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Auda Abu Tayi

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Auda Abu-Tayeh
عودة أبو تايه
Photograph of Auda abu Tayi, probably taken by G. Eric Matson (1888–1977).Tabuk, Hejaz 1921
Born11 January 1874
Hejaz Vilayet, Ottoman Empire
Died27 December 1924 (aged 50)
Amman, Emirate of Transjordan
AllegianceArab Revolt Bedouin Arabs
Battles/warsArab Revolt
RelationsMohammed al-Dheilan (cousin)
Ibn Zaal (nephew)

Auda Abu Tayeh or Awda Abu Tayih (Arabic: عودة أبو تايه 11 January 1874 – 27 December 1924), nicknamed the Commander of the People or the Desert Falcon, was the Sheikh of a section of the Howeitat or Huwaytat tribe of Bedouin Arabs at the time of the Great Arab Revolt during the First World War. The Howeitat lived in what is now Saudi Arabia/Jordan.

Auda led the Arab forces in several battles, the most significant ones being the battle of Aqaba, where he managed to capture the city, seizing the entire Ottoman garrison and the siege of Damascus, when he took the city alongside Faisal.

He died in 1924 and was buried in Amman ; he is considered a national hero in Jordan.

In the Arab world, he is seen as a generous and honorable man. However, outside of the Arab world, he is mainly known through his distorted portrayal in British Col. T. E. Lawrence's account Seven Pillars of Wisdom and from the fictionalised depiction of him in David Lean's film Lawrence of Arabia. Those accounts, which presented him as a greedy and slick man, were criticized by historians.


Early life[edit]

Auda was the son of Harb Abu Tayi (?-1904).[1][2] He was the fourth[3] among five brothers and one sister and had a rough youth.[4]

When he was young, he learned the Bedouin way of life, grazing herds along the farms first, and later elsewhere as he grew.[5] His mother was particularly tough; during a confrontation with another tribe, Auda, still a child, pursued attackers and killed several.[5] Upon returning to the camp, he found his mother, holding a knife, telling him that if he hadn't been brave, she would have cut off the breast that nursed him.[5] As a result of this upbringing, he remained illiterate throughout his life, not knowing how to read or write.[5] However, he had a perfect understanding of Bedouin customary traditions and became a competent Bedouin judge in cases requiring tribal judgments.[5]

He married relatively late, around the age of twenty, which was uncommon in Bedouin society at that time.[5] This is likely due to the fact that he was in love with another woman in his youth, and Harb Abu Tayi, his father, refused to let him marry her because her father was reputed to be a coward.[5] Later, she married another man. Auda married another woman but throughout his life, he sent gifts to this woman.[5] However, he refused to accept her offer of divorcing her husband to marry him when she proposed it later on.[5]

Lawrence recorded that the Jazi Howeitat had formerly been under the leadership of the House of Rashid, the amirs of Ha'il, but had since fragmented and that Auda had come to control the Eastern Howeitat, known as the abu Tayi.[6] Auda had taken up the claims of his father, Harb abu Tayi (? – 1904), who had contested the tribe's chieftainship with Arar ibn Jazi.[1]

Auda and his ibn Jazi rival, Arar's half-brother Abtan, diverted the energies of the Howeitat—previously settled farmers and camel herders—into raiding, greatly increasing the tribe's wealth but introducing a mainly nomadic lifestyle.[7] Tensions between them and the Ottoman administration had increased after an incident in 1908, when two soldiers were killed who had been sent to demand payment of a tax that Auda claimed to have already paid.[8]

Auda Abu Tayi (marked with an X) of the Howeitat offers allegiance to the King; a soldier next to him bears the Arab flag. (1917)

According to historian Mahmoud Obeidat, Auda was the "only person among the tribal leaders whom the Turkish authorities were pursuing, the only person who rejected the decisions of the Turkish administration, and the only person who saw himself as far superior to the Ottoman governor".[9]

According to Suleiman al-Mousa and Mahmoud Krishan, after killing these two Turkish soldiers, Auda was sought by the police. While secretly heading to Ma'an to visit a friend, the police received information about his presence and surrounded the house where he was hiding.[5] Unconcerned, he got up, had his breakfast—despite the owner's invitations to leave through a back door quickly—and decided to exit through the main door, greeting the Ottoman troops who had come to arrest him. In this way, he managed to evade the Turkish police, who let him pass.[5]

He had three sons,[5] the only surviving one, Muhammad, died in 1987, and it is said that he provided him with a good education in the tribal lifestyle.[10] He had thirteen grandchildren, all of whom live in Jordan.

Great Arab revolt[edit]

At the beginning of the Great Arab Revolt, he joined the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali alongside the Howeitat tribe.[11]

According to several researchers, his and his tribe's mobility and knowledge of the desert were significant factors contributing to the success of the Arab Revolt and stood out as one of their assets.[12][13] He and his tribesmen were lead forces in the fall of Aqaba (July 1917)[12][14] and Damascus (October 1918).[15]

Al-Jafr castle in Jordan, 1927, this building was started by Auda Abu Tayi after WWI. However, he died before the completion of the building.

