Queen Noor of Jordan

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Queen Noor Jordan 2011.jpg
Queen Noor in 2011
Queen consort of Jordan
Tenure 15 June 1978 – 7 February 1999
Born Lisa Najeeb Halaby
(1951-08-23) 23 August 1951 (age 65)
Washington, D.C., United States
Spouse Hussein of Jordan
(m. 1978–99; his death)
Full name
Noor Al-Hussein
Father Najeeb Halaby
Mother Doris Carlquist
Jordanian royal family
Coat of arms of Jordan.svg

HM Queen Noor

Noor Al-Hussein (Arabic: الملكة نور‎‎; born Lisa Najeeb Halaby on 23 August 1951) is the American-born queen dowager of Jordan as the widow of King Hussein. She was his fourth spouse and queen consort between their marriage in 1978 and his death in 1999.

Queen Noor is an international public servant and advocate for cross-cultural understanding and conflict prevention and recovery issues such as refugees, missing persons, poverty, climate change and disarmament, her peace-building work has focused on the Middle East, the Balkans, Central and Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa.

She is the longest-standing member of the Board of Commissioners of the International Commission on Missing Persons. As of 2011, she is president of the United World Colleges movement and an advocate of the anti-nuclear weapons proliferation campaign Global Zero; in 2015, Queen Noor received the Woodrow Wilson Award for her public service.[1]

Family and early life[edit]

Queen Noor was born Lisa Najeeb Halaby in Washington, D.C. She was born to a family distinguished for its public service. She is the daughter of Najeeb Halaby (1915–2003) and Doris Carlquist (1918–2015) of Swedish descent, her father was an aviator, airline executive, and government official. He served as United States Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Truman administration, before being appointed by John F. Kennedy to head the Federal Aviation Administration. Najeeb Halaby also had a 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. Doris C. Halaby died on December 25, 2015 age 97.[2]

Noor's paternal grandfather, Najeeb Elias Halaby, a Syrian immigrant, was a petroleum broker, according to 1920 Census records.[3] 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.[4]

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 was a Christian and had been a 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 United States 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.[5]


Halaby attended National Cathedral School from fourth to eighth grade, she attended The Chapin School in New York City for two years,[6] 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.[7] At Princeton she was also a member of the school's first women's ice hockey team.[8]


After she graduated from Princeton, 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 Tehran, Iran. 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 the Managing Director of Arab Air Services, W. Douglas McLean. Arab Air Services was founded by her father, who was commissioned by the Jordanian government to redesign their airlines. Eventually, she left Arab Air and accepted a job with Alia airlines to become Director of Facilities Planning and Design of the airline he founded.[9]

In 1977, while working for Royal Jordanian Airlines, 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.[9]

Marriage and children[edit]

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 wed King Hussein on 15 June 1978 in Amman, becoming his fourth wife and Queen of Jordan.

Upon her marriage she accepted her husband's Sunni Islamic religion and the royal name Noor Al-Hussein ("Light of Hussein"), the wedding was a traditional Muslim ceremony. Although initially regarded as a stranger to the country and its people, she soon gained power and influence by using her role as King Hussein's consort and her education in urban planning for charitable work and improvement to the country's economy.[10]

Noor assumed management of the royal household and three stepchildren, Princess Haya bint Al Hussein, Prince Ali bin Al Hussein and Abir Muhaisen (her husband's children by Queen Alia).[9] Noor and Hussein had four children:

Behind the scenes, Noor's involvement in politics was sometimes criticized by fundamentalists; in 1984, she supported her husband when he criticized the Americans for their one-sided commitment to Israel, while Americans criticized her for siding with the Jordanians.[9]

Areas of work[edit]

Domestic agenda[edit]

Queen Noor founded the King Hussein Foundation (KHF) in 1979, it includes the Noor Al Hussein Foundation and 8 specialized development institutions: the Jubilee Institute, the Information and Research Center, the National Music Conservatory, the National Center for Culture and Arts and the Institute for Family Health, the Community Development Program, Tamweelcom the Jordan Micro Credit Company and the Islamic micro finance company, Ethmar. She is the Honorary Chairperson of JOrchestra; in addition, Noor launched a youth initiative, the International Arab Youth Congress, in 1980.[11]

Queen Noor’s work in Jordan and the Arab world has focused on national and regional human security in the areas of education, sustainable development, human rights and cross-cultural understanding, since 1979, the initiatives of the Noor Al Hussein and the King Hussein Foundations, which she founded and chairs, have advanced development thinking in Jordan and the Middle East through pioneering best practice programs in the fields of poverty eradication, women’s empowerment, micro-finance, health, and arts as a medium for social development and cross-cultural exchange. The Foundations provide training and capacity-building expertise in these areas in the broader Arab and Asian regions.[12]

International agenda[edit]

Queen Noor is also chair of King Hussein Foundation International, a US non-profit 501(c)(3) which, since 2001, has awarded the King Hussein Leadership Prize to individuals, groups, or institutions that demonstrate inspiring leadership in their efforts to promote sustainable development, human rights, tolerance, social equity and peace.

