Queen Noor al-Hussein of Jordan

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 August 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, Colorado. 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.

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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.

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In March 2001, the queen spoke at the National Press Club Luncheon Speaker Series, which is featured on NPR. In an accompanying profile, NPR reveals that 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.”

She is Chair of the Noor Al Hussein Foundation, which describes itself as “the implementing arm of the King Hussein Foundation’s community development initiatives.” The foundation was created in 1979.