Illness, death and funeral
Royal Jordanian 1
is escorted on 4 February 1999 by a F-16 of the Minnesota Air National Guard
during King Hussein's return to Jordan. He died 3 days later.
In May 1998 Hussein, a heavy smoker, was admitted to the Mayo Clinic, but doctors were unable to diagnose his ailment. Hussein returned to the clinic in July after suffering severe fevers; doctors then diagnosed him with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He stayed in the clinic until the end of 1998, his brother Hassan, who had been crown prince since 1965, acted as regent. He was given six courses of chemotherapy for his lymph gland cancer over a five-month period. Hussein gained the respect of the Mayo Clinic staff for his warmth and kindness; on one occasion, a janitor cried uncontrollably after Hussein prepared a birthday party for her in his suite.
In October 1998 Bill Clinton invited Hussein, during his stay at the clinic for chemotherapy treatment, to attend the Wye Plantation talks after a stalemate was reached between the Israeli and Palestinian delegations. Hussein, who looked bald and weakened, arrived and urged both Arafat and Netanyahu to overcome the obstacles. Encouraged by his presence, the two leaders agreed to resolve their difficulties. Hussein received a standing ovation at the ceremony and praise from Clinton for interrupting his treatment and coming over.
At home, 1998 was a difficult year for Jordanians: GDP growth had slowed considerably and could not keep pace with an accelerating population growth. Other incidents included a government scandal involving contamination of the country's water supply. Samih Batikhi, the director of the General Intelligence Directorate (mukhabarat), visited Hussein during his stay at the Mayo Clinic to keep him updated. Batikhi discredited the King's brother Hassan, and often voiced his support for Hussein's eldest son Abdullah as successor. Abdullah, who was 36 years old at the time, enjoyed great support from the army. He was crown prince when he was born in 1962, but Hussein transferred the title to his brother Hassan in 1965 due to political uncertainty back then. On his way back to Jordan in January 1999, Hussein stopped in London. Doctors advised him to rest and stay in England for a few weeks, as he was still too fragile to travel. According to Jordanian government sources, Hussein stated that:
I need very much to feel the warmth of my people around me, there is work to be done and I will get the strength from my people to finish the business.
Upon his arrival in Jordan, after a six-month medical absence from the country, he announced he was "completely cured". Hussein returned and publicly criticized his brother Hassan's management of Jordanian internal affairs. He also accused him of abusing his powers as regent and crown prince. On 24 January 1999, Hussein replaced Hassan with his son Abdullah as heir apparent. Hassan gracefully accepted the King's decision on television, and congratulated his nephew Abdullah on his designation as crown prince.
Mourners line up along Zahran street
in Amman on 8 February 1999 as royal motorcade transported King's coffin.
On 25 January, the day after he proclaimed Abdullah as crown prince, Hussein returned abruptly to the United States, after experiencing fevers – a sign of recurrent lymphoma. On 4 February it was reported that Hussein had suffered internal organ failure, and was in critical condition. The next day, and at his request, he was flown to Jordan where he arrived in a coma after a second bone marrow transplant failed. Fighter jets from several countries flew with his plane as it passed over its territory, including the United States, Britain, and Israel. Hussein arrived at the King Hussein Medical Center in Amman where it was raining heavily, yet thousands flocked from all over Jordan and gathered at the main entrance. The crowds chanted his name, some weeping, others holding his pictures. At 11:43 on 7 February, Hussein was pronounced dead.
Hussein's flag-draped coffin, accompanied by honor guard troops wearing Keffiyeh, was taken on a 90-minute procession through the streets of the capital city of Amman. An estimated 800,000 Jordanians braved chilly winds to bid their leader farewell. Riot police were stationed along the nine-mile-long route to try to hold back the crowds who scrambled for a glimpse of the coffin.
The UN General Assembly held an Emergency Special Session in "Tribute to the Memory of His Majesty the King of Jordan" on the same day. The King's funeral was held in the Raghadan Palace. The funeral was the largest gathering of foreign leaders since 1995, and it was the first time that Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad was in the same room with Israeli statesmen. Khaled Mashal was also in the same room as the Mossad leaders who had tried to assassinate him just two years earlier. Four American presidents were present: Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford. Bill Clinton said about the funeral: "I don't think I have ever seen a greater outpouring of the world's appreciation and the world's love for a human being than I've seen today". Hussein was succeeded as king by his eldest son, Abdullah II.