Queen Noor has made environmental priorities an essential component of her work to promote human security and conflict resolution, she is a Patron of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Founding and Emeritus President of BirdLife International, Trustee Emeritus of Conservation International, a member of the Ocean Elders and has received a variety of awards and other honors for her activism. A long-time advocate for a just Arab-Israeli peace and for Palestinian refugees, Queen Noor is a Director of Refugees International and an outspoken voice for the protection of civilians in conflict and displaced persons around the world, her focus includes advocacy for Iraqis displaced in Iraq, Jordan, Syria and other countries after the 2003 Iraq conflict and for the millions of Syrians displaced since the onset of the Syrian civil war in 2011. She has also been an expert advisor to the United Nations focusing on implementation of the MDGs in Central Asia and on behalf of Colombia’s displaced, she is a Commissioner of the International Commission on Missing Persons, created at the 1996 G8 summit to promote reconciliation and conflict resolution after the Balkans war and now is the leading provider of DNA-assisted identifications to countries worldwide dealing with natural catastrophes, human rights abuses and conflict .

Queen Noor has been an advisor to, and global advocate for, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines since 1998, advocating with governments in Central and Southeast Asia, the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America to join the Treaty and supporting NGOs, and land mine survivors struggling to recover and reclaim their lives, she is also a founding leader of Global Zero, an international movement working for the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons. She represented Global Zero at the historic 2009 UN Security Council meeting and was an advisor to the 2010 documentary film, Countdown to Zero about the escalating global nuclear arms threat.

Queen Noor is also involved with a number of other international organizations advancing global peace-building and conflict recovery, she is President of the United World Colleges, a network of 16 equal-opportunity international IB colleges around the world which foster cross-cultural understanding and global peace; and a Trustee of the Aspen Institute and advisor to Search For Common Ground and Trust Women -the Thomson Reuters Foundation annual conference aiming to put the rule of law behind women's rights.


Queen Noor on the cover of Ms. magazine in 2003

Following a long battle with lymphatic cancer, King Hussein died on 7 February 1999, after his death, his first-born son, Abdullah, became king and Hamzah became Crown Prince. Unexpectedly, during 2004, Prince Hamzah was stripped of his status as heir designate.[13][14][15] On 2 July 2009, Abdullah named his eldest son as heir to the throne, thereby ending the previous five years' speculation over his successor.[14]

Noor divides her time among Jordan, Washington, D.C., and the United Kingdom (in London and at her country residence, Buckhurst Park, near Winkfield in Berkshire). She continues to work on behalf of numerous international organizations,[16] she speaks Arabic, English and French. The queen also enjoys skiing, water skiing, tennis, sailing, horseback riding, reading, gardening and photography.[17]


National honours[edit]

Foreign honours[edit]

Books written by Queen Noor[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Queen Noor of Jordan receives Woodrow Wilson award at Princeton's 100th Alumni Day", NJ.com, 2015.
  2. ^ Schudel, Matt (2015-12-30). "Doris C. Halaby, mother of Queen Noor of Jordan, dies at 97". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-01-05. 
  3. ^ Stout, David (3 July 2003). "Najeeb E. Halaby, Former Airline Executive, Dies at 87". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Stanley Marcus. Minding the Store: A Memoir, 1974, pg. 39.
  5. ^ "Faces of America: Queen Noor", PBS, Faces of America series, with Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 2010.
  6. ^ "Portrait of a Princess to Be: Lisa Halaby's Friends Tell of Her Life Before Hussein". People.com. 1978-06-05. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  7. ^ Lucia Raatma, Queen Noor: American-Born Queen of Jordan, 2006.
  8. ^ Princeton UniversityVerified account (2015-02-21). "Princeton University on Twitter: "Alumni Day trivia: @QueenNoor '73 was a member of Princeton's first women's team in which sport? Ice hockey."". Twitter. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  9. ^ a b c d "Queen Noor of Jordan Biography". biography.com. Retrieved 2010-01-20. 
  10. ^ "Middle East | Battle of the wives". BBC News. 1999-02-09. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  11. ^ "Queen Noor Al Hussein celebrates her birthday". Petra News. 22 August 2015. Retrieved 24 August 2015. 
  12. ^ "Noor Al-Hussein Foundation". Noor Al-Hussein Foundation. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  13. ^ "Jordan crown prince loses title". BBC News. 29 November 2004. Retrieved 22 May 2010. 
  14. ^ a b reuters.com: "Jordan's king names son, 15, as crown prince", 3 Jul 2009
  15. ^ "Analyzing King Abdullah's Change in the Line of Succession - The Washington Institute for Near East Policy". Washingtoninstitute.org. 2004-11-29. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  16. ^ "Arab News". Arab News. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  17. ^ "Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan". Kinghussein.gov.jo. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  18. ^ "Photographic image" (JPG). S-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  19. ^ "Photographic image" (JPG). 66.media.tumblr.com. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Jordan3". Royalark.net. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  21. ^ "Photographic image" (JPG). Kinghusseinfoundation.org. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f "Here she wears the medal of the order". Coloreddiamond.info. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  23. ^ "Photographic image" (JPG). Theroyalforums.com. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  24. ^ "Reply to a parliamentary question about the Decoration of Honour" (PDF) (in German). p. 520. Retrieved 1 November 2012. 
  25. ^ "Photographic image" (JPG). Media.gettyimages.com. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 
  26. ^ Italian Presidency Website, S.M. Noor Regina di Giordania Archived September 28, 2013, at the Wayback Machine.
  27. ^ [1][dead link]
  28. ^ [2][dead link]
  29. ^ "Photographic image" (JPG). S-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com. Retrieved 2017-05-25. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Queen Noor of Jordan at Wikimedia Commons

Royal titles
Title last held 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