military training and the atmosphere of Sandhurst.
On my first day the Commandant welcomed me and gave
me a short lecture on the traditions of Sandhurst and hoped
I would benefit from them. Then he looked me in the eye and
"I would like to give you one of two choices. Sandhurst is
a very tough place. Men who come here have to work hard-
harder perhaps than anywhere else in the world. The courses
are arduous. The life here demands enormous reserves of
strength and will power. Do you think you can take that or
would you rather have a special course without the rough-
and-tumble we give to other cadets? But I must warn you
that if you choose the hard way, you will be treated like
Of course, I chose the hard way. I never dreamed of any-
thing else, for I was determined to make the best possible use
of this heaven-sent opportunity. Because of my short course
I even had extra spells of drill and marching. I took part in
night assaults across rough country. I learned to fire modern
weapons and did my utmost to understand the essentials of
Just over two months after that first morning, I was sum-
moned to the Commandant's office. It was 10:30 A.M. and,
because I had already entered into the life and spirit of Sand-
hurst (which meant fun as well as work), my first thought
was, My God, what have I done? The sly innuendoes of my
fellow cadets did not reassure me.
Nervously I went in and saluted. He looked very stern, but
perhaps he was only preoccupied, for suddenly he said:
"Hussein, I am very happy with your work. I've been
watching you and I think it's time you were promoted to an
intermediate cadet. At this rate, you should become a senior
46 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
in another two months. Keep it up. You are doing very well."
I did keep it up, for though I had a great deal of fun at
Sandhurst what cadet doesn't? at the back of my mind I
always realized that there was one difference between the
other cadets and me. They would rise to be officers, perhaps
even generals. But I would very soon be commander-in-chief
of my country's entire military forces and I was determined
to learn so much about army affairs that men of the Arab
Legion would not easily bluff me.
I knew, too, that the discipline of Sandhurst was nothing to
the self-discipline I would need to keep my throne in the
years to come. Discipline and work. I had seen enough of
Europe, even at seventeen, to know that its playgrounds were
filled with ex-kings, some of whom had lost their thrones be-
cause they did not understand the duties of a monarch. I was
not going to become a permanent member of their swim-
ming parties in the South of France.
But the wonderful thing about an academy like Sandhurst
is that, though the discipline is strict and one must work hard,
once a cadet is off duty he can forget it. It has never been
possible since, for as a monarch I can almost never be off
duty. But at Sandhurst, the moment a spell of leave started,
all cares were forgotten until the moment I reported in.
Some of my short leaves were semiformal, for I was always
offered special facilities to learn about the outside world, oc-
casionally with highly embarrassing results, as when I found
myself sitting on the left-hand side of the judge at the Old
Bailey in London. I was delighted to have this opportunity
of seeing British justice in action and settled down to watch
attentively as the judge tried a case.
A King at Sandhurst 47
The defendant stood in the dock; the atmosphere was
charged with the dignity of the law as the case proceeded.
The judge was stern. At times he turned to me kindly to ex-
plain a point of law.
All went well until the case was reaching its dramatic cli-
max. One could sense the tension, and as one counsel sat
down, there was a hush of expectancy; then without warning,
the shrill bell of an alarm clock tore die silence to shreds.
I caught a glimpse of the judge's startled, incredulous face
beneath his wig. The banisters started as though they had
been shot. And since it was obvious where the ringing came
from, all eyes were frostily turned toward the King of Jordan.
How I must have blushed! I stammered out an apology to
the judge while with my right hand I tried frantically to
switch off the bell of my prized possession, an alarm wrist
As order was restored I looked furtively at the watch it
was always set for the time I had to get up. Why was it set
now to ring at 11 :30 A.M.?
Some cadets, knowing I was going to the Old Bailey, had
fixed it. I learned later that while I was having a shower, they
had set the alarm for a time when they knew I would be sit-
ting in court.
I had to wait, but I got my revenge. It happened in this
way. We all had bicycles at Sandhurst, either rented or issued
to us. We had wheel locks so that other cadets could not bor-
row them. We used them to cycle to classes from one build-
ing to another.
One morning I had allowed myself a bare two minutes to
reach a lecture on military science. I ran for my bicycle only
to find its tires fiat. One look at the valve the unscrewed
valve and it was clear that this was somebody's idea of a
48 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
joke. I ran all the way to the lecture hall, arriving puffing and
blowing and late. The lecturer looked at me.
"Ah, Hussein! Good morning. How nice of you to come!"
he said sarcastically.
After the lecture I tried to discover who had done it, but
not a hope. So that evening, when there was no one about, I
crept down from my little room and, under cover of darkness,
undid the valves of at least thirty bicycles taking the pre-
caution of hiding my own behind the guardroom. I might
have been suspected, but nobody ever proved who did it.
H Only once did I have a spell of "C.B." (confined to bar-
racks) at Sandhurst. I managed, however, to get out of it by
confessing to a crime I did not commit.
The trouble started on a Friday night. I was not even at
Sandhurst, but spending the evening in London celebrating
my birthday. It was near the end of the term, which the
cadets were celebrating with mock battles and accidentally
or deliberately one cadet rang the fire alarm at the college.
There was pandemonium. Within a few minutes a fleet of
fire engines sped in from Camberley. Others rushed in from
neighboring fire stations. Soon the Old College at Sandhurst
was ringed with fire apparatus of all sorts. Eager firemen in
helmets and hip boots panted for action. The only thing lack-
ing was a fire. Instead there was the biggest row Sandhurst
had had for years. The College Commander was furious. By
the time I returned late at night and signed in, the fire en-
gines had gone, Sandhurst was asleep, everything looked
normal, and I did not have the faintest idea of the wrath that
was to fall on us all the next morning.
Early parade, breakfast, the first lessons proceeded in a
A King at Sandhurst 49
state of uneasy expectation. As it was a Saturday, all of us
had weekend passes and most of us had made plans.
During the last period before lunch (and leave), the blow
fell. We were all ordered to parade in front of the College
Commander at one o'clock.
Looking sterner than I can ever remember him, he came
straight to the point.
"Will the officer cadet who rang the fire alarm please step
forward?" he demanded.
There was silence. Not a man stirred.
The C.O. waited, growing visibly angrier, but managing to
"Please step forward, the man who rang the fire alarm," he
Still no answer.
"Very well," the C.O. said briskly. "The entire college will
be confined to barracks as of midnight until the cadet re-
sponsible owns up. Gentlemen, you are dismissed."
Nobody knew who had done it. We all waited, anxiously
counting the minutes and still hoping to get off to London.
But nobody owned up.
I felt it was a little hard on cadets like myselfand there
were quite a few of us who had been elsewhere when the
incident occurred and could not therefore be guilty. But there
was nothing we could do about it.
All Sunday morning we waited. Finally, by the afternoon
it was obvious that nobody was going to own up, and I de-
cided something had to be done about it. I requested permis-
sion to meet the College Commander. I donned my smartest
uniform and was shortly afterward summoned to his presence.
As I walked in and closed the door, I gave him the best salute
Sandhurst had taught me and said: "Good afternoon, sir.*
50 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
"Well, Hussein, what do you want?''
"I did it, sir!" I blurted out.
"You did what?"
"I rang the fire alarm, sir/'
He looked at me in amazement. "What on earth do you
"I rang the fire alarm," I insisted.
"May I inquire, Hussein" his voice took on a sarcastic
edge "how it was possible for you to ring a fire alarm when
you were in London?"
'That's perfectly true, sir," I replied, "but if that's the case,
sir, there were a lot of other cadets in London as well."
For one moment I thought he was going to explode. Then
he saw the humorous side of it.
My "confession" resulted in victory for all those cadets
known to have been out of college at the time, for our "C.B."
was canceled. It was considered a great victory by some
cadets at Sandhurst. I am still pleased with myself when I
think of it.
I had a special reason for wanting leave, for I was prepar-
ing to try out my new car at Goodwood race track. I had
progressed a long way since the Rover and the Bristol. I had
kept in touch with Maurice Raynor, who used to run the ga-
rage near Harrow, and it was with Raynor that I acquired the
fastest car of all.
I rather fancy that when I left Harrow, Raynor thought we
would never meet again. He certainly could not have realized
that he would shortly leave his garage in Harrow and start
life afresh with his family in Amman. When I settled in at
Sandhurst I telephoned him.
A King at Sandhurst 51
"Why don't you come and see me?" I asked him.
He was a little surprised, perhaps because Sandhurst is
about forty miles from Harrow, but as I still had the Rover
garaged at Harrow, I suggested he should drive over. And
when he arrived, I said to him: "I think we should try to buy
an Aston Martin."
His face lit up. He had never driven an Aston Martin and
was delighted when I asked him to look after it. I arranged
for the registration number plate, B3 (to denote it was my
third British car), and when it arrived, black and beautiful,
capable of 120 miles an hour, I sent for Raynor again.
"Why don't we race it?" I asked. I knew Raynor had always
dreamed of racing cars.
"Make all the inquiries," I told him, "enter it in my name,
with yourself as driver, at the next Goodwood race meeting."
Raynor took the car to Goodwood and did some practicing.
Then a week before the race, I unfortunately suggested hav-
ing the car super-tuned for the big event.
Something went wrong. Raynor insists that the Jordan Em-
bassy, afraid of the speeds at which I drove, exerted pressure
with the garage and told them to slow it up. It was certainly
in perfect condition when we put it in for super-tuning, but
when Raynor phoned on the Thursday morning before the
race, the garage told him the car was not really good enough.
Raynor was crestfallen. "I was hoping to show you, sir, how
good I am," he told me glumly as we went to the track to-
I drove it rouncl a few circuits, but we never did race the
Aston Martin. Perhaps it was just as well.
The car I kept at Sandhurst became known as the "Peo-
ple's car," because most weekends it was jammed with cadets
going on leave. In fact, I became a chauffeur for them and
52 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
the "People's car" was a highly popular institution at Sand-
On the whole I drove carefully, though I did have one big
crash and as with my "C.B." I took the blame, though I was
It was half term three whole, glorious days without drills
or marches or lessons. A few of us decided to visit London.
Among the party were some Malayan cadets, very likable
chaps. A friend asked me for a turn at the wheel.
"Of course," I replied. It was well after midnight, and it
was raining as we drove along Knightsbridge delivering
friends to their flats or homes. Suddenly the "People's car"
slithered on the oily surface and I saw ahead of us a lamp-
post or a bus stop. I leaned over and grabbed the wheel,
at the same time shouting, "For God's sake jam the brakes
Unfortunately, the accelerator was applied instead.
The car spun round in the middle of Knightsbridge hap-
pily the roads were empty and utterly out of control, went
head-on toward a billboard. There was nothing to be done.
We ducked and the car smashed its way straight through the
wooden structure. The car lurched to a stop. I had banged
my legs badly.
"Change places quickly!" I cried. "If anybody asks any
questions, remember, I was driving. I til be easier."
We scrambled over each other before the police arrived.
We seemed to be in a deserted brickyard. I tried the door
to see if it was jammed, but it opened.
Td better see how we stand," I suggested, and stepped
out straight down into a ditch half filled with water. I
A King at Sandhurst 53
climbed out, my dinner jacket covered with mud. The bill-
board concealed an old bombed-out site, and I had fallen
into it feet first.
Covered with mud and slime, I watched apprehensively
as two policemen arrived and began to question us. By sheer
coincidence, one of them had served in the Palestine Police
and had even met my grandfather, so after answering ques-
tions I spent several minutes signing autographs at three
o'clock in the morning.
The police were very obliging and appreciated the truth
that nobody could have prevented the skid (though I thought
it better not to mention the difference between an accelerator
and a brake). But one thing really worried me. There would
be an awful hullabaloo when the press got hold of the story,
as they certainly would.
I racked my brains for a solution. Incredibly, the car
could still move. The front was smashed in, but it was pos-
sible to drive slowly. After we got it back on the road, I
decided on a course of action.
Very gently I drove back to the Dorchester and as soon as
I got to my room I telephoned to Raynor, where I still
garaged the Rover.
"I've had a smash-up," I announced. "No time for ques-
tions. Can you get the Rover ready? I'll collect it in half an
Raynor said he could. I had a quick shower and several
cups of coffee, then drove the wreck slowly out to Raynor's
garage. There I took out the Rover noticing that it had a
small dent on one side. I drove back to the Jordanian Em-
bassy. What I expected had happened. The steps were
crowded with reporters. The Ambassador came out to meet
54 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
"Are you all right, sir?" he asked.
"Of course!" I replied, and turning to the newspapermen,
I added, "Gentlemen, as you can see, it was nothing but a
Much though I loved fast driving, it always had to take
second place to slow marches. Actually, I had very little spare
time at Sandhurst apart from weekend passes. I had to do so
much extra work to catch up with the others that frequently
I had extra classes when they were off duty, especially to-
ward the end of term, when we had in turn to undertake vari-
ous tasks to see how much we had learned.
For weeks I had dreaded the moment when I would be
appointed orderly corporal. To me, this was a miserable job,
and when my two weeks as orderly corporal started, it meant
rising before 5 A.M., arranging the sick list before breakfast,
collecting and distributing mail, opening offices, and several
other jobs. I also had to be on hand all day to deal with un-
The first evening I learned quite unofficially that there
would be no early parade the following morning. This meant
cadets would have an extra hour in bed and go straight to
breakfast all except Senior Cadet Hussein, who had to be
up at five o'clock.
Well, nobody informed me officially of this change and
as a good cadet I knew that an army runs only on official in-
structions. Since nobody had told me rumor was my only
guide what could I do?
At 6:45 A.M., having already finished my general office
work, I stamped up and down the corridors and yelled, "Six
forty-five! Inkerman Company, time to get up. Six forty-five!
Come on! Out of bed!"
A King at Sandhurst 55
A steady stream of abuse greeted me, but I ignored it with
I kept up my calling at five-minute intervals until 7:10 A.M.
The abusive language was followed by a hail of boots and
shoes anything which angry cadets could grab in a hurry.
I ducked as they flew around me and ran for the door. My
Sandhurst-trained voice had not only awakened my own
company but also the one on the floor below.
I had also wakened the senior sergeant, and after break-
fast he sent for me. He looked at me stonily while I stood
at attention before him.
"Hussein," he announced sarcastically, "it is quite obvious
you do your job too well. You have nothing to learn as orderly
corporal. You may return to your regular duties."
And that finished my five o'clock mornings at Sandhurst.
Toward the end of my time at Sandhurst, I completed a
course of motorcycle driving. As a senior cadet it was always
my ambition to borrow a Sandhurst motorbike and ride it to
London, but I never achieved it. However, a few weeks be-
fore the term closedjust before my passing-out parade
I was driving a motorcycle across country in very bad
weather. As I tried to turn a corner too soon, I skidded and
the machine fell on top of me. When I untangled myself I
was in great pain. I had hurt my left arm, yet I did not dare
to say so; I was afraid I would be put on the sick list and miss
the passing-out parade. As we reached the end of term, the
arm got steadily worse. On the morning of the parade Com-
pany Sergeant-Major Cullen could see I was in trouble.
"Hussein," he said, "youTI never get through the parade
like that. Wait a minute and 111 fetch you something that'll
fix you up."
I talk to General All Abu Nuwar, a one-time friend who plotted my d<
One of Jordan's gre
triots and one of nr
friends, Prime Minist
Majali, brutally mur
a bomb outrage in '.
A King at Sandhurst 57
We cut the plaster away while the man looked on in hor-
ror, and I had a much more enjoyable tour without it the
last few days of what I call the Sandhurst phase of my life.
Soon it was time to return to Amman for my inauguration
and we drove to London to prepare for the flight and the
start of a new life.
But if the doctor in the Lake District who put me in
plaster happens to read these words, I can assure him he was
right. That arm still troubles me because I did not obey
My Inauguration as King
Life in Jordan
My First Marriage
"Most of us live very simply."
i WAS NOT quite eighteen when I assumed my constitutional
powers on May 2, 1953, the same day that my cousin King
Feisal assumed his responsibilities in Baghdad. But I was
eighteen in the Moslem calendar. Nearly a year had passed
since my father's reign ended, when I took the oath in the
Parliament building at Amman as the first step in my in-
auguration as King. Great arches, gaily colored, had been
erected over the main streets from the Palace to the Parlia-
ment building. Long before I got up, thousands of people
had already started to line the streets for the procession.
Flags flew from every building.
My Inauguration as King Life in Jordan 59
I awoke early that morning and lay in bed a little while,
content to be alone with my thoughts. Ahead of me was the
most momentous day of my life. When it ended I would be
charged with the responsibility of leading and serving my
country. I remember thinking, as I lay there before break-
fast, "Am I any different than I was yesterday? Yesterday I
could make no decisions. From today my life will consist of
making one decision after another, all vital to Jordan." I
prayed I would make the right ones.
At breakfast I could hardly eat. It was not excitement
alone that took my appetite away; it was more a feeling of
the immense implications of the step I was about to take.
My life could never be the same again.
My uniform was laid out for me, and I started to dress. My
ceremonial uniform is made of a heavy material, white for
summer and dark blue for winter. It has golden epaulets, to
be used only on State occasions. Soon after nine I was ready,
and at nine-thirty I stepped into my car at the Basman Palace
and set off on the procession. My car was escorted by cavalry
of the Royal Guard, armed motorcyclists and other escorts.
Slowly we made our way through cheering thousands of
Jordanians to the Parliament building. The enthusiasm was
tremendous and the troops lining the streets could hardly
hold the crowds back. I knew that on an occasion like this I
had to act with composure, but I must admit I had a lump
in my throat all the time.
Once inside the Parliament building, the Prime Minister,
the Regency Council and the Cabinet sat on my left, while
my younger brother, my uncle and the chief officers of the
Royal Palace ranged themselves on my right. The Prime
Minister and the President of the Senate both expressed their
wish that I should enjoy a happy and prosperous reign and
60 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
, then I stood up and took the oath of Jordan: "I swear by the
name of God that I will preserve the constitution and be
faithful to my people." I hope that I shall never forswear this
oath. My promise of allegiance given, a salute of 101 guns
from the Arab Legion announced my accession and full con-
From the Parliament, I went to the Mosque for prayers
and immediately afterward to my grandfather's tomb. Then
I went to see my mother to receive her congratulations. She
embraced me and told me how proud she was of me and what
hopes she held for me.
"You will never forget this day," she said. "When you face
difficulties in the future and they're bound to come sooner
or later look back on this day. Remember then how the
people of Jordan thousands and thousands of them showed
their loyalty to you and their love and trust. But remember,
my son, never let responsibility and power go to your head.
God be with you."
This was only the first day of the celebrations. A short time
later I was again greeted by enormous crowds, this time
on the brown airfield that stands on the plateau only a few
miles from Amman itself. A hundred thousand people
jammed the field as I drove there to take the salute while
five thousand troops of the Arab Legion passed in review. I
could not help contrasting the differences between Sandhurst
and this parade, the striking contrast between old and new
as I saluted men with field guns and armored cars, wheeling
in perfect formation, followed by troops of the desert patrol
lumbering along on camels. Cavalry on white horses, armored
vehicles, artillery, even boys from the Arab Legion schools-
all had their part in this splendid review, the first of so many
I have saluted since I became King.
As the march finished, I declared, "Jordan acknowledges
My Inauguration as King - Life in Jordan 61
the brotherhood which links together all the people of the
great Arab nation. Jordan is but a part of that Arab nation
and the Arab Legion is only one of its armies/'
Much of a monarch's work is routine. I started my reign as
I meant to continue by going each morning to my "office"
in the Basman Palace just like any man with a day's work to
do, and staying there until the day's work was done. The
work is extremely varied. Since I planned from the very
start to become the head of a family as much as the king of a
country, I made myself accessible to all. A great deal of my
time is taken up with a large variety of audiences from all
walks of life, and at regular intervals contingents of tribal
leaders visit me. All are welcome.
Not so long ago a group of Bedouin visited me and one by
one shook my hand. Toward the end of the long, brown
straggling line, I spied a little boy.
"Sir," he cried breathlessly when his turn came, "will you
please help me? I want to go to school."
He had come with the other Bedouin. There was some
dispute about his age, and a local school had refused to admit
him. Since most of my Cabinet Ministers visit me regularly, it
was not surprising the Minister of Education was present that
morning. Such is the intimate, family feeling in Jordan that
the boy was at school in three days.
The routine of the Palace works very smoothly. In charge
is my Chief of Diwan. One might describe him as Chief of the
62 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Royal Cabinetmy own Cabinet and my link with the
government. But Diwan means other things. Originally, of
course, it meant sofa (hence divan), then it became a room
with sofas, then an office. Finally it also became a meeting in
an office or a reception room. Thus I can say, "I am going to
the Diwan/' meaning "I am going to my office"; or "Where
is my Chief of Diwan?" "Where is the head of my personal
Requests for audiences are filtered through my chief of
protocol, but since he occupies an office in the palace next
to mine, anybody can climb the steps of the palace and ask
him to request an audience, or telephone for one.
If a request for an audience is refused, one can be sure that
it is only because I have a full program. And that I do have I
Sometimes I hardly know which way to turn. On a typical
day recently I breakfasted at home, helicoptered to the
Basman Palace my office and by nine o'clock received the
first of three Ambassadors. At 10:30 A.M. I held a meeting of
government and department heads to discuss Army and Air
Force matters. I then discussed problems of our broadcasting
station, and at one o'clock when I was thinking of lunch!
my chief of protocol coughed gently and reminded me that
a party of forty British university students had been promised
an audience. I shook hands with each one and said a few
words. By then lunchtime had passed, and I was due to hold
a Cabinet meeting to hear plans for economic development.
Before I left at 7 P.M. several visitors had briefer audiences
with me. Letters had to be signed, documents studied. It
was already dark, so I could not fly, but had to drive fifteen
miles to the cottage where I live.
A great deal of nonsense is written about the opulent
palaces of the Arab world. The truth is that most of us,
My Inauguration as King Life in Jordan 63
descended from the frugal life of the Bedouin, live very
simply. I myself have no personal fortune and, as you will
presently read, my real home, where I return to my wife each
night, is a two-story house where my wife and I cook break-
fast on alternate mornings.
* The King's palace does not of course belong to him. It be-
longs to the government and therefore it is bound to have an
impersonal air. The Royal family in Jordan has three palaces.
The first was built by King Abdullah when he first came to
Jordan and is called the Raghadan. My grandfather also
started building the Basman Palace, where I work now, but
he never lived in it. My father is now living in Turkey, and
my mother, the Queen Mother, has a palace which she shares
with my brother, His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed,
and the younger members of the family. This is called the
Zahran Palace, and this one is our property. I live in my small
house at Hummar and we also have a small winter villa at
Shuna, built by King Abdullah, in the Jordan Valley. Here
I occasionally spend an odd day in the winter if I can spare
But do not imagine that our palaces are vast like those in
Europe. Basman Palace is divided into three sections. One is
where I used to live before I married. The private quarters
are very simple a master bedroom and four small guest
rooms, a dining room, three salons, one large enough to hold
a reception for twenty-five people. The other two salons are
very small. The second section is my office where I go each
day, with rooms for those who work with me. The third
section was added later and consists of a large dining room
for official ceremonies, or when I have banquets for im-
portant guests such as foreign kings or potentates. We can
seat between a hundred and fifty and two hundred for dinner.
64 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
In this section there is another hall used for collective audi-
ences or for press conferences, and sometimes in the evenings
we use this as a private movie theatre.
The Zahran Palace is just as simple and so is the Raghadan
Palace. This was my grandfather's original palace, and I still
use half of it on occasion especially the Throne Room where
I receive ambassadors presenting their credentials. It is also
used occasionally for national feasts when large groups come
to greet me. The other part of this palace is used by my
Soon after I settled in Jordan I asked Maurice Raynor, who
had run the garage near Harrow, to come to Amman as head
of the palace garages. He was slightly startled and at first
demurred. But his wife persuaded him at least to try life in
Jordan and so he asked his employers for a year's leave with-
out pay. They agreed to let him return to his post as manager
at the end of twelve months, but Raynor never went back.
He has stayed in Jordan ever since, living in a house in the
palace grounds where once, as you will read, I spent the
night after an attempt on my life.
Looking back on those first years as King, I suppose what
irked me most was the difficulty I had in getting closer to my
people. Because I was so young, my advisers tried to run my
life for me. I wanted exactly the opposite and got it! How
could I even try to be a good King if I did not know my
subjects well? I looked forward to my periodic trips into the
desert, visiting my tribes. What a different life! I was still
their King, but with them I did not feel lonely, I felt one of
them. To them I was "Hussein." The only protocol was that
My Inauguration as King Life in Jordan 65
of the Bedouin, whose life is based on three virtues-honor,
courage and hospitality. We believe that to be an honorable
man you must have the courage to defend your honor. We
believe that you must always show hospitality. What is yours
belongs also to your guests. Even an enemy has the guarantee
of shelter and food once he reaches the camp of any enemy
When I visit my tribes I sit at the head of the tent, with
the other guests around me. Members of the tribe stand in
front, dancing their traditional dances and singing. When
my name is mentioned in a song they shoot their rifles in the
air as a salute. (Before the rifle and pistol era, they used to
wave their swords or lances.) After I sit down, coffee is
served. Then the chief of the tribe makes his traditional
welcome speech, composing it as he goes along. It is con-
sidered very impolite not to improvise speeches or songs.
Soon a poet appears from the crowd and makes up poetry as
he talks. Then comes dinner usually a mansef, consisting of
rice and lamb cooked in large pots. Literally, mansef means
"a big dish," and sometimes a score of lambs wiH be
slaughtered. We recline on silken cushions in tents fifty
yards long. No women are allowed, and no members of the
tribe even the chief eat until all the guests have finished.
I love these visits, such contrasts to the dignity of court
life. I try to do what I can to help. I think I keep a special
watch for anything the Bedouin need-especially wells,
schools and clinics. Many of them are very poor, but even so
one has to search to discover their needs and deal with them,
for they are too proud to ask for help. Tribesmen sometimes
66 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
present petitions when they hear I am visiting them, and most
are so simple I can deal with them on the spot. One needs
work, another medical treatment and always schools, clinics
and water supplies. I like this simplicity of approach. It
means that the Bedouin consider me the head of their tribe.
Whatever the Bedouin want, they think of only one way to
get it to ask me.
*I have tried, with some success, to settle the Bedouin to
stop them traveling from place to place in search of water and
grazing land by initiating a program to give them land to
live on and to assist them in building modern settlements
where there is water all year round. I hope that in the not
too distant future most of the Bedouin will be settled.
But those first months were not easy. In many ways it was
a perplexing time for me, perhaps because I had no yardstick
by which I could measure my progress. Was I making a
success of my task? Was I starting the right way? At eighteen
it is hard to know, and as a king it is even more difficult to get
an unbiased opinion.
Sometimes, however, a man or a king gets a word of en-
couragement from an unexpected quarter. One day I visited
a small village that had been attacked by the Israelis and
spent the night in a camp. The moon was high and I went for
a short walk unattended, just to breathe in the night air.
Through the walls of the tent in which I knew some of the
older Jordanians were resting, I heard the murmur of voices.
They were talking about me. Suddenly a phrase was pro-
nounced clearly. You can imagine my pride and gratitude as
that unknown voice said, "Abdullah would have been proud
of his grandson."
But the Bedouin were only a portion of my people. How
could I get to know those of the towns? How could I dis-
My Inauguration as King - Life in Jordan 67
cover what they were thinking about? I went out among them
whenever I could. I mixed with the youth in their schools. I
went to villages and talked to the people. And I made every
effort to penetrate the group one finds in any country the
"in-betweens" so that I could talk to the genuine, repre-
sentative core of the people.
Yet I always wanted to do more, One night, alone in the
palace, I had what seemed like a good ideato disguise my-
self and move more freely among my people. But how?
Naturally I could not tell anybody, not wanting to risk the
horrified official reaction. Then it came to me. I would be-
come a taxi driver.
I decided that the best district to cruise for fares would be
between Amman and Zerqa, the military area, seventeen
miles from the capital. Even in summer, the nights can be
cold because of the altitude, so I muffled up in an overcoat
and put on a red shemagh (headdress) wrapped well around
my head and face. I was completely unrecognizable. And
anyway, who looks at a taxi driver?
About eight o'clock on two successive nights, I left the
palace, driving an old green Ford with taxi number plates,
returning at about midnight and giving the guards the slip.
They thought I was in my room reading. For two nights I
drove my "taxi" on the Zerqa road, and I learned a great deal.
I wanted to know what the people really thought about me
and the government, and I certainly found out. It is curious
how people talk in taxis as if the driver were not there.
I always like to talk to people in different walks of life
who do not know me. I remember once, I was driving to
UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Jerash and met a Bedouin carrying a heavy sack of vegeta-
bles. Thinking my car was a taxi he signaled me to stop, and
I did. After bargaining about the price, he climbed in and I
asked him, "How is the season? Have you had good crops?"
> "Thanks to God and the King, everything is wonderful,"
the Bedouin answered.
"What do you think of this King Hussein?" I asked him.
"What sort of a man is he? Is he any good?"
"He is our man after God; he is protecting us and giving
all the help we need. We love him."
"I'm not so sure about that," I replied, whereupon the
Bedouin got furious and shouted:
"Don't you dare to say anything against my King. If you
do 111 beat you black and blue with my stick!"
At this moment the guards, who had spent half an hour
chasing me, caught up with my car. They may have saved
me from a beating!
I also traveled whenever I could in those first years. I did
my utmost to establish the best possible relations with our
sister Arab states and our friends in the free world.
On one occasion I visited Saudi Arabia to see King Ibn
Saud, shortly before his death. He was very infirm and could
no longer walk along the interminable corridors of his
palace, so he used a wheel chair.
I stayed in one of his palaces and on one occasion he came
to visit me. I went out to the gates to greet him. Saudi palaces
are rather large and have long, wide corridors leading from
the gates to the actual reception rooms. The King arrived in
his wheel chair. At this moment a servant arrived with a
second wheel chair. Nothing was said, but he pushed it
discreetly toward me.
"I beg your pardon?" I was genuinely puzzled.
My Inauguration as King Life in Jordan 69
'It's for you, Your Majesty/' somebody said.
"Thank you very much/' I replied, "but I'm perfectly all
right. I don't mind walking a bit."
Then it suddenly dawned on me. It was beneath the King's
dignity to sit while I walked. The hall was filled with nobles
and members of my entourage. I had to climb into the wheel
chair. I sat down and was pushed sedately along by the
side of the King. I found it very difficult to meet the eyes of
my aides, especially as they could hardly prevent themselves
Thus life went on in this happy little country, and thus I
learned more and more about my people. We continued to
have serious troubles with the Israelis but not until 1955 did
our enemies first try to break up my country.
Before that, there occurred an event on which I would like
to dwell briefly. This was my first marriage. On April 19,
1955, 1 was married to Sharifa Dina Abdul Hamed, a member
of the Hashemite dynasty, who lived in Cairo. She was a
She was a highly intelligent woman with an M.A. degree at
Cambridge, and was a few years my senior. At first I was
very hopeful that I could build a happy family life around
this marriage and I was overjoyed when our baby daughter
Alia was born.
I have always wanted to live the life of an ordinary man.
But it was not to be not then. The marriage was a failure. It
was just one of those things that did not work out. Despite
all efforts, it was not possible to share the same life, so it was
far better, and only fair to both of us, to end it. It was a very
sad and difficult period. There have been many criticisms
70 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
about the divorce, but the basic principle in life is to live it
in the best way one can, and honestly, regardless of people's
opinions. How much better to meet such a crisis with courage
and frankness. Eighteen months after our marriage we
separated, and my former wife returned to Cairo.
I Learn To Fly
'7n the cockpit I shake off my problems"
AS LONG as I can remember I have wanted to fly. When I was
a boy, years before I went to school in Egypt, I was never
interested in the hobbies of most boys. My chief enthusiasm
was pictures of aircraft. I collected them all, the latest fighters
and bombers, even the different types of passenger aircraft,
pasting them in books during the evenings in our house on
But if I love flying, it is certainly not because I have a
passion for speed or am merely mechanically minded. Flying
for me has an attraction far deeper than merely pressing
knobs or pulling controls. Now that I am a pilot it has opened
up a wonderful vista before my eyes. The moment I climb
into a cockpit I shake off my problems and worries. Once in
the air the restrictions that inevitably surround the monarchy
seem to vanish. I am a man alone.
I never climb away from the end of a runway without
72 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
breathing a sigh of gratitude. In an aircraft, if nowhere else,
I am the master of my fate. The beauty of flying high in the
skies will always, to me, symbolize freedom.
On land my duties are manifold, and to be truthful, some
are monotonous. I have heavy burdens of responsibility or
wearisome tasks to perform day after day and in moments
of crisis, night after night-and I would hardly be human if
at eighteen I did not occasionally feel a desperate need to
escape, if only for an hour. Flying provided just that safety
K There was another reason, too, why I wanted to fly. I
mentioned earlier that I had always longed to make a life of
my own and was deeply disappointed when I had to assume
my responsibilities so young and, to my mind, ill-prepared. I
have tried to be a student of life, learning day by day, year
by year. It is calamitous for a man with responsibilities to
reach the point where he believes there is nothing more to
learn. That is why I always wanted to strike out on my own
when I was young. Anything you can do on your own, to
prove something to yourself, is a source of added strength.
Flying provided just that, for in the ultimate, a pilot's final
standard is the ability to survive. Each time I fly a jet I fed
that here is something I have achieved entirely on my own
There was another reason. I felt strongly that there was a
big gap in Jordan's ability to defend herself due to the policy
prevailing at the time. We had an excellent army-the best
in the Arab world-but no real air force. While the Arab
Legion (as it was then called) would defend us on land, we
had to call on the British Royal Air Force for air support. I
did not want Jordan to have to rely on help from abroad.
Anything could happen to prevent help from coming. With
1 Learn To Fly 73
Israel threatening us constantly, it was most unwise to be at
the mercy of another country (however friendly) whose
policy could change for reasons unknown to us.
My grandfather tried hard to rectify this anomalous posi-
tion, and formed the nucleus of a small air force, but all
attempts to make it strong had failed. The old aircraft we
bought were no good, and when I came to power the govern-
ment was even considering selling the few old planes that
constituted our air force.
Something had to be done about it, yet it was understand-
able that against this background, young men did not easily
take to flying. If they wanted to belong to the armed forces,
they joined the Legion and exchanged horse or camel for a
Land-Rover or Bren gun carrier. I hoped that if their King
became a pilot, others would seriously follow suit. How right
I can clearly remember the day in 1953 when I decided to
overcome the opposition I knew this decision would arouse.
The Jordan Air Force was commanded by Colonel Jock
Dalgleish, the same man who had flown me to Amman the
day my grandfather was murdered in Jerusalem. ("Coloner
was his Arab Legion rank; he was a wing commander loaned
to Jordan by the Royal Air Force.)
I realized the opposition would be serious, but I was de-
termined to get my own way. It would be a good thing for
me as a person and for my country. I had talked about flying
with Dalgleish and many a time I had flown in the co-pilot's
seat with him. One day I called him in and told him:
Tin going mad in this office. You must teach me to fly."
Even Dalgleish, a dour Scot, was taken aback.
74 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
"But sir-r-rl You'll encounter all the opposition in the
"I don't mind," I told him. Tm going to fly. We will face
these objections one by one. But I'm going to become a
For a time there was intense opposition, but gradually I
wore it down. For a week or two I received almost daily
deputations from political and other groups, from my family,
from friends. I insisted there was no particular danger in
flying; nothing in life is dangerous if one approaches it care-
fully; and I repeated what I deeply believe: that if you must
die, you will die, whatever precautions you take.
In the end, I overcame all opposition and started to learn,
though I was not told at first that I would not be allowed to
fly solo. Flying with a co-pilot was one thing, but nobody
would take the responsibility of letting me fly solo. (Shades
of my youth when nobody in Jordan would take the re-
sponsibility of giving me a driving license and I had to drive
The day of my first flight arrived. The Colonel planned a
trip over Amman in a tiny Auster. I do not know whether the
Colonel's idea was to make me give up my ambitions but he
certainly gave me everything in the book on that flight. The
Auster is a tiny aircraft, not very powerful, and he took me
up for the most intensive hour of aerobatics I have ever
experienced. I suppose it was in an effort to deter me. We
looped, we rolled, we stalled, and as we came down to land I
suddenly felt very, very sick. It was the one and only time
I have ever been airsick. Many times since, trying out other
aircraft, Dalgleish has, I rather fancy, done his best to make
me ill again but I was always able to grin and say, "It's no
use, Colonel. You'll never make me sick again." He never has.
/ Learn To Fly 75
Somehow or other I managed to climb out of the Auster,
but to tell the truth, I did not know whether I was standing
on my head or on my feet. The whole world swam in front of
Dalgleish jumped out without turning a hair and every-
body looked on as he asked me, in a voice deceptively casual:
"When do you wish to fly again, Your Majesty?"
I replied, swallowing hard:
It was partly a sense of pride, perhaps a stubbornness in
my make-up, that made me say that. But though I loathed
that hour in the air I was determined to continue.
I returned to the palace and awaited the next day. Almost
immediately I forgot what it was like being airsick. Still, I
determined there should be no recurrence of such unseemly
conduct, and my duties that afternoon consisted largely
of acquiring the best antisickness pills I could find. For quite
a while after that first flight I used to fill up with pills in
order to fortify myself and thus appreciate Dalgleish's in-
All through June and July I was down at the airfield five
days a week. The Colonel has said that I was a born pilot, but
I disagree. Some people find it easy to master flying. Not I.
I tried very hard to relax but I had a great deal of trouble
with instrumentation. It was difficult to do so many things at
the same time, and at first I was worried by my physical
reaction. Flying did not help the sinus trouble from which I
have suffered since boyhood.
What a wonderful time that was, learning to fly! In many
ways I had been very luckyI managed to spend a few
76 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
months at Harrow, then six months at Sandhurst, and now
when learning to fly I was escaping, for a short time each day,
from my official duties to the free and easy life of a young
cadet again this time in the Jordan Air Force. But more
important than this was the fact that I was already helping
to build the morale of that tiny group of fliers who provided
the nucleus of a fine Air Force. It was a long, hard fight, and
a difficult task getting our first fighters, but we succeeded
and the day arrived when the Jordan Royal Air Force had its
own jets and the men to fly them.
I flew about ten hours in that little Auster before we trans-
ferred to the larger and more comfortable twin-engined
Dove. And I remember at one stage becoming very miserable.
I started with excellent landings and then suddenly every-
thing went wrong. I had a bad patch; my landings were not
very good. I fretted and worried until one day Dalgleish said
to me, "Don't worry, Your Majesty, you can never make good
landings unless you make bad ones."
Some months later, in January, 1954, I think, my Air
Force procured its first Viking, and naturally I flew in it.
Dalgleish was converting to this new type of aircraft and as
he learned the ropes, he made several bad landings. Then he
made a particularly bad one. I had been waiting a long time
for this moment. Looking at his downcast expression, I patted
his shoulder and reminded him, "Don't worry, Colonel, you
can never make good landings unless you make bad ones!"
After a month I was ready to fly solo, but I still did not
know that this was forbidden. On the third trip in the Dove,
however, Dalgleish got out of the co-pilot's seat as I was
handling the aircraft, and as he moved back, told me:
"Right, Your Majesty, will you please land the aircraft."
Whereupon he went back to the cabin and firmly closed
the door behind him.
/ Learn To Fly 77
I was slightly alarmed. Then I took a grip on myself and
reflected, "Well, if that's the way he feels about it, I'm going
to have a try at it."
And land her I didand though I say it myself, landed her
But though I was alone in the cockpit when we came
down, it was still a far cry from flying solo. As we unzipped
our flying suits, I asked Dalgleish:
"That was as good as solo, wasn't it? So when can I go up
He looked embarrassed. "I'm afraid, sir, well have to wait
"But why on earth" I began.
"Ill have to explain, sir"
"But there's nothing to explain," I remonstrated. "In point
of fact I was flying solo, wasn't I? If I'd crashed with you in
the cabin, you could never have helped me."
Dalgleish sighed, buttoned up his Air Force uniform, and
then out came the whole story, which I had sensed though
nobody had told me. He had been instructed that I must
never fly solo.
I was too upset even to be angry. I returned to the palace
crestfallen. And then I began to think it over. It was utterly
ridiculous. It was like telling me I could not drive a car at a
hundred miles an hour without a chauffeur in the back seat.
Yet I could not insist because, if anything did go wrong, the
blame would naturally fall on the Air Force.
I decided the time had come to deal with this problem in
my own way. The aircraft I flew was always under guard and
everybody, from the mechanics to the control-tower officers,
knew that in no circumstances could I fly solo. I bided my
time and then suddenly my chance came.
I arrived at the airfield one afternoon to find everybody
78 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
very busy. An aircraft had overshot the end of the runway.
It was not a serious accident, but everybody was far too
occupied to notice me and there was nobody near my Dove.
Like lightning I got in and revved her up. I shouted to the
engineer who ran toward me, "I'm collecting the co-pilot on
This was good enough for him, but of course there was no
co-pilot. In a few moments I was airborne. Soon everybody
was in the control tower watching me. I enjoyed myself im-
mensely. Now I was really a pilot. I circled the capital, look-
ing down from my lonely cockpit on the city I loved so well.
I felt no fear I was probably far less frightened than the men
in the control tower. I stayed aloft a considerable time and
then came in and made a perfect landing.
That did the trick. There were no more restrictions, and I
have flown solo many times since.
By now I have flown well over a thousand hours and in
many types of aircraft. Soon after I flew solo, I converted to
jets and started flying with the Jordan Air Force, adding an
entirely new excitement to my life. I became one of a team
taking part in firing competitions, aerobatics and formation
flying. This is perhaps the most exhilarating flying I have
done. The intricate maneuvers forced one to think and act
at double speed. We flew together in battle formation, in
low-level attacks, and when each flight was over, what fun it
was, back in the pilots' mess, pulling off the flying suits, hang-
ing them up, discussing the day's work, then waiting im-
patiently for the next day's exercise.
In all my flying hours I have been in many tight spots but
only two slight mishaps. The first occurred just before I was
1 Learn To Fly 79
ready to solo in a jet. We had a couple of Vampire T-ll jets
and Dalgleish and I had just landed and were halfway down
the runway when the port wheel collapsed. The aircraft
slewed around and we slithered to a stop on our drop tank.
I had often anticipated a moment like this and wondered
how quickly it would take me to react. I need not have
worried. We were out of that aircraft in seconds.
The damage was not serious, but the R.A.F. Commander
in Amman rushed up to the scene. He was a group captain,
and he arrived just as we were trying to fix the wheel.
His comments were, I thought, a trifle patronizing. How
had we crashed? Perhaps, he suggested, we had made our
landing too near the end of the runway and had to retract our
undercarriage to stop in time. The wheel had collapsed and
that was all there was to it.
