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A map of Jordan and its neighbours. The very large triangle of land that is part of Saudi Arabia is known as ‘Winston's hiccup’

Winston's Hiccup or Churchill's Hiccup is the huge zigzag in Jordan's eastern border with Saudi Arabia, supposedly because Winston Churchill drew the boundary of Transjordan after a generous and lengthy lunch.

Churchill, then British Colonial Secretary, boasted that he had "created Transjordan with the stroke of a pen on a Sunday afternoon in Cairo."[1] A story subsequently arose that, after enjoying an overly liquid lunch that day, he had hiccuped while attempting to draw the border and had refused to allow it to be corrected. Thus the zigzag, with the Saudi town of Kaf near its apex[2] has been written into history as "Winston's hiccup".

Actually Churchill carefully drew the zigzag to make sure that the huge Wadi Sirhan – one of the age-old Incense Routes[3] and still a vital communications highway between Damascus and the Arabian interior – ended up outside the new emirate. Jordan's resulting panhandle, a finger of desert territory, also had a profound significance. This meant that Britain maintained a direct air corridor between the Mediterranean and India. That the new, ruler-drawn borders cut arbitrarily across tribal lands in the remote desert caused the colonial planners no moral dilemmas.

In the modern era, Jordan's boundaries with Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia do not have the special significance that the border with Israel does; these borders do not generally hamper tribal nomads in their movements, although for a few groups the borders do technically separate them from traditional grazing areas. Officially, they are set by a series of agreements between the United Kingdom and the government of what eventually became Saudi Arabia, first formally defined in the Hadda Agreement of 1925.[4] In 1965 Jordan and Saudi Arabia concluded a bilateral agreement that realigned and defined the boundary.[5] The realignment resulted in some exchange of territory, and Jordan's coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba was lengthened by about eighteen kilometers.


  1. ^ William F. Shughart II, An analytical history of terrorism, 1945–2000 p.42. See
  2. ^ Maps, Weather, and Airports for Kaf, Saudi Arabia
  3. ^ GK Young, Rome's Eastern Trade: International Commerce and Imperial Policy, 31 BC-AD 305 (2001), p.128 ISBN 0415242193
  4. ^
  5. ^ IBS No. 60 - Jordan (JO) & Saudi Arabia (SA) 1965

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