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by Claudia Hudson

Their Majesties the late King Hussein I and Queen Noor of Jordan.
Queen Noor of Jordan, whose name means “light” in Arabic, is truly a beacon of light amidst an oft dark world, as an outspoken voice for global peace and democracy, and a tireless humanitarian activist.

Queen Noor was born ‘Lisa Najeeb Halaby’ on August 23, 1951, an American of Syrian and European descent. Her father was distinguished in the field of international aviation, serving as CEO of Pan-American Airways, as well as the one-time head of the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. Growing up, she was often surrounded by international dignitaries and urban aviation projects, and she became fascinated with travel, international relations, and all things related to urbanization and development.

It was no surprise, then, that upon entering Princeton University’s first co-ed freshman class, she chose Architecture and Urban Planning as her focus of study. Upon receiving her B.A. in 1974, she set off to work on urban planning and architectural design projects in Australia, the U.S., Iran and throughout the Arab world, including Jordan, a beautiful country where her life would take an unexpected turn.

King Hussein and Queen Noor with Prince Ali, Princess Haya and Miss Abeer.

While working on the development of the Amman Intercontinental Airport she met King Hussein of Jordan, whom she ultimately married in 1978, becoming his fourth and final wife. Before doing so, she converted to Islam and was given the new name “Noor” by her husband. Together they had four children: Princes Hazmah and Hashim, and Princesses Iman and Raiyah.

Queen Noor has selflessly used her royal title and connections to people in authority to promote a number of important humanitarian causes. Together with her late husband, King Hussein, who passed away in 1999, she has devoted her time and energy to founding and fostering initiatives that promote education, women’s empowerment, health care, peaceable cross-cultural dialogue, and a multitude of service and human rights causes.

Queen Noor leads the AI Hussein march against cancer. Thousands of Jordanians join her to raise donations for Al Aman Cancer Fund that looks after the poor to offer free cancer treatment for less privileged citizens. 22 October 1999.
In 1980 she and King Hussein established the Noor Al Hussein Foundation which she continues to chair to this day. Focused on issues pertinent to Jordan, NHF is unique in its breadth of focus in that it goes beyond simple charitable assistance to promote an overall shift in social policies and tactics. In other words, rather than simply helping the needy today, NHF creates developmental approaches that provide long-term success, such as focusing on the overall eradication of poverty, economic development in the form of micro-finance, and social equality through promoting women’s empowerment, as well as cross-cultural and cross-sectoral understanding and communication.

Its various projects foster self-reliance and grassroots activism, with the idea that individuals and communities should be directly involved in decisions and projects that affect them. It is this belief in hands-on involvement and community participation that truly sets NHF apart – as its programs develop long-term self-reliance, skill building, and perhaps most importantly, hope.

Queen Noor is also the chairwoman for the King Hussein Foundation and the King Hussein Foundation international. Founded in 1999, the foundations focus on promoting the ‘humanitarian vision and legacy’ of King Hussein. Of primary importance, again, is the promotion of global communication and cross-cultural understanding, tolerance, and peaceable relations. Given the state of affairs in the world today, these topics are of utmost importance both in Jordan, and throughout the world.

First public appearance of Queen Noor following the death of King Hussein. Visit to cheer up children with cancer at the King Hussein Medical City. 20 March 1999.

Through her dedication to these foundations, as well as to a number of international organizations and her work with the United Nations, Queen Noor is a forerunner in the promotion of inter-cultural exchange, the understanding of East-West relations and Middle Eastern politics, and the attainment of peaceable resolutions. A topic of paramount importance to Queen Noor is also that of ‘conflict recovery,’ that is assisting refugees, the impoverished, and the displaced, as well as issues of disarmament.

Several of the projects Queen Noor has worked on are dedicated to the welfare and rights of children. Amongst others is the Arab Children's Congress, which she founded in 1980. Each year it brings together youth representatives from all over the Arab world to foster unity and cultural understanding. The children travel together, learning about Jordan's history and culture, and in the process, build bonds and lifelong friendships in the hopes of fostering peace throughout the Arab nations.

Queen Noor has also initiated various educational and cultural arts projects, including the Jubilee School, The National Music Conservatory, the Royal Endowment for Culture and Education, and the Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts. These schools and events foster education and the arts and provide special emphasis on women and disadvantaged students to create a broader and more just leadership force for the future.

Queen Noor opens the 20th Arab Children Congress in Amman. 8 July 2000.
As passionate for her beloved causes today as she was decades ago, Queen Noor continues to be active in a vast number of international organizations and causes addressing important global issues, particularly those focusing on peace as well as environmental protection and advocacy programs. Amongst many other projects, she is currently the president of the United World Colleges and the Chair of the United Nations University International Leadership Academy, as well as a Trustee for a variety of environmental and global organizations. In 1995 she received the UN Environmental Program Global 500 Award for her work for environmental causes. She is also involved in more grass-roots groups, serving as advisor for Women Waging Peace and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, amongst other things.

Queen Noor also firmly believes in using technology and modernization to promote global unity. Most recently in April of 2007, her foundation “launched a Media and Humanity program to highlight and expand access to film and media projects that promote tolerant, balanced understanding of our common humanity- values, rights and aspirations across social, economic, political and cultural divides.”

Also a gifted and prolific writer, she has published two books: Hussein of Jordan in 2000, about her late husband, and Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life in 2003, a global bestseller telling her own, incredible life story.

Today, following the death of her beloved husband, Queen Noor now spends most of her time between Washington, DC and Jordan, focusing on her many endeavors. A loving and devoted mother, her passion for her family is as evident as her passion for fostering social justice. Ever living up to her given name, Queen Noor continues to shed light on important global issues, bringing the topics of peace-building, economic and social development, and justice, equality, and democracy, into the global spotlight.

Written by Claudia Hudson
Photos courtesy of The King Hussein Foundation & The Office of Her Majesty Queen Noor
Last changed on: 12/12/2008 11:30:07 AM

Her Majesty Queen Noor al-Hussein Reflects on Working Toward Peace Santa Clara University

King Hussein Foundation Her Majesty Queen Noor

Transcript of a speech given at The Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts in 1996 by Queen Noor.

Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life
by Queen Noor
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