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Lawrence of Arabia
The Players T.E. Lawrence Prince Feisal General Allenby King Hussein Dahoum Winston Churchill Lowell Thomas Auda Abu Tayeh Arab Revolt Battle Features The Show Resources Classroom Resources Home  
King Hussein
  Grand Sharif Hussein bin Ali, born in 1853, was destined from birth to lead his people.

For more than 700 years his Hashemite ancestors had been the hereditary guardians of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina and the surrounding Arabian lands of the Hejaz. It was an unbroken line of succession.

Claiming direct descent from the Prophet, the Grand Sharif was highly respected in the Islamic world. Hussein was to be the last Hashemite Emir of Mecca and King of the Hejaz.

Hussein's dream - the catalyst of the Arab Revolt - was to establish a single independent and unified Arab state stretching from Syria in the north to Yemen in the South. Hussein was an influential leader and shared with his fellow Arabs a strong dislike for his Ottoman overlords.

When war was declared between Britain and Turkey, the British Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, appealed to Hussein for assistance in the conflict. He flirted with the concept of an 'Arab nation' and offered political recognition in return for assurances of assistance.

Hussein angled for a large Arab Kingdom and, after protracted negotiations, started the Revolt. His four sons Ali, Abdullah, Feisal and Zeid, played important roles as field commanders throughout the war.

Captain T.E. Lawrence traveled to Jeddah to meet Hussein. Together they agreed terms under which the British and Arabs would fight the Turks together. Hussein was to tell his son Feisal, "a British promise is like gold. No matter how hard you rub it, it still shines".

Lawrence wrote of Hussein in 1917, "once his mind is made up it would be a thankless task to try to make him change it".

A friendship was born which was to have radical consequences. Together the two of them commanded an army, carrying out a guerilla campaign against the Turkish troops in the Hejaz which culminated in the successful attack on the Ottoman fort of Aqaba, which opened up supply lines.

Unfortunately Britain's promises were not genuine. They ploughed millions into the Revolt, but were unable to deliver a united Arab nation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919.

Hussein refused to recognize the Paris settlements. Lawrence later described him as "a tragic figure, in his way: brave, obstinate, hopelessly out of date: exasperating". It proved to be his undoing.

In refusing to ratify the Anglo-Hashemite Treaty he deprived himself of British support when his kingdom was invaded by the neighboring Arab leader, the Wahhabi Ibn Saud. Abdicating in 1924, Hussein left the Hejaz to be assimilated into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Serving his exile in Cyprus Hussein suffered a stroke in 1931 and only then was he allowed to return to Amman to end his days near his sons. Born into a noble house, Hussein was outmaneuvered by others and overshadowed by global events.


T.E.Lawrence | Prince Feisal | General Allenby | King Hussein | Dahoum | Winston Churchill | Lowell Thomas | Auda Abu Tayeh

King Hussein ruled Mecca, Medina 
                        and the Hejaz
  King Hussein ruled Mecca, Medina and the Hejaz  


Lawrence of Arabia