Queen Noor of Jordan

Queen Noor of Jordan
Noor Al-Hussein
Queen Noor on April 21, 2010
Queen consort of Jordan
Tenure June 15, 1978 – February 7, 1999
Spouse King Hussein of Jordan
Prince Hamzah
Prince Hashim
Princess Iman
Princess Raiyah
House Hashemite
Father Najeeb Halaby
Mother Doris Carlquist
Born 23 August 1951 (1951-08-23) (age 60)
Washington, D.C., United States
Religion Islam (previously Christianity)
Jordanian Royal Family
Coat of Arms of Jordan.svg

HM Queen Noor

Queen Noor of Jordan (Arabic: جلالة الملكة نور‎) (born Lisa Najeeb Halaby; 23 August 1951) is the last wife and widow of King Hussein of Jordan. She was queen consort of Jordan between 1978 and 1999. Since her husband's death in 1999, she has been queen dowager of Jordan.

A United States citizen by birth, and of Syrian,[1] English, and Swedish descent, she acquired Jordanian citizenship and renounced her American citizenship at the time of her marriage. As of 2011, she is president of the United World Colleges movement and an advocate of the anti-nuclear weapons proliferation campaign, Global Zero.


Family and early life

Queen Noor was born Lisa Najeeb Halaby in Washington, D.C. She is the daughter of Najeeb Halaby and Doris Carlquist. Her father was an aviator, airline executive, and government official. He served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Truman administration, before being appointed by John F. Kennedy to head the Federal Aviation Administration. Najeeb Halaby had a successful private-sector career, serving as CEO of Pan American World Airways from 1969 to 1972. The Halabys had two children following Lisa; a son, Christian, and a younger daughter, Alexa. They divorced in 1977.

Noor's paternal grandfather, Najeeb Elias Halaby, a Syrian immigrant, was a petroleum broker, according to 1920 Census records.[2] Merchant Stanley Marcus, however, recalled that in the mid-1920s, Halaby opened Halaby Galleries, a rug boutique and interior-decorating shop, at Neiman-Marcus in Dallas, Texas, and ran it with his Texas-born wife, Laura Wilkins (1889–1987, later Mrs. Urban B. Koen). Najeeb Halaby died shortly afterward, and his estate was unable to continue the new enterprise.[3]

According to research done in 2010 for the PBS series Faces of America by Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., of Harvard University, her great-grandfather, Elias Halaby, came to New York around 1891, one of the earliest Syrian immigrants to the United States. He had been a Christian and provincial treasurer (magistrate) in the Ottoman Empire. He left Syria with his two eldest sons. His wife Almas and remaining children joined him in the USA in 1894. He died three years later, leaving his teenage sons, Habib, and Najeeb (her paternal grandfather), to run his import business. Najeeb moved to Dallas around 1910 and fully assimilated into American society.[1]


Lisa Halaby attended National Cathedral School from fourth to eighth grade. She briefly attended The Chapin School in New York City, then went on to graduate from Concord Academy in Massachusetts. She entered Princeton University with its first coeducational freshman class, and received a BA in Architecture and Urban Planning in 1973. [4]


After she graduated, Lisa Halaby moved to Australia, where she worked for a firm that specialized in planning new towns. She became increasingly interested in the Middle East and immediately accepted a job offer from a British architectural firm that had been employed to redesign the city of Tehran. In 1976, she moved back to the United States. She thought about earning a master's degree in journalism and starting a career in television production. However, she accepted a job offer from Managing Director of Arab Air Services, which was founded by her father, who was commissioned by the Jordanian government to redesign their airlines. She became Director of Facilities Planning and Design of the airline he founded.[5]

In 1977, she was working for Royal Jordanian Airlines, in which capacity she attended various high-profile social events as the Director of Facilities Planning and Design. This is where she met Hussein of Jordan for the first time on the development of the Queen Alia International Airport. The airport was named after Queen Alia, Hussein's third wife, who died in a helicopter crash the same year. Halaby and the king became friends while he was still mourning the death of his wife. Their friendship evolved and the couple became engaged in 1978.[5]

Marriage and children

Queen Noor in Hamburg, Germany, in 1978
Queen Noor and King Hussein with Richard von Weizsäcker, President of Germany, and First Lady Marianne von Weizsäcker in Jordan in 1985

Halaby and King Hussein wed on 15 June 1978 in Amman, becoming his fourth wife and Queen of Jordan. Upon marriage she accepted Islam as it was her husband's religion, becoming known as Noor Al-Hussein (which means Light of Hussein). The wedding was a traditional Muslim ceremony. Initially, the new queen was not accepted by the people of Jordan, as she was not of Arab Muslim birth. Although their opinion is thought to have changed as Noor started expressing genuine interest and commitment to her kingdom,[5] the differences were never completely resolved.[6]

Upon marriage, Noor assumed the management of the royal household and three of her stepchildren, Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein, and Abir Muhaisen, the children of her husband by Queen Alia.[5] Queen Noor and King Hussein had four children:

