Happy Birthday

queen noor of jordan, noor al-hussein
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Happy Birthday, Queen Noor al-Hussein of Jordan

August 23, 2010
by findingDulcinea Staff
Queen Noor of Jordan has strayed from the comfort of her wealthy upbringing, focusing on difficult humanitarian issues, marrying a Muslim king and speaking candidly on the Iraq War. But pursuing her passions and fighting for what she believes in have always been second nature to this glamorous mother of four. She says the “ideals and concerns that sparked my involvement with the … movements of the ’60s and ’70s are the much the same ones that have motivated my work in the Middle East over the past 20 years.”

Noor Al-Hussein’s Early Days

Born Lisa Najeeb Halaby on Aug. 23, 1951, in Washington, D.C., the future queen of Jordan grew up in a wealthy, highly respected Arab-American family. Lisa’s father, Najeeb Elias Halaby, had been the head of the Federal Aviation Administration under President John F. Kennedy, and had worked as a navy test pilot and lawyer.

Lisa didn’t spend much time in Washington, opting for private schools in New York City and Massachusetts before heading off to Princeton University in 1969. She seemed to recognize that her life was moving forward without much of her own passion, however, and took time off midway through sophomore year of college to reinvigorate herself in Aspen, Colo. In the winter resort city, Lisa waited tables, skied and focused on her photography hobby before returning to Princeton to study architecture and urban planning.

Years later, having completed stints at two architectural firms and realizing her strong interest in Arab culture, Lisa abandoned her plan of attending Columbia School of Journalism and accepted a job as Director of Facilities Planning and Design with Arabair Services, a Jordanian airline headed by her father.

Queen Noor’s Notable Accomplishments

In 1978, Lisa married King Hussein of Jordan. Though she has earned affection for charm and generosity, “Jordanians have never taken to her in quite the same way they did her predecessor, the late Queen Alia,” according to the BBC. “Perhaps this is because, despite her Arab blood, she has always been seen as culturally alien to the mass of the population.”

After Princess Diana died, Queen Noor dedicated herself to fighting landmines, helping to launch the Ottaw Mine Ban Treaty. In October 2004, she traveled to Bogota, Columbia, to spend time with children injured by land mine explosions, and commemorate the Columbian government’s destruction of 23,000 land mines in what was potentially a life-saving simultaneous explosion.

Her outspokenness regarding the Iraq War was on full display in an interview with Marie Claire magazine in which she addressed the refugee situation in Iraq. Of the United States, which has largely ignored the issue, Queen Noor said, “it’s difficult to admit to the humanitarian catastrophe this war has created, both inside and outside Iraq’s borders.”

The queen also discussed her plans to set up schools for Iraqi refugee children, and to aid Iraqi women in starting their own businesses. Throughout the interview, she displays a keen awareness of the human suffering resulting from international conflict, in Iraq and beyond.

Since 1995, the queen has been president of the United World Colleges (UWC) organization, which brings international students together to foster non-violence and global compassion. The students are selected regardless of race or economic status to attend classes at one of 12 UWC campuses.

The Rest of the Story

In March 2001, the wueen spoke at the National Press Club Luncheon Speaker Series, which is featured on NPR. In an accompanying profile, NPR reveals the her hobbies, in addition to raising four children and pursuing international humanitarian work, she “speaks Arabic, English and French and enjoys skiing, sailing, horseback riding, reading, gardening and photography.”

Her varied background has given Queen Noor the authority to speak about different cultures and religions, and the ability to unite them. She spoke at the first-ever Pangea Day on May 10, 2008, and revealed her passion for peace.
Her relationship with King Hussein of Jordan, 15 years her senior, led to her conversion from Christianity to Islam. She did not take it lightly, however.

“I pondered long and hard and really put off answering him, King Hussein, when it was clear that he was proposing,” she said. “He was taking a huge leap of faith in proposing we share our lives together.”

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