King Abdullah II of Jordan

Just before King Hussein of Jordan died in 1999, he named as his successor his eldest son, Abdullah. It was a decision which surprised the Jordanians, who were expecting Queen Noor's eldest son Hamzah to step into his father's shoes. Abdullah himself had planned to follow a career "behind the scenes," as he put it, in the military.

Born in Amman on January 30, 1962, to King Hussein and his second wife, English-born Princess Muna Al Hussein, Prince Abdullah began his education in the Jordanian capital before heading to England and, later, the United States. After completing his military education at the prestigious Sandhurst Academy, he spent a year at Oxford studying Middle Eastern Affairs and attended the School Of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in the States.

After Sandhurst, he served with the British Army before returning to his homeland to take up a post in the Jordanian Armed Forces. Although Hussein's eldest son represented his father in a diplomatic capacity while pursuing his military career, it was thought Abdullah would not succeed, especially as the king had named his own younger brother Hassan as heir.

A man of action, Abdullah is a scuba diving and automobile racing fan he's a former Jordanian National Rally Racing Champion plus a qualified frogman, pilot and freefall parachutist. He's also a keen collector of ancient weapons and armaments.

Disguised in a curly wig and jeans he has a reputation for mingling anonymously with his subjects in order to gauge public opinion about his rule. His biggest challenge as king will be to bring democracy to Jordan, a task for which he admits he doesn't "have a blueprint". His stance as a truly modern monarch is underlined by the vision he has posted on his website of "a Jordan with equal opportunities for all and with special privileges for none".

The young Army officer met his wife, Kuwait-born Palestinian Rania, at a dinner party given by one of his sisters in 1993 and, by all accounts, it was love at first sight. The two were married in June of that year and have four children: Prince Hussein, born in 1994; Princess Iman, born in 1996; Princess Salma, born in 2000 and Prince Hashem, born in 2005. When Abdullah took the throne, Rania was, at 28, the youngest (and some said, most beautiful) queen in the world.

The two live in an apartment in the suburbs of Amman, a wedding present from the late king which they prefer to any of the eight royal palaces scattered around the city, and are the epitome of normality or as normal as you can be when you are royalty. Rania still puts their children to bed herself, and her husband is not above whipping up the occasional evening meal.

Click here for more information on the Jordanian royal family
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