  • Prince Hamzah (born 29 March 1980), Crown Prince from 1999 to 2004, who has a daughter
  • Prince Hashim (born 10 June 1981), who has two daughters
  • Princess Iman (born 24 April 1983)
  • Princess Raiyah (born 9 February 1986)

Behind the scenes, Noor was involved in politics, for which she was criticized by fundamentalists. In 1984, she supported her husband when he criticized the Americans for being one-sided in their commitment to Israel, while the Americans criticized her for siding with the Jordanians.[5]

There have been tensions between Queen Noor and her sister-in-law, Princess Sarvath El Hassan, the wife of King Hussein's brother Hassan, who served as Crown Prince of Jordan until the last days of King Hussein's life. The tensions between the Queen and the then Crown Princess were exacerbated by the matter of succession. Queen Noor, who almost never left the King's side during his illness, entertained the idea of having her own son Hamzah proclaimed Crown Prince, influencing her husband to change the line of succession in his favour. Eventually Hussein appointed his eldest son Abdullah (from his marriage to the English-born Princess Muna) as Crown Prince, the condition for such change being that Noor's son Hamzah become Crown Prince upon Abdullah's accession.[7][8]


King Hussein died on February 7, 1999 following a long battle with cancer. After his death, his firstborn son, Abdullah, became king and Hamzah became Crown Prince. In a surprise move of 2004, Prince Hamzah was stripped of his title as Jordan's next in line.[9] On 2 July 2009, King Abdullah II named his eldest son as heir to the throne, ending five years of speculation over his successor.[citation needed]

Though the queen dowager, she is stepmother to King Abdullah II and thus cannot be classified as queen mother; accordingly she is known as HM Queen Noor of Jordan, as distinct from Abdullah's wife Queen Rania, who is styled HM The Queen of Jordan. The present King's mother is Princess Muna al-Hussein, an Englishwoman formerly known as Antoinette Avril Gardiner.

Affiliations and international activities

Queen Noor after the 2006 FIFA World Cup match between Argentina and Germany.
Queen Noor at Women's World Award in 2009
Styles of
Queen Noor as consort
Reference style Her Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Ma'am

Queen Noor plays an active role in promoting international exchange and understanding of Arab and Muslim culture and politics, Arab-Western relations, and conflict-prevention and recovery issues such as refugees, missing persons, poverty and disarmament. She has also helped found media programs to highlight these issues. Her conflict-recovery and peacebuilding work over the past decade has focused on the Middle East, the Balkans, Central and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa.

Queen Noor's work in Jordan and the Arab world has focused on national development needs in the areas of education, conservation, sustainable development, human rights, and cross-cultural understanding. She is also actively involved with international and UN organizations that address global challenges in these fields. Since 1979, the initiatives of the Noor Al Hussein Foundation (NHF) (which she chairs) have transformed development thinking in Jordan and the Middle East through pioneering programs in the areas of poverty eradication and sustainable development, women's empowerment, microfinance, health, environmental conservation, and arts as a medium for social development and cross-cultural exchange, many of which are internationally acclaimed models for the developing world. NHF provides training and assistance in implementing these best-practice programs in the broader Arab and Asian regions.[citation needed]

She chairs the King Hussein Foundation and the King Hussein Foundation International (KHFI), founded in 1999 to build on her late husband's humanitarian vision and legacy in Jordan and abroad through national, regional, and international programs that promote education and leadership, economic empowerment, tolerance, and cross cultural dialogue and media that enhance mutual understanding and respect among different cultures and across conflict lines. Through KHFI, headquartered in the United States, Queen Noor awards the annual King Hussein Leadership Prize to individuals, groups, or institutions that demonstrate inspiring and courageous leadership in their efforts to promote sustainable development, human rights, tolerance, equity, and peace.[citation needed]

In May 2007, KHFI launched its Media and Humanity Program during New York City's Tribeca Film Festival to promote film and media projects that highlight shared values, rights, and aspirations across social, economic, political, and cultural divides, with special emphasis on the Middle East and the Muslim world. Queen Noor is co-founder of The Alliance of Civilizations Media Fund, an unprecedented, not-for-profit initiative formed out of a partnership between private media, the United Nations, and global philanthropists to promote and support media content that enhances mutual understanding and respect within and among different societies and cultures.[citation needed]

She has traveled extensively throughout the Balkans since her first humanitarian mission in 1996 after the fall of Srebrenica. She is a Commissioner of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) created through the Dayton Accords to promote reconciliation and conflict resolution through the search for, recovery, and identification of missing persons from the armed conflicts in the Balkans. She has supported and overseen the ICMP's groundbreaking forensic DNA identification and families/community reconciliation programs, and advocated with the leaders of BiH to finalize the establishment of The Missing Persons Institute, critical to resolution of the tragedy of tens of thousands of missing and murdered in the 1990s Balkans conflicts. She has assumed an advocacy role in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and has traveled to Central and Southeast Asia, the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America to advocate with governments, support NGOs, and visit with landmine survivors struggling to recover and reclaim their lives. She has testified before the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus, appealing for humanitarian assistance and justice for hundreds of thousands of landmine victims worldwide.[citation needed]

