A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, December 3, 2012

Vanished States: the Hashemite Kingdom of Hejaz

On a couple of earlier occasions I've posted about vanished states,not historical items like the Abbasid Caliphate or the Crusader States, but evanescent states that had a brief existence in the past century. Earlier posts have dealt with the Republic of Hatay and the Syrian Arab Kingdom.

Hejaz Flag, 1921-25
Hejaz Flag 1916-1920
Kingdom of Hejaz (Wikipedia)
The Syrian Kingdom was a short-lived Hashemite Kingdom following World War I; it was closely linked to the Kingdom of the Hejaz, the product of the Arab Revolt. Sharif Hussein of Mecca, whose revolt against the Turks had won British backing, had proclaimed Arab independence in 1916, and added the title of King of Hejaz to that of Sharif of Mecca. His son Faisal tried to become king of Syria (originally of a greater Syria embracing most of the Levant), though when driven from the throne by France, Faisal received the throne of Iraq from the British as a consolation prize; the monarchy ruled in Iraq until 1958. Faisal's brother ‘Abdullah became Amir of Transjordan, where ‘Abdallah's great-grandson and namesake still rules.

King Hussein
Though Britain had supported Hussein against the Turks and the Hashemites proved reliable British allies,  his ambitions and that of another former British client, the rising Saudi Kingdom in the Najd, came into conflict. In addition to calling himself King of the Hejaz, he called himself King of the Arabs. Raising the ante yet again, when the Turkish Republic abolished the institution of the Islamic Caliphate (claimed by the Ottomans since 1517), Hussein proclaimed himself Caliph in 1924. Later that year, after a military defeat by the Saudis, Hussein Abdicated in favor of his son ‘Ali. He fled first to Cyprus and then to Transjordan, where he lived with his son ‘Abdullah. Hussein died in 1931 and was buried in Jerusalem.

King ‘Ali ibn al-Hussein
King  ‘Ali ruled what the Hashemites still controlled of the Hejaz from October 1924 until the fall of Mecca to the Saudis in December 1925. ‘Ali fled to Iraq to join his brother Faisal; ‘Ali's son ‘Abd al-Ilah later served as Regent for King Faisal II of Iraq.

Lawrence-designed stamps

The Hejaz soon became a province in the new Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Like other short-lived nation-states, the Kingdom of Hejaz is not forgotten by at least two constituencies (besides the Hashemite family): philatelists and numismatists.

Its stamps, which bear the mark Makka al-Mukarima, Mecca the Blessed, are not only colorful: the earliest ones are said to have been personally designed by T. E. Lawrence
(Lawrence of Arabia).

Gold Dinar, front and rear
As for its coinage and paper money, we are informed that "Hijaz banknotes are among the most sought after and rarest known to collectors. A complete SPECIMEN set is housed in the Jordan Central Bank Museum and just a few other pieces are reported in private collections. King Farouk had  four pieces in his collection, three of which are now believed to be in North America."

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