However, the group captain had a little trouble of his
own before long. He had flown an R.A.F. Pembroke from
Amman to Mafraq and on the return journey left Mafraq at
2 P.M. For hours nothing was heard of him. Finally, at 8 P.M.,
a search was started. Soon afterward the gallant group
captain was discovered, feeling rather sorry for himself. On
the way to Amman he diverted and decided to land on some
mud flats near Azraq to see if there were any ducks around.
The only thing wrong with this landing was something that
could happen to any pilot he forgot to put his undercarriage
The second mishap occurred when I was flying my Dove
back from Jerusalem with my aide-de-camp. Over Amman
airfield I suddenly found I could not get the undercarriage
down. Obviously there was a leak in the mechanism. I tried
again and again but could not get the undercarriage to work.
Finally I used the last resort-a compressed-air bottle that
80 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
jolts the nose wheel out of its housing. If that had failed, it
would have meant a forced landing, but fortunately the air
bottle worked. I have since had flame-outs in jets, and flown
under some very tricky conditions, but it has all come out all
After jets there seemed to be nothing else to learn that is,
until 1958 when I decided to master the helicopter. It seemed
a good idea to have a helicopter at the back of my palace,
not only for my convenience, but because I like to pay
surprise visits to military camps or civil programs, and I like
them to be red surprises so that I can see my subjects as they
really are and not after they have made elaborate prepara-
tions. A helicopter seemed the ideal aircraft for moving about
the country unobtrusively and easily. I did not want to be
dependent on a pilot, however, so I took a conversion course,
and I was more than pleased when I learned to fly a heli-
copter solo after only two and a half hours.
The months I spent learning to fly were among the happi-
est in my life. I have always believed that one must draw a
sharp line between the official and private life of a monarch,
but sometimes it is not easy.
But once on the airfield I was no longer a monarch. I be-
came a cadet again and the free and easy camaraderie, that
belongs especially to fliers exists for me to this day. In-
evitably I became on friendly terms with many men at the
airfield, and soon with the Air Force when I started to fly
with them. It is perhaps not difficult to understand how a
reigning monarch, hemmed in by protocol, can experience
in those hours at the airfield a glorious escape from the dis-
cipline of kingship.
I Learn To Fly 81
I would drive myself to the airfield and very often slip
into the house on its edge where Jock Dalgleish lived with his
wife and two children. Sometimes we would have to wait
for a flight, and so I would arrive unannounced to inquire
about favorable conditions.
Occasionally these unofficial visits led to amusing incidents.
I drove to Dalgleish's house one afternoon and his five-year-
old son Bruce was playing outside. The Colonel's wife told
me later she had assiduously instructed her son how to greet
me, by walking forward, bowing and then saying, "How do
you do, Your Majesty?"
We were just drinking a cup of tea when the door burst
open and in ran little Bruce. He stopped dead when he saw
me. I could see him struggling to remember what he had
been told. Then his face cleared, he smiled happily and
walked toward the armchair before the fireplace, gave me the
briefest possible bow, shot out his hand and shouted, "Hullo,
I loved itjust as, years later, on my first visit to the United
States, I loved those ever-recurring cries of "Hfya, King!"
But then I genuinely love informality. I need it as an antidote
to restriction which flying has provided.
Once when an R.A.F. plane was reported missing near
Amman, I went out with Dalgleish on a dawn search for it.
We decided to meet at Dalgleish's house at 4:30 A.M., but
I was early, and when I opened the door Dalgleish was shav-
I shouted out, "Am I too early?"
The Colonel's wife told me she was making tea and sand-
82 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
"Good, I'd love some/' I cried. Then I added: "You make
the sandwiches. I'll make the tea."
With that I headed for the kitchen. Despite a lot of
argument she could not stop me. There is a moral somewhere
in the fact that I wanted to brew a pot of tea at four o'clock
in the morning. Perhaps it is that I believe so strongly that a
king is really just the head of a family, and a servant of his
nation. Right from the beginning of my reign I have fought
to remove all barriers and live as a member of a family, or
the team that is Jordan.
And when I offered to make that cup of tea, just before
dawn, I had been accepted as a member of a team of fliers.
The barriers were down. I had been allowed, for the moment,
to forget I was a king.
Problems of the Arab States
"The crisis has not yet produced leaders"
VERY SOON after my accession to the throne, I was plunged
into the traps and hazards of Middle Eastern politics that lay
ahead. The chapters that follow demonstrate how serious
were the threats both to my country and to my person.
Almost unceasingly, enemies sought to destroy our small
country; small, yet vital because of its strategic position, not
only geographically but because of our unswerving, uncom-
promising stand for freedom and against communism, and
our struggle to serve the principles and objectives of the Arab
peoples and the great Arab Revolt.
* Yet when trouble erupts in the Middle East, the Western
world rarely understands the basic causes behind it. It tends
to reduce our troubles to black and white, to oversimplify
them. A complex Arab problem is all too often reduced to a
label by the West which blames communism, the Palestine
Question, Nasser, Kassem, or just "the Arabs," instead of
84 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
realizing that many forces tugging in different directions
cause our difficulties.
We are perhaps partly to blame for this lack of knowledge,
but it is also very true that an astonishing number of bad
books have been written about the Arab states. It seems to
me that few authors from the West have yet been capable
of writing balanced, intelligent books about our problems.
Often the press is biased or improperly informed. Yet if one is
to understand the reasons for the violent upheavals, and the
bitter personal hatreds that I shall presently describe, some
background knowledge is necessary. I propose now to de-
scribe that background and explain briefly the events that
have brought the Arab world to the point where it stands
today, to set the scene for the events to follow.
j There is an Arabic proverb which says that "Peace comes
from understanding, not agreement." Agreements are more
easily broken than made; but understanding never. It is ur-
gent, therefore, and in the interest of peace, that there be
better understanding among nations. As people we are one,
seeking the same goal. As nations we lose each other down
the different paths we choose to fulfill our national objectives.
Unhappily, I must refer only to free nations. We have a
different relationship with the nations of the Communist
bloc, where freedom of thought and of action does not exist,
where unrelenting attack is waged to deny all people the
right to any personal goal save slavery to the State, and the
right to any national aim except dictatorship by a foreign
That is why we must understand each other better. Com-
munism survives only by dividing people and nations against
each other. Communism penetrates the gaps that are opened
by unhappy internal conditions and drives a wedge between
Problems of the Arab States 85
nations whenever they lack understanding of one another's
political aims and aspirations. In the case of small nations,
such tactics expose them to destruction. In a crisis, the clarity
with which they assess the danger seems to vary with their
size and their distance from the powerful free nations. How-
ever, prior understanding of the problem of the nation in dis-
tress might prevent the crisis. In the past, awareness of a
threat has frequently come too late to be of much use. We
know this well in Jordan, because time after time we have
barely escaped destruction.
The feeling of being alone or misunderstood greatly affects
the potential strength and morale of the many small nations
that form freedom's front line. The larger nations well under-
stand our strategic importance, but not always our national
aspirations. This understanding is important to survival and
to the better future for all. That is the common interest and
aim of the world's free nations.
In the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, we are eager to
carry out our duties toward other free people, to justify our
existence. A nation once divided, we are now bound together
by daily strengthening ties, inspired by need, by common
interests, by patriotism and, above all, by what is known as
I must attempt to define Arab nationalism as it really is,
and explain its development and aims. In doing so, I present
as well the case of the people of the Arab world. I present it
as a person who has inherited the responsibility of serving a
proud people on the long, rough journey toward its objectives.
The true nature of Arab nationalism has been obscured,
sometimes by us Arabs and sometimes by others who believed
that Arab nationalism threatened their interests. As a result,
many of the past actions of some of the more powerful
86 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Western nations, particularly Britain and France, have lacked
foresight and have been contrary to their own interest.
Arab nationalism is a potential force for good. It binds
Arabs together even when they are split into many factions.
It drives them toward a more cohesive Arab world, regardless
of explosive changes in rulers or regimes.
Arab nationalism was born when the rest of the civilized
world was slumbering in the Dark Ages and when Arabism
was contributing greatly to mankind's progress. Isolated Arab
civilizations had long existed in Yemen, Mecca, Petra, Pal-
myra, Southern Syria and Iraq, but Arab history really be-
gan with Islam about A.D. 611. Morally, the influence of the
new faith was great, but its political influence was due chiefly
to its concept of equality among individuals, irrespective of
race. That is a first principle of Islam.
We express this ideal in the word takwa, which embraces
tolerance, love of God, love of good deeds, a deep-rooted
sense of justice. In brief, the concepts of morality and be-
havior of Islam are the principles for which we in the free
world stand. These immortal concepts led Arabs to establish
an Islamic empire extending from Spain to China. It molded
different races and civilizations into a progressive and cre-
ative movement based on all the good from their pasts as well
as from our own. It spurred development of the most ad-
vanced civilization of its time, and opened new fields in sci-
ence, medicine, art and philosophy; Islam's contributions are
enjoyed today. This tradition, rooted in Islam and not some
new political concept is the foundation of today's Arab na-
Problems of the Arab States 87
Unfortunately, the Arab empire, beset by rivalries, was
destroyed by Mongol invaders and, while Europe was enjoy-
ing its Renaissance, the Arab nation slipped into darkness.
Yet through almost four hundred years of Ottoman domi-
nation, pride and dignity survived.
N 'After Napoleon invaded the Middle East, Arabs began to
be influenced by European nationalism and colonialism. But
even that might not have stirred the Arabs had not a new
nationalist movement been launched by the Young Turks.
Early in this century they began to change the Moslem Otto-
man empire into a Turkish empire, in which the Arabs were
to be deposed as co-rulers and to become completely subju-
gated. Intent on wiping out Arab opposition, the Turks in
1916 hanged Arab leaders in Beirut and Damascus. This,
more than anything, spurred Arab nationalists.
The Arabs turned for leadership to Mecca and to the
Hashemite dynasty. Descendants of the Prophet Mohammed,
the Hashemites were respected all over the Moslem world.
About the time the Turks joined the Germans in the First
World War, leaders in what are now Iraq, Syria, Lebanon
and Jordan urged Sherif Hussein, leader of the Hashemite
dynasty, to act. Through his sons, contact with the Allies was
established and terms for Arab alliance with the Allies and
Arab revolt against the Turks were agreed upon in what is
known as the Hussein-MacMahon Correspondence. The Brit-
ish, on behalf of the Allies, recognized Hussein as the leader
of his people, encouraged his determination to liberate the
Arab world and promised their support in creating a free
88 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
> The Arab Revolt began in June 1916, under the supreme
command of Sherif Hussein. The leaders were his sons Ali,
Abdullah and Feisal. In conjunction with British operations
under General Allenby, Arabian forces marched northward
from Mecca and reached Aleppo in 1918, realizing their
dream of liberation and fulfilling their pledge to help bring
about the Turkish-German defeat and Allied victory in Arab
What thereupon happened to the agreement between the
Allies and ourselves? The answer is important because it ex-
plains much about the Arab attitude toward the West today.
Unpleasant reading though it may make for Westerners, we
must examine the record, from the day of our joint victory in
1918 until the sad day in 1948 when the Palestine tragedy
reached its peak.
In that record will be found reasons for bitterness toward
the outside world, for an occasional apparent loss of sound
judgment, for the backward conditions in certain Arab areas.
In that record will be found the basic reasons for the relative
success of communism in parts of our homeland, the resent-
ment over Jewish existence in the present state of Israel, and
the unfortunate conditions in Algeria. As a direct result, the
Arab world and Arab nationalism may appear to be hostile,
negative and confused.
None of this would have occurred had it not been for the
shocking actions of our allies actions indicating that their
leaders lacked foresight and even principle. At the conclusion
of tL. peace treaty, two documents whose existence was un-
known to the Arabs came to light. One was the secret Sykes-
Picot Agreement between the British and French, made in
1916 only a few months after the conclusion of the Hussein-
MacMahon Correspondence (which had bound the Allies to
Problems of the Arab States 89
quite different actions). The second was the Balfour Decla-
ration in which the British declared that they "Looked with
favor" upon the creation of "a national homeland for the
Jews" in Palestine.
The Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration
and actions arising from them reflected dishonor on Western
ethics and were a shock and bitter disappointment to the
Arabs. First, instead of winning complete and united Arab
independence, Arab Asia was divided into regions under
French and British mandates. Second, without the knowl-
edge of the Arab people, who then comprised ninety-three
per cent of its population, Palestine was promised as "a na-
tional home" for the Jewish people. The final result was the
creation of Israel, in complete violation of the principles of
self-determination. And King Hussein the First, who refused
to bargain over a single square foot of the Arab homeland in
Palestine, was forced into exile for six years.
In Syria another promise was broken. The French marched
on Damascus and forced King Feisal I to leave the country.
In Iraq, the situation was much the same until a revolt forced
the British to give in, and Feisal the First became King of
In Jordan, King Hussein reacted by dispatching his son
Abdullah with all available forces to advance northward and
help stem the French advance on Damascus. Abdullah left
Medina, in the Hejaz, at the end of October 1920 and arrived
in Ma'an, in Jordan, on November 21. It took him twenty-
seven days traveling by train to cover the few hundred miles
partly through lack of fuel, partly because the railway had
been destroyed in places. But by the time Abdullah reached
Jordan, the French had liquidated the Arab kingdom in Syria.
On March 20, 1920, Winston Churchill (then Colonial See-
90 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
retary) held a conference in Jerusalem with my grandfather.
As a result Transjordan was formed as a British Mandate with
my grandfather at its head as Emir. By April 21, Transjordan
had its first cabinet.
It was a small country of about 350,000 people. The land-
scape was rough and spectacular, partly mountainous, partly
desert, with only a small fertile strip along its western bound-
ary, the River Jordan. Not until 1924, when my grandfather
incorporated southern Transjordan, did the country even
have an outlet to the sea at Aqaba. There were few schools,
virtually no police, and most of the country's forests had long
since vanished as ties (or even fuel) for the fantastic Hejaz
Railway. But such was the magnetism of my grandfather that
thousands flocked to his banner. The Bedouin loved him as
a father. The Syrians in the north, bitter at the French an-
nexation of their country, turned to him for help. He set up
his court in Amman, then a town of three thousand people in
the Edomite mountains, and where Og, King of Bashan, last
of the race of giants, had left his bed of iron in the book of
When World War II came, Transjordan immediately of-
fered to fight side by side with Britain, and the Arab Legion
played a valiant role in the Middle East theatre, taking part,
among other engagements, in the liberation of Damascus
from Vichy France. It is to my grandfather's credit that he
never wavered in his principles or his friendship with Britain,
though he always felt deeply hurt at the way she had broken
her promises to the Arabs after World War Ibreaches of
faith that led even Churchill to describe British conduct as a
"confusion of principles"; which Lawrence described as "a
Problems of the Arab States 91
despicable fraud/' and which George Antonius, the Arab
historian, felt were the "product of greed, leading to suspicion
and so leading to stupidity."
But with determination and faith he served his nation.
Then in May, 1946, the Transjordan Mandate was abolished
and the independent Kingdom of Jordan was created. My
grandfather ruled wisely and well as King, working tirelessly
to find a solution to the Palestine problem. After the Palestine
war, as I shall describe later, that part of Palestine saved by
Jordanian forces was joined by its people's consent to Jordan.
Thus, when I came to the throne, the population had grown
to a million and a half.
All this explains why today we have, instead of a single
Arab state, separate Arab states as well as Israel. And one
million Arab refugees are paying for Israel's creation. The
inevitable fact is that Israel, governed by the present ex-
pansionist policies of Zionism, can only spell injustice, danger
and disaster. It would behoove the world to become used to
this fact: that without a just solution to the Palestine tragedy,
there can be no stable peace in the Middle East. Those na-
tions which base their policies on the fait accompli of Israel's
existence forget that the relationship that enabled Arabs and
Jews to live together for centuries as neighbors and friends
has been destroyed by Zionist ideas and actions. So long as
Zionism is the dominating political force in Israel, that friend-
ship can never be rekindled.
The consequences of dividing up the Arab homeland are
visible for all to see. One of the most unfortunate aspects of
it is the sorry picture presented to the world of what must
eventually be the salvation of the Arab world true Arab
UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
nationalism. Nationalism properly means the ultimate loyalty
of the individual to the Arab world as a whole; it demands
that a Jordanian be an Arab first and a Jordanian second, an
Iraqi an Arab first and an Iraqi second. Loyalties to lesser
concepts have seriously weakened our ability to pursue con-
structive policies. They have slowed our progress toward
improving our economy, standard of living, education, and
other measures for the general good.
My own concept of Arab nationalism, for example, is quite
different from what I understand President Nasser's to be.
If I interpret his aims properly, he believes that political
unity and Arab nationalism are synonymous. Evidently he
also believes that Arab nationalism can only be identified by
a particular brand of political unity. If this is his belief, I
disagree. It can only lead, as it has in the past, to more dis-
The seeking of popular support for one point of view or
one form of leadership in countries other than one's own has
fostered factionalism to a dangerous degree, splitting coun-
tries to the point of revolution. It is nothing but a new form
of imperialism, the domination of one state by another. It
makes no difference if both are Arab states. Arab nationalism
can survive only through complete equality.
Nor can worthwhile future objectives be achieved by
unprincipled, immediate tactical maneuvers. This preoccu-
pation with shortsighted objectives, usually attributed per-
haps wrongly to political ambition, has brought three at-
tendant evils. It has diverted Arab energies from sound,
peaceful pursuits into wasteful political intrigue. It has split
people into factions, and thus has provided the gap into
which communism has driven a dangerous wedge. And it has
hampered the Arabs in dealing with the greatest political
Problems of the Arab States 93
problems confronting us: the Palestine question and the Al-
It is in our power as Arabs to unite on all important issues,
to organize in every respect and to dispel the frictions be-
tween us. It is not the fault of the Arab peoples that they are
burdened with the Palestine problem, or that they have been
unable sufficiently to aid their brethren in Algeria, or that
Arabism is held in low esteem. The fault lies partly in the
situation created by the policy of divide-and-rule, and partly
in the lack of sincerity and honesty in some Arab leaders.
Every Arab problem suffers from the irresponsibility of the
dominant Arab class.
It is indeed unfortunate that, having been victimized by
the shortsighted, disheartening and deceitful policies of the
West, we have been able to do nothing but divide ourselves
further. There was a time when we could unite, in spirit at
least, against the imperialist enemy. But we have as yet been
unable to unite properly against our two most potent ene-
mies: communism and Zionism.
I believe that slowly but surely we are overcoming these
difficulties, which have been due to a variety of reasons, not
the least being the fact that the crisis has so far produced no
Ambitious men have made claims without foundation and
promises they could not keep. They have been aided in-
directly by outside forces which seek control over this area,
both the Communists and those who attempt to preserve
their interests in ways that have failed them before. The few
sound attempts aimed at practical unity came from Jordan
and were led by the late King Abdullah, my grandfather. He
94 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
proposed the unity of larger Syria (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan
and Palestine), or the unity of the Fertile Crescent (Iraq,
Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Kuwait), or even the
unity of Syria and Jordan. Recently we had a go at what
turned out to be the short-lived Arab Union of Iraq and
-. My grandfather's attempts were thwarted by the divide-
and-rule tactics of the British and the French, who mis-
takenly believed that they would gain by keeping the Arab
world disunited. The Iraq-Jordan Union was disrupted by
the murder of my cousin Feisal and his family, during the
Iraqi revolution. It is an object lesson in the fallacy of pursu-
ing short-term objectives, that Kassem, its leader, has since
been bitterly attacked by Nasser, who was the first to recog-
nize and support him.
w The Arab League, which came into existence over four-
teen years ago, for a time appeared to be a step toward a
better, progressive Arab world. But the upper echelon of
Arab irresponsibles soon destroyed its high hopes and it be-
came a puppet, its strings pulled by a few ambitious self-
servers. In his memoirs my grandfather likened this creature
to a sack into which had been forced seven heads (the orig-
inal seven Arab countries which formed the League) tied by
ribbons of foreign domination and Arab ignorance. Such a
creature could breathe; but if it attempted to move, it would
choke itself to death. It is still tied together; but it is bound,
Given sincerity and sound leadership the Arab League has
great potential. It is the anvil on which Arab nationalism must
be forged. But it must weld together its strong links with the
past, with Islam, and with the Moslem world. The Arab na-
tion has a common tongue, a common cause, a common fu-
Problems of the Arab States 95
ture and a common challenge of survival. Combining the best
of its past and the best it can absorb from modern civilization,
it should prosper.
4 If this is the goal and progress of Arab nationalism, to
what practical ends should it address itself? First, it can only
be the enemy of communism. Communism denies all faiths
and thus the very principles on which Arab nationalism is
based. Arab nationalism, given the chance, the respect, the
support and the understanding of others in this free world,
can only side with those who are free and who believe in God.
How then can anyone who believes in true Arab national-
ism defend a policy that is a form of neutrality, whereby a
country pretends to maintain good relations with both the
free world and communism? This is the announced policy of
Nasser and some others. The exponents of "neutrality" in the
Arab world, as possibly elsewhere, describe Arab existence as
in peril of destruction by the outside world, mainly by the
free nations. At the same time, although originally they
denounced the theory of communism, they seem gradually
to implement its practices and accept its help. The salvation
of the people, they declare, is to follow their lead in a move-
ment they created. Those who openly declare themselves to
be part of the free world, as we do in Jordan, are represented
as being hostile to Arab nationalism, a course which in fact
strikes at the root of nationalism.
In Jordan we denounced such demagoguery. We believe
that to be neutral, the third power has to be so powerful as
to need no support from either of the conflicting sides. If
threatened by either, it must be able to defend itself. Then a
constructive, positive neutrality could exist which could per-
96 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
haps prevent a conflict. But is this the case between inter-
national communism and the free nations? Is it the case be-
tween the Arab states and the Soviet Union or Communist
China? Would Arab nationalism ever be respected by com-
munism? Is Arab so-called neutrality, in fact, a method for
preserving Arab existence, let alone a way to prevent such
And finally, is it in Arab self-interest to earn the animosity
of the free world, even if such intolerable situations as those
in Palestine and Algeria have resulted from misunderstand-
ings? We believe it is not, because there can be no life and
future for Arabism under the alternative to freedom: local
or world-wide communism.
There is no future for Arabism without the teachings of
Islam and without the faith in God which unites us in the
free world. There is no basis to the theory that local com-
munism and international communism differ. There is no
validity to the belief that we can accept Communist help and
support because communism respects our principles or ad-
mires our aspirations.
We Arabs regret that some powerful states in the free
world have not been wholly honest with us. The answer, how-
ever, lies not in embracing communism but in our power to
implement our own principles and to defend our own free-
dom. The power that should strengthen us should be Arab
power, and it is the duty of the upper echelons in the Arab
world to organize Arab development through unity of pur-
pose. Then we can engage in strong, sound, dignified inter-
national relations to remove misunderstandings that impede
our progress. Then we can enlist to our just cause, pursue in
Arab dignity our dealings with other nations, and develop
pride in our accomplishments.
Problems of the Arab States 97
As for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the Arab
world, we are devoted bearers of the ideals of the Arab Re-
volt. We believe, and will never cease to believe, in the basic
need for Arab freedom, unity, equality, strength and progress.
Jordan's main strength lies in holding to those ideals bravely.
We are Arabs first and Jordanians second. As Jordanians,
we have learned one lesson that contributes daily to our
progress: we have clarity of purpose. Having escaped death
as a nation, we must make our life as a nation worth living.
Jordan has borne the brunt of the burden laid on the Arab
world by the unsound policies and emotional judgments of
Arab leaders. We are not prepared to do so again. We will
pursue our own policies, in the militant democratic tradition.
We will preach among our brethren in the Arab world the
spirit of Jordan.
There are in the free world different interpretations of the
term democracy. In the Arab world we have learned that to
copy one system of government or another completely, and to
attempt to apply that to a newer state with a different back-
ground and history, is unwise, even dangerous. The older
democracies continually discover that they must make ad-
justments to deal with changing times. Some nations in the
Arab world have so-called democratic parties, but many of
these groups, for reasons of selfishness or subversion, link
themselves with elements outside their country. In such cases
the party system embodies the reverse of democracy. So com-
munism entered the Arab world under the guise of nation-
alism. Almost every party proclaims the same slogans of unity,
freedom, development. Few, however, have real programs.
The slogans are merely the means by which an individual or
group hopes to gain power. As a consequence, democratic
though Jordan's government is, we do not feel we can yet
UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
afford the luxury of these "parties" in our democratic process
at least not with this concept.
To my mind, the problem of the Arab world is to define
itself clearly and positively through united actions in the
Arab League in a manner that would be respected and ad-
hered to on all issues. We must no longer talk with a con-
fusion of angry voices.
In the need for Arab unity, there is no difference of opin-
ion. So instead of debating an accepted principle, let us de-
bate a practical plan. There are four great natural units in
the Arab-speaking world: the Fertile Crescent, the Arabian
Peninsula, the Nile Valley, and the Maghrib, including Al-
Let the countries in these natural units associate them-
selves in whatever way they choose as a step toward the great
goal of an Arab nation. Let their association be voluntary, and
let it embrace only what the people of each country want it
to embrace whether it be culture, economics or defense. Let
political alliance, if it is desirable at all, be the last step. Let
all of this be undertaken through an active, respected Arab
League, in which equality and sincerity of joint purpose
would be assured, and in which danger of domination by any
member of the family would be eliminated.
To such a proposal Jordan pledges the full weight of its
power and strength. It would subscribe immediately to any
practical step designed to realize it. Our only plea is for well-
Jordan seeks to play only one role, that of a model state. It
is our aim to set an example for our Arab brethren, not one
that they need follow but one that will inspire them to seek a
higher, happier destiny within their own borders. We pro-
Problems of the Arab States 99
pose to devote, without ever losing sight of the ultimate goal
of a united Arab nation, our full time and energy to the crea-
tion of a way of life that we hope in time all Arabs will
achieve. We are supposed to be an underdeveloped country.
But we are not underdeveloped in those attributes that will
eventually make us great pride, dignity, determination, cour-
age, confidence, and the knowledge that nothing can be
achieved without work.
^ In a short time we have more than doubled our national
output and quintupled agricultural output. We are in the
process of further development in five major areas: our vast,
uncharted mineral resources; our water resources; light in-
dustry; internal highway communications; and tourism.
Mindful that ignorance is the enemy of the Arabs, we will
continue to develop our rapidly expanding school system.
Our immediate goal is the technical training of our youth.
Eventually we will achieve for all Arabs an Arab university
in the Holy City of Jerusalem.
We are aware of the great part which labor plays in the
successful development of a truly democratic state. We pro-
pose to raise the standard of living of all workers to the maxi-
mum possible extent. We will continue to improve our health
services, so that no one ever again shall suffer or die from
ignorance or neglect. To that end, we are expanding medical
and nursing training, and establishing clinics and hospitals.
We will continue to improve our system of government. We
are still a very young state, but administrative reforms are
constantly being effected and will continue as part of our
efforts to achieve a truly efficient, democratic government.
We will fight as well the disease of corruption, another old
enemy of the Arab world. It has no place in a state whose
foundations are the precepts of Islam and faith in Cod.
When I think of my family, I think with pride of everyone
100 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
in Jordan, who, standing by me as we faced the storms, in-
spired me in serving them. When I think of the tribe to which
I belong, I look upon the whole Arab nation. My life is dedi-
cated to a cause, just as the Hashemites have been through-
out history; that cause is to be an Arab worthy of Arab trust
and support. I fear only God.
Our hands are stretched in friendship to all who may join
us to work toward Arab greatness and unity with sincerity,
devotion and sound principles. We challenge all who claim
to have Arab interests at heart to meet us along this course.
We belong to one nation and the nation does not belong to
individuals. Finally, as always, we pray to God for guidance
Arab nationalism has a clear message that can be heard all
over the Arab world. Respect us and you will be respected.
Correct injustice and we will be grateful. Help us to build
our strength and it will be that of freedom. Remember that
we are masters of our homes, and we were born free.
The Baghdad Pact Riots
"At first I was impressed by Nasser."
THE YEAR 1955 saw the decisive turning point in the postwar
history of the Arab world. If the cold war between Egypt and
Jordan was born well before my grandfather's assassination,
it came to a boiling point in 1955. It was the beginning of
three dangerous years in which Jordan as a country nearly
perished. Time and again our country was saved by nothing
short of a miracle, and almost everything that happened can
be traced back to 1955, a year which saw the signing of the
Baghdad Pact, the sudden spectacular arms deal between
Nasser and the Soviet bloc, our discussions on entering the
pact, and finally the riots that all but split Jordan in two.
The Baghdad Pact was the start of it all. It was based on a
concept of a "northern tier" of defense against Communist
pressures. Indeed I had myself sometime previously put for-
ward tentative suggestions for a similar free pact to unite the
Arab world in the face of mounting Communist pressure. But
102 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
there was not much point having a northern tier if people
could step over it and build behind it. During my state visit
to Turkey in 1954, 1 had talks with both the President and the
late Mr. Menderes, the Prime Minister, on the possibility of
forming some alliance which would include all the Arab
states. True, there were difficulties. The Turks were under-
standably worried about the presence of Soviet troops on
their northern frontier, but even though Turkey's relations
with Israel began under the previous regime, they could not
be easily accepted by us Arabs.
That obstacle had to be dealt with to the satisfaction of the
Arab world. I was careful to point out to Menderes that if
any mutual agreement were ever signed, it would have to
include most of the Arab states at once. I warned him that if
any Arab state formed a pact with the free world without
prior consultation and agreement between sister Arab states,
it would be disastrous.
Yet this is exactly what happened. When the formation of
the Baghdad Pact was announced in 1955, the Arab world
was stunned. The immediate reaction and whether it was
correct or not is immaterial was that Britain, because of its
vast oil interests in the area, and its influence, had "got at"
I knew that something was in the air, for sometime after
visiting Turkey, I went to Britain. I heard rumors, but the
negotiations were so secret I did not realize how far advanced
they were. I was in Rome, on my way back to Amman, when
I heard the news, and at first I refused to believe it. It was a
fatal mistake on the part of all countries involved to rush into
an agreement with Iraq only.
The immediate outcome was a bitter feud between Cairo
and Baghdad. Almost overnight they were at each other's
The Baghdad Pact Riots 103
throats. Nasser was furious, partly because he was annoyed
with any rivals for power and prestige in the Arab world, and
partly out of pique because he was not approached before
Iraq. Iraq was rich and powerful, Turkey even more so. He
had to attack the pact if only to prevent other Arab states
joining and so diminishing his growing prestige. Night after
night Cairo Radio fulminated against "this traitor to the Arab
cause" and "the cat's-paw of the imperialists."
As James Morris says in The Market of Seleukia, "the alli-
ance ... so infuriated the Egyptians that most of the Arab
world was roused against it. ... So hostile was public opin-
ion, thanks chiefly to the malignant competence of the Egyp-
tian propagandists, that no other Arab government dared to
join it. In the eyes of the extremists, it was a device to main-
tain Western (especially British) ascendancy in the Middle
East. It compromised the sovereignty of the Arabs. ... It
was a slap in the face to Colonel Nasser. It was meant to di-
vide and weaken the Arab world. In short, said the Egyptians
and their advisers, speaking very loudly, it was intolerable.
Their views were not only misleading, but also pitiably paro-
Soon Nasser widened the scope of his propaganda attacks
and I came in for a share of the general invective merely be-
cause Glubb Pasha was still commanding the Arab Legion,
and because the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty still existed. So I,
too, was "a tool of the West." But the propaganda at first was
not directed mainly at Jordan, possibly because Cairo was
so busy attacking Baghdad for forming an alliance "with
those responsible for creating Israel." Any part that the Com-
munist camp played in this creation was and is, of course,
104 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Nonetheless I was highly alarmed lest this breach between
Egypt and Baghdad should widen. If it did, and if the Arab
states were weakened by division among themselves, what
was to stop the Israelis from attacking?
Naturally I looked at this problem from a Jordanian point
of view. Jordan is a very special kind of country that depends
on good neighbors for its existence. But what was happening
to those "good neighbors'? They were squabbling, maneuver-
ing for position, just as they had done in the past whenever
the Ottoman Empire showed signs of breaking up. Where
was Arab solidarity? Where was the unity of the Arab League?
And what would happen to Jordan if she remained friendless
while those around her quarreled?
Saudi Arabia had an eye on Aqaba, our only port, which she
claimed as part of the Hejaz, for so long the seat of the Hashe-
mite dynasty. (Saudi Arabia has since quieted her demands.)
Syria was coming increasingly under the influence of Egypt,
and if the Arab states started fighting, might not Syria seek
to "protect" us? If that happened, Iraq would never stand
idly by, for, in addition to the Hashemite cause which bound
us together, Iraq would never let a hostile Syria march along
her western frontier. But above all, there was Israel. If the
quarreling that Nasser had started developed, Israel would
without doubt use the confusion to conquer the enclave on
the West Bank and straighten out her frontier along the
In the years since my accession, Israel had directed most
of its aggression against Jordan, and if any attack were to be
launched, my country would without question bear the brunt
of it. I doubted very much whether we could hold them alone.
Numerically and as far as equipment was concerned, the
balance was most uneven and we had by far the longest bat-
The Baghdad Pact Riots 105
tie front with the enemy. (Of the six hundred seventy miles
of the Israel- Arab border, Egypt has to defend one hundred
eighty miles, Syria forty-five, Lebanon just over fifty, leaving
Jordan with the colossal task of defending nearly four hun-
I tried my best that summer to help Iraq and Egypt come
to a better understanding. I visited Baghdad, but my cousin
King Feisal was virtually powerless, and though I argued
with Nuri Said, the Prime Minister, there was no ground for
maneuver. I admired Nuri Said very much, but his attitude
was expressed in one sentence:
"Sir, we are in the Baghdad Pact, that's that, and we are
certainly not backing out of it."
I also paid a visit to President Nasser. I had for a long time
been impressed by Nasser. I felt in those early days that he
was a new element in the Arab world, an element that could
bring about much-needed reforms. If he worked for the peo-
ple of Egypt, he could accomplish a great deal. He had the
resources, a vast population, and a leading position in the
Arab world. I had been to school in Egypt and even then
realized that something would have to be done to change
conditions. The problems of the Arab world are almost
always the fault of its leaders and politicians, not of the peo-
ple, and so I had a lot of faith in Nasser and tried to support
him as much as I could.
I asked Nasser about the Baghdad Pact and he said the
hasty way in which it had been conceived, involving one
Arab country only, was most unwise. I agreed with him, and
I believe that had Nasser been consulted in the preliminary
stages, the results might have been very different
UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
But now things had gone too far. The Baghdad Pact was
a fait accompli and Nasser made it clear that it was not pos-
sible to remain friendly with Iraq. He was quite frank.
Though he did not like the pact (he doubtless saw it as a
threat to his own prestige), he added, "As far as the King of
Iraq is concerned, I have nothing but affection for him. I wish
him every success and I have great hopes for him. But still,
I don't like the way it was done. IVe nothing against the pact
as such, but we should have been consulted properly.'*
I had to think of Jordan. The fact that Nasser was ex-
tremely polite to me did not stop Cairo Radio from abusing
me. I asked Nasser why he insisted on keeping up his radio
campaign against Jordan.
He smiled charmingly.
"But this is the first IVe heard about itl" he replied. "I'm
glad you mentioned the matter; 111 look into it straight
Needless to say, nothing was ever done and the radio prop-
aganda campaign went on.
* As the summer wore on, I became more and more worried.
The ties between Iraq and Jordan are so strong (partly be-
cause of our Hashemite dynasty) that Cairo more and more
linked our two countries in its attacks. (In fact, Iraq and Jor-
dan did not always see eye to eye. The Iraqi policy-making
group considered themselves superior and rarely discussed
matters with us.) Still I took no action.
Then the bombshell fell on the Arab world. On September
25, 1955, Nasser announced his now historic arms deal with
the Soviet bloc. In an instant everything changed.
Hundreds of thousands of Jordanians, listening avidly to
The Baghdad Pact Riots 107
the propaganda on Cairo Radio, saw in Nasser a mystical sort
of savior and as so many, including myself, at first wrongly
thoughttheir best bet for the future against Israel. It never
entered our heads that Nasser had linked himself to the Com-
munists. All we saw was the reverse of the coin that Nasser
was the first Arab statesman really to throw off the shackles
of the West. I must admit I sympathized with that point of
view to a great extent.
The ordinary people of Jordan rejoiced, and I took in my
stride the increasing abuse that was hurled at me for continu-
ing to let my army be run by Glubb and other British officers.
But my task of trying to keep order was not made easier be-
cause of niggling problems which Cairo seized upon avidly
as propaganda. For example, Britain was paying for the Arab
Legion, yet despite entreaties from my Prime Minister, Brit-
ain refused to pay the money directly to the Jordan govern-
ment, but to a special Legion account, controlled by Glubb.
Thus Jordan had virtually no say even in the finances of its
Always afraid that other Arab states would join the Bagh-
dad Pact, Cairo quickly seized the initiative. Not only out-
right lies, but dangerous half-truths were hurled over the
radio to every coffeehouse in the country. Expert propagan-
dists lashed the emotions x>f everybody and the theme never
varied: "Get rid of British officers in the army!" or "Get rid
of the King who is keeping Jordan as a tool of the West"
As the full significance of Nasser's economic tie-up with
the Communists became more evident, Soviet Russia, with a
typical switch of policy, abandoned outwardly its support of
Israel. Immediately the Israelis started getting arms from
France to put their country on an even stronger war footing.
With Iraq and Egypt still at loggerheads, with Israel poised
108 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
for war, with pressure mounting against Jordan, something
had to be done.
On November 2, the Turkish President paid me a state
visit. Immediately Cairo Radio launched a bitter attack on
Jordan to make sure, no doubt, that we did not join the pact.
Naturally the question of Jordan joining the pact was dis-
cussed. I kept an open mind at first, while considering every
point for and against in the light of conditions entirely
changed by the Egypt-Czech arms deal.
Finally, on November 7, the eve of the Turkish President's
departure, we held a conference at my house in Shuna in the
Jordan Valley. I told the President I realized the advantage
of the pact, but that in fact we needed economic aid as much
as a military alliance. The Palestine War had all but ruined
us, and we had half a million refugees. But we also needed
a revision of the Anglo- Jordanian Treaty.
"I understand your difficulties," the President replied.
"Why don't you write to the British government and explain
the additional help you need? We will write at the same time
and support your case."
I decided to do this, and on November 16 handed the Brit-
ish Ambassador a note explaining our difficulties and needs. I
mentioned our conference with the Turks.
Early in December, General Templer, Chief of the British
Imperial General Staff, arrived, ostensibly to discuss ques-
tions "concerning the defense of Jordan and the Arab Legion,"
but during his visit he raised with me privately the question
of our joining the Baghdad Pact. I realized that if Jordan
joined, the free world would gain an enormous moral victory.
I felt that if we joined we should receive more arms and
The Baghdad Pact Riots 109
economic aid, and the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty should be
changed and its duration shortened so that Jordanian officers
would have more opportunities to rise in the Arab Legion. I
told Templer the time had arrived when the Jordan Army
should be Arabized quickly.
One thing I was resolved upon. I would enter no alliance
without first informing President Nasser and seeking his
views. Though I was worried by Communist infiltration and
the increased threat from Israel, I would do nothing behind
I did not approve of what he had done, I was upset by his
propaganda campaign, but I believed him to be a man of his
word, and when our discussions were well advanced, I sent
him a personal message with full details by his commander-
in-chief, General (later Field Marshal) Abdul Hakim Amir,
who was visiting Jordan at the time.
I explained our close nationalistic, economic and geographi-
cal ties with Iraq. I pointed out the real danger from Israel.
I knew Nasser was astute. He would not relish the idea of
Egypt defending our four hundred miles of frontier if Jordan
could not do so. I fancied he would prefer to let us carry on
so that he would have a scapegoat in case of an Israeli victory.
But, as I told him, we needed more arms and so I outlined to
him the Jordanian conditions for entering the pact.
Officials had drawn an outline of our immediate require-
ments, should we enter the pact. These included more arms,
economic aid and guarantees of support in case we were sub-
jected to attack, and a definite pledge that Britain would
shorten the time of the Anglo- Jordanian Treaty and that a
new treaty would be signed with improved conditions, in-
cluding an acceptable plan for the Arabization of our armed
110 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
When this outline was complete, I sent a copy of it to
President Nasser. Nasser immediately sent one of his top
officials to Amman to discuss the matter with me. Then a
message came from Nasser himself, giving the idea his bless-
ing. In his message he echoed specifically the words of his
right-hand man, General Amir, "Any strength for Jordan is a
strength for the Arab world. Therefore I can see no objec-
Here was good news! Nasser had seen the force of my argu-
ments, and I was delighted at the response to my letter. We
proceeded to draft a confidential note, not yet binding us to
join the pact, but getting down to details.
Then suddenly, everything changed. Without warning, the
Egyptians launched a heavy barrage of propaganda against
Jordan. Within a matter of hours Amman was torn by riots
as the people, their senses blurred by propaganda, turned to
Nasser, the new mystique of the Arab world. "Hussein is
selling out to the British!" screamed Cairo Radio. "Egypt is
the only really independent Arab countrythanks to Nasser!*'
The Egyptian Embassy, as we discovered later, worked over-
time on persuasion. There was money for anybody who
would work for them.
Propaganda poured out of Cairo Radio. One story insisted
that the Baghdad Pact was a trick and that Israel would be
linked with it next. We knew no country could join without
the agreement of every existing member, so it was impossible.
But it was equally impossible to get the truth across to every-
body, and this and countless other stories were accepted by
thousands of people.
I stuck to my guns. Then on December 13, four members
The Baghdad Pact Riots 111
of the Cabinet resigned. Under pressure, Said Mufti, the
Premier a good man, but old resigned and the government
Immediately the rioting flared up again. By innuendo, the
Ministers who had resigned let it be known they had only
taken this extreme step through patriotic motives and that
perhaps Cairo was right about a "sell-out to Imperialism and
In the vanguard of the rioting was the Ba'ath Party. Ba'ath
stands for Al Ba'ath al Arabi, meaning the "Arab Renais-
sance," and though technically nothing more than a group of
left-wing socialists originating in Damascus, they had since
1954 been led by a group of opportunists and during that
period aligned themselves from time to time with commu-
They organized demonstrations in all the major cities. Polit-
ical agitators, financed, in my opinion, by Egyptian money,
stormed buildings from one end of Jordan to another, while
Cairo Radio never ceased to declare, "The Baghdad Pact is an
imperialist plot! Get rid of Hussein, the traitor!"
As the mobs roamed the streets, I brought in Hazza Pasha
Majali, who had been Minister of the Interior under Said
Mufti. He was a man of courage and not afraid to shoulder
responsibility. He announced publicly that he was in favor
of the Baghdad Pact, and between us, this great patriot and
I did everything we could. But we were virtually helpless.