Auda abu Tayi is considered a hero of the Arab revolt.[16] In reward for his services rendered, he received a sword from the hands of Hussein as a token of friendship.[17]

About his role in the Great Arab Revolt, he declared:[9]

In my body, there are twenty-two wounds, the most cherished of which are the last wounds, which were for the glory of the Arabs. I will not hesitate to offer what remains of my intact body to my nation and people, and I swear to Allah, what I say is a sacrifice.

He managed to take Aleppo, in the last days of World War I.[3]

Post-war years[edit]

He continued raiding, for example, in 1921, he tried to do a raid in Iraq, engaging in a march of more than 600km in the desert.[18] However, the expedition resulted in a disaster after their enemies spotted them near their arrival point and started depleting all water supplies, destroying the whole expedition except a small dozen of tribesmen, including Auda and his son Muhammad.[18]

He was very shocked by the Franco-British occupation of Arab lands.[17] He then helped the ephemeral army of Hashemite Syria, led by Faisal.[17] After the collapse of the Arab government in Damascus, which was invaded by France, Auda retired to the desert, building a modern fort at Al-Jafr east of Ma'an with Turkish prisoners of war.[19][20] Before it was completed, however, he died in 1924[19] of natural causes. He was buried in Ras al-Ain, Amman, Jordan.[17]

Nowadays, only ruins remain of his building due to it being in the desert and not receiving heritage care and restoration.[19][21]


His full genealogy was, in Arabic: عودة بن الحرب بن صباح بن فرج بن محمد بن فرج بن فرج بن سلامة بن علوان بن قبال بن حويط بن غازي، المعروف باسم أبو طايء الحويطي (أبو عناد)., romanizedʿUdah ibn al-Harb ibn Ṣabāḥ ibn Faraj ibn Muḥammad ibn Faraj ibn Faraj ibn Salāmah ibn ʿAlwan ibn Qābal ibn Huwaiṭ ibn Ghāzī, al-maʿrūf bismi Abu Tayeh al-Huwaītī (Abu Anād).[3] He received the nicknames of "Commander of the People"[3] and of "Desert Falcon".[22]


Historical legacy[edit]

He was presented by some people, on the account of the movie, and to a lesser extent on the book of Lawrence of Arabia as being a sly and greedy individual.[15][23] Much of this modern-day presentation seems rooted in his sensationalised depiction by Lowell Thomas as a figure of anarchic, primitive masculine energy deliberately set against the idea of British 'civilisation' (see also Orientalism).[23][24]

However, historians have criticized these accounts of Auda as misrepresenting Arabs and Auda.[15][23]

Political legacy[edit]

He is considered a national figure by the Jordanian people.[4][10][17]

Artistical legacy[edit]


He is an important figure in Lawrence's semi-fictionalized account of the Arab Revolt, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom", which misrepresents him and the Arab people as romanticized figures.[23] T.E. Lawrence portrayed him as someone who epitomized everything noble, powerful, and proud about the Bedouin, "the greatest fighting man in northern Arabia," with an impressive lineage spanning many generations of great desert Howeitat warriors of the Arabian Peninsula.[15]

He was described as a generous man by Khayr al-Din al-Zirikli in one of his books and by Abdal Fattah al-Yaffi.in his Memories.[22][25]


He was portrayed in the David Lean film Lawrence of Arabia by Anthony Quinn,[26] which included various stereotypes against Arabs and his figure.[23] Auda's descendants were so incensed by the portrayal of their ancestor that they sued Columbia Studios, the film's producers; the case was eventually dropped.[27]

Auda was also featured as a supporting character in Terence Rattigan's Lawrence-themed play Ross.

He is also portrayed in 2009 Qatari film Auda abu Tayeh, which talks about his life in Arabia to Arab Revolt, and his death. In 2008, there was also a series about him produced and filmed in Jordan.[4][28]


