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Queen Noor of Jordan - An American-born Queen

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Background

I have always been a Royal watcher, particularly the Royal family of Great Britain.  My interest in royalty led me to research the life of Lisa Halaby, an American who became a queen, much like Grace Kelly, who became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco when she married Prince Rainier in 1956.

                                               

Queen Noor of Jordan

                                                      Queen Noor of Jordan - Wikimedia

Introduction

Lisa Najeeb Halaby, an American girl of Arab descent, was born on August 23, 1951.  Her father, Najeeb Halaby, was head of the Federal Aviation Administration under President John F. Kennedy.  Lisa was educated in private schools in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Concord, Massachusetts prior to enrolling in 1969 in the first co-educational class at Princeton University where she was a member of the women’s hockey team.  She graduated from Princeton with a B.A. in Architecture and Urban Planning.  She subsequently took on urban planning and design projects in Australia, Iran, the United States, and Jordan.

Lisa’s New Job

Lisa’s father was asked by the Jordanian government to aid in the redesign of their airlines, Arabair Services.  Lisa had been considering returning to the United States to study at the Columbia School of Journalism with plans to have a career in television production.  Instead, she accepted her father’s offer to become his Director of Facilities Planning and Design at Arabair Services.

Because of her father’s position and her own contributions to Arabair Services, Lisa met King Hussein at social events on several occasions.  King Hussein’s third wife, Alia, had recently been killed in a helicopter crash.  Because of the King’s wife’s interest in the airlines, the international airport in Amman, Jordan was named Alia after her.

                                                          

King Hussein

                                                             King Hussein of Jordan                                                                                                                                               Wikimedia

Lisa and the King Become Friends

King Hussein and Lisa became friends and a courtship ensued.  Lisa remarked that their courtship was spent on a motorcycle because it was the only way they could manage to go off by themselves.  After six weeks, the King proposed to Lisa.  Then, on June 15, 1978, Lisa Halaby became the first American-born queen of Jordan, and was given the name Noor al-Hussein, which means “Light of Hussein.”  Queen Noor took on the care of the King’s three small children from his marriage to Alia.  She was 27 years old at the time of her marriage and the King was 15 years older than she was.

A Question of the Successor to the Throne

King Hussein also had a daughter from his first wife, and four children from his second wife, British-born Antoinette Gardiner, from whom he was eventually divorced.  The King’s first son from this marriage, is presently King Abdullah II of Jordan, having acceded to the throne upon the death of his father in 1999.  Early on, King Hussein had designated that his own brother Hassan would succeed him on the throne.  Just before his death, however, he changed his will to name his oldest son Abdullah to succeed him.

Lisa and the King Have Four Children

Lisa’s marriage to King Hussein produced another four children, two boys and two girls:  Prince Hamzah, Prince Hashim, Princess Iman, and Princess Raiyah.  Her first attempt at childbirth resulted in a miscarriage which was a heartbreaking event for her.  Queen Noor is highly regarded world-wide as a philanthropist and activist, particularly in the area of advocacy for children and the removal of landmines.  Upon her marriage to King Hussein, she converted to the Islamic religion, and formed a genuine commitment to the country of Jordan.  She also relinquished her American citizenship.  She has always been accompanied by bodyguards since her husband had survived more than 25 assassination attempts.

The Queen Takes a Stand Despite Criticism

Queen Noor supported her husband’s views, particularly his criticism of the United States for its rigid commitment to Israel.  Of course, she was reproached by Americans for taking the side of Jordan against the U.S.  She was unsuccessful, however, in her attempt to name her son Hamzah as the successor to the King’s throne rather than his first son from another marriage, Abdullah, who did succeed his father and became King Abdullah II.

The Death of King Hussein

King Hussein was stricken with Lymphatic cancer in 1992 and received treatment at the Mayo Clinic in the United States.  He is known for his life-long efforts to bring peace to his war-torn country of Jordan.  He died when he was 63 years old and is buried in Amman, Jordan.  Upon her husband’s death, Queen Noor preferred to remain in Jordan, her home for 21 years.

                                                   

Map of Jordan

                                                          Map of Jordan - Wikimedia

Widowhood of Queen Noor

Queen Noor is now called the Dowager Queen.  She spends time between Jordan, London and New York, and loves being with her children, and continues her engagement with the many charitable organizations that she has in Jordan.

Some Accomplishments

Queen Noor helped to establish the Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts, an annual event featuring dance, poetry and music, which attracts thousands of tourists.

Another favorite charity of Queen Noor is the improvement of Jordan’s educational resources.  She founded the Jubilee School, which is a three-year coeducational high school which serves gifted students.

It appears that Queen Noor, at this point in her life, seems to value her privacy.  We know little about her except what she reveals concerning her philanthropic efforts for her country.  It can be assumed that she is involved in the lives of her children and her grandchildren, and prefers that role over all others.

Queen Noor’s Memoir

Her book “A Leap of Faith: Memoir of an Unexpected Life” was a New York Times best-selling book and was published in 15 languages.  She tells of her experiences as a young bride who became a queen, and her efforts to carve out a role for herself, as an American-born educated woman.  Since her husband was both the monarch of Jordan and the spiritual leader of all Muslims, she had to balance several roles at a very young age.

In her memoir, Queen Noor writes more about her husband than she does about herself, another indication of the value she places on her personal privacy.

Queen Noor has traveled widely in North and Central America, Europe, Asia and Australia. She speaks Arabic, English and French.  She maintains her love for sports, and enjoys skiing, water skiing, tennis, sailing, horseback riding, as well as reading, gardening and photography.

I admire Queen Noor greatly, for her beauty as well as her brains, and for her bold step in choosing to marry a King, knowing that her life would no longer be her own.  I hope to hear more of her doings on the world stage.

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Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life
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(price as of Mar 23, 2016)
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Comments

Mar 23, 2016 8:43pm
HLesley
This is a very interesting and timely article. I was particularly interested in the interview with Queen Noor in the video.
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Bibliography

  1. "Queen Noor of Jordan." bio.. 23/03/2016. 23/03/2016 <Web >
  2. "Queen Noor Al Hussein Of Jordan Biography." Arab Royal Family. 23/03/2016. 23/03/2016 <Web >

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