This was no ordinary rioting. Though some demonstrations
were spontaneous, most of them were cold-bloodedly organ-
ized and led by avowed Communists who ran the riots with
the authority and discipline of well-trained officers.
Still we might have held on, but on December 19, the Min-
ister of the Interior and two others of Majali's government
112 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
resigned. Majali tried to find replacements but in vain. There
was nothing I could do but dissolve the government, letting
a caretaker government carry on with the promise of elec-
tions in three or four months.
There was an immediate calm over the country and I be-
lieve this calm would have continued but for a most unfor-
tunate factor. Some Deputies, possibly fearing they would
not be returned in the electionor for other motives claimed
that the government action in dissolving Parliament was
illegal. The law proved them right, for the decree dissolving
Parliament lacked a sufficient number of signatures. I had
signed it and so had the Prime Minister, but the signature of
the Minister of the Interior was missing, for he had resigned
just before the decree was made. The Jordanian High Court
ruled the decree was unconstitutional and the old Deputies
had to be reinstated.
Now all hell broke loose. Riots such as we had never seen
before, led by Communists again, disrupted the entire coun-
try. This time bands of arsonists started burning government
offices, private houses, foreign properties. I had no alterna-
tive but to call out the Legion, who with tear gas and deter-
mination met force with force. I imposed a ten-day curfew on
Looking back on those days I am quite convinced that the
ordinary Jordanians, unaware they were duped by the Egyp-
tians, were profoundly thankful when the Army appeared.
Without doubt it saved the country.
What on earth made Nasser change his mind? How could
he possibly send such fulsome compliments and assure me of
his support and then, in a matter of hours, try to tear Jordan
apart? I cannot recall another incident in world history where
a statesman has made such a volte-face. At one moment Presi-
The Baghdad Pact Riots 113
dent Nasser encouraged Jordan to take this step, he gave it
his blessing, he even sent his trusted experts to help me; and
then at the critical moment he turned against us and nearly
destroyed my country. That was the end of Jordan and the
Baghdad Pact. It was not the end of double-crossing by
I was so deeply upset at what had happened, and so fearful
of Communist infiltration, that I decided to invite the heads
of all Arab states to a conference in Amman. I issued personal
invitations to all the leaders, but my plan was foredoomed to
failure. Iraq and Lebanon agreed to attend, and Saudi Arabia
almost agreed, but was influenced against accepting when
Egypt refused point-blank to attend unless each state pub-
licly repudiated the Baghdad Pact. This was obviously some-
thing Iraq could not do and so the conference fizzled out.
The Palestine Issue
"We will never sacrifice principle far expediency."
JORDAN TODAY is an avowed and active member of the comity
of free nations, despite the fact that it faces a complex pattern
of hostilities. On one side we have Israel, which Jordan as
much as any other Arab nation regards as a hostile force un-
justly created in our midst, and helped by some nations of the
free world on many occasions since. On the other side are our
sister Arab states, comrades against the common foe of Israel,
but also frequently hostile to us.
The outward reason for their antagonism to Jordan has
been that, in our fight against communism, freedom's worst
enemy, we are automatically in close association with other
free nations, some of which were largely responsible for the
creation of Israel. Our association with the free world, on
which the fight against communism depends, has been used
at times as a means of almost splitting us from our Arab
neighbors. As we seek to strengthen ourselves and stand
The Palestine Issue 115
firmly against the infiltration of communism, we are sub-
jected to the ever recurring jibe, spoken or unspoken, from
friend and foe alike, "What about Israel?"
To our friends we have always said clearly that Jordan will
never give an expedient answer to any such question. No part
of the world is as much a test of men's principles as the Mid-
dle East today. Everywhere one sees men of ambition, oppor-
tunists sowing dissension, using the unfortunate Palestinian
refugees as political pawns. We in Jordan will never sacrifice
principle for expediency. And I suggest that what is good
enough for a small country like Jordan is good enough for the
rest of the free world. In our opinion, this is the only hope
for future peace. Yet the trouble today is that the world too
often accepts a fait accompli as a moral justification for its
It is as well to remind ourselves of the origin of the Pales-
tine problem. When one strips away the emotional consider-
ations that invariably cloud the issue, the blunt fact is that
the Palestinian Arab people (ninety-three per cent of the pop-
ulation of Palestine) were denied the basic political right of
self-determination expounded by President Wilson. It may
be that other human rights have been denied the Palestinian
Arabs since then, but this was the basic wrong, the original
sin on which others have been compounded.
*' We realize how grievously the Jews suffered in Europe dur-
ing World War II, and we can understand their desire to seek
a better life. As George Antonius says in The Arab Awaken-
ing, "Posterity will not exonerate any country if it fails to
bear its proper share of the sacrifices needed to alleviate Jew-
ish suffering and distress/' But he adds, "To place the brunt
of the burden upon Arab Palestine is a miserable evasion of
the duty that lies upon the whole of the civilized world. It
116 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
is also morally outrageous. No code of morals can justify the
persecution of one people in an attempt to relieve the per-
secution of another."
The recent history of events which led to the present situ-
ation, in which about a million Palestinians have become ref-
ugees, is well known, but it may be of interest to trace, even
briefly, a curious succession of incidents over the past hun-
dred years which laid the foundations of modern Israel.
All too often one imagines this to be a relatively recent
problem, and it is true that it only became a major issue with-
in living memory, but it is not generally realized that as far
back as 1838, Lord Palmerston, in appointing the first British
Vice-Consul in Jerusalem, instructed him "to afford protec-
tion to the Jews generally."
Two years later Palmerston wrote to the British Am-
bassador in Istanbul, "It would be of manifest importance for
the Sultan to encourage the Jews to return to and settle in
Palestine, because the wealth which they would bring with
them would increase the resources of the Sultan's dominions;
and the Jewish people, if returning under the sanction and
protection and at the invitation of the Sultan, would be a
check upon any future evil designs of Mohammed Ali or his
successor . . . bring these considerations confidentially
under the notice of the Turkish Government, and strongly
recommend them to hold out every just encouragement to
the Jews of Europe to return to Palestine" The italics are
mine. This was in 18401
In 1909 the American geographer Ellsworth Huntington
wrote that the fellahin of the fertile parts of Palestine "see in
the Jew their greatest enemy/' and in 1912 there was an
The Palestine Issue 117
angry scene in the Ottoman Chamber of Deputies when Arab
members protested at the way Jewish families were grabbing
large tracts of land from absentee landlords.
But it was toward the end of World War I that the most
shattering blow against the Arab world took place. On
November 2, 1917, the British government issued the Balfour
Declaration, in which they stated that they viewed with
favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for
the Jews. It was a vaguely worded document. The second
paragraph read, "It being clearly understood that nothing
should be done which may prejudice the civil and religious
rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine."
Whatever the British might have meant by this, the Zionists
had already made up their minds. Dr. Weizmann stated their
thoughts bluntly"to make Palestine as Jewish as England is
English." The Balfour Declaration was an iniquitous docu-
ment and to my mind the root cause of almost all the bitter-
ness and frustration in our Arab world today.
The immediate reaction was so serious, and the Zionists
were so active, that in 1919 President Wilson sent a study
group, called the King Crane Commission, to the Fertile Cres-
cent. Their object was to test the reaction of the local
people to the mandate proposed by Britain, and though
according to one writer they "began their study of Zionism
with minds predisposed in its favor," when it came to writing
a report for President Wilson, facts caused them to change
their opinions considerably. They advocated a serious modifi-
cation of the extreme Zionist program. They reported that in
conferences with Zionists it became apparent that they
planned completely to dispossess the non- Jewish population of
118 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Palestine by various means. They found the entire non- Jewish
population of Palestine deeply against the Zionist program.
Seventy-two per cent of the petitions received by the Com-
mission in Syria were against the Zionist program. Every
British officer they interviewed insisted that the Zionist
program could never be carried out without force of arms.
The King Crane report was one of the most important
documents ever compiled on the Palestine issue. But what
happened to it? The United States government quietly
pigeonholed it. It was too frank, and was only published un-
officially after Wilson had ceased to be President (when
nobody could be blamed for its frankness).
As the Zionists started to take advantage of the Balfour
Declaration and more and more Jews entered Palestine, my
grandfather, then Emir of the newly created Trans Jordan,
became increasingly worried. Palestine and Trans Jordan
were both by then under British mandate, but as my grand-
father pointed out in his memoirs, they were hardly con-
sidered as separate countries. Transjordan being to the east
of the River Jordan, it formed, in a sense, the interior of
Palestine. It produced cattle, cereals and other crops, while
Palestine managed commercial transactions with the outside
world through its ports on the Mediterranean.
They were peaceful, well-ordered countries, working
happily together, until Jewish immigration started building
up. But as thousands of Jews arrived in Palestine, disrupting
life, the Arabs in Palestine from time to time rose against
them. The British, not really knowing what they were trying
to do, found themselves fighting the Jews on one hand and
the Arabs on the other.
The Palestine Issue 119
4 In 1931, the League of Nations sent a committee to investi-
gate, and my grandfather wrote to the High Commissioner
bluntly that the incidents and fighting "have put an end to
every hope of friendship between the newly arrived Jews and
the Arabs in Palestine, which has for thirteen centuries been
inhabited by the Arabs." Again and again in 1933, 1934 and
1935, my grandfather warned the British that the continued
Jewish immigration would have disastrous results, and de-
manded a new and just policy for Palestine. In 1936, just
before Britain sent the Peel Commission to Palestine, King
Ibn Saud, King Ghazi of Iraq and the Emir Abdullah of
Transjordan issued (on October 9) a proclamation urging the
Arabs in Palestine to stop violence, and "rely on the bona
fides of our friends the British Government and their wish to
How vain were their hopes for justice! The Peel Commis-
sion declared in favor of partition. There were demonstra-
tions in Amman and other towns in Transjordan. Fighting
against the Jews in Palestine increased.
My grandfather still hoped in his heart that some solution
could be found whereby the Arab and Jewish struggle for
existence would not end in disaster. He alone, of all the Arab
statesmen of the thirties, realized that unless a solution was
found, the situation would inevitably get worse for the Arabs.
He realized that once partition became a fait accompli, the
disaster would continue for a long time.
He therefore suggested to the British government the
establishment of a state comprising both Transjordan and
Palestine. The main points of his memorandum to the British
were: (a) the Jews in such a Union should be given local
120 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
autonomy in certain areas; (b) they should have full admini-
strative powers in these areas; (c) they should be represented
in Parliament on a pro rata basis, and the state should have
Jewish ministers; (d) Jewish immigration should be restricted
to a reasonable number.
For this plan he was bitterly attacked by other Arab states,
but as he wrote on June 5, 1938, in reply to one critic: "The
number of Jews in 1921 did not exceed one hundred thou-
sand. There are now nearly half a million. They own the most
fertile lands and have infiltrated everywhere. Zionism is built
on three pillars the Balfour Declaration, the European na-
tions trying to get rid of the Jews, and Arab extremists who
will not accept any solution but only weep and wail while
they appeal to those who will never help them.
"I am informed that the Jews have demanded the continua-
tion of the British mandate so they can buy more lands and
bring in more immigrants. Palestine is falling into the hands
of other people. The only remedy is to act quickly, stop the
danger, limit the attacks, and think later how we can remove
these threats completely. Procrastination will kill Palestine.
"I believe complaints are of no avail. I believe that by
uniting Palestine and Transjordan, I could put an end to the
catastrophe. We would be able to run the administration
capably; we would have an army to defend ourselves; we
would close our doors to illegal immigration. I would like to
know whether you have a more efficient solution than I have
been able to foresee/'
Nobody had. But nobody would listen to the advice of the
only man who did foresee die perils that lay ahead.
In January, 1939, the leading Arab leaders attended a con-
ference in London to discuss the Palestine issue. Within a
The Palestine Issue 121
few months Britain issued its White Paper stating that an
independent state of Palestine was to be established after a
period of ten years.
When he read this White Paper, my grandfather wrote to
Britain, "If there is any value for the Islamic East from Burma
to Tangier, then it is the obligation of Mr. Attlee and Mr.
Bevin to correct the situation."
As this unhappy and sordid story drifted toward its bitter
conclusion, the kings and presidents of the states in the Arab
League met at Anshass in Egypt in 1946. Here a vital
principle was declared, that "The Palestine question is the
problem of all Arabs and not Palestinian Arabs alone." From
this moment onward the Palestine issue was one that would
be shared by Arabs the world over. Yet this significant warn-
ing went unheeded. Within a year, Britain gave up the
struggle and decided to terminate its mandate.
Immediately the United Nations sent a Special Committee
on Palestine to investigate partition. Its report was sub-
mitted in August. It was far from unanimous. Seven members
recommended partition, three supported my grandfather's
plan for a Federal Union with Jewish and Arab cantons; one
member voted against making any recommendations at all.
It is significant to notice what happened after this. The U.N.
appointed an ad hoc committee to study the report. This
committee rejected by twenty-five votes to nineteen, with
eleven abstentions, an Arab proposal that the Balfour Decla-
ration should be submitted to the International Court of
Justice. Thus, more than half the committee refused to vote
against this vital Arab resolution.
Worse was to follow. When the committee finally voted on
whether to adopt the Special Committee's report in favor of
partition, the proposal was adopted by twenty-five votes to
thirteen, with seventeen abstentions. So out of a committee
122 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
of fifty-five members, only twenty-five voted for the proposal!
It was a moment of disaster for relations between the West
and the Arabs. How right was Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan,
Foreign Minister of Pakistan, when he warned the free world,
"Remember that you may need friends tomorrow, that you
may need allies in the Middle East. I beg of you not to ruin
your credit in those lands/'
While awaiting the General Assembly vote in November,
the Zionists lobbied furiously for supporters. They have ac-
knowledged publicly the aid given to them by President
Truman (who possibly had an eye on the Jewish vote). They
succeeded in winning the Soviet bloc votes. On November
28, the General Assembly voted in favor of partition by
thirty-three votes to thirteen, with ten abstentions.
It was the end of all hope. Sir Muhammad Zafrullah Khan,
in a post-vote statement, summed up what many members of
the U.N. felt: "In the words of the greatest American, 'We
have striven to do the right as God gives us to see the right/
We did succeed in persuading a sufficient number of our
fellow representatives to see the right as we saw it, but they
were not permitted to stand by the right as they saw it. We
entertain no sense of grievance against those of our friends
and fellow representatives who have been compelled under
heavy pressure to change sides and to cast their votes in
support of a proposal, the justice and fairness of which do
not commend themselves to them. Our feeling for them is
one of sympathy that they should have been placed in a
position of such embarrassment between their judgment
and conscience on the one side, and the pressure to which
they and their governments were being subjected on the
The Palestine Issue 123
x Now the die was cast. On May 14, 1948, the British Man-
date ended, and the State of Israel was proclaimed. President
Truman and Soviet Russia immediately recognized the new
state. On May 15 the date the last British troops left Pales-
tinethe Arab states sent their troops into the country to
restore order and protect the Arab population, already under
The Arab states at the last moment nominated my grand-
father as Commander of all Arab forces. Unfortunately, this
was a nomination only, as he soon discovered. He was never
given proper authority to control the troops of other Arab
states. In some cases, he was even refused permission to visit
I remember a friend of my grandfather's telling me that he
saw him on the day war started. The King said: "I am going
to lead my troops into battle myself. I will fight as bravely
as I hope I fought for the ideals of the Arab Revolt." Then
he was silent. The past, and all his vain efforts for peace,
must have passed through his mind, for he added sadly, "I
shall fight to the end, but how I wish I may die on the field
of battle with a bullet in my head."
He was, happily, saved for further great service to the
Arab cause, for it was during the final stages of this war that
my grandfather showed more than ever before his strength
and wisdom. As the Jews, flushed with victory against the
unprepared poorly co-ordinated Arab effort, turned here and
there to grab what land they could, hundreds of thousands
of refugees, brutally uprooted from their homes, fled in every
direction. Many went to Gaza, some struck north to Syria,
but most looked to the east, and hundreds of thousands of
bitter, disillusioned, hungry and tired refugees crossed the
frontiers into the lands of my grandfather.
A man who was never afraid he once came out of the
124 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Palace and personally dispersed a demonstration! my grand-
father visited every refugee camp. His stocky, tough, bearded
figure, handsomely dressed, was known to every refugee who
came to him for succor; his was the banner to which they
Just as the fighting was ending, over two thousand Pales-
tinians held a great meeting in Jericho and decided to unite
the rump of Palestine and Jordan under King Abdullah. This
was perhaps my grandfather's greatest triumph of humanity.
While the other Arab leaders sat waiting, watching, hoping,
blaming each other, my grandfather acted. A man of great
foresight, blended with realism, and a true Arab nationalist,
he formally agreed to incorporate into Jordan that part of
Palestine which Jordanian troops of the Legion had saved for
the Arabs. It was a stretch of country leading up to the West
Bank of the River Jordan, until then the frontier of Jordan.
My grandfather gave nearly one million Palestinians, many
of them refugees and destitute, full citizenship. This is how
the West Bank of Jordan came into being, an important part
of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It is important to re-
member that by this move my grandfather without doubt
saved this large area of Palestine from becoming part of
Israel. Remember too that in 1948 Jordan had an army of
The King held elections on both sides of the river and
enlarged the Chamber of Deputies so that Palestinians were
properly and equally represented. In a matter of months,
Jordan changed not only in size but in character. Nearly one
million Palestinians had been added to the original 400,000
Jordanians. Amman in three years swelled from 30,000 in
1949 to about 200,000 people.
But despite the wise and far-seeing offer of citizenship a
The Palestine Issue 125
gesture no other Arab country offered to its helpless brethren
there remained, and still remain today, a million refugees,
over half of whom are in Jordan.
Today (according to the official census of refugees in July,
1961) there are 590,822 refugees in Jordan registered with
UNRWA (United Nations Relief Works Agency), of whom
416,113 are drawing rations and 224,453 living in camps.
Another 182,000 live in frontier villages; 15,988 of them are
drawing half rations. UNRWA now has forty-seven food
centers in Jordan, one hundred seventy-four milk centers,
one hundred seventy-one schools. UNRWA and the Jorda-
nian government run two hospitals for refugees, thirty medical
clinics, three mobile clinics and twenty-one clinics admin-
istered by volunteer physicians.
We pride ourselves that the refugees are better cared for
in Jordan than anywhere else in the Arab world, and one
thing we always seek to give themtheir human dignity. Our
approach to the refugee problem has been simple. If we are
to keep their spirits alive and not allow them to wither, since
we must try our utmost to uphold their pride and their reason
for living, they must be treated as human beings, not merely
be left in camps just to survive. It is possible to be alive and
dead at the same time, and this we cannot allow to happen.
Because of our different approach to the refugee problem, we
have been consistently attacked by some other Arab states.
They even accuse us of trying to solve the Palestine problem
by settling Palestinians and giving them a chance to live so
that they forget their cause and lost homeland.
But what we are doing for the refugees is no real solution.
It is at best a palliative. While the refugee problem is mainly
126 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
the most obvious result of some Western powers' abandoned
principles, it is a result only, and I do not believe that a policy
directed solely toward solving the refugee problem will
necessarily achieve a real solution to the original problem
that of ousting the inhabitants of a country which for two
thousand years has been Arab.
There can be no solution to this problem unless all the
parties concerned genuinely desire a solution. There must
exist a real wish to find a general area of agreement from
which progress toward a just and honorable solution can be
made. Honesty compels me to state that at the present time
it is difficult for me to perceive such an area of agreement.
Without doubt the State of Israel is doing everything to
consolidate its position in a manner as nationalistic as that
by which Hitler drove the Jews from Germany. The Palestine
Arabs, on the other hand, seek the right to return to their
homeland, but Israel's nationalistic ambitions are so passion-
ate that it regards not only any appreciable repatriation of
Arabs as a threat to its internal security but even Arab
presence in the Jewish-occupied part of Palestine as a threat
to the very fabric of its being.
By contrast the Arab world has as its objective a broader
nationalism which, while preserving the integrity of the
various Arab states, looks toward the eventual amalgamation
of them into a larger whole. In fulfilling this aim, we cannot
logically ignore the area formerly know as Palestine, where
an unresolved issue, involving over a million displaced
persons, remains as a living illustration of a grave injustice
and of the Zionist threat in the heart of the Arab world. With
The Palestine Issue 127
such divergent aims, what basic area for agreement can
I realize that some Western nations support the principle
of "repatriation or compensation." But until this principle
(which is at variance with Israel's aims) is completely applied
(the Arabs, not the Israelis having the choice), the refugee
issue, to say nothing of the other aspects of the Palestine
problem, will remain unsolved. Success in solving this prob-
lem depends, in my opinion, on a joint international effort.
We are threatened not only by the physical presence of
Israel itself, but by the effect which Western support of this
presence has had on the attitude of many Arabs and their
leaders toward the major powers of the free world. This diffi-
culty has unquestionably influenced the national policies of
Middle Eastern countries since the end of World War II, and
in some instances it has caused Arab states to establish what
may be unbreakable ties with the very forces the free world
so steadfastly opposes.
We in Jordan have determinedly resisted this course and
shall continue to resist it with all the means at our disposal.
Quite obviously, our continued ability to resist, and with it
our ability to contribute to the over-all struggle, will hinge,
to an important degree, upon the attitude and policies of the
West toward Israel. It must never be forgotten that the
Middle East is one of the most vital spheres of influence in
the cold war today. Napoleon called it "the crossroads of the
world," and he was right.
The Palestine issue cannot be divorced from the greater
fight for freedom that confronts mankind today. If the West
wants stability in the Middle East, if it wants the friendship
of all Arab states as a bulwark against communism, then the
free world must finally take the initiative with a plan for
128 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Palestine soundly rooted in principles of political and
economic justice. And if the struggle for freedom is lost here,
it will be because of our failure in the free world to put those
principles into practice.
Where there is a gap between principle and practice, there
is confusion and insecurity. This provides the crevasses into
which the enemies of freedom are only too ready to drive
their wedges. Our greatest need as a free world is that our
actions be consistent with the principles on which our free-
dom is based.
The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha
"The most important day of my life"
MY DISMISSAL on March 1, 1956, of Sir John Bagot Glubb
or Glubb Pasha, as we always called him after twenty-six
years of service in Jordan was an event of such importance
that I have decided to set down for the first time the full and
exact facts behind my decision.
There are always moments in the battle for existence, per-
haps more so in small countries, when personal feelings must
be stifled, and the impersonal takes command. So it was with
General Glubb. His dismissal created consternation through-
out the world and many were the people who blamed me bit-
terly for such an extreme step. Not only that: many also saw
my action as a calculated slap in the face to the Western
allies and jumped much too quickly to the conclusion that be-
cause I had requested General Glubb to leave my service it
automatically followed that our friendship with the British
had ended and possibly even our alignment with the free
130 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
world. This theory, ardently propounded in the popular West-
ern press, is as farcical as suggesting that if an ambassador
becomes persona non grata, a request for his withdrawal
means antipathy to his government. This is not necessarily
the case and was not so with Glubb.
What most people did not realize is that the dismissal of
General Glubb was a strictly Jordanian affair, since Glubb
was the commander-in-chief of its army, employed by the
Jordan government. My main motive in dismissing him was
because frankly we were in disagreement on two issues: the
role of Arab officers in our Army and strategy in the defense
of our country. Since one of my duties as monarch is to en-
sure the safety of my people and my country, I felt I would
have been failing in this duty had I not sought to replace
What was done had to be done; and I think now, after con-
versations with Glubb Pasha since that day in 1956, that he
probably appreciates and even sympathizes with this point of
He was well aware that behind the many influences which
brought the clash between us to a head lay the ghost of my
grandfather. He was a man from whom I had learned the
fundamental precepts of Arab independence, in which he
played such an outstanding role. He believed, and I believed
with him, that the greatest of its principles is that all Arab
peoples must be masters of their own affairs.
Even if my grandfather's dreams did not all materialize, he
never swerved from this dedication. Neither have I, so that
here was a fundamental issue on which the General and I
were inevitably at loggerheads. It was my express desire to
have more of Jordan's officers in high army posts, to take over
gradually all commands in accordance with a realistic plan
The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha 131
which could be implemented. But this was against the pre-
vailing British policy, and their counterproposals were, to
say the least, ridiculous. (Under the Anglo-Jordanian Treaty,
Jordan received approximately $36 million a year of British
financial aid, and Britain supplied officers to "train" the Arab
Legion. In effect, they virtually ran it.)
As the servant of Jordan, I always endeavored to give Jor-
danian citizens increasing responsibilities. Even more so, I
wanted to give them the confidence in themselves which was
their right. I wanted to give them pride in their country, to
get them to believe in it and its future, and in its role and
duty toward the greater Arab homeland. Obviously one way
was to gain for them an increasingly bigger voice in the
country's affairs, including particularly the Army. Glubb, on
the other hand, despite his love for Jordan and his loyalty to
my country, was essentially an outsider, and his attitude did
not fit at all into the picture I visualized. Yet, since the Arab
Legion was the single strongest element in Jordan, he was,
paradoxically, one of the most powerful single forces in our
country. Consequently, to be blunt about it, he was serving
as my commander-in-chief yet could not relinquish his loy-
alty to Britain.
Throughout the Army this led to a fantastic situation in
which the British dominated our military affairs to a great
degree. Around me I saw junior Arab officers who would ob-
viously never become leaders. Some of them were men lack-
ing in ability and force, men prepared to bow to Whitehall's
commands (transmitted by senior British officers), men who
had no spark, men without initiative and who could be
trusted not to cause any problems. These were "officer
Those with nationalist aspirations, who hoped for a Jor-
132 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
daman Arab Legion, never had an opportunity for promo-
tion, and when they did they were assigned to unimportant
positions with no promise of advancement. It was bitterly
frustrating to young men. Time after time I demanded that
the British should prepare more Jordanian officers and train
them for the higher echelons of the armed forces. Time after
time my requests were ignored. The highest active post a
man could hold was regimental commander.
It did seem to me that, after months of patient negotiation,
I had won one small battle, when the British authorities fi-
nally agreed to submit a plan of Arabization which "in due
course*' would give more opportunities to Jordanian officers.
Here was a victory! At least I thought so. Imagine the ex-
citement when I told my Cabinet. All that remained was to
discover what "in due course" meant. But my elation was
short-lived when I was gravely informed that the Royal Engi-
neers of the Arab Legion would have an Arab commander
by 1985! Was it possible that any outside government could
be so unrealistic? It was because the British government at
that time was incapable of realizing that one cannot brush
aside a nation's aspirations and say, "We will talk about it in
I am the first to admit that it was probably not Glubb's
fault, and that he was presumably mainly taking his orders
from Whitehall. Indeed, on many occasions he tried very
hard to help us.
But our overriding problem remained unaltered somehow
we had to give our own men a chance, especially in a country
like Jordan where the Army is not only an instrument for
defense against foreign incursions but is a part of everything
The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha 133
Jordanian. To Jordanians, with their martial history, it is and
has always been an honor and a privilege to be a soldier. No
man in the Arab world held his head higher than did the
troops of the Arab Legion. But for the officers it was very dif-
ferent, for they saw in a profession to which they were de-
voted no hope of rightful progress.
This, however, was not all. There were far more personal
problems. Glubb, who was now only a month away from
sixty, had been with us so long, it was hard to imagine what
life in Jordan without him might have been. He had been a
part of the Arab world since 1920 when, at twenty-three, he
served in Iraq. He first came to Transjordan (as it then was)
in 1930 to command the Desert Force and had been in com-
mand of the Al Jeish al Arabi to give the Legion its Arabic
namesince 1939. The Bedouin nicknamed him Abu Hunaik
("Father of the Little Chin") because of a disfigurement of
his jaw. His cherubic face beneath its silver hair and his brisk
figure jumping in and out of his Land-Rover were as much
a part of the landscape as the great Mosque of Amman. Poli-
ticians held sway and slid into oblivion. Ambassadors came
and departed. But Glubb went on forever efficient, ener-
getic, good-mannered, unchanging. But one thing had
changed. The times.
Twenty-six years is more than a third of man's allotted
span, and in this period General Glubb had been largely iso-
lated from the outside world. To be quite frank, it was my
impression that he smacked too much of the Victorian era.
He has said that I was young and impetuous, while main-
taining that he himself was older and more cautious. That is
true. But Jordan is a young and impetuous country, and we
were, and still are, in more of a hurry than Glubb was to
achieve our national aims. And because of this very vitality,
134 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
the last thing I wanted was a cautious army. Although a fine
soldier, Glubb at fifty-nine was old-fashioned in many ways.
I disagreed, as he well knew, with many of the strategic plans
he drew up for the defense of the country, above all his mili-
tary line of defense against Israel. This was the second facet
of our disagreement.
One must always remember that Jordan has a longer fron-
tier with Israel than any Arab state nearly four hundred
miles out of six hundred seventy. In 1948, when Israel was
created, the Arab world received a severe check to its aims.
Its troops were humiliated, largely because many were un-
trained and many were poorly armed, and because there was
little proper co-ordination and planning of the Arab effort.
Jordan, in fact, was the only country that did well. Though
the Arab Legion consisted of less than 4,500 troops, it man-
aged to told on to the greater part of the Arab Palestine.
It achieved the impossible in keeping for the Arab world a
large section of Jerusalem, and saved the holy places of all
The reaction by the rest of the Arab world to our role in
Jie war was astonishing. Instead of thanking us, most of
those leaders who in fact were responsible for the Arab de-
feat immediately turned on Jordan. Activated by jealousy
and the need for a scapegoat, they twisted the truth unbe-
Ijevably and let loose a barrage of propaganda blaming us
for losing the war! In the lead was Egypt.
They seized especially on the fact that the Arab Legion
was commanded by Glubb. It was very convenient for those
Arab states which had done almost no fighting. However, we
had learned our lesson in the war and we in Jordan deter-
The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha 135
mined that never again would we allow the Jews to take the
initiative against us.
If war came, I argued, we should plan to start our defense
right on our four-hundred-mile frontier with Israel and ac-
cept death with honor if we could not hold it I realized it
would be suicidal to spread our Army over the entire front
and fight any war on a purely defensive pattern. We could
never hold such a long frontier with such a small force. So
we began to train some of the civilian population. At first we
named this force "Front Guards," then "National Guards."
Their major task was to defend the area in depth, giving the
more professionally trained and better-equipped Arab Le-
gion the opportunity to attack selected points in Israel if
we were attacked. A start was made with the "National
Guard" idea, now a force more than twice the size of the
armed forces, and similarly equipped, but it was not enough*
To my way of thinking, a purely defensive strategy invited
disaster. If the enemy knew that we would hit them as hard
as they hit us, where it hurt them most, it would make them
think twice before attacking.
I also felt strongly that we should answer with force the
Israeli commando attacks against Arab villages. On several
occasions the Israelis crept across the frontier, burned houses
or even villages, killing defenseless Arabs, then returned to
Israel. I argued that every time such an outrage occurred we
should select a target on the other side and do the same to
them. It would soon have stopped the Israelis. As it was, we
accepted these outrages meekly; the people were helples&
The U.N. condemned the Israelis, but that did not stop them.
Our soldiers were ridiculed, a great gulf grew between the
Army and the people.
In vain I pointed all this out to Glubb. To all my pleas he
136 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
advised cautious patience. He advocated at first a withdrawal
that, in the event of attack, would end up on the East Bank,
pending the arrival of reinforcements before we could de-
velop a counterattack. This meant Jewish occupation of the
Palestinian territory Jordan occupied. It meant going back to
the original frontier. It was unthinkable, and though in the
end, as military capabilities improved, a line of defense was
drawn in the West Bank area, nearer Israel than Glubb had
previously planned, it still meant losing a lot of territory be-
fore a battle even started.
Glubb, knowing that a million Arabs had already been
thrown out of their homeland by Israel, apparently could not
realize that if Israel ever set foot on Jordanian soil, espe-
cially on the rich West Bank, we Jordanians might never be
able to tread that soil again.
I argued with Glubb on this principle of defense. There
were other arguments when I learned that we were short of
ammunition. I realized he had some justification for his the-
ory. But this was not a matter of theory; this was the margin
that separates the honor and the shame of a nation.
When the United Nations armistice first came into opera-
tion in 1948, an essential condition was that no side should
increase its power to wage war. Britain, which was under
treaty obligation to supply Jordan with arms, discontinued all
supplies. Israel received all the arms it needed; the embargo
made no difference, and some considerable supplies came to
her from the Communist camp.
"Why can't we get some mare supplies of ammunition?" I
asked Glubb. But behind his replies I knew there lay a whole
sequence of tragic events. I knew Glubb had ordered ammu-
The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha 137
nition, and that at one stage in 1948 a fully laden ship had
left for our shores only to be turned back by the British and
the United Nations. I realized perfectly well that Glubb had
urged Britain to send us more ammunition. (In his book A
Soldier with the Arabs he mentions on page 213, "The British
refused to give us ammunition but they agreed to send
We continued to try desperately to get sufficient reserves
of ammunition, without success. Ammunition had to come
from Britain, since we used British arms and Britain insisted
on implementing what was known as the balance of power-
all the vast Arab world on one side and Israel on the other.
The Israelis continued to receive shiploads of ammunition
from France and other sources, which made Jordan's position
ridiculous and made the so-called balance of power even
Since Britain did not supply us sufficiently, I could not
honestly blame Glubb for his unwillingness to commit the
Army to battle plans, because for such plans our ammunition
depots were virtually empty. In that sense, Glubb was per-
fectly right in suggesting that we could not defend our fron-
tiers. Thus, though it was not really Glubb's fault, his very
presence in our country was without doubt an important fac-
tor in the trouble. We were in the hands of foreigners. If
Glubb could not stock our ammunition depots, then, as a
good general, he was in no position to advise me to fight an
honorable battle. Yet, look what has happened since Glubb
left. Today our armed forces have grown tremendously; our
ammunition depots are full, and the strength of the Jordan
Arab Army has stemmed from that one primary military
axiom give a soldier the right arms.
I also tried to build for Jordan its own Air Force. What
good was an army against a powerful air-minded foe like
138 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Israel when we were at the mercy of another country for air
support? The situation was absurd.
This state of affairs, which he was powerless to rectify,
naturally led Glubb to encourage his officers, Arab or British,
to accept the view that we must yield territory in the case of
attack. On more than one occasion Glubb, in his lectures to
officers, asserted that since Israel was stronger than the
Arabs, our determination to fight on the frontier was unwise.
I remember being extremely angered when he publicly ad-
vocated his West Bank theories.
All these problems came gradually to a head. I was deter-
mined to build up strong, well-balanced armed forces, in-
cluding an Air Force, and since this was not possible with
Glubb, our self-respect demanded that we fight our battles
One thing led to another. With communism filtering into
the Middle East and Cairo branding Jordan an "imperialist
power/' there was no alternative. Glubb had to go. Let it not
be thought that I dismissed an old and trusted friend in a fit
of emotional pique. Glubb Pasha is a great man and knows
as well as I that this is far from the truth. At the same time
I must admit I had disagreed with his strategy. This being so,
there was no other course but to carry out my decision. It was
a surgical operation which had to be done brutally. I knew
I was right; indeed, I would say that if Glubb had been in
command of the Army a year longer, it would have been the
end of Jordan. The country would have been carved up
among the other Arab states seeking aggrandizement.
On many occasions it has been suggested that the dismissal
of Glubb Pasha was a sudden decision, One story even sug-
The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha 139
gests that I acted in a moment of anger after reading a
story in an English magazine describing him as "the real
ruler of Jordan."
What nonsense! The Foreign Office in London knew
months in advance of the differences between Glubb and
myself. Less than a year before Glubb was dismissed, I vis-
ited London. I personally held discussions with the Foreign
Office over the subject. I warned British officials frankly that
Jordanians had to be given more opportunities in the Legion.
I was fobbed off with promises that the matter would be
considered, but nothing was ever done.
To suggest, therefore, that this was a sudden decision is a
travesty of the truth. I thought long and seriously before I
took such an important step. I knew that our Army was so
weak that Israel could have overrun us. Other Arab states
would hold us responsible for this weakness. I wanted to re-
main friends with the Britishnothing was further from my
thoughts than to terminate that friendship but it was essen-
tial to prove our country independent, free to speak its mind,
and free to act without outside influence or dictation. We
had to build up our power to defend our homeland; we had
to preserve our dignity.
I was also not content with a situation where my com-
manding officer could dabble in politics. Glubb did not de-
liberately interfere in Jordanian politics, but he had been
with us so long and wielded such power that he was inca-
pable of divorcing himself from politics. Glubb operated
from a position of such strength that our political leaders
tended to turn to him or to the British Embassy before mak-
ing the slightest decisions.
A classic example of this occurred when the Soviet Union,
wishing to establish diplomatic relations with Jordan, ap-
140 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
proached our charg6 d'affaires in Cairo and requested him
to transmit a message to me. This message reached Jordan
through diplomatic channels to the Prime Minister. When
he received it, the Prime Minister did not consult me but
took the message, without informing me, to the British Em-
This was just the sort of thing I fought. I wanted Jordan's
leaders to stand on their own feet even if they made mistakes.
Events are often determined in a curious fashion. Although
I felt Glubb must go, I had not yet fixed the exact time. Then
two events occurred. I had for some time felt that our secu-
rity forces (which included police) should cease to come
under Army control (which meant Glubb). How could a po-
lice force and an army be run by the same man? Was it even
right? Two days before Glubb's dismissal, I tried to arrange
the matter with the Prime Minister.
"I feel our security forces should come under the Ministry
of the Interior," I told him. He predicted serious repercus-
sions. But what I proposed was our concern only. It had noth-
ing to do with the British. It was an internal affair.
I was really very angry, but I decided to sleep on it that
night. The next day the night before Glubb's dismissal-
something else occurred. I was presented with a list of offi-
cers about to be dismissed. Their only fault, as far as I could
determine, was that they were nationalists and ambitious.
How could they be anything else?
Though Glubb was the commander-in-chief , I myself had
to sign the papers. I refused to sign the document. I threw
the list on the table in my office and told the Prime Minister:
"Tell Glubb Pasha I refuse to sign this."
I remained obdurate, for what really made me angry was
The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha 141
the realization that even my own ministers, however loyal,
felt helpless to act within their rights.
No sooner had I made this decision than the Prime Min-
ister's final reply to my request regarding the security forces
arrived. It was not possible at the time, he said, to arrange
the division I had suggested.
As I received the reply, my Chief of Diwan, Bahjat al Tal-
houni, happened to be in the office. I was quiet for a moment
and then, in a burst of rage, I threw the papers I was work-
ing on all over the floor and stalked out of the room. Poor
Talhouni! I left him for several hours that night wondering
what he had done to annoy me.
That night I decided Glubb Pasha would have to go im-
mediately. I have told General Glubb since then that the
last thing I desired was to hurt his feelings, nor was it a
pleasant task to dismiss a man who had served our country
so faithfully for twenty-six years. I pondered the possibility
of allowing him to "resign" gracefully with perhaps a little
extended leave before the resignation took eflFect, but I knew
that the matter could not be handled this way. I did not be-
lieve I could allow any commander-in-chief of my Army,
particularly at a time when we were gravely threatened by
Israel, to "work out his notice." Such a course would have
been ridiculous even with a Jordanian. How much more dan-
gerous when the commander-in-chief was an outsider. No.
Though I knew General Glubb would be upset at the brusque-
ness and suddenness with which this painful episode took
place, it had to be done the way I did it.
At 10 A.M. on Thursday, March 1, 1956, I drove with my
Chief of Diwan through Amman to the Prime Minister's of-
142 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
fice. I was in uniform and, as usual, I was preceded and fol-
lowed by Land-Rovers containing my escort of armed sol-
diers. On the way I told Talhouni for the first time what I
proposed to do. And I remember adding:
"This is one of the most important days of my life. I don't
know what its end will be, but one can only live once and
only with honor."
We arrived at the Premier's office, and, as I stepped
through the doors of the white building, I knew that this was
something I must handle myself. My Prime Minister was a
good man, a loyal friend, one who had served Jordan in many
a difficult time, but I could not waste time in arguments.
I had written out the necessary orders myself that very
morning after breakfast, so when I faced the Prime Minis-
ter, I put the piece of paper firmly on his desk. (I did not
throw it, as Glubb Pasha said in an article.) Those few lines
ordered the immediate dismissal of Glubb Pasha.
"These are my wishes," I told him. "I want them executed
The Prime Minister was a trifle stunned, but understood
quickly that things had gone so far that there could be no
backing down. I then told the members of the Cabinet: "I
believe what I am doing is for the good of our country. I
want all of you to be very careful for the next few days.
Keep in touch with my Chief of Diwan if there is any cause
for worry. I am certain this is the right thing to do, but
there are bound to be repercussions. I am ready to take what
comes." I then left my Chief of Diwan at the Prime Minis*
ter's office to see that everything was carried out.
I know that Glubb was distressed not only by the sudden
The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha 143
decision itself-it was, of course, more sudden to him than it
was to me-but by the speed with which he was requested to
leave the country. For when the Prime Minister saw him at
two o'clock that afternoon, he suggested that Glubb should
leave at four. I sympathize with Glubb's firm retort: "No
sir, I have lived here for twenty-six years and I cannot leave
on two hours' notice."
I too would have felt angered and, in fact, Glubb did not
leave until the following morning. I would like to point out
that, though he was dismissed, he was dismissed with full
honors. He was driven to the airport in my own royal car.
My Defense Minister represented the Cabinet and my Chief
of Diwan represented me. They both bade him good-by.
But one thing is certain. The speed with which he left was
a matter of vital importance. I knew only too well the pres-
sures that would be brought to bear against me. I knew that
should Glubb Pasha remain in the country for another week,
the pressure would be too great. I was still very young only
twenty-one and it was no small thing for me to pit my
weight against the whole of Britain. I certainly felt that I
would be in a much stronger position to argue with White-
hall if Glubb were out of the country, so once the decision
had been taken it had to be implemented quickly.
I was right. All that night, while Glubb and his wife were
packing, I faced an unremitting barrage from the British to
make me change my mind. When the news broke in Eng-
land it shocked Whitehall as much as it had stunned my
Prime Minister. Cables piled up on my desk beseeching me
to revoke my decision. Sir Anthony Eden cabled me person-
ally asking me to change my mind. Mr. Charles Duke (now
Sir Charles Duke), the British Ambassador, requested an au-
dience in the afternoon. He was deeply distressed and asked
144 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
me to see if there was no way in which he could report back
to the Foreign Office that I might change my resolve.
Late into the night I worked with my advisers, planning
new appointmentsone cannot leave an army running with-
out new blood to replace the old. I also had to watch care-
fully for any repercussions. So it was nearly midnight before
I retired. At one o'clock in the morning the British Am-
bassador telephoned my Chief of Diwan and requested
an audience. He was told that I had retired and that I was
not to be disturbed unless the matter was of great impor-
The Ambassador insisted, so I hurriedly put on a few
clothes including a sports shirt instead of the more formal
collar and tie. I came down to the small study in the Basman
It was a tense meeting. The Ambassador, whom I liked
very much, was visibly moved. I had been tired out when I
went to bed, but now, wondering what was to come, I was
wide awake and alert.