At the invitation of President Andrés Pastrana and President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Queen Noor has undertaken several humanitarian missions to Colombia to try to negotiate a series of humanitarian accords with the leaders of the country's guerilla insurgency on landmines, child soldiers and kidnappings, to promote mine awareness programs in rural and conflict areas with UNDP, to advocate against the use of anti-personnel mines especially in civilian areas, and to oversee the destruction of Colombia's last arsenal of anti-personnel mines. In gratitude, the Government of Colombia granted Queen Noor full Colombian citizenship.[10]

In 2004 and 2005, as an expert advisor to the United Nations, Queen Noor traveled to Central Asia to advocate for adoption and implementation of the Ottawa Treaty throughout the region and for multi-sectoral commitment to the Millennium Development Goals in Tajikistan, one of the world's poorest countries. She is a board member of Refugees International and an outspoken voice for the plight of refugees, displaced persons, and other dispossessed people around the world. She has visited Pakistan to assess the Afghan refugee situation and is advocating for international support for the nearly 5 million Iraqis displaced in Iraq and in Jordan, Syria, and other countries after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.[citation needed]

Queen Noor is actively involved in a number of international organizations advancing global peace-building and conflict recovery. She is a founding leader of Global Zero, an international effort to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide, an Advisor to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Seeds of Peace, Council of Women World Leaders, Women Waging Peace, and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and International Patron and Honorary Chair of Survivor Corps.[citation needed]

Jordanian Royal Family
Coat of Arms of Jordan.svg

HM Queen Noor

She is President of the United World Colleges, Board Member of the Aspen Institute, Refugees International, America Near East Refugee Aid, and Conservation International, Patron of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Founding President and Honorary President Emeritus of BirdLife International, and a Patron of the SOS Children's Villages - USA in Jordan.[11]

Noor is on the board of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, alongside former President Bill Clinton.[12] She is the International Spokesperson for the McGill Middle East Program of Civil Society and Peace Building (MMEP); in this capacity she has twice visited Montréal, Canada, officially and unofficially visited a number of the MMEP's centres in Jordan and Israel, and undertaken a number of fundraising activities, including the establishment of an MMEP program fund in her name.

Queen Noor has been awarded numerous awards and honorary doctorates in international relations, law, and humane letters. She received the United Nations Environment Program Global 500 Award for her activism in environmental protection and advocacy and was honored with the 2009 Global Environmental Citizen Award by Harvard University's Center for Health and the Global Environment. In June 2009, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles Chapter, honored her with its Healing the Planet Award.

Australian composer Katia Tiutiunnik composed the symphonic poem, Noor for violin soloist and orchestra, which received its world premiere at the Treasury House in Petra, on September 23, 1999, as part of the 28th General Assembly of the International Music Council.[13]

She has published two books: Hussein of Jordan (KHF Publishing, 2000) and Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life (Miramax Books, 2003), a New York Times best seller published in 15 languages.

She divides her time between Jordan, Washington, D.C., and London. She continues to work on behalf of numerous international organizations and makes 70 to 100 speaking appearances annually.[14]

Notable published works

  • Noor, Queen (2003). Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life. New York, New York, USA: Miramax/Hyperion. ISBN 0-7868-6717-5. 

See also


  1. ^ a b "Faces of America: Queen Noor", PBS, Faces of America series, with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 2010.
  2. ^ Stout, David (3 July 2003). "Najeeb E. Halaby, Former Airline Executive, Dies at 87". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/07/03/us/najeeb-e-halaby-former-airline-executive-dies-at-87.html?pagewanted=1. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  3. ^ Stanley Marcus. Minding the Store: A Memoir, 1974, pg. 39.
  4. ^ Lucia Raatma, Queen Noor: American-Born Queen of Jordan, 2006.
  5. ^ a b c d e "Queen Noor of Jordan Biography". biography.com. http://www.biography.com/articles/Queen-Noor-of-Jordan-9542217?part=0. Retrieved 2010-01-20. 
  6. ^ BBC World: Middle East - Battle of the Wives
  7. ^ Robins, Philip (2004). A History of Jordan. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521598958. 
  8. ^ George, Alan (2005). Jordan: living in the crossfire. Zed Books. ISBN 1842774719. 
  9. ^ "Jordan crown prince loses title". BBC News. 29 November 2004. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/4050231.stm. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  10. ^ Bejarano González, Bernardo (2006-11-19). "Nacionalidad colombiana para Queen Noor [Express nationality is in boom for [famous personalities]"] (in Spanish). El Tiempo. http://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/MAM-2283646. Retrieved 2011-08-14. 
  11. ^ Queen Noor of Jordan - SOS Children's Villages
  12. ^ Daniel Pearl Foundation: About Us
  13. ^ Deane Terrell, "Singing the ANU's Praises", ANU Reporter
  14. ^ Queen Noor: Bridging Worlds and Roles

External links

Queen Noor of Jordan
Born: 23 August 1951
Royal titles
Preceded by
Alia al-Hussein
Queen consort of Jordan
15 June 1978 – 7 February 1999
Succeeded by
Rania Al Abdullah
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Prince of Wales
President of the United World Colleges

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