Queen Noor of Jordan

From New World Encyclopedia

Lisa Najeeb Halaby
Queen of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan
Queen Noor of Jordan cropped.jpg
Titles HM Queen Noor of Jordan (1999–)
HM The Queen of Jordan (1978–1999)
Miss Lisa Najeeb Halaby (1951–1978)
Born August 23 1951 (1951-08-23) (age 72)
Flag of United States Washington, D.C., U.S.
Consort June 15, 1978–February 7, 1999
Consort to Hussein of Jordan
Issue Hamzah, Hashim, Iman, Raiyah
Father Najeeb Halaby
Mother Doris Carlquist

Queen Noor (Arabic: الملكة نور born Lisa Najeeb Halaby on August 23, 1951)) is the widow of the late King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan.

Elizabeth (Lisa) Najeeb Halaby was born in Washington, DC, of Arab, Swedish, Scottish, and English descent. In 1978, Ms. Halaby made a drastic change in her life, converting to Islam and marrying Jordan's King Hussein. She became known as Noor al-Hussein, Queen of Jordan, meaning "the light of Hussein." It was a fairy-tale romance until her husband's death from cancer, in 1999.

King Hussein held a unique position in the Middle East, being a pan-Arabist with a deep understanding of Western culture. He was also a consistent political moderate, and a dedicated member of the Nonaligned Movement. The nation of Jordan has been and continues to be a linchpin for Middle East peace efforts (Miramax Books, 2003, 3).

Through the years, Queen Noor walked at her husband's side, a partner. She suffered with the nation as they watched him succumb to cancer in 1999. Lisa Halaby made a remarkable transition that would have been difficult for most American women: Having grown up in a nation of equal rights and equal voice, she entered a world dominated by men. She served her king and her people with dignity and grace while actively pursuing causes to improve the lives of others.

Queen Noor is known internationally for her continued commitment to humanitarian work and international women's rights issues as well as for her longtime campaign against landmines. She is the current president of the United World Colleges movement.

Family life and education

Her Majesty Queen Noor was born Elizabeth (Lisa) Najeeb Halaby on August 23, 1951, in Washington, DC, to an Arab-American family distinguished for its public service. She attended schools in Los Angeles, Washington, DC, New York City, and Concord Academy in Massachusetts, before entering Princeton University in its first co-educational freshman class.[1]

She is the eldest daughter of Najeeb Halaby and his wife Doris Carlquist. Her father, who helped to organize NATO under President Harry S. Truman, is a former CEO of Pan-American World Airways, one-time head of the Federal Aviation Administration appointed by President John F. Kennedy, and a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. The queen has a younger brother, Christian, and a younger sister, Alexa.

Queen Noor's paternal grandfather, Najeeb Elias Halaby, was a Syrian immigrant of Lebanese descent, who immigrated to the United States at the age of 12. An oil broker, he married an interior designer, Laura Wilkins in Texas. Together they founded the successful Halaby Galleries in Dallas.

After receiving a B.A. in Architecture and Urban Planning from Princeton University in 1974, Queen Noor worked on international urban planning and design projects in Australia, Iran, Jordan, and the United States. During this time she traveled throughout the Arab world to research aviation training facilities. Subsequently, she joined Royal Jordanian Airlines as Director of Planning and Design Projects.[2]

Marriage and children

Lisa Halaby met King Hussein while working in Jordan on the development of the Amman Intercontinental Airport.

Their Majesties, King Hussein and Queen Noor, were married on June 15, 1978. They have two sons: HRH Prince Hamzah, born March 29, 1980, and HRH Prince Hashim, born June 10, 1981, and two daughters: HRH Princess Iman, born April 24, 1983, and HRH Princess Raiyah, born February 9, 1986. Their family also included the children of His Majesty’s previous marriage: Ms. Abir Muheisen, HRH Princess Haya, and HRH Prince Ali.[3]

King Hussein, of the direct lineage of the Prophet Muhammad, was known as the voice of reason in the Middle East. He was a ruler who made lifelong efforts to bring peace to this war-torn region. He was a friend to not only the Arab nations, but to Israel as well. Queen Noor shared the same longing for peace in the region and was a constant source of support to her husband. King Hussein died of cancer February 7, 1999, during noon prayers (Miramax Books, 2003, 432).

As King Abdullah II's stepmother, Queen Noor cannot be classified as Queen Mother, thus she is known as HM Queen Noor of Jordan, as distinct from Abdullah's wife Rania, HM The Queen of Jordan. The present King's mother is Princess Muna al-Hussein, an Englishwoman formerly known as Antoinette Avril Gardiner.


Lisa Halaby spent her teenage years in America during the 1960s. This was a time of social-consciousness for her generation and it is reflected in the course of her life. Attending Chapin High School, she was afforded the opportunity to perform community service in Harlem, New York City, tutoring non-English speaking students. During this time she came to understand how difficult it is to break the cycle of ignorance and poverty. Years later she chose to focus her senior architecture and urban planning thesis at Princeton on a community development scheme in Harlem.[4] To this day, she contributes her time and abilities on those projects that work towards alleviating poverty and promoting education and self-sufficiency.