At first he did not know how to start and there was little
I could do to help him. He sighed heavily and then said:
"You must be aware, sir" and I think these were his exact
words "that the step you have taken has caused a tremen-
dous uproar in London."
He sat there obviously overcome with emotion. He had in
his hand a message from London.
"I must advise you, sir, that Her Majesty's Government
feels that unless you change your decision immediately on
this matter, unless Glubb Pasha is permitted to continue his
work here and we are given a chance to clear this whole mat-
The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha 145
ter up, the consequences, Your Majesty, could be very serious
as far as you yourself, the monarchy"-he hesitated "and the
whole future of Jordan is concerned."
These were strong words, with implications I well under-
stood. They made me a little angry, not because I was afraid,
but because it indicated that already world opinion was dis-
torting the dismissal of Glubb Pasha purely a Jordanian af-
fairinto something far more serious.
I told the Ambassador, "I know my country, and I know
my responsibilities. I am going to carry out what I believe
to be right in the best way I can."
He did not respond, and then I added:
"I believe, Mr. Duke, that what I have done is for the good
of my country and I am not going to alter my decision, re-
gardless of any consequences. I would rather lose my life
than change my mind. The monarchy belongs to the people;
I belong to this country; I know that I am doing this for the
best, come what may."
There was nothing the Ambassador could say. He left,
presumably anxious to get in touch with London via the
radio link from the British Embassy. I returned to bed. At
three o'clock the Ambassador returned and asked for another
audience. I suppose by then he had received a further com-
munication from London, but my Chief of Diwan told him
it was impossible to see me.
"But I must see the King at once!" insisted Mr. Duke.
"His Majesty is resting and won't be disturbed," explained
my Chief of Diwan.
"But this is very important!"
Talhouni's English is not of the best, but he was a little
irritated. Searching for the right words, he tried valiantly to
remember the idiom "So what!"
146 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Instead he came out with a classic substitute, one which
must have puzzled the Ambassador:
"And if?" he retorted.
The Ambassador took the hint!
I was under no illusions but that in dismissing Glubb I was
playing with fire, but even so I retained the hope that the
Western world would try to put the matter into perspective.
I was appalled at the wrong interpretation Britain put upon
my action. I could understand how dramatic the news must
have looked on the breakfast tables of so many homes that
morning, but I was bitterly upset that officially Britain did
not understand that the dismissal of Glubb had no bearing
on my admiration for his country. Nothing could make
this admiration of mine more clear than my directive to my
Prime Minister on March 6, and I hope the text (which was
never originally intended to be published) will clear up the
misconception that aroseand arose, I may say, through no
fault of mine. This directive read:
You are no doubt aware that our action in depriving General
Glubb of his post was due to loss of confidence in his judg-
ment and the fact that his presence had become a troublesome
factor in our country.
But at no time did it occur to us that this matter should lead
to any change in the relations between Jordan and Her Britan-
nic Majesty's Government, which are governed by treaty, or
that the traditional friendship between our two countries
should be affected.
With regard to British officers serving in the Arab Legion,
kindly note that Jordan will honour her obligations towards
them according to their contracts and to the treaty.
The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha 147
After proper consideration it is our aim that these officers
should continue to serve in the Legion, to raise its standard to
the level we hope for.
With reference to rumours that we intend to replace the
British subsidy by an Arab subsidy, your Excellency is no doubt
aware of the existence of a treaty with Great Britain which con-
fers certain benefits on both parties.
Payment of an Arab subsidy, assuming it were to be made,
does not in any way annul the effectiveness of the Anglo- Jor-
Nonetheless, Jordan welcomes every form of Arab assistance
of a kind she can use to improve her position along the armi-
stice lines where she faces a perfidious enemy and to fill in gaps
in her military defence system following the recent transfer of
command into Arab hands.
In view of the above I trust your Excellency will do the ut-
most to emphasise and expound these facts in the interests of
In spite of this announcement, indignation in Britain now
seemed to swell into near hysteria. It was certainly in no way
allayed by Sir Anthony Eden's statement in the House of
Commons in which the Prime Minister said:
The House will have heard with resentment and regret of
the summary dismissal of General Glubb and two other senior
British Officers of the Arab Legion. The lifetime of devoted
service which General Glubb has given to the Hashemite King-
dom of Jordan should have received more generous treatment.
It is right to tell the House that the King of Jordan and the
Jordan Prime Minister have told Her Majesty's Ambassador that
they do not want any change to take place in Anglo-Jordanian
relations, and that they stand by the Anglo- Jordan treaty.
148 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
I appreciated the public statement in the second para-
graph, but why, then, should Sir Anthony disparage my
promise by adding:
Her Majesty's Government have given due weight to the
Jordan Government's statement regarding the officers. They feel
that in view of the treatment meted out to the British officers
who have been dismissed, it would be wrong for British officers
in the Arab Legion to be left in an uncertain position. In our
opinion officers in executive commands cannot be asked to con-
tinue in positions of responsibility without authority. We have,
therefore, asked that such officers should be relieved of their
And since the Prime Minister admitted that the dismis-
sal of Glubb was a strictly Jordanian affair, I was per-
turbed when he added, when discussing the Anglo- Jordanian
It is clear from the treaty that its whole spirit is based on the
need for consultation to ensure mutual defence, and in this
sense General Glubb's dismissal is, in view of the Government,
against the spirit of that treaty.
I had hoped for a little more understanding; so much so
that I decided to write a long personal letter to Eden, in
which I explained in great detail that our disagreement with
General Glubb was essentially of a personal nature. I em-
phasized to Sir Anthony that the dismissal of General Glubb
had absolutely nothing to do with the relations between our
two countries, and that if the British took his removal as an
insult to their country, they misunderstood my motives. The
The Dismissal of Glubb Pasha 149
fact that Glubb Pasha had gone and I was careful to ex-
plain this to Eden-had no bearing on the fact that I hoped
British officers would remain in the Arab Legion.
I am sometimes tempted to wonder if some governments
really understand the countries about which they talk so
glibly. While back-benchers in Whitehall were up in arms
and newspapers in Fleet Street were screaming abuse, what
was the truth? One has only to turn to the columns of The
Times during that week. In this British newspaper, its special
correspondent in Amman, a very acute observer, wrote in
Amman is still en fete in celebration of General Glubb's de-
parture and it must be recorded that the pleasure seems to be
both universal and genuine. Young Arab Legion officers claim
to believe that it will take politics out of the army on the
grounds that General Glubb refused promotion to officers not
sympathetic to Western policies.
There are even a few who think it will help rather than
hinder good relations with Britain (and many who are con-
vinced that if Britain had voluntarily withdrawn her officers
long ago, perhaps incorporating them in a military mission,
such an unhappy event would never have occurred).
Western reactions to the dismissal have been read with sur-
prise here. It seems strange that people should be so taken
aback at the fact of General Glubb's removal, however affronted
they may be by its manner. His position here, for all the years
of his devoted service to the State, was an undoubted anach-
ronism. The whole trend of Arab policy for years has been
towards the removal of such symbols of Western influence.
Only one thing remains to be said about this unhappy epi-
sode. What had to be done was done and it was for the best.
ISO UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
But at the same time, my own personal admiration for the
efforts and work that Glubb Pasha put into the Arab Legion
remains unchanged. He contributed to our Army's progress
in all fields and despite the fact that he left us so abruptly,
I am not alone in appreciating the foundations he helped to
lay so solidly and on which we have since built an army of
which we are proud, an army that has the highest standard
both in training and morale in the Middle East today.
Glubb Pasha I still consider as a friend. We have met three
or four times, including one evening when, with genuine
pleasure, we had a long talk at a reception in London. Occa-
sionally we correspond or send cards; and apart from the
work he did for Jordan, I admire him for one other reason.
I knew that he was bitterly hurt at what happened. I knew
that he felt he had been perhaps unjustly treated. But he is
a wise old man, now in his sixties, and his wisdom was never
so apparent as in the way he reacted publicly to the whole
affair. Another man, less wise, would have become so emo-
tionally aroused that he might have damaged the work he
had undertaken for so long and all the success he had
brought about. Glubb Pasha acted with restraint and dignity
in a great crisis of his life.
When the British press was raving and ranting and put-
ting the most unfair interpretations on his dismissal, Glubb
actually wrote a letter himself, which was published in the
Telegraph, upbraiding those who were magnifying the issue
and pointing out this was not an anti-British move but an in-
ternal affair. So, even when he left our shores and flew away
from the home he had occupied for twenty-six years, he put
the interests of Jordan above himself. I hope he will return to
visit us one day. He will always be most welcome.
A King Against the Government
*7 am going to fight, whatever the consequences."
THE TWELVE MONTHS following the dismissal of General
Glubb was a period of uneasy experiment. The years during
which strong British influence had permeated our affairs
were at an end, and though I was delighted that my country
should now stand firmly on its own feet (as it had every right
to do), I knew full well that the vacuum left by the sudden
departure of British army officers must inevitably lead to
complications. It was perhaps our misfortune that we had to
start very nearly from scratch. First, it was essential to find
the right men to lead our country and especially our Army.
British influence had been so overwhelming that Arab officers
had never expected the opportunity to show whether or not
they were capable of holding high rank. Now we had to ex-
periment and inevitably we made some mistakes.
Politically we faced similar problems because for many
years our leaders had ceased to think of Jordan as a country
152 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
standing alone; in any crisis it had become almost axiomatic
to go to the British Ambassador for advice.
As the months wore on and the year turned into 1957, the
pressures increased until eventually they blew up in the
spring of that year almost exactly a year after Glubb left
us into what has now become known as the Zerqa uprising,
in which, thank God, I thwarted, but only by minutes, a
deeply laid, cleverly contrived plot to assassinate me, over-
throw the throne and proclaim Jordan a republic. Had it
succeeded it would unquestionably have meant the begin-
ning of the end of Jordan.
How was it possible that this full-scale revolution so nearly
triumphed? How was it possible that I should find myself
almost alone in the world, standing between two groups of
firing soldiers, so close that I not only smelled the bullets but
felt the heat?
The answers to these questions are fascinating, and so is
the way in which the plot was slowly unraveled. But one
thing I know: the Zerqa uprising, which nearly cost me my
life, was ironically one of the great turning points for the
better in the history of Jordan. I think of it now, looking back
on that awful night when I drove toward a battlefield, as the
cleansing of a running sore that had slowly been festering
and eating away the hearts of loyal men.
The coup was essentially political, but naturally at that
stage in Jordan's development the Army was a force which
had to be taken into account. Consequently, paid agents,
working with diabolical cleverness, managed to involve the
Army in the crisis. Because we were experimenting, it was
not difficult. All foreign agents had to do was to look for un-
stable officers unused to power, and in many cases they were
able to gain their adherence one way or the other.
A King Against the Government 153
The same applied to politicians. I take full responsibility
for that period of experimentation. I felt deeply that Jorda-
nian political leaders had relied too much and overlong on out-
side help, and it was only natural that these politicians met
with bitter opposition from the younger, rising men of am-
bition, who, like myself, thought it was time to throw off the
shackles that had bound us for so long.
I decided, therefore, that younger and more promising poli-
ticians and army officers should have a chance to show their
mettle in this new phase of Jordan's history. I realized that
many were leftists, but I felt that even so most of them must
genuinely believe in the future of their country, and I wanted
to see how they would react to responsibility.
In the elections which took place toward the end of 1956,
the National Socialists gained a party majority. The Ba'ath
party and others, even the Communists, had some seats, with
Independent members forming the actual majority. The Sec-
retary-General of the National Socialists, Suleyman al-Na-
bulsi, was actually defeated at the polls, but since his party
had been voted into power, he became Prime Minister. (In
Jordan, one can hold Cabinet rank without necessarily being
elected.) Nabulsi was a leftist, but more so an opportunist.
Even then I felt he had to have his chance. At first things
went fairly smoothly, but gradually the monarchy and the
government began to clash more and more.
It may seem curious that freely elected politicians should
enter into plots against me instead of contenting themselves
with planning reforms. The fact is that the major "reform"
of the Nabulsi clique was to abolish the monarchy and finish
Jordan as an entity. For twisted motives, some material, they
154 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
decided that Nasser and the Communists offered them a
better hope for the future. The lengths to which Nabulsi
went were really quite fantastic. On December 21, for exam-
ple, he addressed a big political meeting in Amman. For
thirty minutes the Prime Minister of Jordan stood up and
glorified President Nasser. Not once did he mention the role
of Jordan in the Middle East.
Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan had become mem-
bers in the Arab Solidarity Agreement. The Anglo-Jordanian
Treaty was terminated, and the three Arab states undertook
to assist Jordan's budget with the equivalent of the earlier
British subsidy. This was after Suez. Jordan, with myself in
the lead, had stood by Nasser in his greatest moment of crisis
and had influenced all Arab states to do the same. There was
the Arab summit conference held in Lebanon during the
Suez crisis. It was brought about by the efforts of my good
friend Camille Chamoun, then President of Lebanon. Be-
tween us we organized the meeting of Arab Heads of State to
rally to Nasser's support. Suez to us was a national crisis re-
quiring an Arab show of strength and solidarity. We almost
had to drag the rest of the Arab leaders to the conference,
and we forced out of them the maximum support to Egypt
that they could offer.
All Nasser's past actions against us were forgotten at that
moment of crisis. But soon King Saud, President Chamoun
and I (and our countries also) were to become the targets
of Nasser's destructive plans. The issue was plain a choice
between freedom and communism.
Nearly four years before Nabulsi came to power, Jordan
had passed the "Combating Communism Act" of 1953 which
prohibited Communist newspapers in Jordan. Yet on Decem-
ber 31, Nabulsi and his followers passed a resolution allow-
A King Against the Government 155
ing the publication in Amman of a Communist newspaper
called Al-Jamaheer. Nabulsi also allowed the Soviet Tass
Agency to set up a bureau in Jordan and distribute its bul-
letins freely. Soviet films even started appearing.
> Presumably Nabulsi thought Jordan would soon be liqui-
dated. And we must remember that propaganda from neigh-
boring countries grew steadily more menacing. The truth
became hopelessly twisted over the Glubb affair. I alone had
taken the decision to dismiss him, but now it seemed as
though every ambitious politician had taken this step him-
self. It was now they who claimed to have thrown out "im-
perialism" and brought about the "freedom" of Jordan. Partly
due to the struggle for power, partly as a result of bribery and
outside influence, but mainly through complete disloyalty to
the concept of Jordan, they so distorted recent history that
I found myself (I, who had dismissed Glubb!) cited as an
"imperialist agent" and the only obstacle to even greater free-
dom. My stand on Suez was completely forgotten.
It sounds incredible but there it was, and soon the anti-
Palace movement spread to left-wing army officers. I do not
blame them entirely. The propaganda was terrific. Fortunes
were being spent in bribery; the Soviets were openly prom-
ising arms to the Army "once the traitor Hussein has gone."
It was hard for me to pin down the moment when I first
began to realize the increasingly dangerous turn events were
taking. I had been worried for many months and I think it
was in the first week of 1957 that I knew we were in for
really serious trouble. I was alone in the Palace one night
when an army officer from Beirut requested an audience. I
knew him well; he had been sent to Beirut on a special mis-
156 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
sion, and when he came into my study and I asked him to
sit down, he said to me:
'Tour Majesty, I don't want to make trouble where there
might be none, but I am very worried about the way our
army officers are behaving in Beirut and Damascus. Time
after time I've seen army officers spending fortunes in the
night clubs money they couldn't possibly earn. They always
seem to be with Russians or the Egyptian clique."
I asked the officer, who must remain nameless, why he had
come to Amman, and he told me that he had requested a
weekend leave, ostensibly to visit his family, but actually for
the express purpose of coming to see me.
"The only thing is, Your Majesty I've really got nothing
concrete to go on," he added. "It's rather like a detective
novel when you can't go to the police because nothing can be
proved. But I felt I should warn Your Majesty and I brought
back with me a list of names. What do you want me to do
I thought for a minute, and then I told him to fly back to
Beirut the next morning and continue to keep watch. I also
suggested that one or two Jordanian agents, whose loyalty
was unquestioned, should also assist him; and so we con-
tinued to observe the antics of some of our senior officers and
politicians who were spending large sums of money abroad.
Unfortunately, we had a stroke of bad luck when two
agents were arrested while taking the number of a Jordanian
car outside the St. George Hotel in Beirut. Both were wear-
ing civilian clothes, but both were found to be armed and
had to admit they were Jordanian officers. They were de-
ported, but even so I had by then received serious warnings.
They boiled down to this:
Infiltration by Soviet or U.A.R. influence was directed at
several key men in the Army and the government. Among
A King Against the Government 157
them were Shafiq Rusheidat, the Minister of Justice and Edu-
cation, and General Ali Abu Nuwar, Chief of Staff of the
armed forces, and once a close friend of mine. We learned
that both were making regular visits to Damascus and hold-
ing meetings with the Soviet military attache there. Another
target was Abdullah Rimawi, Minister of State for Foreign
Affairs (not to be confused with Foreign Minister; we had
both titles in the government). Rimawi was a member of the
then Neo-Communist Ba'ath Party. He and the other Min-
isters drove regularly to Damascus, especially after important
cabinet meetings. They returned the following morning.
These three all received money. Secret Service agents told
my Chief of Diwan, "If the police open their bags at the
Syrian-Jordanian frontier post of Ramtha, they will find
money in any of their suitcases."
Altogether these traitors brought well over $300,000 in Jor-
danian money into the country, some for themselves, some to
be used for bribery. Yet we never opened their bags it is
rather a serious thing to do with Ministers, so we played a
I do not want to give the impression that the entire Army
was collapsing, but we had reached a stage when many offi-
cers and politicians did not really know where they were go-
ing. Some were genuinely nationalistic but felt that Jordan
was too small to stand alone. Some decided to offer them-
selves to other Arab states, which in fact meant offering their
services, in most instances, to communism. Thus, our once
efficient Army began to deteriorate. Soon it was composed
of differing factions, each with its own political beliefs.
Remember, too, that the whole of the Arab world was in
ferment. Communist arms were pouring into Egypt, com-
158 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
munism itself was beginning to take a foothold in the Middle
East, playing the cunning game of apparently sponsoring
Arabism when, in fact, as we all know, communism is the
worst enemy of any national movement. Without doubt,
Communist agents were largely behind the trouble, and as
the crisis deepened they instigated riots in the streets. In the
early stages they were not serious, except for one thing. The
security forces that should have dealt with them frequently
refused to interfere.
The Chief of the security forces at the time was Bahjat
Tabbara, a loyal man who fought in vain to gain control of
this vital department where Cabinet Ministers and the Chief
of Staff each had his own agents among the higher officers
of the security forces. These officers by and large were com-
pletely disloyal and obeyed only the orders of their particular
chiefs. The ordinary policeman did not know at all what was
happening. He did not, of course, take his orders from Tab-
bara, but from his immediate superior, often the tool of men
like Abu Nuwar. When a policeman was told not to interfere
in a riot, his job was to obey orders, not to query them. After
Bahjat Tabbara resigned he objected to outside interfer-
encethings got considerably worse.
1 The spring arrived uneasily. Spring is a beautiful time of
the year in Amman for there are splashes of green among the
desert-brown buildings; the shaded gardens and the lawns
are fresh, and the weather is not unduly hot. Yet it was an
unhappy spring. I could sense the atmosphere becoming
more and more oppressive. Mobs, often paid with Commu-
nist money, roamed the streets, deliberately inciting crowds
to riot; the Cabinet was in turmoil; enemy propaganda stirred
up ugly passions.
A King Against the Government 159
It was always the same story "Nasser has thrown off im-
perialism. Follow the savior of the Arab world!" How amaz-
ing the ease with which professional propagandists get their
message across. It was almost impossible to fight so many
enemies on so many different fronts. Facing us was the pow-
erful army of Israel, and who knows if our politically indoc-
trinated Army could have held them. Despite my faith in my
troops, I was apprehensive. We were being stabbed in the
back by sister Arab states; our own country was ripe for
Things had gone far enough. I decided on one step. I sat
down and wrote to the Prime Minister pointing out in the
strongest possible language the dangers of communism as I
saw them and I told him without any nonsense that Jordan
must take a different stand if our country wanted to continue
to defend itself.
In the letter I said in part:
> The present cold war between the two world blocs has brought
to our country certain principles and beliefs which are in sharp
contrast to our own. Strange views have infiltrated into our
midst. Unless these unwarranted principles, beliefs and views
are curtailed and stopped within certain limits, they will affect
all the glory and prestige for which our nation stands. Imperi-
alism, which is about to die in the Arab East, will be replaced
by a new land of imperialism. If we are enslaved by this, we
shall never he able to escape or overthrow it.
We perceive the danger of Communist infiltration within
our Arab home as well as the danger of those who pretend to
be Arab nationalists while they have nothing to do with Arab-
ism. Our ranks must be free from corruption and intrigues. We
will never allow our country to be the field for a cold war which
may turn to a destructive hot war if the Arabs permit others to
infiltrate their ranks.
160 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
We firmly believe in the right of this country to live. Its
foundations must be strong and built on the glories of the past
and the hopes of the future. No gap must be left to allow the
propaganda of communism to ruin our country. These are our
views which we convey to Your Excellency as a citizen and as
our Prime Minister.
We hope that you and your colleagues, the Ministers, will
adopt an attitude which ensures the interests of this country
and stops the propaganda and agitation of those who want to
infiltrate through to the ranks of the citizens. The standing laws
and regulations of this country will provide you with ample
opportunity to act. The conscience of the people will help you
and support your efforts.
As soon as I knew Nabulsi had received the letter, I made
it public. The majority of people of Jordanthe honest, God-
fearing people who form the backbone of the country hailed
it with delight. Not so my Cabinet. Almost immediately some
Cabinet Ministers gave highly distorted interviews to foreign
newspapers and agencies, especially to Tass, the Soviet news
agency, and the Middle East news agency of Cairo. Within a
few hours, newspapers were printing stories of how the Pal-
ace and the government were fighting each other.
The day after he received this letter which was the key
to everything that followed Nabulsi requested an audience.
He arrived, accompanied by Abu Nuwar, Rimawi and other
leftist Cabinet Ministers. The reason for the conference was
simple. They wanted me to modify and "tone down" my let-
ter attacking communism.
"Absolutely not!" I replied. "What I wrote in that letter to
the Prime Minister is a directive on policy, not only for this
government, but for any that follow."
The meeting lasted nearly an hour, but I refused even to
A King Against the Government 161
consider any changes. It was a quiet discussion on the whole,
for Nabulsi had one trump card which he was to play some-
time later. He was going to initiate steps to recognize Red
China and establish diplomatic relations with the Soviets.
It is true that I had the power to veto such a move, but
Nabulsi hoped that if I said "No" I would be attacked as an
In the meantime, my letter caused quite a reaction. It was
the beginning of the final battle for Jordan. Syria's Foreign
Minister, the Ba'ath leader Salah Al Bitar, actually sent a
message to the Jordanian government criticizing our attitude
and suggesting that Jordan become more friendly to the Rus-
sians and Chinese Communists. My government refused to
send him a reply I had prepared for him. I was furious with
what I considered a great impertinence. I met him in Cairo,
however, and told him my frank opinion of such interference.
Nasser also was upset by my attitude. It was the last time
Nasser, King Saud, Kuwatly of Syria, and myself met.
On one side were Nasser and Kuwatly for communism.
On the other, myself and King Saud, It was nearing the tragic
end of Arab solidarity. Incidentally, Jordan never received
any of the aid promised by Egypt and Syria.
As I returned to Amman, Nasser and the Communists were
firmly behind Nabulsi's group. The issue of diplomatic rela-
tions with Russia and Communist China, the fight between
the government and the Palace, flared up. The government's
move, and my reaction, was followed by riots led by anti-
royalist politicians and army groups. Again the security forces
refused to stop them. Incredible though it may seem, Nabulsi,
the Prime Minister, addressed an enormous crowd in the
162 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
main square in Amman making fiery speeches, while on his
left was Esa Madonet, a key Communist agitator, waving to
the people. Imagine the head of a government doing such a
thing after receiving a letter ordering him to put a stop
to Communist penetration.
By now we had reached April 8 and suddenly I discovered
that an armored regiment had moved up and surrounded
the capital. They were at strategic points everywhere. No-
body could enter or leave Amman without passing their guns.
I was thunderstruck. I knew things were grave but an
armored regiment! This could only mean one thing immi-
nent danger to Jordan, a possible attack on the Palace. Cer-
tainly it indicated that Abu Nuwar was plotting a military
I sent for him, and trying hard to control my rage, I asked
him what on earth was happening.
"It's purely routine," he answered smoothly. "Just a matter
of checking the traffic in and out of Amman."
A likely story! However, I suggested the regiment be with-
drawna suggestion offered casually and Abu Nuwar
agreed and left.
Now I was really alone. I had virtually nobody I could
trust, but what was I going to do? Hour by hour the situa-
tion was deteriorating. I had few friends to help me and a
government openly hostile to me.
The next day the armored vehicles were withdrawn, but
I knew this might only be a temporary respite. The time for
action had come.
On April 10 I arrived at my office and I told Talhouni, my
Chief of Diwan, "It's time to throw this government out!"
A King Against the Government 163
I dictated a letter to Nabulsi ordering the dissolution of the
government, and Talhouni carried it to the Prime Minister's
office. The Cabinet was meeting when Talhouni arrived.
Talhouni asked the Prime Minister to leave the meeting.
When they were alone Talhouni conveyed the gist of my
letter to him, but did not hand him the actual letter, fearing
Nabulsi might use it for political propaganda. After a short
conversation Nabulsi went back to the cabinet meeting. Then
they sent for Abu Nuwar, Chief of Staff, and two other of-
ficers. Why? To ask their advice! Abu Nuwar told Nabulsi,
"You should resign, if only for one reason. The King will
never be able to form another government without you. Do
it. Resign! I know how to force the King to ask you back."
A few hours later Nabulsi came to the Palace and sub-
mitted his resignation. In his letter he carefully pointed out,
"by order of Your Majesty" doubtless so he could use it for
That evening my uncle, Sherif Nasser, came to see me with
other members of my family. He was deeply worried about
the grave turn of events, though he did not know how close
we were to a military revolt.
He was very blunt.
"I hate to say this to you, sir," he said, "but everything
seems to be lost and the rumors and reports indicate that you
are alone. Are you going to stand and fight or should we all
pack our bags? Don't you think we ought to think about our
families and their future and try to move them out of harm's
"I can't," I told them. "I must stay. You know I believe
in what I am doing; I believe that I can only live once/'
It was not only a stubborn stand on my part. I felt that I
understood the people of Jordan and I believed in them,
164 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
despite appearances to the contrary. I had tried to bring
about a family atmosphere so that I was not separated from
the people and believed that if or when the crucial moment
arrived we would not necessarily lose. There had to be some
wisdom, there had to be some individuals who believed in
Jordan, there had to be some people who would realize we
were heading for disaster.
"No," I said to my uncle, "I cannot leave. You know that
I believe in serving my country. I am going to stand and
fight, whatever the consequences."
The Final Round
"We are in a race with the morning sun. 9
WE WERE NOW in the midst of the holy month of Ramadan,
the month of fasting and good deeds. Yet right from its first
days I had sensed that before the month was over there
would be a showdown. The issues were too great, too funda-
mental to be patched up. But though I felt I had done my
best for my people both in Jordan and in the bigger family
in the Arab world, I had my first doubts as to whether I, or
for that matter, Jordan as a country, would see the feast that
heralds the end of the month of Ramadan. I remember when
this doubt first crossed my mind. I had motored for a few
hours' rest to the Jordan Valley where my uncle, Sherif
Nasser, has a small farm. One cannot eat, or even smoke, until
sunset during the holy month, and we sat there, waiting for
the sun to go down, so that we could have breakfast and a
cigarette with our first cup of tea of the day and I suddenly
wondered, Where will it all end?
One thing I was sure about. I would fight for my people
166 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
to the end. But things had gone from bad to worse. The
Nabulsi government with its leftist elements, backed by
Cairo's President Nasser, had infiltrated all walks of life. Prop-
aganda and every other device to control and influence people
were sweeping the Arab world. To find a job in Jordan one
had to belong to a party. Even to pass an examination at
school one had to belong to a party! Nasser's Arab national-
ism was taking the place of pure Arab nationalism. Commu-
nist party meetings were blatantly held in Jordan's open
squares. The red flag could be seen many a time in Jordan,
despite the fact that communism was banned by Jordanian
All parties, each one fearful of the other, distributed arms
to their members. But one vital question remained unan-
swered: Would the real people of Jordan, the great majority,
who watched these events apprehensively, stand by their
country? It would not be long now before I knew. Events
were moving swiftly to a climax. I prayed for my country
and people, and I prayed, too, for the strength and stamina
to do my best.
But what enemies I faced! For example, just before Na-
bulsi resigned on April 10, 1957, an open cable was inter-
cepted. Incredibly, it was from President Nasser to the Prime
Minister of Jordan. The contents were even more incredible.
The cable said in effect: "Do NOT GIVE IN. REMAIN IN YOUR
POSITION. SIGNED, NASSER."
The tug-of-war had begun with myself and what I hoped
would be all of the genuine elements of Jordan against forces
that had ceased to believe in Jordan or be loyal to its concept.
Throughout April 11 and 12 I tried in vain to form a new
government. I first asked the late Dr. Hussein Fakhri Khalidi,
a prominent Arab nationalist from the West Bank, to form a
new Cabinet but he soon found it was impossible. I was in
Tterqa The Final Round 167
constant consultation with all political figures. It was the
beginning of many sleepless nights filled with one crisis after
another. Nabulsi had made certain that none of his followers
would help anybody trying to form a Cabinet.
The supreme confidence of those who were fighting me is
best illustrated by a conversation that took place at a night
club in Amman where Nabulsi and his group were drinking
late into the night, with Ali Abu Nuwar, the commander of
Jordan's armed forces. I learned later what had happened.
Nabulsi turned to his friends and asked aloud, "Who do the
people stand with?" The reply was "With you!" Then he
turned to Abu Nuwar. "Who does the Army stand with?"
And Nuwar replied, "With you, Your Excellency."
"Then," asked Nabulsi sarcastically, "who has the King
got to stand with him?"
When Khalidi found it impossible to form a government,
I then received in audience Abdel-Halim Nimer. Nimer, like
Nabulsi, was a member of the National Socialists, but I hoped
he might be able to form a new Cabinet that would not be
too extreme. He himself had been a minister in Nabulsi's
cabinet. But the National Socialists and their collaborators
refused to let him, except on their own terms. They insisted
that he include several well-known Communist sympathizers.
This I could not accept. I then thought about Said Mufti,
but in the meantime Abu Nuwar and his friends had de-
cided that if they could not have a government headed by
Nabulsi then it might be a good move to appear to support
Nimer. They were playing for time. They were trying to put
me off balance.
It was now April 13, the day of the Zerqa incident; Abu
Nuwar soon heard that I was proposing to ask Said Mufti
168 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
to form a Cabinet. During that day several remarkable things
happened. I found out that Abu Nuwar had been in consul-
tation with Egyptian officials and with the Soviet officials in
Damascus. In retrospect, the astonishing thing about these
events is the matter-of-fact way in which Abu Nuwar began
increasingly to take control of the whole political scene.
Later that morning Abu Nuwar held a meeting with left-
wing politicians, and it was decided to support Nimer. But
there remained one obstacle. They knew that I had refused
to accept Nimer's complete list of proposed Neo-Communist
It was time for a few veiled threats. Early that afternoon,
Said Mufti was summoned to an army camp outside Amman.
When he arrived, this loyal patriot was confronted by Abu
Nuwar. He was invited to sit down in a private room. A
number of senior officers were present. Then Abu Nuwar, as
leader of the group, told Said Mufti bluntly:
"You must go to the King immediately. You will tell him
that the situation in the country and in the Army is extremely
explosive. Inform the King that unless a Cabinet which will
be satisfactory to the people and all parties is formed and
announced on the radio by no later than nine o'clock tonight,
then I and my colleagues will not be responsible for anything
Stunned, humiliated and angry, Said Mufti left the meet-
ing without a word and drove straight to the Basman Palace
to see me and deliver the message. I told him not to worry.
It was not his fault that he was the bearer of such insolent
I was not going to give in to threats, but I decided to call
in Nimer for one last try. We had a long discussion on the
Zerqa The Final Round 169
formation of a Cabinet. He did not prove too difficult in
fact, he admitted that he himself found his "friends'* diffi-
cult I felt that perhaps there might still be a way out of the
impasse. He left for more discussions.
Things by now developed swiftly. Abu Nuwar drove to
the Palace and had a talk with my Chief of Diwan. Said
Mufti was still present and Abu Nuwar declared again:
"If the Army doesn't hear that the Cabinet has been
formed by the nine o'clock news, the country will be in
trouble and you will be among those responsible for it.**
Then he added significantly:
"You must consider this statement a final ultimatum."
Curiously, Abu Nuwar used the English word "ultimatum/*
It might have still been possible to form a Cabinet, but
then an event followed that changed everything.
Shortly afterward a group of officers from Zerqa arrived
at the Palace. They had with them the son of one of the
paramount tribal leaders of Jordan. They did not request an
audience, but gave my Chief of Diwan an urgent letter to be
delivered to me personally.
I opened it, and as I started reading, I forgot everything
else. With a stunned feeling of despair I reread the vital
"The loyal officers in the Zerqa area are worried, sir, be-
cause of the strange orders we are receiving. We have infor-
mation that some of the units will soon be ordered to sur-
round Amman. Sir, we are full of doubts about the loyalty
of those in command and we beg you, sir, to let us have our
orders cleared through Your Majesty."
The letter went on to say that some units with reliable,
loyal commanders had been sent away to various parts of
Jordan, as I well knew. The First Armored Car Regiment
was still in Zerqa, but was commanded by Nazir Rashida
170 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
bosom friend of Abu Nuwar. Abu Nuwar's own cousin, Ma'an
Abu Nuwar, commanded the Princess Alia Infantry Brigade
in Zerqsu I had some doubts about him, but even more about
some other unit commanders in Zerqa, Jordan's biggest mili-
tary camp, the "Aldershot" of our country.
Almost immediately afterward my uncle, Sherif Nasser,
who had commanded the First Armored Car Regiment be-
fore leaving the Army, came to me. "An officer wishes to meet
you secretly, sir, on a very urgent matter," he declared.
I asked my uncle to bring the man an officer I knew to
be loyal to my private study immediately.
He came in. His name was Abdul Rahman Sabila. He had
been delegated by officers, N.C.O/s and troops of the Ar-
mored Regiment to come to me. He was a fine man, a true
"How far have things gone?" I asked him. In his deep
voice, his eyes shining with determination, he began:
"Your Majesty, there are traitors everywhere but not in
the First Armored Regiment, sir. Trust us, sir. The officers,
N.C.O/s and men are all standing solidly behind you."
He went on to explain what had happened. The regiment
commander had met some officers in his command and ex-
plained to them the mission of the regiment. The plan was
to prepare to move at short notice on to Amman, to surround
and capture the Royal Palace and myself at the sign of the
least resistance. And the orders included the sentence, "You
will reply to each bullet with a six-pounder shell."
The First Armored Regiment was chosen for this task and
all were promised glory. However, the officers met among
themselves and took an oath to remain loyal to King and
country. They later advised those N.C.O/s and troops they
trusted, and they all agreed to pretend to remain loyal to the
Zerqa The Final Round 171
conspirators, meanwhile advising me of developments. They
would then await my instructions. I thanked God there were
men like this in Jordan, the country in whose service I had
dedicated my life. Jordanians were awake after all and every-
thing was not lost! Incidentally, this was the same regiment
that had surrounded Amman a few nights earlier. It had been
a rehearsal and show of power.
I asked Abdul Rahman to return to his unit.
"Advise your friends and colleagues," I told him, "to be
very, very careful not to show their true colors until the last,
vital moment. Keep in touch. God be with you."
Then I sat back alone and reflected. I was deeply worried.
I was not afraid of death I have seen it too often and too
close at hand to fear it but I was very much afraid for my
country and people and for the armed forces which have al-
ways been my pride and that of every Jordanian. The big
crisis was near and I became increasingly angry. I went back
to my office and asked Abu Nuwar to come and see me. It
was time to act quickly before things got out of hand. I was
going to have it out with my commander of armed forces
once and for all.
As I waited, I cogitated on the strangeness of mankind.
What was the real motivating force behind the traitorous
conduct of Ali Abu Nuwar? Here was a man who had once
been my friend. I had placed great hopes in him faith and
trust too. What made him a traitor? Was it simply that he
had given in to the Communists and their Egyptian collabo-
rators? He had certainly fallen increasingly under their con-
trol and become deeply involved with them by the time of
172 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
the crisis. But was that all? Or was there something else that
drove him . . . the greatest weakness of mankind the lust
I knew that if Jordan collapsed it would be the severest
blow to the Arab cause in a long, long time. Israel would
surely strike and the Arab countries what was left of them
would be Communist-dominated or carved up among the
victors. If Jordan went, one more obstacle would vanish be-
fore the Communist tide that aimed at flooding the entire
Arab world. There were even those who said openly, "Let
Israel take the West Bank. We will be able to recover it with
Nasser's leadership and Communist support."
It was by now nearly seven o'clock. For almost a week I
had had no sleep. I had been working in my office night and
day trying to sort things out, watching and working. When
Abu Nuwar entered my office I looked at this thirty-four-
year-old, dapper man of medium height, with his neatly
trimmed black mustache. I could restrain myself no longer.
Angrily I demanded a full explanation about everything I
had learned that afternoon, about his attitude, about his part
in all that had been happening.
As he started to speak, the telephone rang a sharp, long
note. I picked it up. It was a very urgent call for Abu Nuwar.
On the other end of the line was Abu Nuwar's cousin, Ma'an,
the commander of the Princess Alia Brigade.
I heard his frightened voice speaking swiftly. Abu Nuwar
went pale and stole a glance at me. Then he shouted into the
telephone, "Prevent them, for God's sake. Stop them at all
costs. What about the artillery? Where is General Hiyyari?"
Quite clearly I heard the voice of Ma'an on the crackling
line. "It's already out of control. The whole brigade believe
that their King is dead, or will be tonight. The officers
Zerqa - - The Final Round 173
couldn't control them. They are trying to move on to Am-
man. Nothing can save the situation but the immediate pres-
ence of His Majesty."
Ali looked at me. I snatched the phone out of his hand.
"I'll be right over!" I cried, and to Abu Nuwar beside me,
I added, "You wait here. Ill be back in a moment"
With that, I ran out of the office.
"Get me a car quickly/' I cried to Talhouni, my Chief of
In the hall I told two aides-de-campone of whom was my
cousin Zaid, the other the commander of my small personal
"Both of you go quickly. Tell any troops coming to Amman
I am alive and well. Tell them to return to their barracks.
I will follow you shortly."
I quickly changed into uniform and was back in a matter
of minutes. I called to Abu Nuwar:
"Come along, we are going to Zerqa."
I jumped into the front seat of the car beside my driver.
It was a Palace gray Chevrolet. Abu Nuwar and my uncle,
Sherif Nasser, sat in the back seats. We shot off toward
Zerqa. All's car and aide-de-camp followed behind. I do not
think I have ever been so furious in all my life, as I thought
of Jordan's fine Army being jeopardized by conspirators.
Suddenly we met a full army truck at a bridge called the
Russeifa Bridge. As both cars and the truck came to a stop
I could see the 'truck jam-packed with troops and civilians,
yelling angrily, holding rifles and sticks over their heads. As
I jumped out an officer and troops leaped from the truck.
Suddenly they recognized me. It was one of the most moving
174 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
moments of my life. Tears came to my eyes as we all kissed
and they mobbed me. "We are your men!" they all yelled,
"Thank God you're alive, sir! Down with the traitors!"
I asked them to go back and got into the car. I had not
noticed Abu Nuwar. He had evidently stood behind the
cover of the car. He got in and, as we started to move, the
truck turned and raced behind us. I could hear them yelling
and firing into the air. Suddenly Abu Nuwar spoke. I looked
back at him. He was trembling with fright.
"Sir, please let me go back to Amman/' he begged.
"Sir, I heard them calling for my death. I have a family
and children, sir. If I go on with you, I won't live the night."
"Stop the car," I told the driver. I was disgusted. "Get
out, go back and wait for me at the Palace."
So the King, without his commander of armed forces,
drove into the unknown to deal with an army uprising. Soon
we encountered more trucks, more angry troops, more ci-
vilians, more shots breaking the peace of the night, more
stops, more road blocks. Officers pointed submachine guns,
unknowingly at their supreme commander, but not recogniz-
ing me until I yelled or jumped out.
"I am Hussein. I am all right. My life is yours. All is well.
Back to your camps. I will be there shortly."
The scene was fantastic. Some troops wore steel helmets,
some had no jackets; there was even one soldier with shav-
ing soap drying on his face. They all cheered. I could not
hold back my tears. At one moment the poor Chevrolet was
bumping on its flattened springs. Then the roof caved in.
Troops had got on top and as we drove on they would not
get down. However, my uncle, an athlete and heavily built,
Zerqa The Final Round 175
soon put his shoulder to the roof and pushed it back in place.
We also got rid of some of our passengers.
In the Zerqa camp itself I could find no trace of my two
aides-de-camp, but I later rescued them near Divisional
Headquarters and the headquarters of the Princess Alia Bri-
gade. They had been arrested by troops who refused to be-
lieve their story and thought they were conspirators. They
were pretty annoyed by the time I arrived.
At one point burned trucks that had been shot up stopped
our progress and there were more clashes to come.
Slowly the story began to take shape. In the Princess Alia
Brigade, a regiment had been paraded and addressed by the
brigade commander. They were told they were to leave im-
mediately on a long march, an exercise, without their arms.
But the troops had heard strange rumors. They felt that
something unusual was happening.
Suddenly, an N.C.O. had yelled:
"What about the King?" Within seconds the place was in
a turmoil. That regiment, followed by the rest of the brigade,
broke into ammunition depots. Officers they suspected were
mobbed and soon the first troops were on their way to Am-
man to discover the truth for themselves. I myself found the
brigade commander running on the road alone. I picked him
up, but already some damage was done. The conspirators
had acted quickly. They brought down the artillery units,
telling the artillery troops the infantry were moving onto
Amman against the King. The stunned artillery went out to
stop them and so the fighting started, each side believing the
I drove on to Divisional Headquarters, where troops had
176 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
smashed everything in their way, then I went to Brigade
Headquarters. Here, too, everything was broken, save a por-
trait of the Princess Alia. I spoke to troops while standing
on the car's hood, then from the top of an armored car. At
times, heavy machine-gun fire whistled past my head and
I could even feel the heat of bullets whizzing past in the
dark. I nearly lost my gun at one place where I was mobbed.
