A Brief History of Modern Jordan

2021 is a special year for Jordan, as the Kingdom marks its centenary. It’s been quite the ride, but Jordan has proven itself to be a beacon of peace, stability, moderation, and hospitality in an otherwise tricky region. We’re proud of what we’ve overcome and all that we’ve achieved. Let’s take a look back at some of Jordan’s most significant moments.

Whilst Jordan in its current form was founded in 1921, the journey began in 1916 with the Arab Revolt. Launched against the Ottomans, the revolt was founded upon an agreement between the British Government and Hussein al Ali, Sharif of Mecca. Included in the pact, the rebellion aimed to create an independent Arab state from Aleppo in the North to Aden in the South. The revolt was a military success, ending Ottoman rule in the Hijaz (Eastern Saudi Arabia) and much of Jordan, before eventually reaching Damascus.

However, the independent Arab state was not to be. Whilst agreeing to its formation, the British and French had secretly been negotiating the future Middle East behind Hussein’s back. Accordingly, the imperial powers signed the 1920 Sykes-Picot agreement, dividing the Middle East between them. These borders remain to the current day.

A New, Independent State

Named the Emirate of Transjordan, the borders of Jordan were agreed in 1921, with Hussein’s son Abdullah, named as Emir (ruler). The new territory was not independent from British control, but 1923 marked an important milestone, with the foundation of the Arab Army.

On 25th May 1946, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was declared independent from the British. Abdullah I was crowned King, but the nascent state faced a difficult birth. The 1948 Arab Israeli war resulted in the foundation of the neighbouring state of Israel and presented Jordan with the challenge of accommodating a huge wave of Palestinian refugees. In 1950, Abdullah I was assassinated in Al Aqsa Mosque. Accompanying him was his grandson, the future King Hussein. He survived only thanks to a bullet deflecting off a medal worn by him at Abdullah’s request.

King Hussein, Regional Peacemaker

Abdullah I was succeeded by his son Talal in 1951. Due to mental health concerns, his rule was brief, lasting only 13 months. Talal was not without his achievements however, in 1952 signing into law the modern constitution of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. He was succeeded by his eighteen-year-old son Hussein, who would rule until 1999.

1956 marked a key point in Jordan’s history, as King Hussein sacked the British personnel still leading Jordan’s army. This act of Arabisation finally completed the Kingdom’s long journey to full sovereignty.

King Hussein was also forced to deal with the huge impact of the neighbouring Israeli Palestinian conflict. Dominating but not defining his reign, it directly threatened Jordan on numerous occasions. The 1967 Six Days War represented a particular turning point, with Hussein realising that the Palestinian issue needed a diplomatic and peaceful solution. He became known as a regional interlocutor and peacemaker, before making peace with Israel in 1994.

Despite the numerous challenges faced by Hussein I, his forty-six-year reign transformed Jordan into a stable and modern state. To this day he remains widely popular among all sections of Jordanian society. Suffering from cancer, King Hussein passed away from cancer aged 63 in 1999 and was succeeded by his son, Abdullah II.

A New King for the New Millennium

Upon assuming the throne, Abdullah II began an ambitious programme of economic liberalisation. An economic boom followed, but Jordan suffered greatly as a result of the 2008 financial crisis. This was compounded by the effects of the 2011 ‘Arab Spring’. Whilst Jordan didn’t witness protests on anything like the scale of its regional counterparts, events in Syria resulted in the arrival of 1.3 million refugees. This, and the collapse of tourism in the Kingdom, placed great strain upon the economy.

Despite such turmoil, Jordan has remained stable, opening its doors as a safe place for those fleeing danger and peril. There is little doubt that over the last hundred years the Kingdom has faced countless challenges, each more complex than the last. However, its people have remained resilient and hospitable, eager to welcome more guests to discover Jordan’s wonders.

Here at Jordan Select Tours we’re proud of the past and hopeful for the future. We look forward to seeing you soon for a tour of Jordan.