  1. ^ a b Peake, F. A History of Jordan and its Tribes, University of Miami Press, 1958, p. 212
  2. ^ McGill University Library, Frederick Gerard (1934). A history of Trans-Jordan and its tribes Vol. 1. Amman : [publisher not identified]. Retrieved 2022-10-15.
  3. ^ a b c d Husam (2022-02-06). "الشيخ عودة أبو تايِه .. الرَجُل النابِه". Afaq News (in Arabic). Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  4. ^ a b c "صحيفة عمون : المركز العربي ينهي تصوير مسلسل "عودة أبو تايه"". وكالة عمون الاخبارية. Archived from the original on 2021-09-23. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l حسن, الوسط-شبكة بو. "عودة أبوتايه". صحيفة الوسط البحرينية (in Arabic). Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  6. ^ Lawrence, T. E. The Howeitat and their Chiefs Archived 2009-01-06 at the Wayback Machine, Arab Bulletin report of 24 July 1917, from telawrence.net
  7. ^ Alon, Y. and Eilon, J. The Making of Jordan: Tribes, Colonialism and the Modern State, Tauris, 2007, ISBN 1-84511-138-9, p. 34. Lawrence (in his report above) stated that the Howeitat were "altogether Bedu", but they had in fact only recently abandoned farming for nomadism.
  8. ^ Fischbach, M. State, Society, and Land in Jordan, Brill, 2000, ISBN 90-04-11912-4, p. 48. Auda claimed that the troops were shot when they opened fire on him.
  9. ^ a b "عودة أبو تايه وحمد الجازي توسدا بندقيتيهما حتى رفعا مع الأمير فيصل راية الثورة بدمشق". جريدة الغد | مصدرك الأول لأخبار الأردن والعالم (in Arabic). 2016-05-24. Archived from the original on 2023-12-28. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  10. ^ a b "محمد أبو تايه .. زعيم قبيلة ومناضل أصيل". alrainewspaper (in Arabic). Archived from the original on 2023-12-28. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  11. ^ "The Wildest Brigand of the Desert | Maclean's | MAY 1ST 1920". Maclean's | The Complete Archive. Archived from the original on 2022-10-15. Retrieved 2022-10-15.
  12. ^ a b II, Anthony J. Nocella; Salter, Colin; Bentley, Judy K. C. (2013-12-19). Animals and War: Confronting the Military-Animal Industrial Complex. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0-7391-8652-7. Archived from the original on 2023-12-28. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  13. ^ Buck, Claire (2015), Buck, Claire (ed.), "E.M. Forster and the War's Colonial Aspect", Conceiving Strangeness in British First World War Writing, London: Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 81–116, doi:10.1057/9781137471659_4 (inactive 2024-05-03), ISBN 978-1-137-47165-9, archived from the original on 2023-12-28, retrieved 2023-12-27{{citation}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of May 2024 (link)
  14. ^ Cohen, Gustave (1956). "AFFAIRE ALDINGTON contre LAWRENCE d'ARABIE". Hommes et Mondes (116): 487–497. ISSN 0994-5873. JSTOR 44207315. Archived from the original on 2023-12-28. Retrieved 2023-12-27.
  15. ^ a b c d Taha, Ibrahim Mahmoud Bani (2020-06-01). "T. E. Lawrence's Misrepresentation of the Arabs in Seven Pillars of Wisdom". Millennium Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences. doi:10.47340/mjhss.v1i1.3 (inactive 31 January 2024). ISSN 2708-8022. Archived from the original on 2023-12-28. Retrieved 2023-12-27.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of January 2024 (link)
  16. ^ Lawrence, Seven Pillars, p. 169
  17. ^ a b c d e "عودة أبو تايه.. عقيد الثورة العربية الكبرى". الجزيرة نت (in Arabic). Archived from the original on 2023-12-28. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  18. ^ a b Adair, John (2010-07-03). The Leadership of Muhammad. Kogan Page Publishers. ISBN 978-0-7494-6116-4. Archived from the original on 2015-10-22. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  19. ^ a b c Bewley, Robert; Kennedy, David (2013), Hanson, William S.; Oltean, Ioana A. (eds.), "Historical Aerial Imagery in Jordan and the Wider Middle East", Archaeology from Historical Aerial and Satellite Archives, New York, NY: Springer, pp. 221–242, doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-4505-0_13 (inactive 2024-05-03), ISBN 978-1-4614-4505-0, archived from the original on 2023-12-28, retrieved 2023-12-27{{citation}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of May 2024 (link)
  20. ^ Repper, Becc. "Historical Imagery: Qa' al Jafr Fort". Archived from the original on 2023-12-16. Retrieved 2023-12-27.
  21. ^ "هنا عاش عودة أبو تايه (صور من أطلال قصره)". زمانكم. 2015-09-04. Archived from the original on 2023-12-28. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  22. ^ a b admin (2018-01-02). "الشيخ المجاهد عــودة أبـو تــايـــه". الحياة نيوز : اخبار الاردن (in Arabic). Archived from the original on 2023-02-02. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  23. ^ a b c d e Brandabur, A. Clare; Athamneh, Nasser al-Hassan (2000). "Problems of Genre in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph". Comparative Literature. 52 (4): 321–338. doi:10.2307/1771351. ISSN 0010-4124. JSTOR 1771351. Archived from the original on 2021-04-23. Retrieved 2023-12-27.
  24. ^ Dawson, Soldier Heroes: British Adventure, Empire, and the Imagining of Masculinities, Routledge, 1997, ISBN 0-415-08882-8, p. 184
  25. ^ "ص93 - كتاب الأعلام للزركلي - عودة أبو تايه - المكتبة الشاملة". shamela.ws. Archived from the original on 2022-11-11. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  26. ^ Mole (2019-05-31). "Dignity I". Journal of Cell Science. 132 (11): jcs233601. doi:10.1242/jcs.233601. ISSN 0021-9533. Archived from the original on 2023-12-28. Retrieved 2023-12-27.
  27. ^ Turner, Adrian, Robert Bolt: Scenes From Two Lives, pp. 201–206
  28. ^ "جوائز مهرجان القاهرة الرابع عشر 2008 للإعلام العربي | FilFan.com | في الفن". 2018-06-14. Archived from the original on 2018-06-14. Retrieved 2023-12-28.