Only with the greatest difficulty was I able to leave the Bri-
gade Headquarters. Troopers cried, "Down with traitors!"
and "Down with communism!" More shooting occurred, and
at first the troops refused to let me go on. "They will kill you,
sir. We won't leave you!" they cried. I finally left and drove
into the artillery lines.
It was a little tricky between the two lines of firing troops,
but luckily nothing happened. Although I did not know it,
there was another narrow escape that night. A conspirator
officer, knowing I was coming, had mined a small bridge and
was waiting to blow it up as I drove over it, but a bullet out
of the dark wounded him and my car passed safely over the
Now I found that Abu Nuwar had not gone directly to
Amman. He had tried to re-enter the camp area by a back
road, but finding troops motoring down toward his car, he
turned and then went back to the Basman Palace. No doubt
he hoped to find the Armored Regiment surrounding the
Palace. He told the Chief of Diwan that I had sent him back
to reassure him and my staff that I was well and to await
I spent several hours in Zerqa and it was not until nearly
midnight that I drove back to Amman, having established
Zerqa The Final Round 177
Driving back toward the capital, I felt a strange exhilara-
tion. That night was a turning point in Jordan's history. The
nightmare of Zerqa was over, and now I felt more confident
than I had been for a long time. I was dreaming as we drove
along, and then suddenly, as we turned into the main Palace
gates, I was brought up with a shock against reality. I had
forgotten all about the Armored Car Regiment that was sup-
posed to move on Amman and surround the Palace. Two
armored cars stood at the gate, their guns pointed outward.
As we stopped, troops and N.C.O.'s in their black berets
jumped out, eyes shining, crying "Long live our King! Down
with Communists and all traitors! If they dare to raise their
heads, then by God we will level the place flat."
We kissed and embraced and as I drove up to the Palace,
I saw more and more armored vehicles. They were behind
I ran up the Palace steps to look for Abu Nuwar. The
front hall was crowded with jeering troops and I learned
Abu Nuwar was in my small study. I was also told what had
happened after he arrived. When the troops arrived Abu
Nuwar had tried to talk to officers of the Armored Regiment,
obviously thinking they were his allies, but a sergeant major
had stopped him on the steps, his Sten gun in his hand and,
looking his commander-in-chief in the face, said:
"If you weren't in the King's Palace, I would blow your
head into a million pieces. Get back and pray that the King
comes back safe and sound; then he can tell us what to do
In the small study Abu Nuwar was in a state of collapse.
Troops milled around the Palace screaming "Down with
communism. Death to Abu Nuwar and all traitors!" Two
178 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
officers from the loyal regiment came in, and I let them con-
front Abu Nuwar. Then he retired to the next room. He was
crying now, an abject figure. He was a pitiful sight.
What was I to do with this man who had once been my
close friend? The past flashed by as I heard the officers shout-
ing at him. I remembered the good companion of Paris days.
I even remembered, like a picture, a dinner we had enjoyed
at the Colis6e restaurant. Then I thought back to the young,
energetic helper in whom I had reposed my trust when I was
alone. How we spoke of our pride in Jordan. How often I
had discussed with him my plans and his place in them. And
now this! A whining man, tears streaming down his face,
trembling for his life.
I ordered him into my private study.
"Well," I asked him. "What do you expect me to do?"
Nuwar's black-mustached face was the color of ashes. He
begged me to save him.
"But what have you done to justify the faith and trust
I once put in you?" I asked him.
Almost collapsing, he pleaded with me again to save him.
Incoherently, he mouthed lies, lies, lies. I suddenly felt des-
perately tired-an anticlimax, I suppose, to a week of crisis
upon crisis. And my heart was sick that a man whom I had
trusted could behave thus, that humanity itself could breed
I could not bring myself to put him to death. I have been
criticized for this act of mercy and Abu Nuwar has certainly
been an active enemy ever since but there it is, I could not
do it. Is it past memories that chain one with sentiment? I
was so tired, so sick with shame for my fellow human beings,
I could not do it.
Though many think I was wrong to spare his life, they
Zerqa The Final Round 179
forget one important factor apart from my personal feelings.
I could not tell at that time what would happen in the next
few weeks and I did have one quite cold-blooded thought in
my mind I would not make a martyr of him. If I had put
him to death, his name might have been much more revered
than it is today. I said to him again:
"Well, what do you wish me to do?"
He said: "Can I take a fortnight's leave in Italy until things
"All right," I said. "Go!"
I knew that once he left Jordan we would probably never
see him again. In fact, he spent the night, ironically, at the
home of Said Mufti, whom I asked to look after him. He was
in a state of collapse, and Said's brother, a doctor, had to give
him a sedative. The next day Abu Nuwar and his family left
for Damascus. They have never returned.
It was now after midnight but there was no question of
sleep. I had two things to do: to form a Cabinet and arrange
to tell Jordan the truth over the radio. Our main transmitter
was at Jerusalem, and in Amman we had only a small studio
and a tiny transmitter, with a range that did not even cover
the whole country.
However, our troubles were by no means over and it took
us some days before we achieved real stability. In those sleep-
less days and nights I formed one government that did not
last; I appointed a new commander-in-chief who escaped to
Syria; and our main radio station did not operate from Jeru-
salem when most needed because its director and some of his
party members on the staff closed it down.
The army units, one by one, pledged their loyalty to King
180 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
and country and a great deal of reorganizing had to take
place in the disposition of troops. Outside, the pressures were
still immense. Israeli troops were concentrated on Jordan's
front, ready to pounce. Radio propaganda from all leftist
radios in the area intensified their barrage to a point never
reached before. Then, while I grappled with these problems,
a Syrian armored brigade under the supreme command of
Egypt's General Amir, moved toward Amman from its base
in the north and completely surrounded the Jordanian city
of Irbid. Would our troubles never end?
Two brigadesone from Syria, one from Saudi Arabia-
had been stationed with our consent in Jordan ever since Suez.
But to surround a Jordanian city! Neither the Syrian Presi-
dent nor the Syrian army commander knew of this move or
who had ordered it. However, King Saud rallied to my sup-
port at this stage by putting his forces in Jordan under my
direct command. It was a good brigade and we did our best
to train it into an efficient force.
The day after the Syrian move which I promptly counter-
mandedthe new Jordanian armed forces commander left for
a meeting with the Syrian commander at the frontier. With
some misgivings, I had appointed General Hiyyari to succeed
Abu Nuwar. After he had taken his oath of allegiance, I
went to sleep for a few hours for the first time in many
days. I left my uncle, Sherif Nasser, who was by now back
in uniform, on duty. We were so used to crises that when he
learned that General Hiyyari had crossed the Syrian frontier
and sent his guard back, he did not even bother to wake
me up. It was seven in the morning when Sherif came into
my room. Hiyyari had left hours before.
Zerqa The Final Round 181
"Good morning, sir," he said.
"Good morning," I answered, "What is new?"
"Nothing important, sir, just that your commander-in-chief
has escaped into Syria."
"What! Why didn't you wake me up?"
"I did not think it was important enough to disturb your
badly needed rest."
I could not help laughing, for we had known Hiyyari was
involved with Abu Nuwar and was a weak man. I made him
commander-in-chief only because there was nobody else at
that stage. My uncle's natural calm amused and cheered me
immensely. Anyway, I thought, things cannot get much
I quickly put General Habis Majali, an old and trusted
friend, in charge of the armed forces. Then I turned to the
political scene. Even the government could not last. It had
been formed under Dr. Hussein F. Khalidi and included Na-
bulsi and representatives of all other groups, but the strains
and stresses from within pulled it to pieces. The violent mobs
destroyed its dignity. In Jerusalem the leading Communist
member of Parliament, Jacob Ziadun, threatened at one stage
to destroy and burn the holy places of Islam and Christen-
domwhich he called "the opium of nations" if the people
did not demonstrate against Khalidi.
When the Prime Minister came to offer his resignation he
had tears in his eyes. He told me: "I lost my parents, sir, but
did not shed a tear. Now I can't hold them back, seeing what
irresponsibility is doing to my homeland. I have, however,
prepared everything to the best of my ability in case martial
law has to be brought about. It seems the only way out.
Good luck, sir, and thank you for your confidence."
I thanked him for all he had done. He had been under a
182 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
great strain. Other politicians whom I had summoned were
in my Diwan.
It was about 10 P.M. I spoke to them at length, explaining
the critical situation. Among them were my old friend Ibra-
him Hashem, who was later to lose his life brutally in Iraq,
and Suleiman Toukan and Samir Rifai, many times Prime
Minister of Jordan. This was no time to mince words. I gave
them the whole clear picture.
"Gentlemen/' I said, "this is not a request, this is recruit-
ment. We are in a race with time with the morning sun!
Either a government is formed before then or it is the end of
Jordan. We need control quick and firm control. I cannot
do it alone. It is your country, and remember, many of you
helped to build it. This is no time for argument."
A government was formed in record time under Ibrahim
Hashem, with Samir Rifai and others. The radio people were
standing by for my long speech to the people of Jordan. We
imposed martial law, banned all political parties, put troops
in position on a temporary basis.
The morning came. I stood out in front of the Palace,
breathing the fresh air. This was the morning when peace
came to Jordan as traitors ran in every direction, as their
secrets were revealed, as calm and sanity prevailed. At last,
about 10 A.M., I went to sleep. 1 had lost track of days and
nights, but I slept long and peacefully after praying to God
for all His blessings. Jordan had come through. Zerqa was
the turning point.
The holy month of Ramadan came to an end and the
people of Jordan celebrated with feasting. But I think every-
body in Jordan remembered to thank God for His wisdom in
Zerqa The Final Round 183
saving our country, whose very existence had been in the
balance during all that holy month of fasting.
So ended the final round. As one Bedouin officer had told
me, even new flags had been designed for the republic of
Jordan. We found two samples in Abu Nuwar's office. He was
so sure of success, he had not even bothered to conceal them.
Obviously, the plot had been organized from outside. Equally
obviously, the final optimistic objective, after murdering me,
was probably to establish some kind of federal union with
Egypt and thus make Jordan in effect a vassal state of Soviet
Looking back now as I write these words, it all seems like
a nightmare. The last I heard of Abu Nuwar, he was in
Egypt. Nimer, whom Abu Nuwar tried to force on me as
Prime Minister, is now a farmer not far from Amman. Na-
bulsi was kept under house arrest until 1961, but is now free
in Amman. Ma'an Abu Nuwar is now a member of our for-
eign service. After answering for his actions, he studied po-
litical science and is a sincere, loyal Jordanian and a hard
It seems hardly possible, looking back, that these men
were involved in a coup that was brilliantly engineered and
all but succeeded. Only one thing the plotters who wanted
to ruin Jordan had failed to reckon with:
The Jordanian people.
The Arab Union
- And a Warning
"Promise me to tell the King of the danger. 9 '
ON FEBRUARY 14, 1958, Iraq and Jordan were joined by mu-
tual constitutional agreement to form the Arab Union. It was
a historic event, and for me not only the climax to years of
struggle but, I hoped, the beginning of a new era for the
Arab cause. Based on absolute equality, it was an attempt at
a model union between two states. It constituted the first
realistic, idealistic step toward the fuller, more comprehen-
sive Arab unity so lacking today. Alas, it was more than some
Arab statesmen of the period could stomach. Five months to
the day after signing the treaty, my cousin, King Feisal, lay
brutally murdered and the Arab Union was to all intents and
purposes nothing but a shattered dream. The blame for this
outrage will in the main rest on one man President Nasser.
The reason is simple. Ours was everything a union be-
tween friendly states should be; a fortnight previously, Egypt
The Arab Union And a Warning 185
and Syria had formed the United Arab Republic in my
opinion, everything a union of states should not be. In the
Arab Union, Iraq and Jordan were equal partners. The
United Arab Republic was an unbalanced arrangement in
which one partner, Egypt, had a dominant role, while the
other, Syria, was subservient. Nasser possibly saw in our
union an idealism lacking in his own plans. Moreover, I be-
lieve he was astute enough to know that other Arab states
would compare unfavorably what he had done with what we
had done. If they joined us, his power would wane. Nasser
knew also that Iraq, bordering his eternal target, the oil-
rich Persian Gulf, was in itself one of the wealthiest Arab
states, and that the Arab Union could easily mean the end
of any dreams he harbored to make the U.A.R. a single geo-
The new Arab Union, with a common defense program,
had a frontier stretching from Sinai to Kuwait. Nasser might
have hoped to swallow up Jordan one day and so form a land
link between Syria and Egypt, but now that Jordan was
united with Iraq it was not possible. If this was so, it was
easy to understand how violently some irresponsible Arab
leaders attacked the Arab Union and sought to destroy it.
They did not like the fact that for once there was real hope
for Arab unity, not merely plans for political domination. For
this reason the Union was never permitted the time to de-
velop into more of a threat.
Our union was a natural answer to the growth of commu-
nism in the Arab world, especially as King Feisal and myself
were both great-grandsons of the Hashemite Sherif Hus-
sein who had raised the banner of Arab revolt against the
Turks in World War I a rising that has not yet attained its
full objectives. Both of us had been crowned on the same
day, and both of us believed passionately in the real Arab
186 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
freedom for which our great-grandfather had fought. Here
was a real opportunity to show the Arab world how a con-
stitutional democratic system of government could operate
between two united, progressive states. All too often royalist
systems are easy targets for revolutionaries inspired by com-
munism or pseudo-nationalists. Our union was the answer.
What high hopes we had on the morning of February 14,
when the flag of the Arab Revolt-black, red, white and
greenwas unfurled for the second time. I had worked un-
remittingly for the unity of our two countries, and if I had
had my way, it would have come about much earlier. As I
embraced King Feisal, I was already preparing the speech
I broadcast a short time later: "This is the happiest day of
my life, a great day in Arab history. We are under one
banner, the banner of Arabism which our great-grandfather,
Hussein ibn Ali the Great, carried in the great Arab Revolt."
With pleasure and happiness I agreed that King Feisal
should be head of our combined state with myself as deputy.
Baghdad and Amman would alternate every six months as
the Union capital. The Union would be open to other Arab
states who wished to enter. With our two countries joined
as one, foreign policy, finance, education, and diplomatic
representation would be unified in the coming months,
though each of our states would preserve its independent
existence and sovereignty over its own territories and retain
the existing regimes.
I had earlier in my reign envisaged some form of nation-
alist alliance on the lines of the Baghdad Pact, but my hopes
had been dashed when the Baghdad Pact was formed with
unseemly haste, especially as it included only Iraq, whereas
it would have been so much wiser to have an Arab defense
The Arab Union And a Warning 187
pact with all Arab states as members. Even though Jordan
did not join the Baghdad Pact in the new Union, I still felt
the union of our two countries increased enormously the de-
fensive alignment against irresponsible policies benefiting
communism in its penetration of the Arab world. It was a
genuine Arab movement, guided by selfless Arab national-
ism. If it was against communism, it was because the two
can never be reconciled. As for imperialism, we had been
the victims and fought against it from the beginning of the
-We had our problems and differences in forming the
Union. No two countries can join themselves together with-
out some difficulties. Some of these arose because of the
problems confronting King Feisal. As my cousin, as my
schoolmate at Harrow, he was as close as a brother; and how
I echoed Nasser's hopes, voiced to me in 1955: "I wish him
every success and I have great hopes for him." But the trag-
edy of King Feisal lay in the fact that he was never per-
mitted to have any success or to fulfill any of his hopes. Nor
was he really allowed to handle responsibility properly.
When I think back to the day we signed our names for the
Union, a host of memories flood my thoughts. They date
back to Harrow, Sandhurst and other scenes. And I think
it important that these should be recounted, if only to de-
fend the memory of Feisal, my friend and brother in all but
name. As I shall relate, I was forewarned of the murder of
my cousin. Yet those responsible in Iraq did not heed my
warnings and King Feisal seemed powerless to judge or to
act. How could such a situation come about?
I even remember long ago at Harrow, where I always
enjoyed, despite the discipline, a sense of freedom, being
188 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
sorry for the way Feisal was hemmed in, unable to act alone
almost, one might say, a prisoner of his position. I do not
entirely blame the old-time politicians. The trouble lay in
his relationship with his uncle, the Crown Prince, who was
later, ironically, to lose his life by the King's side in the
The Crown Prince (the Emir Abdul Illah) had been ap-
pointed Regent after Feisal's father, the popular King Ghazi,
was killed in a car crash. Young Feisal was then only a boy.
For years the Crown Prince dominated the political scene as
Regent and guardian to the young King. Eventually my cousin
assumed his constitutional powers. Every Iraqi had prayed
for the day when he would be their King, but it really made
no difference. The Crown Prince had done a great deal for
Iraq, but his relationship to my cousin Feisal was so deeply
ingrained that he still clung to his power. Though he was
not very popular in Iraq he wielded a great deal of power
right up to the time of his death, and I think his influence
must have counted in the casual attitude of the Iraq govern-
ment to the warning they received of impending disaster.
Somehow his judgment had become faulty.
The Crown Prince and I were, to my regret, never on very
good terms. We are brought up to respect our elders, but
there were times when it was not easy for me to remember
this with the Crown Prince, and I trace our coolness to an
incident at Sandhurst, When I was an officer cadet there,
King Feisal had a house at Staines in Middlesex, which he
used when visiting Britain. On one occasion he was accom-
panied, as usual, by the Crown Prince and they both came
to visit Sandhurst. The Commandant thought they might be
interested in visiting and touring the College. It was, if I am
not mistaken, a Saturday. Anyway, there was leave in the air.
The Arab Union - And a Warning 189
I had planned to drive to London; but when the visit was
over, King Feisal asked me:
"Why don't you drive back with us to Staines for tea?
Then if you want, you can go to London afterwards."
I agreed and we all left together. The Crown Prince drove.
The aide (who later, at the time of the coup, was the Com-
mander of the Iraqi Royal Guards) occupied the other front
seat, while Feisal and I sat behind. My car followed.
One must understand that I loved Feisal very, very much;
and it was this deep feeling that had always given me an
inner sense of awareness at the way he was treated. I saw,
I heard, and felt it, and hated to see him, a highly intelligent,
promising, well-prepared monarch of eighteen, hemmed in.
I sensed that he knew and could do nothing. During the
drive a family quarrel started between Feisal and the Crown
Prince. The latter was angry with the King, and though I
did not think it very seemly to argue in the presence of an
aide and myself, I managed to contain my rising annoyance.
Actually I was furious. Such conduct was to me unbearable.
The wrangling died down.
As we approached Staines, Feisal asked the Crown Prince:
"Could we make a short detour, please, Uncle? They're
making a film somewhere near here and it might be fun just
to watch for a few minutes."
The Crown Prince did not even bother to answer.
I was flabbergasted. After all, Feisal was King of Iraq!
Then unaccountably the Crown Prince lost his temper
again. Without warning, he launched into a tirade. He told
the King off as though he were a naughty little boy.
At this moment my nerves snapped. We were driving
along the main road in Staines and I burst out at the Crown
190 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
"Slow down, please!" As he looked around startled, I told
him: "I'm sorry to have been present at this family quarrel,
specially in this company. I have stood as much as I can.
I'm not prepared to listen to any more of this. Kindly stop
He did, and I got out on the side of the road without an-
other word to him, and slammed the rear door.
That was the end of the Staines tea party. I waited for my
car and drove to London. My action was perhaps rash, but
it was caused not merely by one quarrel. It was the culmina-
tion of a long period of watching my cousin being broken.
The Crown Prince may never have forgiven me. In fact,
when my father was King and it was obvious his mental ill-
ness was getting worse, the Crown Prince did everything he
could to prevent my succeeding to the throne. The Crown
Prince happened to be in Amman during the period when
the future of the monarchy was being discussed.
"Whatever you do decide," the Crown Prince told the
Prime Minister, "don't let Prince Hussein be King. At least
"Why on earth not?" asked the Prime Minister.
"Why not? He's irresponsible. He knows nothing of the
dignity of Kingship."
This and a great deal more was said but fortunately the
Prime Minister knew better.
I remember one more instance that made by blood boil.
I was visiting Baghdad and Feisal and I made a visit to the
site of the new Royal Palace and offices.
The two of us led the way, the King of Iraq behind the
wheel of a small, rather shabby sports car that looked as
The Arab Union And a Warning 191
though he had picked it up at a used-car lot. I looked around.
The Crown Prince and other high officials were following
us yes, in the most luxurious, modern, shiny car that Rolls-
Royce could produce.
"Don't you think you ought to have a better car?" I asked
the King. Feisal shrugged his shoulders.
I was so angry that when we returned to Baghdad I put in
a telephone call to the Palace in Amman.
"Give me Raynor," I asked the operator when the call
came through. "That you, Raynor? I want you to be in Bagh-
dad tomorrow. Will you please drive here in the new Aston
Martin? I have presented it to King Feisal."
This and many other incidents did nothing to make my
relations with the Crown Prince any friendlier. But I men-
tion them because they illustrate why there was such a gap
between King Feisal and his people. He was never able to do
anything or see anyone without permission and that, I may
say, was not always granted. These instances also show why
we had certain difficulties when forming the Arab Union.
During preliminary talks, King Feisal came to Amman
without the Crown Prince and the talks went very smoothly.
He agreed with the suggestion that he and I should take it
in turn to be head of the Union.
Then the Crown Prince arrived. He objected violently to
the arrangement, and during one of the most difficult nights
of negotiations we argued and argued until finally I was
given two choices: either King Feisal could be permanent
head of state of the Union, or if we alternated, Iraq would
insist on having more members in our joint Parliament than
Jordan, and so on down the line.
King Feisal looked discomfited. I felt humiliated. But the
only real thing was to get the Union working.
192 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
"I don't mind about my own position," I said, "but my
country is different. Jordan must have as many members of
the Parliament as Iraq and in the government. The whole
basis of this Union must be equality."
So I stepped down, King Feisal became head of the Union,
and the Arab Union was formed. That was the only thing
We were naturally interested in President Nasser's atti-
tude toward the new Union. At first he was all smiles. He
telegraphed his congratulations to King Feisal almost before
the King had returned to Baghdad. Describing the Union
as a "blessed step" to which the whole Arab world had looked
forward with great hope, Nasser said he was sure that King
FeisaTs youth, beliefs and sincerity would constitute a driv-
ing force assisting the Arabs to the realization of their great
dream of unity. Arab nationalism was proud of this step
taken in Amman, the message continued, and there was no
doubt that recent events in these "glorious days for the Arab
nation" indicated that the day of unity had dawned. "I whole-
heartedly congratulate Your Majesty," Nasser concluded,
"asking Allah to head your steps towards success and bless
your great people."
King Feisal transmitted the message to me, asking for my
opinion, and I smiled to myself as I read the cable. Since the
violent days when Nasser instigated the Baghdad Pact riots,
I had tried to patch things up between our two countries. In
fact, it was Jordan that played a leading part in the Arab
world at the time of the Suez invasion in 1956. We were the
first to stand by Nasser when the Suez was nationalized. We
The Arab Union And a Warning 193
were the first to call the Arab world to stand united in sup-
port of Egypt after the attack by Israel and the Western
powers. President Chamoun of Lebanon and I had worked
together to arrange the meeting of Arab states to discuss sup-
port for Egypt. How difficult it had been to rally the Arab
world to Nasser's side! Yet, forgiving the past, we had done
it. We had even agreed earlier that the armies of Jordan,
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria should be united under one
Fingering the cable, all these memories came back to me.
Nasser knew Jordan had worked hardest for the Union but
he had not cabled me and I knew why. It was his way of
showing that Jordan as a country and I as a king no longer
counted. I do not doubt he entertained the thought that
Iraq would control Jordan as Nasser had begun to dominate
Syria. He was incapable of swallowing the fact that we were
free and equal partners. However, I told Feisal, "You must
answer it, of course/' But I told him not to take the honeyed
words too seriously and explained my skepticism. I was right.
From what followed within a few brief months, the leaders
of the then so-called U.A.R. obviously felt our new-found
strength such a hindrance to their ambitions that they took
all possible steps to liquidate it. Diplomacy had failed, so the
machine gun was introduced.
Now I come to the tragic manner in which we in Jordan
learned that a coup detat was being planned in Iraq, yet
could not persuade the Iraqis to heed our warnings. I per-
sonally had advance warning of the coup some time before
my cousin was murdered. The first inkling came through the
194 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
arrest of a Jordanian agent of Nasser, Cadet Ahmad Yussef al
Hiari, of the Fourth Tank Regiment. Ahmad was in charge
of a plot to kill me, my uncle Sherif Nasser, and other officials
by hurling grenades at a public function. When arrested, he
made a full confession, in which he stated that a coup detat
instigated by the U.A.R. would take place in Iraq in mid- July,
simultaneously with one in Jordan. Before long, other details
of the U.A.R. plans were discovered, and I was not only in
possession of many details of the coup but I even had the
names of some of the leaders. The events in Baghdad were
geared to a plot timed to occur simultaneously in Amman.
The first thing I had to do was warn my cousin. I tele-
"I have some very important information about a coup
detat being planned in Iraq," I told him urgently. "Please
be very, very careful."
"What do you suggest?" he asked.
"Send somebody over to see me," I replied. "Somebody
important. I will explain everything to him. Believe me, this
is a matter of the utmost urgency."
King Feisal thanked me and arranged for General Rafiq
A'rif, Commander-in-Chief of the Arab Union forces, to fly
to Amman. There was no time to lose if the conspirators
were to be uncovered, so as soon as he arrived, we held a
conference in a study at the Royal Diwan.
I remember the scene so well, just a few days before the
murder. I had summoned to the office my Chief of Diwan,
the Prime Minister and General A'rif . Also present was the
Jordanian Commander-in-Chief. Slowly and meticulously,
The Arab Union And a Warning 195
an intelligence officer read out the damning details we had
pieced together. I stole a look at General A'rif now and
again. He looked politely bored. As the recital of evidence
ended, General A'rif stretched himself and laughed. He had
a loud, cheerful laugh, famous all over the Middle East.
"Your Majesty," he said, "we are very thankful for your
concern. I appreciate all your trouble, sir, but I do assure
you the Iraqi Army is built on tradition. It is generally con-
sidered the best in the Middle East. It has not had the prob-
lemsnor the changes your army has had, sir, in the past
few years." He paused for breath. "I feel that it is we who
should be concerned about Jordan, Your Majesty. This coup
applies to your country, and it is you we are worried about.
I beseech you to take care, Your Majesty."
At first I was speechless.
"But you must realize, General, that it is equally serious
for Iraq!" I cried.
"I do understand," he replied but I wondered if he did.
"At least promise me, General," I implored him, "that
you will convey the full facts to His Majesty in Baghdad.
Promise me to tell the King and officials of the danger."
"That I promise your Majesty. The King and the govern-
ment shall be told everything."
With that, General A'rif took his leave. I had done every-
thing I could. On the Friday before the fateful Monday,
A'rif returned to Baghdad.
Left alone with my suspicions, I could only pray that the
General's lack of concern would be proved right, and that
our dire foreboding and fears were groundless. It transpired
later that mine were not the only warnings. The Turks had
also warned the Iraqis of the coup.
During the weekend I spoke to my cousin the King once
196 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
more. It was the day before he was due to leave on a visit
to Turkey. I wished him well. In his absence I would take his
place as head of state, and I told him I would do everything
to serve the Union. I actually planned to go to Iraq myself
and try to sort things out, but I never went.
The Murder of King Feisal
"Would our troubles never end?"
THE MURDER of my cousin, King Feisal of Iraq, on Monday,
July 14, 1958, was one of the heaviest blows I have thus far
faced. It was, besides, a political disaster of the first magni-
tude to Jordan, for it disrupted the aspirations of our two
countries, so recently joined in the Arab Union.
^It was about seven o'clock in the morning when I was
awakened by the first telephone call that brought me the
news. But much of it that morning was rumor; at one moment
the King had lost his life, the next moment he was safe and
well, and one report even said he was on his way to Turkey
as originally planned. Nothing was clear and definite. We
tried frantically to reach Baghdad by telephone, but it was
impossible, so we tried to get in touch by radio. That, too,
was hopeless. Iraq, no doubt deliberately, was cut off from
the world, and it was not until much later in the day that my
fears were confirmed.
198 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
I remember so well thinking to myself, how ironic that my
cousin should have been murdered instead of me. I was the
one who might have expected death. I was the one who took
stands that had made enemies. But Feisal, a few months my
senior, never harmed anybody and never had enough control
of events to make a single major political decision that could
have angered anybody. Yet he, not I, was the one to meet
Throughout our short lives we had been so close, united in
many ways. Our grandfathers had also been closely bound.
On my side was King Abdullah; on his, Abdullah's brother,
the first King Feisal, who played a major role in the Arab
Revolt and on whose side Lawrence of Arabia had served. As
boys we had played together hadn't Feisal given me my first
bicycle? and later at Harrow, we had discussed so often the
problems which would one day face us. Now that he is lost,
I believe many, many Iraqis, for or against the monarchy, feel
a deep sense of guilt for the brutal assassination.
For in fact, the monarchy had always been popular in
Iraq. King Feisal's father, King Ghazi, was a man always
accessible to his people, and when he was killed in a car
crash, all Iraq hailed the young Feisal as their king. All
awaited the moment when he would take power. But grad-
ually any ambitions and hopes he held were frustrated and
stifled. I could see it happening, but though I tried to inter-
fere there was too much to deal with. My efforts brought no
changes. And now Feisal was dead.
In Amman, the Cabinet met the same day. Many Cabinet
members urged me to oppose the new regime with force,
since Iraq and Jordan were both linked by treaty. The Jordan
Arab Army had never been in greater battle strength. They
argued that we should move troops immediately into the
The Murder of King Feisal 199
Iraqi section of the Union (which had not been dissolved)
and try to oust the plotters and restore order. But I answered,
"No." I explained as simply as I could my reasons.
"With our approach to life," I said, "we are not the sort of
people who wish to impose ourselves on others. If the people
of Iraq have chosen a different way of life, then whatever
we think of it they must sort it out for themselves. We may
move later if we are called for, but not now/'
I was influenced by several factors. First, who was there
left to save? To the best of our knowledge, the King, his
family and many important figures had been lost. The Iraqi
people could eventually make their choice of a system of gov-
ernment. Secondly, we did not really know what had hap-
pened in Iraq. We could not just send in troops without
being able to appraise the total situation. Thirdly, if we
marched into Iraq, we should be fighting and killing Arab
brethren. It was not their fault this coup had taken place. If
we fought anybody, it should be those outside Iraq who had
masterminded the plot, not their innocent dupes.
; I was worried, too, about the threat to Jordan. Whenever
Arab nations were in trouble, Israel was always ready to
pounce. We could not leave our frontier of four hundred
miles unguarded. It would be inviting trouble. And since I
felt that Cairo planned to overthrow the monarchy in Jordan
as well, we had a double enemy to face. Jordan was now the
only stumbling block to communism and the ambitions of the
then so-called U.A.R. ambitions which I believe at that time
meant nothing less than the domination of the Arab world.
It is perhaps hard for those who have never visited us to
realize what we passed through in that fateful summer of
200 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
1958. Not one single road was left open out of the country;
our only air corridor to the outside world was blocked by
Syrians. So was the railway. Our only port, Aqaba, two
hundred miles south of Amman, was not then properly de-
veloped, nor was the Desert Road linking Amman and Aqaba
finished. We were encircled completely.
Some Iraqi troops were in Jordan at the time of the Bagh-
dad coup and when they heard the news they openly cele-
brated and rejoiced, possibly expecting that our time was
coming soon. There was an urge to deal with them severely
at first, but moderation prevailed. A number of Iraqi staff
officers were kept in Jordan for a time. We treated them well,
but kept them in Amman until I knew that Jordanians still
alive in Baghdad would be allowed to return. As it was, we
lost many great patriots in the uprising, among them Sulei-
man Toukan, Minister of Defense in the Union, and the wise
old Ibrahim Hashem, a great legal brain and administrator,
former Prime Minister of Jordan and Deputy Prime Minister
to Nuri es-Said in the Union.
It was very hot and torpid as August came, and a dozen
metaphors spring to mind to describe the deadly feeling of
inevitability that hung over Amman. Fear was not the pre-
dominant emotion, for the essence of the drama lay in the
fact that we could do nothing but wait and see what steps
would next be taken by the latest Pharaoh across the Nile.
If I was not afraid, and I think I was not, I must admit
that many times, alone in the evening in the small study of
the Basman Palace, I wondered if I would live the year out.
I felt like an actor on the stage in a tragedy so well-known
that every audience and the audience was the world knew
what the final curtain would bring. I was almost alone. I was
The Murder of King Feisal 201
Worse was to come. The friends in the same cause for
whom Iraqi leaders had lost their lives the countries of the
free world with whom Iraq had stood four-square against
communism now started to bring pressure to bear on us not
to take any action. One by oneas though to legalize this
pressure they recognized the new regime. With what un-
seemly haste they married after burying the corpse! The
murders took place on July 14. Turkey recognized the new
regime on July 31, Britain and the United States on August 1.
It was quite a spectacle. As Sir Anthony Eden in his
memoirs, Full Circle, states, "Within a few days the free
nations of the West recognized the Government which had
endorsed, if it had not sanctioned, the gruesome deeds. In
London, only the initiative of friends, which included
Ministers, working against ecclesiastical difficulties, organ-
ized a small service in memory of those national figures whose
friendship proved faithful unto death. This did not seem
enough to mark our country's respect and gratitude/*
Our most urgent needs were twofold fuel and friends. We
were woefully short of fuel. The Syrians had earlier closed
their frontier against all Jordanian imports and exports and
traffic. This meant we could not use our traditional fuel route
by land tankers from Lebanon through their country. So we
had started importing fuel by heavy land tankers from Iraq.
Now, at a moment's notice, this source dried up. Even worse,
some of these heavy tankers had been caught in Iraq. We
needed fuel for everything. We needed it to pump water to
keep Amman and other cities alive, for electricity; we needed
it to take supplies to the south, where there had been a bad
harvest, and to carry water.
In desperation I appealed to the United States, which had
unlimited fuel resources in the region. I asked the United
202 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
States charg6 d'affaires, Mr. Thomas K. Wright, to come and
see me. I explained the problem to him frankly, adding, "The
position is desperate because of the urgency. Without oil we
Within a matter of hours the U.S. Embassy received a
reply from Washington.
"My government is only too willing to help, sir," said Mr.
Wright. "You may have as much oil as you require. The fuel
will be flown from the Gulf across Saudi Arabia to Jordan."
What a load off my mind! Within twenty-four hours the
first aircraft were landing outside Amman, and our few re-
maining tankers and many trucks lined up to bring the oil to
the city. Then, just as all seemed well, another blow fell and
as so often happens, from an unexpected quarter.
Suddenly the hum of the transport planes ceased. With
barely a dozen cargoes of oil delivered, the American aircraft
stopped arriving. What on earth was the matter? I tele-
phoned the airfield. My first thought was that something was
wrong and planes could not land; but no, everything was in
order. Had Washington changed its mind? That was im-
possible. I thought of a thousand reasons, but never the real
Our friends in Saudi Arabia on whom we counted sud-
denly refused, at this critical juncture, to permit American
aircraft to fly over their country while carrying fuel from the
gulf to Jordan. It was the only possible route they could take.
The unspoken reason was obvious some powerful advisers
in Saudi Arabia thought this was the end of our country and
they did not wish to anger Nasser.
The situation was critical. I did not wish to tell my people
The Murder of King Feted 203
what only a few of us knew-that we had barely enough fuel
in the country for a few hours and were completely sur-
rounded by enemies.
Then Mr. Wright came to see me again with even worse
news. "I'm afraid, Your Majesty, the Saudis are not only re-
fusing to let us fly fuel to you," he said. "They are also re-
fusing to allow the aircraft already in the Gulf to return even
Would our troubles never end? This was disastrous. I
might arrange an alternative source for fuel, but even if I
did, where could we find tanker planes to transport it? I was
furious, but I picked up the phone and put in a personal
call to King Saud.
It was about three hours coming through, for to put it
mildly, Saudi Arabia is not the easiest country in the world to
telephone. I pondered, as I waited, on the complexity of
human nature. Here we were alone, almost down and out.
And why? Communism as an enemy I could understand, and,
opposing it, expect no mercy. But with our brother Arabs, it
was different. Communism seeks to destroy us, but the Arabs
should have been resolved in a joint effort to bring greatness
to the Arab world, not to squabble among themselves. My
fury increased as I sat there, wondering where our next
gallon of fuel would come from and even how long we could
exist. I remember thinking, "Where will this cowardice of our
Arab brethren lead us? What are we heading for, divided like
^At last my Chief of Diwan warned me, "The call is coming
through, sir," and a moment later I heard King Saud's voice
on the other end of the line. I could hardly control myself.
204 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
When I asked him why Saudi Arabia had taken this stand
against us, King Saud apologized and said, "If I'd known all
these details before, I might have been able to do something
else, but I'm afraid it is too late now-the government has
already made its decision."
What a shallow excuse, I thought, and then said:
"To the end of my life I will never forget this stand against
my country and my people in this hour of need." With that,
I slammed down the receiver.
Turning to my Chief of Diwan and others who had been
listening, I said bitterly:
"This is probably the first time in history that any govern-
ment has ever taken any decision in Saudi Arabia, or for that
matter, even met!"
We did receive fuel after a short break in supplies, but how
it arrived was perhaps the most humiliating feature of the
whole sordid business. Our Arab friends had refused to let us
fly over their country the air of brother Arabs and so, in the
end, the fuel came from Lebanon, and every gallon had to be
flown over the skies of Israel, the mortal enemy of all Arab
states. Where an Arab nation refused, an enemy agreed.
As I was endeavoring to solve these many problems, I
called a full meeting of the government in the Palace and we
decided to ask the United States and Britain to send us
troops. We needed some help not so much physical as moral
help. A token force would be enough something to take off
some of the load for at least a short while. We were in truth
stretched to the limit.
We faced plots inside our country. There were troop con-
centrations on our frontiers. And we were still members of
The Murder of King Feisal 205
the Arab Union. I was automatically the head of the Union,
which had not been dissolved, and as the Iraqi- Jordanian
treaty stipulated that either country could help in the internal
troubles of the other, we might still have to take military
action. Who could tell at that time? If we did, we needed
some force to hold off any aggressors who might attack us if
our troops were outside the country.
It was a big decision and not one I wished to make myself.
When the government agreed that it was necessary, I called a
joint meeting of the Cabinet, Parliament and the Senate. I
also invited any members of the Arab Union Parliament to
come if they wished. I told them the government wanted
American or British troops to come to Jordan and I asked
"If you have any point of view on this subject, please feel
free to speak now."
Unanimously, the meeting approved the step.
Both the British and U.S. Ambassadors were absent from
Jordan, so I asked the charge d'affaires of both countries to
come to see me. Mr. Heath Mason of Britain and Mr. Wright
of the United States were given a joint audience, and I told
them both that we did not require troops to sort out our in-
ternal problems but as a proof that a small, free nation in
times of trouble did not have to stand alone.
"We do not mind which country sends the troops," I
added. "We need them for a limited period only. I look upon
this move as a symbol of the ties that bind free peoples in
times of crisis."
We had to take this step, for the strain was beginning to
tell. There was a genuine fear that Israel might seize this
moment for a thrust into the West Bank area. We still did not
know what was happening even in Iraq. The threats all
206 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
around were genuine enough, and each day more spies, with
guns or explosives, were crossing our frontiers plotting
murder or sabotage.
I had purposely allowed the British and Americans to
decide which country should send troops, and the answer
came swiftly. British parachute troops would fly in from
On Wednesday, the night of July 16, we rounded up the
last of the plotters and conspirators who had hoped to stage a
coup cTetat in Jordan. We were just in time. We had kept a
careful watch on the conspirators since our first inkling of the
plot. Now we pounced and seized the actual orders to
plotters inside Jordan, telling them to move into action the
following day, July 17. Jordan was saved by a matter of
hours. The original plan was for the coup to take place on
July 14, but it was postponed as a result of our precaution-
With the plotters safely in jail, I went to bed at 3:30 A.M.
and for the first time since my cousin's murder two days
previously, I slept for two hours. I awoke soon after dawn
and about 9:30 I heard the drone of heavy aircraft. The
British paratroops were already landing.
Only later was I able to piece together the action in White-
hall before the troops arrived and the reasons behind the
magnificent response by Mr. Macmillan, the Prime Minister-
particularly the speed with which he acted. In every way it
was thought to be more statable to send British rather than
American troops. The British had crack forces alerted in
Cyprus. They could reach us in a morning. The American
The Murder of King Feisal 207
Marines were already engaged in Lebanon. But could the
British slash through red tape and reach a decision in time?
They did. Almost at the moment Britain received our re-
quest for help, their intelligence was given details of the
coup d'etat plot against us. It was the combination of these
two factors which enabled the Prime Minister to take what he
described as the "most difficult decision" of his career.
The sequence of events leading up to the decision to help
us was among the most dramatic in recent history. At five
minutes past ten on Wednesday night (July 16) Mr. Mac-
millan was preparing to go home after winding up the Middle
East debate in the House of Commons. He sent his parlia-
mentary private secretary, Mr. Anthony Barber, M.P., to
escort Lady Dorothy Macmillan from the gallery so they
could go back to No. 10 Downing Street together. But by the
time Lady Dorothy arrived, the Prime Minister had dis-
carded all thoughts of home. In those few minutes the intelli-
gence reports of the plot against Jordan and my own appeal
for help had been handed to him. Knowing that Jordan's
future hung by a thread, Mr. Macmillan immediately ordered
a full Cabinet meeting.
British Cabinet Ministers were convinced that if action was
not taken immediately, the Middle East situation might
rapidly deteriorate beyond Jordan. For if Jordan went the
way of Iraq, so might Kuwait, a key oil-producing center, and
who could know where it would stop? At 2 A.M. on Thurs-
day, the Cabinet meeting ended and a code message was
flashed to Cyprus ordering British paratroops into the air.
Speed was vital. There was no time for diplomatic niceties.
Britain did not even have time to explain to the Israelis, over
whose territory their planes would have to fly, why it was so
urgent for their paratroops to reach Amman.
So British troop-carrying aircraft took off before the for-
208 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
malities of getting permission from the Israeli government
had been completed. This explains the "buzzing" of British
air transports by Israeli fighters as they crossed the coast
early on Thursday morning, and the recall by G.H.Q. in
Cyprus of the main contingent of paratroops. The Israelis
allowed three Beverley transports carrying an advance body
of about a hundred men to proceed across their territory. But
it was not until six hours later, following clearance by the
Israeli Cabinet, that the airlift from Cyprus could proceed in
Only one trifling incident marred the British parliamentary
proceedings, when a Socialist member of Parliament said
that instead of sending British troops to Amman, "Would
not the King be safer over here where he could be looked
after by a couple of policemen?"
Those words came back to me about a year later when I
was in London. Mr. Macmillan gave a dinner in my honor at
No. 10 Downing Street. When I was called on to speak, I
said: "One member of Parliament has suggested that two
British policemen would be enough to protect me, and that
there was no need to send British troops to Jordan to protect
me there. May I say that I personally have never needed any
protection. It was not me or my country those British troops
came to protect it was freedom."
Surrounded by Enemies
"The Soviets had gained their foothold in Islam*
THE BRITISH TROOPS stayed in Amman until October 29. The
last small detachment departed from Aqaba on November 2.
The British force was small, but its very presence gave us a
chance to breathe. Seeing the famous Red Berets in the
streets, the people knew we were not alone, that this was no
time for despair. Yet there was still much to be done and we
faced grave problems.
Many prominent Jordanians, who were by chance in
Baghdad at the time of the uprising, were also murdered
along with King Feisal, and it took little imagination to
realize that what had happened had been aimed as much at
Jordan as at Iraq. We soon received positive proof of this.
The next few weeks of crisis were perhaps the gravest in the
history of my country, weeks in which, diplomacy having
failed to split us, we now faced the machine gun and the
bomb and the ever-present blaring voice of radio propaganda.
210 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
I would certainly be next on the list and I was deeply
worried, not so much for myself or my family but for Jordan
my bigger family. In recent crises every Jordanian rallied
behind me in every decision we took. How different it was
from the crisis leading to the Zerqa uprising. Then I was al-
most alone. But now everything had changed. I really had
become the head of a large family. They stood by me loyally
against all attempts of other states to destroy Jordan.
I knew that if anything happened to me, the whole of
Jordan could easily go. It was unthinkable to quit like a
coward and leave this family at the mercy of its enemies,
despite the by now rather monotonously regular attempts on
my life. The people of Jordan from both banks alike were
my people; I loved them and believed in them and our
cause, as I always will. My place was with them as it al-
ways shall be. I had accepted a challenge, not only as King
but to carry on the ideals of the Arab Revolt. I knew the
dangers, but accepted the risk of death to myself and many
others. Never would I leave Jordan unless I was of no more
use to my people.
My main problem now was desperate: What should I do
for these people who had shown their trust in me? This was
no internal political problem to be solved by forming a new
Cabinet. We were faced with enemies who would stop at
nothing to strike me down and destroy Jordan.
Looking back, it is obvious that 1958 was the climax to
three years in which Jordan was subjected to a merciless war
of propaganda, subversion and infiltration by Communist-
dominated agents in sister Arab states. Their propaganda
was brilliant. Traveling over even the remotest parts of
Jordan, it was impossible to escape its voice. While Cairo had
powerful modern stations, Amman Radio at that time had a
Surrounded by Enemies 211
strength of only five kilowatts. Its radius was hardly more
than thirty miles. We did our best to combat the lies that
poured in, by presenting the more outrageous ones in the
newspapers and on the radio every day. People who had
passed a normal, quiet day in Amman roared with laughter
when they heard and read the text of Cairo Radio's out-
"Troops clash in Amman, blood ankle-deep in its streets!"
And so forth.
It was easy to deal with but naturally many distortions and
exaggerations filtered through to the ordinary people of the
country. One did not prevent them from listening.
I remember one evening I drove out with a friend, just to
"get away from it all" for a few hours, and we came to Mount
Nebo from which Moses first saw the Promised Land, and in
this era of the portable radio set, I heard the voice of Cairo
say, "We shall fight until we exterminate the criminal King
of Jordan." In Jerusalem, on the occasion of an unexpected
visit, I even heard the then Egyptian-controlled Damascus
Radio hurling insults at me near the foot of the Mount of
Olives in the city where Christ died for his people.
Not only were Cairo and Damascus pouring out propa-
ganda night after night, but civil disturbances were traced
to agents from Syria and Egypt. I was convinced that Com-
munist agents were running a vast system of bribery in
Jordan, and there are the weak in every community. They
had organized infiltration of enemy agents on a wide scale,
there had been dangerous smuggling of arms into the country
along frontiers hundreds of miles long and it was impossible
to patrol every yard effectively.
212 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
It became so bad that we even had to withdraw a good
portion of the troops from the Israeli border because we
needed them to guard our frontiers against sister Arab states.
How ironical! But it was incredible to what lengths they were
determined to go. Nor was this anything new. It had been
going on for months, if not years. Two cases stand out in my
memory, as examples of their techniques. The first case in-
volved the Egyptian military attache to Amman, Major
Fouad Hillal, who made contact with a trooper, Safout
Shukair, of the Jordan Arab Army. Shukair worked in the
legal department at Army Headquarters, and the Egyptian
military attache tried to bribe him to assassinate me.
Plots against my life no longer deeply worried me so
long as I discovered them in time! but this was something
new and decidedly unpleasant. It was not merely enemy
activity behind the scenes, but out in the open, from a
"friendly" protected Embassy in my own capital. What im-
An intelligence officer outlined the plot to me:
"We don't know yet, sir, how it was going to be done.
Shukair was told to wait for another rendezvous with the
"What did Shukair do?"
"He immediately sought an interview with the Chief of
the General Staff and told him everything. His evidence was
recorded on a tape machine, Your Majesty."
This was as far as the matter had gone. What next? At a
conference the following morning we decided to ask
Shukair to keep his appointment at the Egyptian Embassy,
but to carry a small tape recorder hidden in his clothes. Un-
fortunately, the Cairo espionage system was so thorough the
Egyptians heard about the tape recorder. It was frightening
to think how walls could hear at that time. Shukair kept his
Surrounded by Enemies 213
appointment, but when he entered the Embassy he was
pounced on by two members of the staff, searched, his re-
corder and his weapon taken from him.
He was held for the night, beaten up, tortured and
threatened with death. Being an intelligent fellowwho
knew his innocence was established by his previous tape-
recorded evidence Shukair signed a "confession/' With this
in his hands the Egyptian charge d'affaires told the police
that a suspicious Jordanian had been found attempting to
break into and rob the Egyptian Embassy. We asked the
Egyptians to hand over the man and his belongings. After
some hesitation, Shukair was handed over to the police, but
not the tape recorder or his gun. It was after this that we
requested the Egyptian government to withdraw its military
attach^ from Amman.
Following this affair, nineteen more persons were arrested
and the subsequent trial revealed that the Egyptian Consul-
General, Mohammed Abdulaziz, had been organizing sabo-
tage gangs and smuggling arms into Jordan from the Gaza
Strip. Very convenient for Egypt. He, too, had to leave.
The other typical case took place a long time before the
murder of my cousin but soon after the Zerqa incident, when
we were still striving to live in peace with our neighbors, and
when we even experimented with a joint army command be-
tween Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Even then Egypt was
plotting against us. I was in the Palace one evening I had
been out flying and was about to dine quietly when a top
army official requested an audience. My aide told me he was
extremely agitated and I knew he was not one given to
He walked into my study and, putting a gray envelope on
214 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
my desk, said without preamble, "I beg of you, sir, to read
It was a letter written by Colonel Yusri Kunsowa, the
Egyptian representative on the joint command of our armies,
and it had been discovered in Kunsowa's safe at Army Head-
quarters. One glance was sufficient to prove Egyptian com-
plicity in an attempt to take over Jordan and eliminate me.
The letter was addressed to Brigadier Mohammed Hafez
Ismail, at the Egyptian Army Headquarters in Cairo. It told
him that ex-General Hiyyari (who had fled Jordan following
the Zerqa uprising) would "follow the same lines" as those
laid down by Abu Nuwar who had also plotted my death at
Zerqa. Hiyyari was still in Damascus. The letter added that
plans had already been laid with the connivance of Abu
Nuwar to overthrow the throne. It also gave a list of loyal
Jordanians whom Kunsowa considered "traitors to the cause"
and others who were considered "loyal" to him.
We acted quickly. Arrests were made and at a trial which
followed, seventeen defendants admitted they had been sent
in from Syria to blow up bridges and roads and eventually
lead attacks on the Palace. They had also organized smug-
gling of arms.
At this time you could buy a Soviet gun anywhere. There
was even a glut on the market. Some came from Sinai where
they had been abandoned by the Egyptians during the Suez
wrangle. One of my Palace officials actually bought a machine
gun over a coffee table. It was sold to him by a complete
stranger, loyal to the Crown but who never thought twice
about dealing in smuggled arms.
My official had gone for a swim in the Dead Sea. On the
way back he stopped in Jericho for coffee. Here, where the
richest stories of the Bible were enacted, life has changed
Surrounded by Enemies 215
little since the days of the Disciples. Sharing a table with my
colleague was a striking Bedouin, his handsome, bearded face
like a picture from the past.
Knowing that I am always anxious to discover what my
people think of me privately ( they are often too shy to tell
me to my face), my official asked the Bedouin:
"What would you do if the enemies of the King rose against
The Bedouin knew nothing of intrigue or even of the
plots that might well have been hatched against me at that
very moment. He looked astonished and replied:
"Why! Fight for my King, of course!"
He looked genuinely puzzled. "This naturally!" And he
pulled out a modern submachine gun made in Czecho-
slovakia. Then he added: "Do you want one? Are you for the
King? If you are, you can have this one if you like I can
always get another quite easily. Anyone can buy them in the
What better proof could one require of Communist inter-
ference, albeit through puppets, in the internal affairs of
another country? My official bought the gun and brought it
to me at the Palace, where I tried a few bursts. It was an
The trouble was that after the Egyptian arms deal with
Russia, the Soviets had gained their foothold in the world of
Islam. Like the salesman who pushes his foot in the door and
refuses to leave when the housewife insists she does not want
anything, the Soviets were there for a long, long time. I dare
say, taking the most charitable view, that the Egyptians may
not have relished having hordes of Russians and Czechs
around, but one cannot ignore the basic fact that if one buys
216 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
complicated and modern machines from a country, one must
be dependent on that country for spare parts and for servic-
ing. The fact that the Egyptians bought Soviet MIGs was
only the beginning of the story. The real trouble lay in the fact
that, having bought the MIGs, the Egyptians allowed the
Soviets to send technicians (or agents) into their country;
they chose to associate with them in more than arms deals;
and the Egyptians had to buy spare parts from the Soviet
bloc and had to reorganize their economy to find the money.
; The Arab leaders who attacked us so ruthlessly at this
period were really the tools of Moscow whether they realized
it or not. I stood firmly behind my belief that communism
could never help the liberation of the Arab peoples which I
wanted quite as much as the other Arab leaders, if not more
because the ultimate end of communism must be a form of
slavery and obedience to Moscow. Communism could never
be an ally of nationalism because nationalism is a major
threat to communism. This I strove to tell my people on
every occasion when I addressed them but, alas, I could
never hope to speak to them as often as the enemy radio, or
in the same tone.
In retrospect, now that the Middle East is a little calmer
and its voices less strident, it is like looking back on a horrible
nightmare. I remember one night particularly. I slept fitfully,
with a feeling of impending disaster, then finally dozed
toward dawn, only to wake up desperately tired. I wondered,
Where will it all end? What's going to happen today?
Perhaps it was most difficult for my Army, whose loyalty
was never in doubt during those dark days or ever since. They
were not politicians, only men of action, yet the enemy
Surrounded by Enemies 217
against them was a constant intangible quantity. My soldiers
would have fought to the death against an enemy they could
see, for we take pride in having the finest army in all the Arab
lands. But we were striking at the unseen.
My main personal difficulty was of another sort. I had my
fears, my worries, my suspicions, but these I could never
show by even a flicker of emotion. This left me utterly alone,
for I had to "put on a good face/' I had to prove to my
people who have come, with the help of God, through those
somber days that I had sublime faith in our future. But can
I be blamed if on occasion, late at night, I sometimes won-
dered how it was all going to end?
I am not ashamed to say that at times I felt even death
itself would be a welcome relief. But then, one had responsi-
bilities and one could never abandon them. And so each day
I was up with the dawn, usually after a miserable, sleepless
night. I would dress quickly, neatly, and would take care to
include in my dress a smile of confidence in our future.
The Syrian MIG Attack
"At this moment I felt my time had come' 1
BY THE END of October, I felt the crisis had abated sufficiently
to enable me to take a short holiday. Consequently I decided
to fly my Dove aircraft to Europe. It was a flight which was
almost to cost me my life.
I took off from Amman at about 8:20 on the morning of
November 10, 1958, in the old twin-engined De Haviland
Dove which had been my grandfather's plane and now be-
longed to the Air Force. In the cockpit beside me was Colonel
Jock Dalgleish, at that time Air Adviser to the Royal Jorda-
nian Air Force. My passengers were my uncle, Sherif Nasser,
two Jordanian Air Force pilots who were to fly the plane
home again, and Maurice Raynor, whom I had known since
my days at Harrow. The Syrian Nasserite authorities knew
long before I left that I would be a passenger and I planned
to stay three weeks in Lausanne with my mother, Queen Zein,
my daughter Alia, and the rest of my family. I also planned to
The Syrian MIG Attack 219
celebrate my birthday on November 14. Rooms had been
booked at the Beau Rivage, the same hotel in which I had
received the fateful telegram which proclaimed me King.
I had gone out of my way to inform my people that I was
taking this little holiday. Not only was this publicly an-
nounced but I even gave a farewell speech the evening be-
fore my official departure from Amman airport which the
diplomatic corps attended in full force.
It seemed perfectly simple to fly across Syria and Lebanon
to Cyprus, our first stop, and then on to Athens and Rome.
This was the shortest and the most usual way, and we had
every right to chart this course to Europe.
It was a cool morning when we took off. There was an
overcast sky and we climbed to about 9,000 feet, flying
toward the Syrian frontier. Very soon we were in broken
cloud and then we contacted Damascus by radio. We re-
ported our position at the frontier and got clearance from
them to continue.
If one is to follow what happened subsequently, it is vital
to understand that it was Damascus Airport that had given
us the right to proceed. I myself was listening through my
headset on the V.H.F. radio when this clearance came
through, and as a result we continued flying to a specified
turning point well inside the Syrian territory where we were
due to report our position and altitude to Damascus. This
we did. We were asked our estimated time of arrival over
Damascus and gave this information. Then we got the first
inkling of trouble. A few minutes later Damascus called my
aircraft again and told us, "You are not cleared to overfly.
You must land at Damascus/'
We replied, "We are not cleared to land at Damascus. We
are proceeding to Cyprus."
220 UNEASY LIES TttE HEAD
Damascus told us: "Stand by."
Dalgleish and I thought there must be some mistake.
We flew on and were not more than fifteen miles out of
Damascus, which we could see occasionally through broken
cloud, when they called us again and said, "You are not
cleared to fly over. You will land at Damascus/' Almost im-
mediately, they started to give us the landing instructions
and asked us to report when the airfield was in sight.
I looked at Dalgleish. Without another word we turned
the aircraft in the direction of Amman. We replied, "If those
are your final instructions we must contact Amman and
Thoroughly alarmed, I called Amman up and told them
what was happening. The anxious but clear reply came back,
"You are to return to base immediately. Remain on this
frequency. Do not acknowledge any further messages/' And
then significantly the voice added, "And good luck to you."
I opened again on the Damascus channel. They asked,
"What is your position?" We replied, "We are orbiting, await-
ing your final instructions." This time the Syrians were even
more definite. Again they gave us the order to land.
I replied briefly: "Sorry, this we can't do!" and switched
back to Amman.
We were already heading toward the nearest point of
Jordanian territory. We did not bother to return by the same
route we had taken from Amman. We took the shortest cut
to the frontier! At this moment the cloud broke completely.
We were flying at about ten thousand feet and I had a sud-
den idea. I turned to Jock and said: "Why don't we go down
and fly at ground level?"
I put the plane into a dive at about two hundred forty air
miles an hour, the most the poor old Dove could take, for I
The Syrian MIG Attack 221
felt that once we were flying at ground level the possibility
of picking us up by radar would be reduced, while the possi-
bility of spotting us would be made more difficult, especiaDy
as jets do not maneuver well at low altitude, nor do they have
a long fuel endurance.
We reached the ground it seemed to take hours and
hedgehopped at zero feet as we approached the Jordanian
Suddenly one of the Air Force pilots in the back of the
plane came up to the cockpit and shouted:
"I've just seen two MIGs flying at height in the opposite
This meant they were flying toward us from the Jordanian
frontier, even perhaps from inside Jordan's air space. Dal-
gleish looked at me. We understood the significance of their
position. These were not aircraft sent up since we had re-
fused to land at Damascus.
I think both Dalgleish and I felt a real shiver of fear, but I
told the pilot to go back and keep me informed if he saw them
again. I glanced at Jock and both of us tightened our safety
Two minutes later the two MIG 17's of the United Arab
Republic Air Force passed us on our starboard wing. Almost
at our level, they turned across our path, gained height, and
dived at us in what is known as a quarter attack.
I felt my time had come. I really believed that this was the
I tore the old Dove around in a turn. I thought to myself,
If I go, at least 111 take one of them with me. It looked as
though we were almost finished, so I made up my mind to
222 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
ram the first MIG, since it was obvious they meant business.
What a way to get rid of us! No one would ever know
what had happened in that uninhabited lava-covered areal
As they tore into the attack, Jock took over the controls and
managed to avoid their first pass by tightening his turn.
Their tactics were simple. They dived at us in turn, from the
port side, slightly forward from our position, screaming down
toward us at speed, banking toward our nose. Time and again
they attacked. We could do nothing but watch out for them
and wait for them to come in. Only one defense was possible.
We had to turn inside their circle at the precise moment they
began to get us lined up in their sights. I knew that a MIG
could not turn as tightly as our slower Dove, which could
turn in a much smaller circle and at as slow a speed as ninety
miles an hour. So when we turned in to meet the MIGs, they
were forced to overshoot every time.
But our biggest fear was not seeing them as the attack
developed. Both of us were straining our necks looking out
for each new attack. We were flying the poor old Dove as
fast as she could go, with full power, exceeding all engine
limitations, but she held together. As we twisted and turned
I hated to think what it was like back in the cabin. It must
have been a shambles. Somehow my uncle struggled to the
cockpit and shouted, "What on earth's happening?"
I yelled out, "We're being attacked!"
His reply was characteristic of him.
"Give me the radio," he cried, "and let me tell them what I
think of them."
"This isn't the moment," I answered. Nevertheless, his
attitude cheered us up enormously.
Before long the attacks intensified. Jock shouted, "I think
you had better call Mayday in case we're forced down."
The Syrian MIG Attack 223
I myself gave the S.O.S. call on the Amman frequency, but
unfortunatelyor perhaps fortunately for their peace of mind
it was not picked up by Amman, doubtless because of our
very low altitude.
Then came the moment, the split second, when we almost
crashed. Jock was at the controls, watching one side for a pos-
sible attack, while I looked out of the other side. We turned
our heads at exactly the same instant as we seemed to be
flying straight into a hill. Frantically, we yanked at the con-
trols. The old plane lurched, staggered, hesitated under the
strain, and as the nose went up we skimmed the top of that
hill by inches.
That was perhaps the worst single moment of the flight.
No doubt it would have elated those who had been sent
The battle was not over. By turning into them at the mo-
ment of attack we had foiled them because of our slower
speed, so now they tried different tactics. They gained height,
and then simultaneously attacked from both sides.
This was even more frightening. I cannot describe it ex-
cept to say that it was like playing tag in the air at fantastic
speeds. They were chasing us and we were compelled to
dodge. It was dangerous for them too. We managed to avoid
one MIG which then shot right up as the other dived steeply
from the other direction. They almost collided head-on.
Attack after attack continued until we crossed the road
from Mafraq to H.5 the main road to Iraq and well inside
the Jordanian frontier. Suddenly it was all over. The MIGs
flew away and we lost sight of them as they headed back to-
ward Syria. At first I could not believe it. Dalgleish and I
224 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
waited for the next attack, wondering where it would come
from. All sorts of possibilities flashed through my mind. It
seemed hours since the first attack, though I suppose it was
We flew on at a very low altitude for a long distance. They
might have gone, I thought, but we were still worried. If we
gained height, Syrian radar might pick us up again and other
fighters might be close at hand.
At last we felt the danger had passed. We climbed. And at
that moment my uncle came to the cockpit holding out a
cigarette for me the best I ever smoked.
He gave me the thumbs-up sign. "Well done!" he said.
"Don't we passengers deserve wings?"
I shouted back: "It looks clear now. Can we have break-
Alas, there was no breakfast to be had. The food was an
unholy scramble. However, we did have a hot drink. Through-
out all the twisting and diving, with everything thrown about
during the battle, Raynor British to the core had held
firmly on to a thermos and now produced two cups of tea.
Tea and a cigarette what more could one ask! And as
music to go with it I could now hear the welcome and angry
voices of the Jordanian Air Force jet pilots.
As I sipped the hot tea, I looked at Dalgleish. He was in
his element. A huge grin filled his weatherbeaten face.
That was close, sir!" he shouted. And as we flew sedately
on toward my capital, all danger past, I reflected just how
close to death we had been. And I wondered, too, what mad-
ness had prompted the Syrians' wanton attack.
There was never a question of "mistaken identity." My
Dove was well known and could not have been mistaken for
any other aircraft. It had the royal Jordanian Air Force mark-
The Syrian MIG Attack 225
ings and carried the royal coat of arms and the royal flag. It
had flown to Damascus several times, once with me on an
Even now we do not know why they made the attack. I
do not believe for a moment that they were merely trying to
turn us back. There is an international code by which planes
in the air order another to return. There is a whole sequence
of procedure, and only after going through this does a fighter
have the right to consider you "fair game" if you do not
choose to respond to his instructions. Every flier learns this
almost before he can fly. The MIG pilots knew this as well
as I did but they came right into an unmistakable attack.
And never once did either plane appear in the least friendly.
The Syrians have always been touchy about their air space.
In the months preceding the attack on my aircraft, there
were others. Some months before, they had caught a Leba-
nese civil aircraft over Damascus Airport and opened up with
anti-aircraft guns at point-blank range. The pilot, a New Zea-
lander, dived just as we did and got away to Beirut. There
were other incidents, too, in which the motives seem obscure.
However touchy, this was no excuse for deliberately at-
tacking an unarmed aircraft on a perfectly lawful passenger
flight. Only one conclusion was possible. They had hoped to
kill us. My death, three months after King FeisaTs, could
have virtually ended the Hashemite Kingdom. And if it had
been an "accident," how easy it would have been to lay the
blame on my stubborn insistence on learning to fly.
But so many questions remain unanswered. Who were the
pilots? Whose voice was it in the control tower that counter-
manded the first order for us to proceed? What drama might
226 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
have taken place in the control tower at Damascus before
one man took the place of another?
We have never had a satisfactory answer to these questions
from the then U.A.R. authorities or to others in Jordan's offi-
cial protest over the incident. Despite repeated requests, they
have never told us on whose orders the Damascus Airport
authorities and the Air Force planes were operating.
After serious consideration, we decided not to proceed
with a case to the United Nations. I preferred to consider this
a personal matter rather than a national issue.
I was more than recompensed by the loyalty of my people,
from the moment we landed. Anxious officials had congre-
gated at the airport. Huge crowds rushed to surround my
plane as we taxied to a stop on the apron. When I reached
the Palace, the enthusiasm was unbounded. I was tremen-
dously excited. Through the door of my study where I stood,
scores of officers and troops from the Army, men from the
desert in white and brown robes, and or so it seemed peo-
ple from the streets came to pay me homage. I was almost
mobbed. I could not prevent them from embracing me, shak-
ing my hands and crying, "Thank God! Thank God you are
Machine guns were being fired outside, and rifle shots and
shotguns also were echoing round the hills. In one place an
excited soldier found nothing else to use but a tear-gas bomb
and hurled over the heads of the crowd. It seemed as
though the whole town had gone wild. Men of my Army tore
past the Palace gates up the hill, some of them in Land-
Rovers, firing their rifles into the air as they headed toward
the Palace. The crowds grew as army units stationed outside
the city started rolling into Amman to congratulate me. It
was a wonderful, wonderful day, and it made me change my
mind about a holiday in Europe. At first I had thought of
The Syrian MIG Attack 227
refueling and finding an alternative route to Europe, but
when thousands of men, women and children begged me to
stay, I could not leave. My place was with these loyal people,
some unashamedly weeping as they embraced me.
My scrape with the Syrian MIGs was a hair's-breadth es-
cape from death, and I must admit that at one time I felt-
to use Air Force jargon that I had "bought" it.
^ Times have changed since those bitter days of 1958 when
tragedy ripped the Arab lands asunder. Even so, the Syrian
MIG incident was an attack upon a head of state as yet un-
paralleled in history, and it will take me longer to forget it
than it has taken me to forgive those responsible.
As chance would have it, exactly one year later the same
hour, the same date I flew over the same spot, on my way
to London, and took the opportunity to mark privately the
anniversary of that attack. From the cockpit I looked down as
I followed the course I had taken the year before with Dal-
gleish. Then I had been defenseless and flying at zero alti-
tude. Now the Jordanian Air Force was soaring at height and
in strength along our frontier. It all looked so calm and peace-
ful. On the H.5 road, like a straight black ruler leading to
Iraq, there were only a couple of trucks. On the desert, with
its lava-covered hillocks where we had so nearly crashed, a
camel train moved slowly toward the frontier. At the proper
moment I called up Damascus to report my position, thinking
back to that first enigmatic reply just a year before. It was
different this time! Politely, an impersonal voice gave me
leave to proceed. There was not a MIG in the air.
How strange life is and how strange are memories, espe-
cially in the loneliness of the skies. I could hardly believe that
over those same low black hillocks of lava I had just a year
228 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
before hedgehopped, fighting desperately for my life, wait-
ing for each new assault as the MIGs attacked. I strained my
neck looking out of the cockpit remembering them.
One of my entourage entered the cockpit. Did I need any-
thing? I shook my head. No, I needed nothing; nothing ex-
cept a moment of privacy to pray silently to God for the gift
Then I busied myself with my instruments and set course
for Cyprus and the West.
My American Tour
"I was eager to meet the people"
FOR A LONG TIME I had wanted to visit the United States. My
impressions of it, like those of everyone else who has never
been there, were made up from books I had read, American
magazines, and above all, the movies. Of course I did not
expect to find cowboys and Indians stalking each other on
the Western plains or gangsters shooting it out in the streets
of Chicago. But I really had no idea what to expect, beyond
having the pleasure of visiting the greatest free nation in the
world, and one I had always admired. I was eager to meet
the people of the United States and learn what I could from
them. I looked forward to my first visit with even more excite-
ment than I had as a child when I first went to Alexandria or
later when I first went to London.
Arrangements were finally concluded in the spring of 1959
for me to make a lengthy tour of the country. I flew by way
of Formosa, where I broke my journey for a few days. Here
230 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
I paid an official visit to its great leader-and my good and
wise friend-Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and his brave
people. Then I flew on.
Altogether, I spent about a month in America. It was the
most exhilarating, exciting, and exhausting journey I have
ever made. The Americans are so generous, so enthusiastic
about their country, I had to see everything. Indeed, I wanted
to, for the major purpose of my trip was twofold. I hoped,
in a series of major speeches and meetings, to explain Jordan's
policy, principles, beliefs and traditions to the American
After all, the United States, through much-needed financial
aid, had placed great faith, and I believe, great hope, in Jor-
dan. And I wanted, if I could, to assure the people that their
faith was not misplaced, and that their hopes for us would
one day be justified. At the same time I wanted to see every-
thing I could and learn as much as possible about the most
powerful country in the world. I did not know, but I sus-
pected, that I might learn something that would find appli-
cation in my own country, different though the two countries
are in almost every physical respect. Above all, I wanted to
meet the ordinary people of the United States. I wanted to
talk to them without any barriers or protocol.
I landed first at Honolulu on March 17 and spent several
days there. This was a wonderful interlude. The weather,
as always, was perfect, and I stayed in that pink rambling
landmark of Waikiki Beach, the Royal Hawaiian Hotel. I
tasted every conceivable kind of Hawaii's wonderful food.
Never had I seen such variety Japanese, Chinese, South
Seas, with the ever-present pineapple almost given away.
The Governor and his wife and the people of the new state
My American Tour 231
were very kind. I spent as much time as possible being an
ordinary tourist. I wore Aloha shirts. I wandered through
the "International Village/' where they have in a tree a res-
taurant that seats only two people. I lazed on the beach and
was sorely tempted to try my hand (or rather feet!) at stand-
up surfing. I could have stayed in Honolulu much longer,
but on March 22 I had to fly to San Francisco to lunch with
the World Affairs Council.
Here I had my first view of America's skyscrapers. Like
every tourist, I went to the "Top of the Mark" for the fabu-
lous view of San Francisco and the bay and its bridges. I
share with everyone who has seen that panorama the opinion
that this is truly one of the magnificent sights of the world.
After lunch I managed to slip off unattended, except for a
couple of friends. I wanted to walk, unobserved, up and
down the streets that climb as steeply as those in Amman.
Here I entered my first drugstore. I could hardly believe
my eyes. In Amman, drugstores confine themselves to selling
drugs. In this shop, I could have stocked a fair-sized house.
But like a good Arab, I merely sat at a counter and had
coffee. Next door was a vast supermarket, second only in
wonder to the skyscraper as an American invention. I moved
up and down the aisles, amazed not only at the variety of
products but at the variety of brands. Then suddenly I be-
came cognito. A mother shopping with her children gave me
a stare of recognition. Perhaps she had seen my photographs
in the morning papers. She had two children with her, and
one of them, a little girl, noticing her mother's intent look,
asked loudly, "Who is he, Mummy?"
"Hush," the mother half whispered. "He's the King."
In a very loud voice, the daughter asked, "What does a
king do, Mummy?"
It must be hard to find a more beautiful city than San
232 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Francisco. I was intrigued to notice how often in different
American cities the people asked me, "Have you seen San
Francisco?" They are rightly very proud of it.
The next day I flew to Washington for my official reception.
On the flight from San Francisco, there was considerable
discussion about what I should wear when the plane landed
in Washington. My own inclination was for a dark suit, but
the State Department people, who were to be my constant
companions on my visit, suggested that a uniform would be
more appropriate. Apparently they thought it would make
me look more like a king. I have never given much thought
to what a king should look like, but I thought, If that s what
they'd like to see, that's what they shall see.
I was glad I did wear my Air Force blues uniform, because
after I had shaken hands with those who had come to meet
me at Washington, the attendant band struck up the Jorda-
nian national anthem. As I saluted, a lump came to my throat,
hearing our anthem played on foreign soil. I remember think-
ing how proud I was to be a Jordanian, and only wished that
my people back home could know how proud I felt for them
at that moment.
Though this was not a state visit, I was met at the airport
by Vice President Nixon and Mr. Christian Herter, then Act-
ing Secretary of State. I did not have much opportunity to get
to know Mr. Nixon, though my first impression was of his
cordiality and kindness. I was greatly impressed with the
charm and dignity of Mr. Herter, an impression that was con-
firmed on the several other occasions when we met.
In Washington, I had long separate talks with President
Eisenhower and Mr. Herter. From their side there is no doubt
My American Tour 233
they wanted to form an opinion about the free Jordanian
people and their servant and leader, whom the United States
government was helping to support. On my side, I was
deeply anxious to explain to the President and others in
high office some of the misconceptions about so-called Arab
nationalism that I believed existed in the West. I wanted
to reassure them, if they needed reassurance, of Jordan's
determination to fight communism, in whatever guise it
appeared in the Middle East.
I found Mr. Eisenhower most receptive. He was generous
and warm-hearted. I could understand why Americans saw
in him the so-called "father image." He immediately made
me feel that he was aware of the gravity of our problems in
Jordan and encouraged me to discuss them at length. What
is more, I felt he understood the underlying factors causing
dissension among various Arab states that should in reality
have been closely united.
He said to me, "We in the United States are very con-
cerned about the spread of communism in the Middle East.
The threat of Soviet infiltration into the Arab world is one of
our most serious problems today."
"This, Mr. President, is what we in Jordan are fighting," I
replied. "But we are a small country. We need, perhaps more
than anything else, the feeling that we do not stand alone."
"You don't, Your Majesty," said the President, firmly. "Our
country knows what you have done. Believe me, we shan't let
you down. Both of us Jordan and America are fighting the
Meeting the President was one thing. Meeting the National
Press Club in Washington was very different. American
234 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
newspapermen do not pull their punches, and their questions
are almost always "loaded/' I talked at some length after an
excellent lunch, again stressing the misconceptions that arise
in the West over what constitutes Arab unity and Arab na-
"Whatever form Arab nationalism will and must take, it
must grow out of the spirit of the Arab people/' I declared.
"We will fight, God willing and God guiding us, even though
the struggle may be long and the price may be high. Arab
nationalism has much to offer the world. It will one day, as
our forefathers did in the past, make positive contributions to
the well-being of man, and we will take our rightful and equal
place in the family of nations. That is our interpretation of
Arab nationalism, and we ask you, as Americans, to under-
stand the true meaning of Arab nationalism and not to be
misled by the distortions into which it has been cast."
And since I was always trying to drive home my message
that Arab nationalism and communism can never live to-
gether, I added:
"Communism has recently gained strength in the Arab
world, but any policy of collaboration with the Communists
who claim to further Arab interests and solve Arab problems
can only result in the greatest danger to Arab nationalism."
I had been warned about the tough questions I would be
asked but they were not as bad as I feared. Most of them
naturally concerned Israel, and many reporters asked me if
the Arab world could live with Israel in peace. To this type
of question I could only state what I have stated so often
that we all hope for a just solution to the Palestine question
one day, adding, "Maybe it will come sooner, once people
all over the world actually look at the question and under-
stand it properly and work for a solution."
My American Tour 235
As I have said, one of my reasons for visiting the United
States was to give people a picture of Jordan and what we
stand for. How little many people know about countries other
than their own. At this luncheon one reporter, presumably
intelligent, asked me, "Are Christian pilgrims allowed to wor-
ship freely at the Christian holy places under the control of
It seemed almost unnecessary to reply that Jordan is the
guardian of the holy places of all true faiths and that all pil-
grims are welcome to worship as they wish. We feel that
these holy places do not belong to us but to all those who
believe in God.
Before leaving Washington, I also appeared on the Ameri-
can television program, "Face the Nation," in which I was
interviewed by a panel of prominent newspapermen. This,
too, was not as bad as I had been led to expect. All I had to
do was tell the truth. Americans have some odd notions about
royalty and I think the panel was a little surprised when I
outlined in one sentence my views on the subject something
to the effect that "The monarchy is only worth preserving
when it works for the people."
After six days in Washington I set off on my coast-to-coast
tour of the United States. It was fascinating, but hard work.
I averaged two or three speeches a day. I spent many nights
in flight, and as I can never sleep in a plane I sometimes only
had two or three hours' rest. I started the tour by writing out
all my major speeches, but as it progressed I did not have
time to do this. The Americans avid workers are rigid in
keeping to their schedules; many times I had to hold con-
ferences at breakfast. It was my only spare time. In one way
236 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
I benefited from this tight schedule. I had to learn to speak
in English without preparation. Before the end of my Amer-
ican trip I was speaking regularly without having written a
speech previously, except in important statements of policy.
I found I could do without writing my speeches, but I could
not do without any sleep.
After visiting the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, and
the American naval base at Norfolk, Virginia, I went to
Williamsburg, Virginia, and here I felt for the first time a
deep awareness of the value Americans place on tradition.
All too often foreigners tend to imagine America as a busy
industrial nation with no time to think of anything but work
or financial affairs. How wrong they are! I found on this trip
that the average American has a profound respect for his past
even though it is briefer than that of some other countries.
Williamsburg, the reconstructed capital of eighteenth-cen-
tury colonial Virginia, was steeped in tradition, even to the
horse-drawn carriage in which I rode. And I could hardly fail
to be impressed with the city that had once been the home
of Patrick Henry, the man who said, "Give me liberty or give
me death." Those words exactly echoed my own sentiments.
/> I was not only surprised by the American respect for tradi-
tion, but I remember thinking, as I drove around Williams-
burg, that there was a lesson here for many other peoples.
Here was a nation forged out of many nationalities, yet pre-
serving its history, immortalizing those great men who had
made the United States what it is today. Do not many other
parts of the worldand I include some Arab lands tend to
forget at times those who have given us greatness? Do we
always look after our heritage, the good in that which our
forefathers have left us, as well as we should? Americans cer-
My American Tour 237
What a change the next day when I journeyed to Knoxville,
Tennessee, to inspect one of the forty-three giant dams of
the Tennessee Valley Authority. Here was the America of
today, just a stone's throw from the past, so gigantic in con-
cept and size it seemed to belong to the world of tomorrow.
It was like stepping across time, from Williamsburg to Knox-
ville, seeing in detail a perfect example of the engineering
skill that has made the United States the greatest technologi-
cal country in the world.
And then Los Angeles! And my memories of it are not
only of the movie sets or Disneyland, both of which I visited
and enjoyed immensely, but also of the world of jet aircraft
where I felt at home. At the Lockheed plant in Los Angeles,
I took an hour off in one of the latest F-104D supersonic
jets. I flew at 52,000 feet above the Mojave Desert, broke
the sound barrier and touched more than twice the speed of
sound. I had to slow down considerably that evening when
speaking to the World Affairs Council at a dinner in my
Yet it was not only very pleasant, but a most important
function, for before me were men vitally interested in world
affairs. I planned to outline to them some of the problems we
face in the Middle East, and I meant every word when I
started by saying:
"It is significant that this association is not called a Foreign
Affairs Council but a World Affairs Council, for in a very real
sense there are no longer any foreign affairs, they are the
affairs of the world and of us all. The warm reception I have
received during my stay in the United States has touched my
heart. The many kind words that have been said to me by the
distinguished leaders of the great American people and by
others who have been good enough to entertain me while I
38 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
have been here, will enable me to take back to my people a
message which I have previously preached among them. We
are not alone. It is a real satisfaction not to feel alone in this
world of ever-present difficulties. I am not referring to the
security that nations seek in critical moments, but to the se-
curity that comes only from respect and common interests.
I feel that this exists and will continue to exist between my
people and the people of the United States."
In Los Angeles, I had my first serious encounter with the
victims of Nasser's propaganda. At Los Angeles Airport there
were a few pickets, with placards saying, "Go home, Im-
perialist Agent!" However, the next morning while I was rest-
ing in the Ambassador Hotel, one of my entourage told me
that a delegation of Arab students between fifty and a hun-
dred strong was crowding the lobby, demanding an audi-
ence. The American security officers advised me not to meet
"Don't worry," I told them. "I'll go and talk to them."
I did not go out of bravado. If I was in America to put my
views before bodies like the World Affairs Council, surely it
was equally important to put them before Arab students who
apparently believed in Nasser to the point where they echoed
his accusations that I was an imperialist agent. I feel one
must always speak frankly to people who have differing
opinions. A free exchange of views is vital.
The crowd jammed the lobby. I shook hands with many
present and then asked them, "What language should I use
in addressing you, gentlemen?"
They roared out, "English, please!"
I was sorry I could not speak to Arabs in Arabic and I told
My American Tour 239
them so, but there it was. I spoke to them of my mission, of
Jordan, of conditions in the Middle East. I told them what we
are trying to do. I was entirely alone among them and I per-
mitted them to ask questions to which I replied candidly.
The result was gratifying. The demonstrators who had
wanted me to go home seemed suddenly to change their
minds. They cheered me and then demanded a souvenir
photograph of us all together. They had arrived with pam-
phlets. They threw them away. How easily young students
can be led astray by irresponsible leaders who seek to twist
their minds with propaganda for their own ends and how
criminal it is. It is important to use every opportunity to tell
them the truth. In Detroit the same thing happened. I met a
group of more than five hundred local Arabs, many of them
pro-Nasser, and I was able to tell them the truth perhaps it
was the first time they heard it of Jordan's stand in the Arab
After Los Angeles I was scheduled to visit the Air Force
Academy near Denver, Colorado. I had received a message
from a young girl whose fiance was a cadet there. She wished
me a very special kind of welcome. In her message she ex-
plained that the American military academies had a tradition
(as I discovered when I visited Annapolis Naval Academy)
whereby all those confined to quarters or disciplined in other
ways were granted an amnesty whenever there was an im-
portant visitor that is, if the visitor requested it. Apparently
her fianc6 was in just such a fix. And she wanted me to ex-
ercise my privilege when visiting the Air Force Academy,
which had only recently opened.
As luck would have it, we ran into a heavy snowstorm as
240 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
we reached Denver airport. The pilot sent back word to me
that he was sorry, but we would have to change our schedule
and divert to another airfield.
I went up to the cockpit to talk to the pilot, and told him
that I thought we ought to circle around awhile and try
"If you say so, Your Majesty, but I don't think we'll have
We made three different passes at the airport, but with no
success. We could not see a thing. Each time we were
ordered away by the control tower.
"I'm afraid 111 have to give up, sir," the pilot said.
"Very well, but those cadets are going to be very disap-
pointed in me."
The next day, when the weather still had not cleared, we
went on to our next stop Chicago. I sent back a cable to
the Commandant of the Academy. I forget just what I said,
but in effect, it went like this:
"Tried three times to come into Denver airport and even
got down to 200 feet. Although I am aware this is not strictly
a visit to the Academy, I believe my good intentions should
be counted as a visit and that the cadets being subjected to
discipline according to academy tradition should be granted
amnesty. Hussein I."
I do not know whether it had any effect. I hope so partic-
ularly because kter I read that after the cadet had gradu-
ated, he married his sweetheart, but on their honeymoon she
was killed when their car overturned. She sounded so happy
and hopeful in that message that I have always prayed I was
able to give them a few more days in their brief lives to-
My trip was drawing to a close. After Detroit I visited
My American Tour 241
West Point, home of the United States Military Academy,
and lunched with the cadets there. Then to New York with
its fabulous skyscrapers. In New York the late Dag Ham-
marskjold, one of the greatest men of our time and a friend of
Jordan, gave a dinner in my honor. But I shall have more to
say about him in a later chapter.
I had four crowded, wonderful days in New York to wind
up my tour. Mr. Henry Luce gave a small private dinner for
about fifty businessmen at the Union Club in New York, and
what he said has always stuck in my mind. Before toasting
me, he said (these are roughly his words): "I wonder how
many of you here realize the number of countries that are
our friends and allies that are royally ruled/' He then went
on to name Britain, the Scandinavian countries, Holland,
Belgium, Thailand, Iran, Saudi Arabia and so on, and finally
came around to Jordan. He believed, he said, that there must
be something in training for leadership from childhood. It
was a speech that touched me deeply.
The following day I had a memorable luncheon with Car-
dinal Spellman, a man of God for whom I have deep respect.
My uncle, Sherif Nasser, did not accompany me on this visit.
Later I learned that he had gone to the races at the New
York track. My uncle is one of the greatest horse breeders
of the Middle East. He knows horses better than any man
I know and I was not surprised to learn that even though
he knew nothing about their form he picked four out of the
six winners merely after watching the horses parade.
I wish I had had a little more free time in New York. It is,
after all, one city in the world that can truly be called unique.
But the Americans believe in working you hard! I still en-
joyed every minute of it. In my four days, I spoke at the
Hammarskjold dinner, at a Reader's Digest luncheon, to the
Council on Foreign Policy, and to a private Wall Street
242 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
group. Then I made a major speech at a dinner at the Wal-
dorf-Astoria given and attended by all societies interested
in the Middle East, such as the Islam Institute, the American
Friends of the Middle East, and the Middle East Institute.
All this prevented me from spending as much time as I
would have liked to see the people of New York. Yet I did
manage to get about a little and those five weeks certainly
crystallized for me a definite set of opinions about the United
States and its people. I felt one thing above all else. The
Americans have many qualities, but the most impressive of
all is their genuine sincerity. I felt I could believe everything
they told me. One can get along with them so easily. They
have an insatiable curiosity. They want to know as much as
possible about other people and other countries. They want
to share and help. They have hearts that are open, and be-
cause their free and easy manners knock away all barriers, I
felt very close to them.
I know one thing about my visit to the United States. I
believe my experiences there have made me a more broad-
minded monarch. The inspiration and example of people
hard at work impressed me a great deal. It made me realize
how much hard work counts. This being so, I came away
from the United States believing even more strongly that,
even with its limited resources, Jordan can become an eco-
nomically viable country if our people work hard enough. It
was this inspiration that led me to start broadcasting my
"Build the Country" programs.
This much I learned. There were two things I hope I
achieved: first, that I had explained Jordan's position and role
in the Middle East. Second, that the leaders of the United
My American Tour 243
States had accepted me, I felt, as a serious, hard-working
servant of my country and dedicated to it above all else. Too
often newspapers have portrayed me differently. It is under-
standable. I like dancing and fast cars and jet planes, but
the newspapers tended to seize on these hobbies and forget
that I only indulge in them after a hard day's work.
Now I come to one last recollection of my American tour.
I do not suppose a single person outside those very close to
me knewor knows now that during the entire five weeks I
spent in the United States I had with me in my entourage a
man who was a conspirator. I knew it. We lunched and dined
together, he was introduced to many of the American leaders,
yet all the time, behind every smile for five weeks, I knew he
was the ringleader of a plot to overthrow the regime in
The man was General Sadiq Shara', Chief of Staff of Jor-
dan's armed forces. Why was he with me? Just as I was about
to leave on my American tour, strong evidence reached me
that Shara' and several other officers planned, with outside
help, a coup against the throne while I was away. Later we
learned that they planned to take over the army head-
quarters, assassinate the Commander-in-Chief and open up
with guns on the Zahran Palace, where my family was living.
Shara' was not a man for half measures, for he had told the
plotters, "When you have to fire on Zahran, don't bother with
rifles, open up with the artillery!" And he added, "The Second
Infantry Regiment stationed there will get it too."
Our information had come from an officer who, on my
instructions, still pretended to support the conspirators but
kept us informed of every step. It is hard, however, to pin
244 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
down and prove conspiracies until the very last moment; and
when the time came to leave for Formosa, although we knew
the plot was being hatched, we could not deal with it.
What an awkward dilemmal With the plot moving forward
and with my absence for such a long period, anything could
happen. Then I had a brainstorm.
"AH right," I announced. "I'll take Shara' with me as part
of my entourage/'
It put him in a difficult position, for he could not refuse
my wish, though he tried his best to get out of it by claiming
that he had fallen in his bath and had badly hurt his ribs.
I insisted, so he had to accompany me to the United States,
leaving behind conspirators who regarded Shara' as their
I hope it does not sound vengeful if I admit to rather en-
joying the situation. By the time we reached the United
States some of the conspirators had already been arrested and
Shara* became more and more worried. His only information
came from the American newspapers, for I had given in-
structions before leaving Amman that in no open cables was
his name ever to be mentioned. In any event, he never saw
His anxiety increased. He bought paper after paper, read-
ing the news of the arrest of his close companions, and doubt-
less wondering if any of them would implicate him. By the
time we reached Chicago he had to find out some more de-
tails. I do not know what he did, but he vanished from my
entourage in Chicago for a few hours and I said to my Chief
of Diwan, "I fear that Sadiq might leave us might try to run
But he turned up in due time. In Washington and New
York he tried to find fellow Jordanians who had perhaps re-
My American Tour 245
ceived letters from home. Our days were filled with official
engagements but he asked to be excused, on the ground that
he was not feeling well. His request was ignored and he
stayed with us.
Finally, we flew from New York to London. There, almost
beside himself with worry, he said he needed an urgent oper-
ation and begged leave to remain behind when the time came
for us to return home. Obviously he was going to bolt, so I
refused permission but blandly promised him that as soon
as we reached Jordan and the trip was over I would, if neces-
sary, arrange for him to make another trip to London for the
He was arrested shortly after our return and sentenced to
death, a sentence I later commuted to life imprisonment.
The Murder of Jordan's Prime
Minister And Plots
Against My Person
"We suspect an attempt to poison you."
so CUNNING and varied have been the plots against my person,
and so constant, that sometimes I have felt like the central
character in a detective novel.
In my own mind I class plots in two different categories.
The first is the major coup, such as that at Zerqa, which has
as its objective the overthrowing of the monarchy and the
downfall of Jordan. On such occasions my assassination is
important to the plotters but only as part of their general
The second type is the attempt on my life, divorced from
any major political coup. If these have increased, I believe it
The Murder of Jordan's Prime Minister 247
is because those who wish to see the end of a free and demo-
cratic Jordan know now that it is not as easy as they antici-
pated to foment revolution in my country. They cannot, as
they once hoped, buy off large sections of people whose loy-
alty and faith are above all price. The only alternative is to
smuggle in assassins to kill me and other important leaders,
in the hope that such a deed would in itself lead to that con-
flict, bloodshed and even civil war so ardently desired by the
Communists and those adopting their strategy.
On no occasion have I felt I was indispensable to Jordan.
I am its servant, not its master. Invariably I have been at
pains to build up a family feeling in Jordan so that I may be,
if you like, the father of a large family just as much as the
king of a small country. My sudden death at this stage would
doubtless lead to strife.
One of my narrowest escapes was when I discovered an
attempt to kill me with deadly acid. But before I describe
what happened, I must retail the events leading up to it, for
this was the second lucky escape I had had within twenty-
On the day before-August 29, 1960-the worst outrage in
the history of Jordan shattered the warm summer peace of
Amman. On that day, Hazza Majali, the Prime Minister, and
twelve other Jordanians were killed by explosives planted in
the desk of the Premier's office. Hazza Majali was a man of
great courage, a man with a big heart, a believer in freedom,
and one of the most popular figures in the country. To think
of his death even now saddens and angers me.
It was a Monday, the day when the Prime Minister invari-
ably threw open his office to all comers to listen to their ideas,
their requests or their problems. The day of the plot was
chosen, as was discovered afterward, because the plotters
248 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
were certain he would be there. Even more, they knew that
he was a great personal friend of mine. In the opinion of most
people, with which I agree, the plotters who sent their men
to plant the explosives during the night of Sunday relied on
the fact that when I heard of my Prime Minister's death I
would immediately rush to his office. There they had planted
a second bomb.
As fate would have it, I had been overworked. A sinus
condition was troubling me and I had been advised to take a
rest on Monday. I had checked on Sunday night with the
Prime Minister, little thinking that I would never speak to
him again. He reported delightedly on the results of the re-
cent Arab League Foreign Ministers' Conference in Chtaura,
Lebanon, and that agreement had been reached to remove
all causes of the strained relations between the Arab states.
All the member states, he added, had finally drawn up a
satisfactory plan to bring this about. In addition, Jordan's
stand at the Arab League meetings in Chtaura had stopped
the U.A.R/s attempt to force Arab states to break relations
with Iran, which had been unrealistically accused of dealing
So on that Monday morning around eleven o'clock I was
still resting at my farmhouse at Hummar when the telephone
rang. The head of the Premier's Information Office wished to
speak to me and said it was urgent.
I was puzzled. What, I wondered, could have prompted
him to phone me in this way? Then suddenly his anxious,
distressed voice came on the line and without any forewarn-
ing he blurted out: "Sir, the Prime Minister's office has been
blown up and Hazza Pasha is dead . . ."
At first I could not believe it, I just could not take in his
The Murder of Jordan's Prime Minister 249
words. Brusquely I said, "Get hold of yourself, man! What
the devil are you talking about? Now tell me exactly what
He told me again. I still could not believe it. Stunned, I
asked the operator, "Get me my Chief of Diwan." To my
dismay, he replied that the Chief of the Diwan and other
Palace officials had left for the Premier's office.
That was one of the most awful moments of my life. It
could not have happened. Why Hazza? Hazza, my friend
the friend of every Jordanian. Hazza, the man who, though
Premier, opened his office doors each Monday so that any-
body who pleased could come to see him.
I slammed down the telephone and as I dressed hurriedly,
I remembered how happy he had been the night before when
telling me of the end, at last, of plots and counterplots be-
tween the Arab states. What about Chtaura and its resolu-
tions now? I thought bitterly. Poor Hazza. How dared they
I ran out to my car, making doubly sure that my sub-
machine gun was on the seat next to me. I told two guards to
get in the back and drove toward Amman.
Those few miserable, apprehensive minutes as I raced the
fifteen miles toward the capital seemed interminable. As I
swerved around corners I was thinking not only of the grave
loss to Jordan but of the dangers that the country might have
to face before the day was out. I watched the road carefully,
for experience had taught me quite enough to beware of the
possible dangers on the route to Amman.
I had just reached the outskirts of the city when a car
screeched to a stop in front of me. Out jumped the Minister
of Defense. Behind his car was another with the Army Com-
mander, General Habis Majali, a close friend of mine, and a
cousin of the murdered Premier.
250 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
One of them-I forget who it was said, "Your Majesty, it's
"In no circumstances can you go, sir," said General Majali.
"If you could serve any useful purpose, of course we would
not stop you, but it's all over and I am sure there is a grave
danger of another attempt being made."
"What happened?" I asked.
"Half the building is demolished," replied Majali. "The
roof of Hazza's office crashed in on him."
"Have you found him?"
"Not yet, sir, but the building is partly down and rescue
work is going on. It must have been in his office."
I still hoped for a miracle, that this could not be the end
of Jordan's Hazza Majali. I had warned him so often, "Take
care. It could be you or any of us."
"You take care, Your Majesty," Hazza had smiled. "You
are the one Jordan needs. The rest of us are all expendable."
General Majali and the Defense Minister refused point
blank to let me pass their cars, but the Minister of Defense
suggested that I go to the Palace and begin to pull things
How fortuitous that the danger was sensed, for less than
forty minutes after the first explosion, a second one occurred.
It caused more damage and loss of life, mainly among the
men trying to rescue those trapped inside the building. My
Chief of Diwan was actually leaving the wrecked, torn Prime
Minister's office when the second bomb exploded. I shall
never know whether it was intended for me or not.
I was sick at the perfidy of it all, for among those killed
was a ten-year-old child, a man of seventy, and an old woman
The Murder of Jordan's Prime Minister 251
calling on Majali with a grievance. Majali himself was so hon-
est, so God-fearing, that he had consistently spurned the ad-
vice of security officials who begged him not to allow so many
people into his office after a previous plot against him had
But now, the most urgent problem was to get things under
control as swiftly as possible, for I knew that this spark
could start a roaring inferno. Soon enough the radio "Voice
of the Arabs" from Cairo came to life, praising the so-called
heroic deed, extolling the way "an imperialist agent" had
been killed by the people, and promising in no uncertain
terms a similar end for the rest of us in Jordan.
Shortly after I reached the Palace, still awaiting news, a
report came in that the Prime Minister had been seen walk-
ing out of his office toward the hospital next door with only
head injuries. He was said to have been holding his head.
With a lump in my throat, I rushed out of my office to see
if it were true. Alas, it was a mistake. Soon afterward the
body of Hazza Majali was found. He had died instantly at
his desk in the explosion.
I ordered an immediate Cabinet meeting. Whatever hap-
pened, I had to form a new government with all speed. I was
sick with shock as the members of the Cabinet filed in,
each as dazed as I. I sorely missed Hazza Majali. There was
never a truer Jordanian patriot, nor a more forgiving man.
How insane could one's enemies become? To replace him
would be difficult. I thought quickly and then I knew the
man I wanted-Bahjat al Talhouni, my Chief of Diwan.
I cannot remember my exact words, but I recall well my
meaning. When the Cabinet was seated I addressed them:
252 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
"Gentlemen, it is essential that we have a new government
immediately. Our enemies are ready to seize advantage from
this wicked murder. Without leadership we may be unable
to deal with developments. They have got Hazza. They have
struck a cruel blow. But, gentlemen, they have not got
Amid dead silence, I went on:
"As men, we must not let his work be lost. Nor our coun-
try. We who are alive must carry out our responsibilities to-
ward the Arab homeland. We will avenge Hazza with
greater determination than ever to make our lives worth
living, and to save our nation from those criminals who seek
to destroy it."
Palace servants brought in coffee. I paused. The respite
was welcome, for I knew what many of them must have been
thinking. When the servants had gone and the doors were
closed, I continued, choosing my words carefully:
"We have lost a great Prime Minister, but even in adversity
there is some solace and I am happy that so many of my
Ministers have been spared and that I can speak to you now.
"It is my wish that you all remain in the posts you have
filled so well. I would rather have no changes at this moment.
Our country has prospered under this government and all
of you must share the credit. I ask you now to remain in
your present posts and I have decided that my Chief of
Diwan will become Prime Minister."
I asked Talhouni if he were prepared to assume office and
he replied after a moment's hesitation for Hazza was his
closest friend that he would be honored. There was a mo-
ment's silence that seemed very long to me, but then came
murmurs of assent from most of the others, and I knew that
my instinct had been right. Some Ministers resigned on the
spot, but they were replaced immediately.
The Murder of Jordan's Prime Minister 253
Within a few minutes, agreement was reached and I in-
vested Talhouni, who had served Jordan magnificently as
Chief of Diwan, as Prime Minister. In these days of political
squabbling and interminable discussion, I am rather proud
that we in Jordan formed a new government within two
to three hours after the assassination.
Already investigations had proved that two employees of
the Prime Minister's office had crossed that morning into
Syria, at that time the northern part of Nasser's U.A.R. I
knew then what I had already suspected.
When the capital was a little quieter I drove back to my
farmhouse to pick up some of my belongings and decided
to lunch there before returning to Amman. I was halfway
through the meal when Sherif Nasser, my uncle, telephoned
His voice was urgent. "I'm speaking in the presence of
Habis and the chief of the political intelligence." (Habis
Pasha was commander-in-chief of the armed forces.) "We
have found evidence that there will be an attempt on your
life through somebody on your personal staff it could be at
the farm or at the Palace. Please stay there. We are coming
Within a few minutes their cars drew up at the door. The
intelligence chief carried with him a tape recorder.
"Just listen to this, Your Majesty." He started to thread the
tape through the machine.
"Who is it?" I asked.
"One of my men has become," he coughed discreetly, "a
very close friend, sir, with a member of the United Arab
Republic's Embassy here."
We sat down to listen, with rising horror, to a conversation
254 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
between our intelligence agent and the U.A.R. man. After a
few preliminaries, the latter said:
'Within a very short time Hussein will get the same treat-
ment. We've recruited somebody in his residence to finish
him off and it won't be long now. If he only stuck to a proper
routine, we would have got him days ago."
For a moment I was speechless. Then I cried, "It's incredi-
ble! I can't believe it!"
"It's true, all right," said my uncle. "You'd better not stay
at the Basman Palace tonight."
I finished lunch rather hurriedly, and left for Amman. On
the way, thinking things over, I decided to spend the night at
Maurice Raynor's house, which he and his family occupied
in the Palace grounds near my office. This would give the
security forces a chance to make a careful investigation into
the lunchtime story and thoroughly search the premises.
When I got to the Palace I asked Raynor if I could use his
spare room. I then told him what clothes I wanted and asked
him to arrange for them to be taken to his house.
"And you'd better take a new unopened medicine kit with
you," I added. "My sinus is troubling me. I might want some
of my drops. Kindly ask Mrs. Raynor to get rid of the old sup-
ply just in case."
Since my youth I have suffered from sinus trouble and in-
deed I was operated on in England when I was a cadet at
Sandhurst. But the only real cure is rest. Rest, however, is
out of the question in Jordan, as anyone who has read this
much of my story will readily concede, so I find the easiest
way to gain relief is to take more drops. I certainly felt I
needed them that night. But to this day I wonder what in-
stinct made me suggest that Raynor get a new supply.
Just before dinner, I went into Raynor's house and when I
asked for my phials, Mrs. Raynor cried:
The Murder of Jordan's Prime Minister 255
"Sir! Come and look, please!" She led me to the sink in the
bathroom. On the edge of the basin stood a half -empty phial
the one I should have used. In the bottom of the basin were
some of the drops. To my horror the liquid was bubbling.
I poured out more drops. The liquid looked as though it
were alive; it hissed and bubbled and frothed, and as I
watched aghast, Mrs. Raynor cried, "Look at the sink, sir!"
I did. By now the chromium on the basin fittings had
"Thank God you poured the stuff away!" I exclaimed.
"Maurice told me what you said," she replied. "I didn't
honestly think, sir, there was anything wrong but look
The bottle contained a strong acid. Somebody in the Pal-
ace, somebody close enough to have access to my bathroom,
had poured the harmless drops out of the bottle and filled it
up with acid.
We never did discover the culprit. It pained me to have to
suspect my personal servants, particularly the non-Jorda-
nians. Some of them had been with me for a long time, but
my security forces could not prove anything. Nevertheless, I
had to find some servants and acquire an entirely new medi-
The plot of the acid nose drops was cunning, but even
more weird and frightening was the incident of the poisoned
cats. Amman abounds in cats, mostly strays that know no
barriers and can slip through any barbed wire. My grand-
father loved cats and a large floating cat population in the
Palace grounds has always been tolerated.
Walking in the grounds I came across the bodies of three
dead cats. Poor creatures, I thought. I assumed they had
256 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
starved. I happen to like cats and wished to find out whose
fault it was.
As I entered the Palace, an officer was waiting for me. I
told him I would be with him in a minute, adding:
"I'm just going to tell the servants to bury some dead cats/'
"What dead cats, Your Majesty?" He looked alarmed.
"Over there," I indicated the general direction.
"But how many, Your Majesty?"
I wondered what on earth was wrong with him.
"Does it matter?"
"It does, sir, it does indeed," he replied earnestly. "Your
Majesty, yesterday we found six dead cats in the grounds.
The day before we found seven."
Now it was my turn to become alarmed.
"Is all this true?" I asked incredulously.
"Indeed, sir. They were poisoned."
"But why haven't I been told about this?"
"We didn't want to alarm you, sir, until we were sure. We
suspected a man in the kitchen so we made certain he never
had anything to do with your food, sir. There was no danger
"Who is he?" I asked.
"We received a report a few days ago from the military
attach^ in Beirut. He said the U.A.R. Deuxieme Bureau in
Damascus had been in touch with an assistant cook in the
Palace kitchen named Ahmed Na'naa. We've been waiting,
sir, and now we're about to arrest him."
What had happened? Only Na'naa's confession could tell
the incredible story. He had a cousin in Damascus who
worked with the Syrian Deuxi&me Bureau. This cousin,
knowing Na'naa worked as an assistant cook, had recruited
him with the idea of poisoning my food. He was to be paid
The Murder of Jordan's Prime Minister 257
a large sum when his assignment was completed. But Na'naa
was no expert in poisons and so, he said, he had been experi-
menting on cats in order to find out what constituted a lethal
dose. He admitted readily that the only reason no attempt
had been made on my life was because he could not judge
the dose. None of the cats, he said, had died quickly enough.
Na'naa made the mistake of letting the cats wander off into
the Palace grounds to die, otherwise we might never have
discovered the plot.
Na'naa went to jail, but he is now free. Some time later, on
the occasion of one of our great Moslem feasts, I was driving
from the Mosque after praying. A young girl pushed her way
to the car in which I was driving. She was carrying a copy
of the Koran. She implored me to release her father, this
same Ahmed Na'naa, who had attempted to poison me.
What can one do at such a moment, on the way from
praying to God for the very gift of being alive? The Chief
of my Diwan was sitting beside me.
"Arrange things with the authorities," I sighed, "and let
him go free." Na'naa was freed to celebrate the feast with his
Before 1956, Jordan's Intelligence Service was very small,
since our country was almost totally free from the plotting
and machinations that haunted so many other areas of the
Arab world. There were occasional plots, but in most cases
these were discovered through the loyalty of individuals both
in the Army and in other walks of life. The loyalty of man is
often wonderful. I remember we discovered one plot when
a father informed against his own son after the boy arrived
from Syria on an assassination mission. On that occasion it
258 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
was a plot to shoot Majali, or my uncle Sherif Nasser, a few
weeks before the Prime Minister's office was blown up.
I myself not only dislike but deeply resent being hemmed
in by security measures. Yet, as communism and our enemies
increased their attacks on Jordan, we had to build up a tight
net against all possible subversion. Now we have a better se-
curity force, one of which I am proud. It stands in the
face of attempts that continue to threaten Jordan's peace.
How many attempts on my life, or the lives of prominent
Jordanians, have we uncovered during the years! They have
tried everything from direct shooting to the use of bombs
and poison. We have had some very lucky escapes.
My uncle, Sherif Nasser, and I had one particularly lucky
escape a few months before General Glubb left Jordan. It
happened like this.
Several times during the warm summer evenings I drove
to my farm for dinner with friends, always at about 8 P.M.
I had not then built the house I now occupy with my wife,
but used to stay in a small one which had belonged to my
grandfather. I always traveled unescorted in those days. It
happened that both my uncle and I had similar Buick con-
vertibles at that time.
On this particular evening, he traveled to the farm when
I was supposed to be doing so. Instead, I was driving back
from Jerash, the ancient Roman city where I had spent the
afternoon supervising arrangements for a dinner party I was
giving the next evening for foreign diplomats. I was late and
was returning to Amman prior to going to the farm as usual.
It was just past eight as I sped up a hill toward Amman when
I saw my uncle's car spanning the road with the front wheels
in a ditch. I braked to a stop and jumped out, to find my
The Murder of Jordan's Prime Minister 259
uncle walking toward me visibly shaken, his clothes covered
"What happened?" I asked.
He replied, "It was a puncture. Don't worry, sir!"
Then as I looked more closely, I saw to my horror two
bullet holes. They had shattered the windshield just above
the steering post. In all we counted nine bullet holes in the
car, and one that had punctured the left front tire.
I did not wait to find out more. The car with the would-be
assassin had raced toward Amman barely ten minutes be-
fore I arrived. My uncle gave me a description of it and I
started out at once to catch it. It was, he thought, a pale blue
car, but I was unable to trace it. We never did find those
They had waited on the side of the road facing Amman and
as my uncle's car, which looked exactly like mine, came up
the brow of the hill, they flashed bright headlights in his face,
so as to make sure which car it was. As it came closer, they
opened fire from two guns at point-blank range. My uncle
threw himself on the seat and out of the car as it came to a
stop on the roadside. He managed to shoot twice at the tail
lights of the attacking car as it disappeared in the direction of
Amman. The assailants obviously had mistaken their target.
I Fly to the United Nations
C 7 did not travel all these miles to utter platitudes"
IN LATE September, 1960, barely a month after the murder
of Hazza Majali, I decided to fly to the United Nations to
make a speech there. This was not an impulse. I thought the
matter over very carefully, and there were several reasons
why I went.
The United Nations itself was under bitter attack by
Khrushchev and the Communist bloc. Khrushchev was trying
to get rid of Hammarskjold and substitute his "troika" sys-
tem. I felt strongly that the Communist countries and the
so-called neutrals were dominating the speeches so much
that a distorted picture of world thinking was emanating
from the U.N. It seemed to me, reading the reports in Am-
man, that the friends of freedom were being out-propagan-
dized by the friends of communism. I was particularly wor-
ried about the effect of this on the newly admitted African
states. Furthermore, the United Nations means more to the
smaller nations of this world, wherever they are.
7 Fly to the United Nations 261
As far as the Middle East was concerned, I did not like the
way in which Arab world opinion was being put forward, it
seemed, by only one man Nasser. Nasser did not, and does
not, represent all Arab thought. I felt it my duty to alert the
U.N. to the problems of the Middle East, particularly the re-
newal of tension between the then U.A.R. and Jordan, as
symbolized by the bomb plot that killed our Prime Minister.
I thought, too, that a free Arab nation like Jordan should
voice its opinion on the Algerian and Israeli problems.
I knew my voice would be small compared to the booming
of Khrushchev and the raving of Castro, but nonetheless I
decided that, whether or not they listened to me, I would go.
It was not so easy to fly there as I thought, for once again
the then U.A.R. interfered with my plans. The B.O.A.C. air-
line did not at that time have its Comet service stopping at
Amman and there was no way but to ask if they would land
their plane at Amman on its way to London from the Gulf
in order to pick me up. This they agreed to do.
As the plane had to fly over Syria, they notified Damascus
that I would be a passenger, and of their change of schedule.
The Syrian authorities gave the usual permission. Then at
the last moment they flatly refused to allow the plane to fly
over Syria if it changed its time of flight. In other words, it
could not land to pick me up. I had to cancel that plan. In-
stead, I had to charter an Air Jordan plane and fly with my
entourage south over Saudi Arabia and down to Khartoum.
From there we continued on over Libya to Malta and on to
London. A trip that should have taken about seven hours
took twenty- three hours.
From London I caught the next plane to New York where
I was met by representatives of all the Arab governments,
and then had my first police-siren drive from the airport to
the Waldorf-Astoria. Each day while I was there, I had a
262 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
police escort with sirens going full blast. With so many heads
of state in New York, this incessant noise must have dis-
turbed New Yorkers, but if it is any consolation to them, it
annoyed me just as much.
Though I was very, very busy, it was a good feeling to be
back in New York, for it is my favorite city in the world. The
New Yorker is a very special person, compounded of so many
races, so vitally proud of his great city. But what fascinated
me most was the friendly curiosity behind the New Yorker's
unceremonious "Hi'ya, King!"
The Waldorf was filled with visiting heads of state, and at
first I thought the New Yorkers were merely displaying nor-
mal inquisitiveness about famous personages. I was gen-
uinely astonished to find, after I had made my speech, that
those who talked to me knew what I had said, were aware of
what I and Jordan stood for. They were not just gazing at
celebrities. Theirs was a genuine curiosity, aimed at dis-
covering facts about another part of the globe.
I noticed this too when I went to watch a football game at
Yale. They were playing Brown. When I stood in line for
lunch in one of the college cafeterias, my mind went back to
my earlier thoughts of university life. But I hardly got any
lunch. Half a dozen boys brought their trays to my table,
and I spent most of the time before the game answering
questions. I was very much impressed by the atmosphere of
Yale, and I remember wishing that I could have attended
such a university.
At the game I sat next to one of Yale's former football stars,
who explained the fine points of the game to me, at the same
I Fly to the United Nations 263
time, offering unheeded advice to the coach and the man di-
recting the play on the field.
On the way back to New York, the son of one of my
friends, a former Yale student who had attended the game
with us, said to me, "I want to thank you very much, Your
"What for?" I asked.
"That's the first and probably the last time 111 ever sit on
the fifty-yard line!"
That day, as a matter of fact, was the only day of relaxation
I had during the entire visit, and a very happy one at that.
In the evening, a group of us went dancing at the Plaza Hotel
in New York, and we stayed until the orchestra put covers on
I liked the young people of America, boys as well as girls,
and I look forward some day to visiting them with my wife
and meeting my many friends again. Their thirst for knowl-
edge impressed me. If they did not know about anything,
they never hesitated to ask.
The morning after I landed in New York, Mr. Hammar-
skjold visited me at the Waldorf to welcome me. It was a rare
privilege I am told I was the only head of state he visited
and I was deeply moved. I had always had the highest re-
gard for this quiet, unassuming Swedish diplomat who has
laid down his life in the cause of freedom. His death is a
bitter loss to the cause of human rights. He was a true and
great friend to Jordan.
I had a great deal of trouble preparing my speech. I had
less than forty-eight hours to work on it and, unlike some
heads of state with their groups of secretaries, I had to do
most of the work myself. I was under heavy pressure-from
some of my own government people among others to "tone
264 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
down" my speech. But as I told one anxious diplomat, "I did
not travel all these thousands of miles just to utter a few well-
worn platitudes." I felt, as I do now, that the small nations
look to the U.N. for protection, for peace and progress, and,
with those sentiments in mind, I decided to say exactly what
I thought. There was absolutely no point in playing down the
tensions in the Middle East. If I did that, I might as well
have stayed at home.
On October 2, the night before I was due to make my
speech, I discarded all draft suggestions that did not fit in
with my ideas. Some of my group felt that I should avoid
mentioning "neutralism" this was the popular thing to do
at the U.N. but I had to mention neutralism. As I have said
so often, there can be no neutralism in the life-and-death
struggle between freedom and communism, and though I
respected the choice of others and their right to make that
choice, I had to state my own views clearly.
^ That night I worked on my speech until nearly four the
next morning. By 9:30 A.M. I was at the U.N. Headquarters.
I should have spoken at ten o'clock, but Khrushchev some-
how got in first. He bitterly attacked the U.N. and various
aspects of our life in the free world. He scornfully derided all
we believe in. It was a remarkable coincidence, but my
speech could have served as a direct reply to his tirade. If I
had studied his speech in advance, my reply would have been
the speech I composed before I knew what Khrushchev was
going to say. Khrushchev and the U.A.R. delegation got up
and walked out as I began to speak, but that did not matter.
It was not to them I was addressing my words but to world
I Fly to the United Nations 265
Since this speech was made only a few months before I
started writing this book, it still represents my views on the
United Nations, neutralism, and the problems of the Arab
world. For this reason, I have decided to include the text in
this chapter. As this book draws to its close, my speech rep-
resents a summing up of all I have learned since I first
ascended the throne of Jordan. After the preliminaries, I
There are four reasons why I am here today. First, I was
deeply concerned over what seemed to be an obvious attempt
to wreck the United Nations. Second, I wanted to be sure that
there was no mistake about where Jordan stands in the conflict
of ideologies that is endangering the peace of the world. Third,
as the head of a small nation, I felt that it was my duty to the
other small nations of the world, particularly to the new mem-
bers of the United Nations, to share with them our experience
in preserving the freedom for which we, like they, fought so
hard to win. Fourth, and finally, I believe it to be my duty also
to express my views on three vital problems in the Middle East
affecting the peace of the world namely, the growing tension
between Jordan and the United Arab Republic, the independ-
ence of Algeria, and the still unanswered problem of Palestine.
It is needless to affirm that the United Nations represents the
only hope of peace and freedom to humanity. This is of major
significance to all the small nations of the world. Yet the So-
viet Union has sought to destroy the United Nations, to hamper
its deliberations, to block its decisions and, by rowdy tactics
and petulant walk-outs, to demean the reputation of the Se-
curity Council and the General Assembly.
The most recent illustration of this has been its performance
at this Session, the attempt to weaken the powers of the Secre-
tary-General, and the proposal to move the site of the organiza-
266 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
tion's Headquarters. These are only slightly concealed efforts to
destroy the United Nations itself.
No one who has followed the deliberations in the General
Assembly for the past two weeks can fail to be aware of the
significance of this meeting. The problems that confront us are
not new problems, but as they have remained unsolved they
have so grown in magnitude that their continued existence
threatens not the peace of the world but our very life. I have no
major plan for the solution of these problems. As a country
which owns no nuclear weapons and which can only suffer
from nuclear warfare, Jordan merely beseeches the powers in-
volved to resume their labors and strive even in the face of all
obstacles in their path to find a formula. Or better, perhaps, to
find a way of truth that will not only save them, but save us all.
There are other problems, too, and one would indeed be
blind if he did not realize that almost on every vital issue that
confronts this body, the nations of the world are being offered
a choice. And there is no secret about what that choice is it
lies between becoming part of the Soviet empire, subservient
ultimately to the dictates of the Supreme Council of the Soviet
Union, or standing as a free nation whose sole external al-
legiance is to the United Nations itself. That is the choice,
and it is there for each and every nation to decide. And may
I say at once, with all the strength and conviction at my com-
mand, that Jordan has made its choice. We have given our
answer in our actions, and I am here to reaffirm our stand to
the nations of the world. We reject communism; the Arab
people will never bow to communism, no matter what guise
it may use to force itself upon us.
Communism will never survive in the Arab world because
if it ever did it would have replaced Arab nationalism. There
would cease then to be an Arab nation. I believe that Arab
nationalism is too deep-rooted in the love of God, the love of
freedom, and the concept of the equality of all before God, to
I Fly to the United Nations 267
be ever supplanted by a system which denies the importance
of those ideas. Moreover, it is my firm belief that all nations
which believe in God should meet in counterattack against the
common challenge to their very existence. Not even the emo-
tional power that comes from love of country, or the resistance
offered by material well-being, or the spiritual strength to be
drawn from the concept of freedom none of these singly or
alone can meet the threat to peace presented by the totalitarian
conditions of communism. Not until those who honestly be-
lieve in God and in his dictates of love, equality and social
justice translate those ideas into actions, will communism be
defeated and peace restored to the earth.
In the great struggle between communism and freedom,
there can be no neutrality. How, then, can we be neutral in
our attitude towards two systems of government, two philoso-
phiesone of which challenges these concepts and the other
which denies and stifles them? In taking our stand with the
free world, however, we do not forget our long struggle for
liberation. Nor could we support existing injustices being
committed by some members of the free world; but in the
setting sun of the old imperialism we are not blinded to the
new imperialism of communism, one far more brutal, far more
tyrannical and far more dangerous to the ideas of free people,
to the concept of nationalism, than this world has ever known.
While we reject the doctrine of neutralism for ourselves, we
respect the right of any nation to choose its own course of
action, but we are wary of the use of neutralism to exploit the
division between communism and the free world. And we are
also wary of the danger of Communist expansion under the
guise of neutralism.
I come now to the problem of the Middle East, so vital to
the peace of the world, and of major concern to the United
Nations. In our part of the world I look to the problems of
Algeria and of Palestine. There now exists a situation of which
268 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
the General Assembly should be aware. I will not dwell upon
it in unhappy detail, for to do so might increase, rather than
decrease, the danger of internal conflict. Yet to let it smolder
unnoticed by the United Nations would be equally dangerous.
I feel, therefore, that I must discuss the tensions which exist
between Jordan and the United Arab Republic.
With other and more world-wide problems facing the Gen-
eral Assembly it may seem to some rather presumptuous to
introduce what may appear to be a local issue. However, no
issue is entirely local, and as the world has now learned no
conflict of ideas or threat of physical conflict stops at the bor-
ders of those directly involved. Moreover, the principles which
underline, as well as those which must be used to solve it, are
applicable throughout the world and as new independent na-
tions find their freedom in increasing numbers, the effective
application of these principles becomes of ever increasing im-
For me to remain silent, then, would be to encourage the
continuation of a situation that could destroy the Arab nation
and in the process lead to the involvement of the major powers
and thus produce a world conflict.
It all began several years ago, and at a time when Jordan,
having just completely achieved its independence, faced the new
and more formidable threat to freedom in the form of Com-
munist penetration into our area. Our warnings to the people
of Jordan and to the Arab nation as a whole caused Jordan to
be subjected to abuse, subversion and external pressure of
many kinds, so intense we can only believe the aim of our
sister Arab state was our destruction. Its Government, one
would have supposed, would be as strongly dedicated to the
goal of Arab unity as Jordan is. In fact, the United Arab Re-
public's attacks on us were so constant that on August 21,
1958, the General Assembly endorsed an Arab League resolu-
tion by which the United Arab Republic pledged itself to
1 Fly to the United Nations 269
cease its campaign against us. Unhappily she did not follow
her pledge. The attacks were resumed; incitements to over-
throw our government and assassinate our leaders were daily
broadcast over their government radio. Borders between us
were closed to damage our economy and convicted traitors
were encouraged, or at least permitted, to engage in subversive
acts against us. The situation once again became so grave that
the Arab League, of which the United Arab Republic and
Jordan are members, passed a resolution calling upon its mem-
bers to refrain from all activities that would disturb fraternal
The day following the close of that session, Jordan's Prime
Minister, Hazza Majali, was killed by a bomb placed on his
desk, along with eleven others, including a child ten years
old. I would restrain myself, and I assure you it is with the
greatest difficulty that I do so, from saying any more on this
subject. However, I would like only to add that I find con-
siderable significance in the fact that our troubles with the
United Arab Republic date from the time that I denounced
the growing menace of communism in the Arab world. More-
over, I detect a significant parallel between the tactics that
have been used against Jordan and those employed by com-
munism all over the world.
It is no secret that the policy of the Soviet Union is to split
friend from friend, to divide nation from nation, in order to
achieve its own goal of total world domination.
The point I wish to make is this: If, as the creation of the
United Nations suggests, our hope is for more freedom, more
co-operation, and what we often refer to as a better world,
and survival lies in the adherence to mutually agreed ways
of dealing with one another, then we must find better ways
than we now have to bring our combined weight of opinion
quickly and effectively to bear upon any nation that trans-
gresses these agreements. I do not suggest that there is any-
270 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
thing new in this idea, it is simply the idea of government by
law applied to the actions of sovereign nations. Yet to me, as
the leader of a small nation much beset by outside pressures,
it is a concept which is worthy of re-emphasis at this time,
for I believe that it is in the successful application of this idea
that the survival and progress of my and so many other small
nations in the end will be decided. The United Nations is the
only instrument capable of applying this idea successfully.
Before I go on to the subject of Algeria and Palestine, a
final word about the United Arab Republic. While Jordan
would naturally welcome evidence of U.N. support of its posi-
tion, which it believes to be based on the principles on which
progress toward better relations between nations must rest,
Jordan does not expect or request any United Nations special
or immediate response to what I have said. If we can collec-
tively devise and carry out better means than we now have to
assure the integrity of smaller nations and to guarantee their
ability to improve their lot, free from outside interference,
then I believe we will have progressed. If what I have said
contributes to this end, then it will have been worth saying.
The tragedy of Algeria remains grave and shows signs of
becoming graver. To me again, the problem is that of refusing
to recognize the right of the people to determine their own
future. This is the very essence of freedom. The United Nations
cannot afford to take a passive position in this matter, any
more than it was passive about Korea or about Hungary. In
one sense the problem is far more serious, because a party to
it is a member of the free world. We appeal to France to up-
hold what she seems to have neglected, her own tradition for
liberty, freedom and equality. There is no doubt that a large
and impressive number of the French people are whole-
heartedly in favor of permitting our Algerian brothers the
choice of their future. May the French government issue and
reflect by its actions the same belief, and extend to the Al-
I Fly to the United Nations 271
gerians the right of self-determination promised by the Presi-
dent of France. By such action, France will win back its place
among nations who will fight for freedom. There will never
be a better world if principles continue to be compromised.
We must put an end to useless bloodshed. Enough wrong has
already been done.
The third problem in the Middle East is Palestine. The
world's conscience seems to have closed its eyes in a rather
shameful manner and for far too long on this tragedy of hu-
manity. So serious is its magnitude that over a million Arab
refugees from Palestine have lived for twelve years ignored by
a world that has not yet seriously attempted to help them
return to the most essential and sacred right in life human
dignity. The original failure of the United Nations to permit
the people the right of self-determination in 1947 has left in
its wake an unresolved situation. There is no question in the
mind of any just and impartial observer that the Arab people of
Palestine were wronged by the partitioning of Palestine and by
the subsequent establishment of the State of Israel. As it was
already wrong and politically unjust then, it is no less so today.
The world is too prone to accept a fait accompli as a basis of
As everyone here is well aware, there still exist various
resolutions, those of 1948 and 1959, for example, yet nothing
has been done to persuade Israel to live up to them. The
United Nations must enforce its will upon a member who re-
fused to abide by its decisions. There will be no real peace in
the Middle East without an honorable, just solution to the
Palestine tragedy, and complete restoration of the rights of
the Arab people of Palestine.
I said earlier that we in Jordan are not neutral between
right and wrong or our belief in God and I ask the God in
whom we believe to send down on this General Assembly his
272 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
blessing and that from it we may have the courage to decide
wisely and fearlessly the questions that lie before us.
I was very deeply touched, following the speech, to re-
ceive a letter of congratulations from President Eisenhower
and also the congratulations of Mr. Macmillan, the British
Prime Minister, and many other delegates. Even Mr. Nehru
applauded my speech, but I was mainly affected by the re-
action of the people of the United States during my short
The President later invited me to the White House and we
had long and valuable talks together. Mr. Hammarskjold
held a private dinner party for me and then this great man-
so busy, and so vilified before his death took time off from
his never-ending duties to come to the Waldorf-Astoria once
again to bid me good-by before I flew home.
The Economy of Jordan
"If is important to answer speculation"
THERE MUST BE many people who wonder what Jordan is like
and what are its prospects of surviving both economically
and politically. Some observers suggest it lacks several factors
such as sufficient size, population, economy necessary to
survival. It is important to answer speculation of this sort.
A nation's spirit and ability to survive are not determined
by its size or population but by the will of its people, their
faith in their country, their causes, and their determination
to make their lives worth while. Jordan aims at setting an
example to the world of what a model democracy should be
like. We try to base our lives and our work on all the pre-
vious heritage of Islam, by learning from experiences of
other nations, and by keeping ever before us the symbol of
freedom to which the people of Jordan are dedicated.
Jordan's economy today is healthy and it is developing.
Before judging it, consider the pressures and heavy burdens
274 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Jordan has had to face. Consider the brevity of Jordan's exist-
ence, and then see how rapidly it has developed.
Jordan as an independent country was born only in 1946.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan as presently constituted
has existed only since 1948 and came into being after one of
the most devastating upheavals in history.
Although divided arbitrarily by politicians in the early
1920's, Transjordan and Palestine have always, geographi-
cally and historically, constituted one economic unit. High-
lands and lowlands, hinterland and coastland, river streams
and lake reservoirs, were formed by God's will into a near-
True enough, most of the thirty-seven thousand square
miles of present-day Jordan receives less than five inches of
rain a year, and is, therefore, mostly desert. This seems to
have been caused by atmospheric shifts over several thou-
sands of years, and no human action could have halted the
process. Such hardy and industrious peoples as the Naba-
taeans (an Arab race) and the Romans made signal contribu-
tions to civilization during their abode in our land, and be-
fore they were caught in this ruthless process of nature.
But having said that, it would be a mistake, which I re-
gret many outsiders make, to describe Jordan as a desert king-
dom without any hope of economic development. If this were
true, men would never have settled in such places as Texas,
California and the Nile Valley where, despite desert land,
So it is in Jordan. The major groups of people are found in
rain-fed areas of the plateaus or along the banks of abundant
(or potentially abundant) waters in the valleys.
When the Palestine refugees were granted citizenship and
the hill regions of Palestine became the West Bank area of
The Economy of Jordan 275
Jordan, our population increased threefold, but our arable
land was increased only by one-third. Of the millions of peo-
ple suddenly added to our country almost half were "physi-
cal" refugees uprooted from their homes and means of liveli-
hood. They needed jobs. Many thousands were "economic"
refugees, who had lost lands, businesses, industrial estab-
lishments. They needed businesses to run.
Many brought with them great skill and knowledge. Nor-
mally such a massive addition to a country's population could
be turned to economic advantage in increased productivity
and purchasing capacity, but this was not the case in Jordan.
The problem which faced my people was not one of recon-
structing assets destroyed by war as happened in many coun-
tries after World War II, nor was it one of changing from
war to peace, or modernizing obsolete plants. Our problem
was essentially one of creating, almost from scratch, an econ-
omy capable of supporting overnight a vast influx of people.
The task was colossal by any standards.
The situation was doubly difficult because the Palestine
upheaval smashed, with a shattering blow, traditional trade
routes and communications on which this part of the world
had depended for centuries. Before 1948 trade was oriented
westward. Goods flowed to the Mediterranean coast with its
modern ports, airports, roads and railways. Suddenly Jordan
was faced with the gigantic task of improvising new trade
routes. Not only did we have a million extra mouths to feed,
we had to build new roads, ports, airports.
A country's roads and railways the arteries of a modern
state normally grow as the country grows. Communication
facilities invariably grow steadily through many generations
276 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
as a country flourishes. Yet because of the abnormal situa-
tion facing us after the war which created Israel, the work
of generations had to be telescoped into one decade.
I am very, very proud of my people for the way they ac-
cepted this challenge and overcame it, especially in view of
the underlying psychological factors at the time. For it
should not be forgotten that Jordan was never reconciled to
the creation of Israel, imposed de facto on the Arab states in
1948. Jordan and the other Arab states firmly believed, as
they do today, that a situation so starkly unjust could never
last and believed passionately and still believe that the
world's conscience would sooner or later rectify the wrong
by a just and satisfactory solution. Nothing is more dampen-
ing to an all-out reconstruction effort than the belief that a
situation is only temporary.
Moreover, the machinery of government on which success
or failure ultimately hinges had its own problems. The Pales-
tine civil service had been wrecked, while the government
of Jordan was hardly equipped to cope with such a drastic
situation. We had, before anything else, to fuse the best
brand of old and new Jordan, of East and West Banks. It
was a task both stimulating and complementary. The East
Bank had a more established tradition of government at the
policy-making level, having enjoyed independence longer;
while the West Bank had a more highly developed sense of
administration, Palestine having enjoyed one of the best civil
services in the Middle East.
That was the situation which confronted us in 1950.
We first set our minds to the problem of transportation.
After 1948 we were denied direct access to the Mediterra-
The Economy of Jordan 277
nean and could only reach it by driving two hundred twenty
miles across Syria, and over the Lebanese mountains and
down to Beirut. Quite apart from difficulties and delays when
crossing international boundaries, the cost was an impossible
drain on our meager resources. When I came to the throne,
I remember one of my earliest shocksthat it cost us $3 mil-
lion a year just to transport petroleum imports.
I could hardly believe the figure in front of me. That huge
cost was an overriding consideration in our decision to build
our own oil refinery.
Furthermore, I agreed entirely with our experts that Jordan
could not prosper unless we had access to a seaport of our
own. Hence we built the Desert Road to Aqaba on the Red
Sea two hundred twenty miles of asphalt road which, I am
happy to state, is now in operation. At the same time we con-
structed a modern well-equipped port at Aqaba. This has
immediately allowed us to expand our exports particularly
minerals to the Indian Ocean and the Far East. Aqaba, in-
cidentally, could be very useful to other Arab countries, par-
ticularly Iraq and northern Saudi Arabia, and we hope they
will take full advantage of it in the future.
We have only one major railway in Jordan. It runs from
Amman to Ras el Naqab, fifty miles north of Aqaba. It would
make all the difference if we could continue it to our only
port, and a team of railway experts has been studying the
possibility. In view of our mounting exports, the railway will
one day have to come.
We now have about 2,000 kilometers of asphalt roads and
1,500 kilometers of non-asphalt roads. One highway links
Amman to the Syrian border across the beautiful and historic
mountains of Ajloun and Jerash; another runs between Am-
man and Jerusalem across the Jordan Valley. And of course
278 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
the Desert Road from Aqaba is a triumph of engineering
skill. Incidentally, the Desert Road follows one of the oldest
trade routes in the world, the "King's Highway" of the Bible,
the road over which the people of Edom (South Jordan) re-
fused to allow passage to the Israelites.
One of my dreams has been a big international airport for
Jerusalem. We have two airports at Amman and Mafraq
capable of accommodating modern medium-sized jets, but
the Jerusalem runway is only 6,500 feet long, and of course
the city is one of our greatest tourist centers.
We have been too inclined to take our Holy Land for
granted, unmindful that the rest of the world is unaware of it.
Almost all the holy places of Christianity and important
Moslem holy places are in Jordan. In a matter of hours a
tourist can see such precious sights as the walled city of Jeru-
salem, the Holy Sepulchre, the Way of the Cross, and that
magnificent masterpiece, the Dome of the Rock. A few miles
to the south lie Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity.
In less than an hour a tourist can drive to Jericho, probably
the oldest city in the world, visit Elisha's Well, and cross the
River Jordan, where Christ was baptized. Farther on is
Mount Nebo, where Moses stood when he looked across to
The traveler in search of novelty can float on his back and
smoke a cigarette in the saline water of the Dead Sea. This
is the lowest point on earth 1,200 feet below sea level.
In the heart of the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea shimmers
like a burnished bowl with the mountains of Judea and Moab
enclosing it. As the sun sinks one can sometimes see in the
The Economy of Jordan 279
far distance the spires on the Mount of Olives, tiny black
lines against the red sun.
Farther afield there are equally impressive, even astonish-
ing places to see. For myself, the most amazing sight in Jor-
dan is the rose-red city of Petra. I never tire of taking this
excursion to an ancient city, unique in all the world.
You leave the hard-surfaced desert highway at Ma'an and
turn onto the smaller road to Wadi Musa, where a police
outpost equips visitors for the last lap of the journey.
Horses or mules are necessary for the hour's ride through
the narrow defile that for centuries kept the Nabataeans of
Petra safe from invasion, at the height of their splendor,
which started around 300 B.C. This is a deep crevice in the
rock, so narrow that successive handfuls of men held it
against all armies for four hundred years until the Emperor
Trajan captured it for the Romans in A.D. 105.
In this constantly winding, twisting gorge, sandstone cliffs,
of varied and striking colors and fantastic shapes, tower three
hundred feet overhead, at points that seem to meet.
An aqueduct chiseled from the rock next to the path re-
minds one that this was an ancient city whose greatest prob-
lem was water, the supply of which had to be defended at all
The first magnificent rock-cut tomb of the city appears sud-
denly, in a burst of strong sunlight. Indeed, rose-red, incredi-
bly preserved in the ageless rock, this is but a forerunner of
the splendid array of temples, palaces, churches, tombs and
the incomparable treasury to be explored in Petra.
Now that the new road is open, travelers pressed for time
may make the trip from Amman to Petra and return in one
day, though to do it thoroughly would take four to five days.
The drive to Ma'an which used to take up to six hours can
280 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
now be made in under three. For those who want a taste of
the real desert, a drive on to Aqaba will be very revealing.
The Desert Road now passes through some of the wildest
country in the Middle East. In this region Lawrence with
the Arab troops harried the Turks in the campaign that drove
them from Aqaba to the north.
The capital of our country, Amman itself (called Philadel-
phia in Greco-Roman times), has a magnificent Roman thea-
ter, while the Roman city of Jerash in the north on the new
highway to the Syrian frontier comprises without doubt the
most complete remains of a Roman provincial city anywhere
in the world.
These are household names to Western civilization, most
of them with Biblical associations known to everybody from
childhood. This if it is not unbecoming to place an eco-
nomic interpretation on its significance is an area where
Jordan is second to none in what it has to offer. While
Greece and Italy have had a huge and ever-growing tourist
income, Jordan has hardly tapped its potential. I believe that
when our tourist program really starts properly and we shall
shortly be opening offices in several major cities then the
tourist income to Jordan may well equal the fabulous oil rev-
enues of other Arab states.
Admittedly, all tourists are not interested in religious and
historical relics, but here again Jordan has failed so far to
publicize one of its most important tourist assets, its exciting
and variegated scenery and above all its fantastic changes of
climate within small distances. In winter, when the cold
wraps Jerusalem and you need central heating, you can in
half an hour drive to the Jordan Valley and swim. From
The Economy of Jordan 281
Amman, where I myself have many a time helped motorists
out of snowdrifts, you can drive to the Dead Sea in less than
an hour or fly in an hour to the beautiful tropical beaches of
Aqaba. In the hill cities like Amman, Jerusalem, Nablus and
Ramallah, the evenings are always cool. Jordan, in fact, al-
ways has the weather you want, twelve months of the year.
I have described at some length our tourist potential, not
only because of its economic value, but also to correct some
of the misconceptions that persist about my country, in the
hope that some of my readers will know a little more of a
land which, perhaps more than any other, stands as a living
embodiment of their deepest spiritual beliefs.
One of my most cherished dreams is to see every boy and
girl in Jordan at school. Already it is nearly realized. We have
started a full educational program so that many secondary
schools give vocational training in agriculture, industry and
trades to students who complete their elementary schooling.
Ten years ago we had only a hundred or so Jordanians study-
ing abroad. Today there are almost seven thousand Jordanian
students in universities throughout the world and the num-
ber is rising sharply. The time must come soon when we shall
establish our university in Jordan, possibly in Jerusalem.
Educational progress is best illustrated by figures. In 1950-
1951 we spent over $400,000 on education, but in the 1960-
1961 budget the figure reached nearly $8 million.
In the field of public health, allocations have quadrupled
within a decade from about $750,000 in 1951 to $3 million in
1960-1961. Malaria, endemic particularly in the Jordan Val-
ley, has now been virtually eradicated. Hospitals are increas-
ing and there are more doctors every year.
282 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Every section of our community is forging ahead. Our
latest survey in 1959 showed remarkable progress over the
previous survey of 1954; national income had increased by
sixty per cent; mining and manufacturing more than dou-
bled; construction was more than four times as high in 1959
as in 1954; transport increased by one hundred twenty per
cent, wholesale and retail trade by eight per cent, public ad-
ministration and defense by seventy-seven per cent, and
services by one hundred per cent. Available supplies of goods
and services within the kingdom increased by seventy-five
per cent from about $200 million to over $370 million, or
close to $200 per capita.
Expenditure on consumption and gross capital formation
increased from approximately $200 million to nearly $350 mil-
lion during the same period. Private consumption increased
by seventy-three per cent, government current expenditure
by ninety per cent. Private fixed capital was nearly six times
as great as in 1954, while government fixed capital was more
than one and one-half times as great. Exports increased by
forty-four per cent while imports more than doubled from
$60 million to just over $120 million.
One of the priceless attributes of the human race is its in-
satiable aspiration for a better life, and this spirit animates
my people so that the achievements made thus far must be
regarded merely as a beginning. And since the future is what
counts, here is what I hope Jordan will achieve in the decade
Several months ago, I began a series of what President
Franklin D. Roosevelt used to call "fireside chats/' Through-
out all of them runs the same theme. In Arabic, it is:
The Economy of Jordan 283
"Fal Nabni hatha albalad wal nakhdem hathihi aluma"
The best translation I can find for it is "Let us build our coun-
try and serve our nation." In the talks my aim is to inspire
our people to create in Jordan a model Arab state, and to
build for ourselves the kind of life that we sought when we
threw off the yoke of the Turks and began the Arab
. I am happy to say that my people are with me in this ef-
fort, and that the progress we have made will be exceeded
by the progress we shall be making in the future.
To begin with, the government, with the assistance of the
Ford Foundation, has formulated a Five-Year Program for
a fuller development of the country's resources, approved
and encouraged by international experts at a seminar held
recently in Jordan. The program visualizes doubling our na-
tional income in ten years, narrowing the gap in the balance
of trade to no more than the investment requirement of the
country. This expanding economy should provide almost full
employment even though we expect our population to in-
crease half a million by 1969.
This program is likely to cost about $40 million a year for
five years, from private and public funds, and includes an
expansion of our phosphate production which is well under
way, and I hope that production will be nearly two million
tons by 1970. (Jordan possesses inexhaustible resources of
high-grade phosphates, an important ingredient in raising
food productivity for the galloping world population.) We
are planning full development of the Dead Sea minerals, in-
cluding the production of 250,000 tons of potash before 1965,
production of bromine, magnesium, heavy water if a market
could be assured and other by-products.
284 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
I will not dwell on the many industries, chiefly medium
and small, which are under active study for the program, but
I would like to mention our plans for agricultural irrigation,
particularly in the Jordan Valley where, thanks to the cli-
mate, we enjoy advantages unique in the Middle East for
growing fruits and vegetables during winter.
Towering above all my other hopes is the great Yarmuk
Project in the Jordan Valley which would bring 150,000
acres of land under intensive cultivation, increase our na-
tional income by at least $60 million a year and produce sub-
stantial electric power for agricultural, industrial and do-
The total cost of the project is $150 million. Permit me to
explain briefly the up-to-now sad career of the Yarmuk Proj-
ect, and how it was born by chance in the brain of a brilliant
American hydroelectric expert.
The Yarmuk is a tributary of the Jordan River and flows
through Jordan and Syria except for six miles in no man's
land. One day in 1951 Mr. Mills E. Bunger, Chief of the
Water Resources Branch of the American Point Four team in
Jordan, was flying over Jordan when bad weather diverted
his plane over the Yarmuk valley. During a break in the
clouds Mr. Bunger suddenly saw below him a point where
three small streams feed into the Yarmuk. Below it, the valley
narrows and deepens.
The idea flashed through his mind that here was a perfect
site for a dam so that the flood water of the Yarmuk could
be stored in a reservoir made out of the deep precipitous
valley. Experts went to the spot, which is called Maqarin,
and confirmed his impressions. A scheme was born. A dam
The Economy of Jordan 285
four hundred eighty feet high would provide Jordan and
Syria with hydroelectric power and chiefs of the Jordan gov-
ernment, UNWRA and Point Four put their heads together.
The greatest single advantage, in view of our relations
with Israel, was that the reservoir would be entirely in Arab
territory. UNWRA was delighted, for they had been empow-
ered by the United Nations to spend $200 million on Arab
refugee rehabilitation and immediately allotted $40 million
toward the cost. The three teams of experts finished their
preliminary survey at double speed, my country contributing
its share with the others. As one writer put it, "For the first
time since 1948 a feeling of real hope and purpose came over
the languishing Kingdom of Jordan."
Experts promised that within three years, over a hundred
thousand Jordanians would be able to live and work in the
area. We concluded an agreement with Syria. We started re-
cruiting refugees for labor.
Then in the autumn of 1953, after two years of hard work
and hope, the Israelis protested in Washington and to the
United Nations. Their excuse was that they preferred a
scheme which would benefit all countries in the area. They
even laid claim to a share of the Yarmuk waters. Incredibly,
the free world stood behind this action to prevent a humane,
strictly internal project, which as long ago as 1956 would
have allowed a hundred thousand or more refugees, who had
lost their homes because of the Israelis, to earn their own
living and regain their self-respect.
Incidentally, I might add for the benefit of those who re-
gard Israel's progress as a modern miracle in "making the
desert bloom" that in comparing our progress with theirs,
these statistics should be borne in mind. From all sources of
foreign aid, since 1948 to the present, Israel has received
286 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
$2,200,000,000 while Jordan in the same period has received
$400,000,000. They have roughly the same population as
I am convinced that the way the Western world has hesi-
tated over the Yarmuk River project has been one of its
gravest errors of judgment, for it has denied Jordan a major
artery of life doubly necessary to grapple with the staggering
problems bequeathed to it after the Palestine war.
As Mr. Phillips Talbot, Assistant Secretary for Near East-
ern and South Asian Affairs, U.S. Department of State, told
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in August, 1961,
"Further development of the Yarmuk River, which feeds into
Jordan, is desirable because it would further increase the
arable land in Jordan."
To which, Mr. Henry Labouisse, Director of International
Co-operation and Administration, added that "if it had been
possible to irrigate the whole Jordan Valley, both east and
west sides going down, it might be possible to find a liveli-
hood for 125,000 more than were then in the valleyif you
did the whole operation."
To do this, he said, political agreements would be neces-
sary among Israel, Jordan, the then U.A.R. and Lebanon.
"The engineering, we think, made a considerable lot of
sense," he added, "but it is really a political issue."
But is it a political issue? To me, the issues posed by this
project are clear-cut. Jordan is aspiring to utilize waters
which are undeniably her own and to store the surplus and
flood waters within the safety of her own country rather
than in the hands of her enemy.
This could be done by this additional dam within Jordan,
The Economy of Jordan 287
and it is my fervent hope that those interested in the stability
of this area will give it serious and urgent attention, espe-
cially as the Israelis have declared their intention of divert-
ing the River Jordan by 1963, against all accepted principles
of international law.
My Courtship and Marriage
"A real home for the first time in my life."
i HAVE DECIDED to conclude the story of my life so far with an
account of my marriage to Muna el Hussein because, quite
aside from providing the happy ending, this marriage has
had a profound influence on me. It seems a fitting climax to
my story for another reason, too. In these pages there has
been all too much tragedy and bloodshed, so it is a relief now
to turn to the happy side of the story and the future.
Before my marriage, my personal life, if not empty, was
made up of endless devices to distract myself. My duties
and responsibilities occupied me for the greater part of each
day, but once the day's work was ended, I knew perhaps as
much as any man alive the dullness and misery of loneliness.
Mine has not, after all, been the life of an ordinary young
man. The many crises that have threatened my life and
throne, the constant attacks of my enemies, our lone stand in
the Arab Middle East against communism, the frequent
My Courtship and Marriage 289
betrayal by people I had great hopes for-all these conspired
to turn me into what I did not want to be: a man apart.
I was becoming nervous, irritable and bad-tempered. In-
stead of working with inspiration I was in danger of simply
going through the motions, and I have always been afraid
that if I did things without consideration, it would lead to
decisions that did not reflect my true feelings. In fact, I be-
gan to be afraid of making decisions. I began to doubt my
own judgment. I did not seem able to view my problems with
I had disciplined myself for years to be diplomatic when
I disliked something, to smile when I did not feel like smil-
ing, to encourage even those I did not always believe in, be-
cause it was politic, but now I began to shy away from
people. I had to force myself to mingle in the evenings with
people outside my immediate family.
It was ridiculous. I was far too young at twenty-five to be-
come a recluse. Yet this problem arose because of two con-
tradictions. I needed friends more than acquaintances. But
it is almost impossible for a reigning monarch in the Middle
East to have close friends, perhaps more so than anywhere
else in the world. It is even more difficult if one has come to
power as early in life as I did and faced so many difficulties.
I did have a few personal friends, but I always had to be
chary about seeing them too frequently. I could not attach
myself to any group of people. It causes complications at
times and leads to suspicion and intrigue. In the end I
reached the stage where I did not wish to mix with anybody,
and even avoided possible genuine friendships. In a way I
was the friend of every Jordanian; but true, personal friend-
ship was a very different matter.
How different it is today! My irritability, I am told, has
290 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
gone. I am more at ease. I am happy now and quite aston-
ished at the way I have learned to relax.
There has been criticism abroad of my marriage to a then
non- Jordanian. Many saw it as an excellent opportunity for
my enemies to stir up trouble against me. Whatever the odds,
however, I was never afraid of the outcome, but even had I
been, it would have made no difference. My decision was
based not only on a deep love for the girl who was to be-
come my bride, but on fundamental precepts from which I
shall never deviate.
Above all, I believe in God. I believe, also, that I must live
with myself, I must be able to face myself each morning and
say: "I did my best yesterday, I will do my best again today."
Each man, low- or high-born, has the same duty each day to
contribute to the good of mankind.
I have a simple philosophy about life and death. How
easily it comes and how easily it can end! What man can
afford to waste time? At any moment death can claim any-
one, and when it does, death itself is unimportant. The only
thing that matters is the work that one has accomplished.
To these two beliefs, which are my creed, I would add one
more. I believe with all my heart that if a man is to give of
his best he must live the fundamental life of an ordinary man.
One cannot hide behind a title or a position or a throne. One
can be proud of one's responsibilities, just as I am, but one
cannot use titles or position as a shield. I will never work
merely to make a reputation for myself, to be popular for
appearances rather than for what I am. My task is to lead
my country through service. I believe most sincerely that my
marriage will help me enormously in my struggle to remove
the barriers between the ordinary people of my country and
My Courtship and Marriage 291
their King, and I believe that by leading with my wife the
fundamental life of an ordinary person, I shall come to know
my people better, understand more clearly what they need,
and so be of more service to them.
I wanted to marry long before I met Muna el Hussein. (I
refer to her by her new Jordanian name, although at the time
we met she was a typically English young lady named Toni
Avril Gardiner, formerly of Suffolk, England.) Not only my
beliefs, but my loneliness, led to a perfectly normal desire
for a wife who would share my life.
My previous marriage had been unsuccessful, and I knew
myself well enough to conclude that happiness did not lie in
choosing a person of rank or title. It took me a long time to
reach the point when, after the first crisis, I vowed that if
ever I married again it would be to a girl with whom I could
build a happy personal life. It did not matter to me who she
was or from what country she came. Because I sincerely
believe I am no better than the next man, all I needed was a
genuine person whom I loved. If I could find her, I would
marry her. If not, then I would remain single, for I swore that
I would never permit any other factors to influence my
choice of a wife. If I ever compromised in my marriage, I
would be cheating myself and compromising my principles.
For these reasons I was not afraid to marry Muna el Hus-
sein. I know the alliance seemed unusual to many people.
Some feared that this time I had gone too far, but I knew
what I was doing and my faith in my people was never in
I am very proud of my wife. I first met her about a year
before we were married, but during the first few months we
saw very little of each other and only at occasional functions.
The very first meeting was at an informal private party I
292 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
gave in my small winter villa at Shuna, near the Dead Sea.
It was a party for some departing diplomats and their suc-
cessors. I would not say that I fell in love with Muna at
once, yet our first meeting set the stage for what was to
follow, because for the first time in my life here was a girl
who took an interest in me as a human being rather than as
a king. I was deeply touched, So often I have seen a person
laughing gaily at the opposite end of the room, yet as soon as
he or she is presented to me there comes a change; spon-
taneity vanishes as though a curtain had been drawn be-
Here, though, was a girl of nineteen, respectful of my
rank, but who obviously liked me as a person and who was
determined to treat me as an ordinary man. To be frank, I
was not surprised, for I knew her father well. He was a
British sapper colonel (who later was among the first to enter
the bombed building after my Prime Minister was killed in
1960) and I liked what I saw of him and the family. I liked
their simplicity and the genuine way they lived their lives.
Muna and I met more and more frequently. My fondness
for her grew with each meeting; it was not a sudden emo-
tional affair. At first, most of our meetings were at various
functions. Then I started to telephone her myself and invite
her when we held a motion picture show for my mother and
family in the Palace.
I remember so well the first time Muna had dinner with
my mother. It was after my return from the U.N., and I had
bought her a modest presenta necklace in gold mesh, which
I hoped she would wear that evening. (She did!) I was so
excited, in fact, that I bought presents for everybody one for
Colonel Gardiner, another for Mima's mother, and I even
bought a rubber ring for Mrs. Gardiner's Pekinese, Mr. Wu.
My Courtship and Marriage 293
The gold necklace was really only half the present. I
wanted to surprise and amuse Muna, so she received the
necklace before dinner, and when this first family evening
was over and she was leaving, I gave her "the other half '
a gold watch on a fine gold-mesh strap, which matched the
It was the Amman Go-Kart Club that really brought us
together more informally. This is a private club with about
sixteen members, and I drive in races there each Friday
afternoon. Muna and her family came to watch and help
with timings and so forth, and one day I asked her:
"Would you like to drive a Go-Kart?"
"I can't drive a car!" she replied.
"Ill teach you," I said, and before long Muna was driving
in a ladies' race. After that we met every Friday afternoon
at the Club. Go-Karting for about two hours a week was a
source of relaxation to me. Earlier in my reign we had had
regular car races and hill climbs with inter-Arab competi-
tions with the Lebanese. But it was a bit dangerous. Then
times changed. Troubles started and there was no chance to
go on. However, in 1959 when I returned from a visit to the
United States, I found that several diplomats and enthusi-
asts, including Raynor, had formed a small Go-Kart club.
They had hastily imported a few machines from England,
and when I saw Raynor spending his time on these ap-
parently childish toys, I was rather dismayed. Raynor had
even ordered a machine for me and I remember my first re-
mark: "What the devil is a Go-Kart?"
I was made president in my absence and I finally agreed,
mainly because of the way the members suggested by in-
294 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
nuendo, "When we raced cars you had an advantage with
powerful machines. Now, every Go-Kart is the same. It's the
driver that counts!"
This was a challenge I could not resist, and once the Go-
Karts had been assembled I tried one out. In a moment I
was roaring over the grounds. I went back to the garage
shouting, "Raynor, it's not bad! When do we start racing?"
That was the birth of Go-Karting in Amman. Now we race
every Friday and my wife loves it as much as I do.
After we had spent a few afternoons racing, Muna asked:
"Would you like to come and have tea with my mother
Of course I wanted to.
"Do they know we're coming?" I asked, for I was afraid
they might make too much of a fuss.
"No, I didn't tell them," she answered, "but I'm sure it'll
be all right."
That was what I wanted to hear. When I went to take tea
with her family she did not try to "put on a show." It didn't
matter to her that her father did not live in a house as large
as mine. Even more important, she did not try to explain it
away. I have always liked small houses; I have always felt at
home in them.
I drove Muna to her parents' house where we had a real
English tea. Mrs. Gardiner produced sandwiches and cakes
and the tea was hot and strong. I suddenly realized I was
feeling content and happy. They made no fuss over me. I
was off duty so we relaxed and laughed and had a good time.
When the time came to leave I promised to return.
I had known Muna for several months by now and when I
got home that night I think I knew in my heart that this
girl was destined to become my wife. The possible political
My Courtship and Marriage 295
repercussions over my marriage, which I had thought out
over a period of time, passed briefly through my mind, but
I dismissed them.
I did not see Muna for a week but during that time I dis-
covered that she spent much of her time helping in a wel-
fare center for mothers and young children who needed help.
I found that she had a far greater interest in Jordan than I
had imagined. It pleased me. I like people who work. I be-
lieve that a king or a laborer must toil each day, and I like
women who are interested in a man's work and want to share
The week following I returned to the Gardiners' for more
tea and cakes, and more fun and laughter. Again I went
back alone to the Palace . . . and that night I thought of
marriage. I had not spoken a word to anybody about it, but
that evening I made up my mind. I surveyed the opposition
I would face, the criticism, the difficulties I would have to
overcome, and I remember saying to myself, "I must do it. If
I fail myself now it will be the first of many failures to come."
The next evening I dined with my mother in the Zahran
Palace. She has always been so close to me, of course, that I
wanted to speak to her first. When dinner was over, I said
"Everyone is always trying to induce me to marry and
settle down. I have a surprise for you. I would like to get
married. I imagine you know to whom."
My mother smiled at me.
"I suppose it's Miss Gardiner?"
"Do you approve?" I asked.
My mother embraced me. "Of course I approve, if it means
296 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
your happiness. You know, my son, that I have wanted you
to marry for a long time. I am glad that you are marrying
somebody you love, for it's quite obvious how much you
My mother had met Muna many times; she had dinner
with us frequently, and very often they sat next to each
other at the Palace movies. I set great store by my mother's
wisdom and was delighted when she added:
"Don't worry about any opposition. The most important
thing in life is happiness. I know you haven't had much of it
and to me it is most important for you to be happy now. But
you will never achieve happiness if you marry somebody
you don't love."
The next night I asked Muna to dine with us. She arrived
about seven o'clock. I was so nervous I cannot even remem-
ber what she wore. I waited until after dinner, then asked
"I'd like to talk to you. Will you come into the next room
We sat down on the small sofa and talked a little while
of things I cannot remember, and then I said:
"You must know what I am going to ask you?"
"I think I do," she answered quietly.
"What do you say about it?"
She did not speak; she simply nodded.
"It won't be an easy life, you know," I warned her. "Mine
is not much of a life to ask any girl to share. It's uncertain
and it's dangerous, as you must know."
"You really want to marry me?" she said.
"I've wanted to ask you to marry me for a long time. I
first thought it unfair for you, but then feeling the way I do
about you I know we can make a good life together. There's
My Courtship and Marriage 297
only one thing that has kept me silent so long. It really isn't
a barrier, for we believe in the same ideals and in God. I am
a Moslem. Have you thought of that?"
"I understand. I have thought for a long time of becoming
a Moslem," she replied. "I know our beliefs are the same. I
pray to God to make my life a good and useful one."
"We shall have to give you an Arabic name," I added.
"I suppose so," she laughed. "It's going to be funny get-
ting a new name at my age. What will it be?"
I laughed too. The tension was broken.
"Well, I don't know," I answered. "We'll have to give it
some thought. You'll have to choose. And you'd better start
brushing up on your Arabic!"
I took Muna back and told my mother that she had ac-
cepted me. Then I telephoned the Prime Minister and re-
quested him to come to the Palace.
"I am delighted, Your Majesty," he declared when I told
him the whole story. "I'm absolutely delighted."
He thought for a moment, then added:
"I know there are some difficulties, as you well appreciate.
You have just mentioned some yourself. But I don't think
you need to worry about them, sir. Your happiness means a
lot to your Jordanian family. If they know you have found
happiness, they will never fail you."
I did not want the announcement of our impending wed-
ding to leak out prematurely. I wanted to make the an-
nouncement myself. Muna, at that time, was working as a
secretary, so I suggested that she go to London with her
mother for two weeks to buy her trousseau and household
linen, and get fitted for her wedding dress. This would also
98 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
give Muna an excuse to give her notice at the office where
she was working, and when she announced that she was
going home for a holiday, nobody guessed anything. For
my part, I missed her greatly. Before she left I warned her,
with a laugh:
"Don't you stay one day over the two weeks; otherwise I
may fly over to London and fetch you back myself ."
When at last we made public the news of our betrothal,
what jubilation there was as I broadcast to my people and
"I am happy for the first time in my life."
I thanked them for their loyalty and understanding. I
spent the night with my mother in the Zahran Palace and
the next morning my Chief of Diwan called me. "Sir, there
are hundreds of people at the Palace waiting to congratulate
you. Can you come? We can hardly control them. I Ve never
seen anything like it."
"Ill drive straight over," I answered, but it was easier
said than done. In the main street of Amman a huge crowd
stopped me and tried to lift my sports car on their shoulders.
It was impossible at first to clear the main street. It was
jammed with friendly faces wishing me luck.
The warm reception that morning was very different from
the chilly forecast by certain foreign critics, who probably
needed more time to digest the news. I knew, of course, that
many people had hoped I would make a dynastic or politi-
cal marriage, and I knew my enemies would seize the oppor-
tunity for making propaganda out of the match.
Muna had converted to the Moslem faith and become a
Jordanian citizen by the time the betrothal was announced,
My Courtship and Marriage 299
but the world is full of mischief-makers, and inevitably the
press were soon sending exaggerated dispatches to their
newspapers. I knew it was impossible to make them all under-
stand our point of view. But even so I was flabbergasted at
the reports of political upheavals and imminent conflict
which appeared in London and Washington.
Even more absurd were the press reports that I had
threatened to abdicate if I did not get my way. Nothing
could be further from the truth. Neither was there any
truth in the suggestion that tension among my subjects
forced me to withhold the title of Queen when I married
Muna. The truth is quite different. I must admit I had not
given much thought to the question of Muna's title. I am not
one who thinks highly of titles, but what else could a King's
wife be called?
Two days before the wedding, however, Muna asked me:
"Do you remember, you told me once how much more
you preferred to be called by the good, kind people of Jordan
'our Hussein' than 'King Hussein'?"
"Of course I remember," I answered. "I feel much prouder
when people call me 'our Hussein.' "
"I've been thinking," she continued. "We're going to share
our lives and responsibilities, but I, too, like it more when
people call you 'our Hussein.' Do you think they will ever
call me 'our Muna'?"
"Of course they will. Why do you ask?"
"Well you know," she said, hesitating she was thinking
aloud "does it sound ridiculous if I say that I don't really
want the title of Queen?"
I do not think I have ever been more proud of her than at
that moment. This fitted exactly with my own ideals, to a
degree which I had never dared to hope. How many girls
would give everything in the world just for a title?
300 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
I asked her if she really meant it and she assured me she
"All right," I told her. "If you feel that way, 111 do as you
wish/' I sat down that night with Muna and together we
composed a letter to the Prime Minister which he received
the day before our marriage. Many people were staggered
by the news but there was no reason why they should be. It
was Muna's idea. As we told the Prime Minister in the letter,
kings and queens are not appointed by royal decree, and
we will always strive to be accepted by the only family that
counts the people of Jordan.
There is one thing about Jordan: You can be fairly cer-
tain of sunshine on your wedding day. Ours was no excep-
tion. Both Muna and I had hoped for a quiet wedding but
we knew in our hearts that, though the marriage ceremony
would be private, we could not keep the press away from the
What a fantastic day! I have never seen such apparent joy
in the streets of Amman, except perhaps on my return after
that scrape with the Syrian MIGs. But this was different, it
was joy born of hope. Everybody was firing rifles and pistols
in the air; the bagpipes droned joyously. Even with all the
troops in Amman mustered, it was impossible to keep the
crowds from breaking over the open car in which we drove
through the city.
The wedding was brief and very simple, according to the
Islamic rites. It was held May 25, 1961, in my mother's
palace, which is set in a quiet garden filled with roses. The
entrances were patrolled by Circassian guards. The cere-
mony was conducted by Sheik Hamzeh Arabi, a senior judge
My Courtship and Marriage 301
of the Moslem sharia who had been my first tutor in religious
matters. As is customary, my bride did not wear her wedding
gown, but instead was married in a simple blue linen dress
with three-quarter sleeves. She wore a chiffon scarf over her
head. I wore a gray suit and sat at the head of a low coffee
table with Muna on my left.
The senior judge first recited some verses from the Holy
Koran before asking both of us whether we intended to enter
into marriage, to which we both replied "Noam" (Yes). Ac-
cording to custom, I placed a plain gold ring on my bride's
left hand, and then gave her a similar ring which she put on
my left hand. Both of us then signed in Arabic five copies of
the marriage document, which was attested by two witnesses,
my younger brother, Prince Mohammed, and my uncle. We
kissed and the company called out "Mabruk!" (Congratula-
Colonel Gardiner attended the ceremony in uniform but
there were very few others present. Both of us wanted the
actual wedding to be private. We felt that the ordinary
people of Jordan had been so good, so kind and understand-
ing that it would be unfair if only people of position were
invited. So we asked virtually none to the ceremony, though
many came to the receptions afterward.
While the legal ceremony was being performed, the male
guests were arriving at the Zahran Palace. They assembled
in the three downstairs halls, sipping the traditional wed-
ding drink made of rose petals and water and clutching
presentation boxes of mother-of-pearl filled with sweets.
When our private ceremony was over we changed our
clothes, reversing the procedure of a wedding where the
bride changes into "going away" clothes. Only after the cere-
mony did I change into my official white uniform, and
302 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Muna changed into her bridal gown and veil for which she
had been fitted in London. She carried a sheaf of orange
Hundreds of guests had now gathered downstairs, and I
mingled with them and received their congratulations. While
this was taking place more cars arrived with the lady guests
and members of the family who were ushered into another
great hall where, with my wife, we attended a tea party
given by my mother.
Only after these two receptions were over did we then,
in uniform and bridal gown, join hands in the great hall of
the Palace. Circassians of the royal bodyguard, wearing
their long black cloaks, astrakan hats, high boots and silver
swords, lined the hall as we walked down the stairs to face
the world's television cameras, the photographers and scores
Since the time of our marriage, my wife has made excel-
lent progress with her Arabic and has already started to take
a much bigger part in the social activities of the country. I
hope that together we can do our share in building Jordan
and serving our nation.
The birth of our son, named Prince Abdullah in memory
of my grandfather, has not only provided the throne of Jor-
dan with a direct heir but it was, from a purely personal
point of view, the most wonderful thing that has ever hap-
pened to me. The baby was not really expected so soon, but
during the night Muna woke me and said she was not feeling
well. Like any father-to-be, I was scared stiffl I grabbed the
first clothes I could get my hands on, rushed down, got the
car ready, and drove Muna to the hospital. Soon afterward,
my son was born.
My Courtship and Marriage 303
A public holiday was immediately declared in Jordan, and
that day I drove back to see my wife along streets so
crowded I could hardly force my way through. Every true
Arab wants a son, and now that I have one, in addition to a
lovely daughter, there is really very little more I can ask out
I must say that I was amused the day after Abdullah was
born. Among the stream of visitors coming to congratulate
me was one Englishman, who asked me in highly anxious
tones, "Sir, are you going to send him to Harrow?" I suppose
A month or two before the baby was born, I had to fly to
London for a purely routine medical checkup. I knew I had
been working too hard and the strain was undoubtedly be-
ginning to tell. But how easily rumors spread! I was tired
and I was not well, but before long the world's press had al-
most reduced me in theory anyway to a chronic invalid. In
actual fact I think I can say that I have a very tough con-
I was advised during my trip to London to take things
easier and to take days off like ordinary people do, and I am
trying to do this now. I also had to promise the doctors that
I would not indulge in any high-flying jet aerobatics a pity
from my point of view. My sinus trouble was the real cause
of my being run down, but it is absolute nonsense to suggest,
as some have done, that I am in any way an invalid. I myself
was delighted with the doctors' pronouncements during my
London visit, and they certainly gave me the most thorough
medical checkup I have ever had.
Muna and I live a simple life in our little farmhouse at
Hummar. We named it "Daret Alkair," which means "The
304 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
House of Goodness and Happiness." It is about ten miles
from Amman and has been converted out of the old single-
story house where I was resting the day my Prime Minister
was killed in 1960 and the day before assassins tried to mur-
der me with acid.
Though things are much more peaceful in Jordan at the
time of writing, one still has to be careful, for there are many
forces tugging at the Arab homeland. I told Muna when we
decided to marry that she must realize being the wife of a
king could prove dangerous.
Our low, two-storied house built of white stone is just the
right place for us. It epitomizes all that I really believe in. I
know that I must endure palaces and big receptions but
after all the Palace does not belong to me but to the Govern-
ment. "The House of Goodness and Happiness" is ours. It is
the first house we have ever owned, and when I return each
evening, it is to a real home for the first time in my life.
It is modest but comfortable. It now contains four bed-
rooms and two reception rooms. The rooms are simple but
airy, and the furniture is modern and comfortable without
being showy. We are hoping to build a small swimming pool
shortly in the terraced garden. But most important, this is the
home of an ordinary, hard-working man. There is nothing
ostentatious about it. Two servants manage it comfortably.
We have a cook, but my wife is always so busy in the kitchen
we hardly need help. Every other morning she cooks my
breakfast eggs or sausages, coffee, toast and marmalade.
The other mornings I attempt to do the cooking. My wife
also has a long list of recipes she proposes to try out on me
in the near future.
We lead a very quiet life. Sometimes we ride in the morn-
ings. Occasionally we have a small informal party. We drive
into Amman to dine with our families, or go to a movie with
My Courtship and Marriage 305
friends at the Palace. And we have the Go-Kart races every
Friday. For the rest, I work hard, and so does my wife. I
manage to get home for lunch sometimes, as I have a heli-
copter landing area in the gardens, so that (with another at
my Palace) I can pilot myself to my office in about five or
Our house stands on the crest of a hill and it has the most
beautiful view. My grandfather left me a large area of land
when he died, but some years ago I decided that I could not
farm it all. Others needed irrigated land, so I gave most of it
away and just kept a small plot where I built what I hope
will eventually become a model farm. Around me my fellow
countrymen till the soil and I can see them working on the
land and feel like one of them when I, too, set off each
morning to my work.
Since I first started to write my memoirs, many happy
events have happened in Jordan and the rest of the Arab
To the north, our Syrian neighbors are once again a free
people, having thrown away the Nasserite imperialism which
threatened to destroy not only themselves but the rest of the
There can be no doubt that Nasser's concept of dictator-
ship and Egyptian domination has caused serious setbacks to
the unity and dignity of the Arab world. But now the situa-
tion in the Middle East looks healthier, despite the problems
it still faces and the dangers of future setbacks. I feel that
we in Jordan have moved a long way in our determination to
set ourselves up as an example and a model to others as a
free, progressive country.
As for myself, the birth of a son, who is now the Crown
306 UNEASY LIES THE HEAD
Prince, has brought overwhelming joy and happiness to both
Princess Muna and myself, as well as to our large family the
family of all Jordan.
I hope and pray that we may have in him a true Arab who
can live up to his name in the tradition of the Hashemite
family and in the service of our nation.
When I thank God for the happiness He has bestowed
on me, I pray He will in His wisdom grant all of us the
laborers in the field, whose work is just as important as their
monarch's, my wife, myself and my family a long life to
work for the land we love so well, and to prove ourselves
worthy descendants of the Hashemite dynasty.
Thus, reluctantly, King Hussein ac-
knowledges that the Israeli govern-
ment saved his regime from collapse
at a time when his Arab rivals came
within hours of contriving his down-
"For a long time I had wanted to visit th
United States, My impressions of it, lik
those of everyone else who has nev<
"been there, were made up from books
had read, American magazines, and abo^
all. the cinema."
The author's description of his first
visit to America in 1959 and his sec-
ond trip in 1960 to address the United
Nations ("I did not travel all these
miles to utter platitudes") is "must"
reading for any citizen interested in
our relationship to the Middle East
and in the rapidly changing pattern
of the United Nations.
"I have decided to conclude the story
my life so far with an account of my mi
riage to Muna el Hussein because, qui
aside from the proverbial happy endi)
which many books seem to demand, tl
marriage has had a profound effect on m
Thus begins the account of King Hus-
sein's courtship of and marriage to a
beautiful nineteen -year -old English
girl named Toni Gardiner. It began
at a private dinner party, continued
at the Go-Kart Race Club in Ammar
and is one of the most charming
stories of a King and a commonei
Jacket photograph by Brian Brake
Jacket desien bw Jeanuee Wbne