As she explained to Larry King of CNN,

I've seen it around the world, in the poorest countries and in countries riven with conflict, it is women who are the key to breaking out of poverty, breaking out of stagnation. It's women who can contribute to achieving real security—not bombs and bullets and repressive governments.[5]

Thus, Queen Noor continues to sponsor many projects aimed at increasing educational and work opportunities for Jordanian women. Internationally, she supports U.N. programs for women and children, in addition to her longtime campaign against landmines.


Since 1978, Queen Noor has initiated, directed, and sponsored projects and activities in Jordan to address specific national development needs in the areas of education, culture, women and children’s welfare, human rights, conflict resolution, community development, environmental and architectural conservation, public architecture, and urban planning. She is also actively involved with international and UN organizations that address global challenges in these fields. Queen Noor has played a major role in promoting international exchange and understanding of Arab-Western relations, Middle Eastern politics, and humanitarian and conflict prevention. Her focus has also included recovery issues throughout the world, such as youth drug abuse, refugees, and disarmament.[6]

International projects

Queen Noor's projects on the international level include:

  • Serving as patron of the Landmine Survivors Network (LSN), the first international organization created by landmine survivors for landmine survivors
  • Ambassador of Future Harvest, an international organization promoting public understanding of the relation between international agricultural research and global peace, prosperity, environmental renewal, health, and the alleviation of human suffering
  • Member of the International Commission on Peace and Food (ICPF), which is an independent, non-political, non-profit organization of political leaders, heads of international agencies, scientists and other professionals from 15 nations founded in 1989 to redirect military resources into programs to promote peace, democracy, food security and employment
  • Chair of the Advisory Board of the Center for the Global South, which brings renowned experts from around the world to examine critical issues such as global inequality, development, the environment and conflict resolution
  • Director on the global board of The Hunger Project, an international organization committed to the end of world hunger through the empowerment of women and communities, the stabilization of population growth, the eradication of poverty, the preservation of the natural environment and the universalization of access to basic health and education
  • Member of the International Council of the Near East Foundation (NEF), the oldest American private, non-profit development agency dedicated to raising the standard of living of rural and urban poor communities in the Middle East and Africa
  • Trustee of the Mentor Foundation, an independent private foundation operating internationally with organizations involved in the prevention of substance abuse at the grassroots level
  • Co-Chair of the International Youth Foundation’s (IYF) Global Action Council. The Council comprises a select number of key leaders concerned about the growing challenges facing the world’s children and youth
  • Honorary Chair of Rays of Hope, a national annual candlelight vigil hosted by the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS). The NCCS is an advocacy group for people with cancer.


The Jubilee School was launched in 1993 and is an independent, co-educational secondary school for gifted students from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, with special emphasis on students from disadvantaged areas. Queen Noor had this to say describing the mission of Jubilee School:

We do not want simply to produce educated young people, important as that is; we hope to nurture educated activists and future leaders who can identify and help to resolve the challenges within their own societies and contribute to stability, peace and justice in the wider world.

Environment and conservation

Her Majesty Queen Noor traces her environmental activism back to her freshman year at Princeton University when the first Earth Day was commemorated. She has been an active member of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) since 1978. She became the Patron in April 1996, for her continuous support of the RSCN’s projects and her activism in environmental protection. She also received the 1995, United Nations Environment Program Global 500 Award for her activism and for promoting awareness and initiating community action. For her international efforts she was named Patron of the IUCN World Conservation Union in 1988. She recently joined the board of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Culture and the arts

Queen Noor, with a committee of volunteers supported by staff and students from Yarmouk University, launched the first Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts in 1981. Since then, the Festival has become an annual cultural landmark in Jordan, attracting hundreds of artists and tens of thousands of visitors every year.


Queen Noor supports the following youth projects:

  • The Children’s Heritage and Science Museum, Jordan’s first children's museum, was established in 1986, in cooperation with the Haya Cultural Center in Amman.
  • SOS Children Villages of Jordan were established in 1984 by SOS-Kinderdorf International, the Hermann Gmeiner Fund and the SOS Children’s Village Association of Jordan, to secure a permanent home and a loving family to Jordanian orphaned and abandoned children and prepare them for an independent life.
  • An SOS Vocational Training Center was officially opened in 1990 in Sahab Industrial City to help young people acquire job skills. The Center provides professional training in carpentry to SOS youth and others from the surrounding community.
  • The annual Arab Children’s Congress was initiated by Her Majesty Queen Noor after the 1980 Arab Summit Conference in Amman. It brings together children from throughout the Arab World in a program designed to promote understanding, tolerance, and solidarity.
  • Under the Patronage of Her Majesty Queen Noor, the Children’s Creativity Contest was launched in 1988 by the Shoman Foundation in cooperation with UNICEF.[7]

Notable works

In 2003, Queen Noor published a memoir, Leap of Faith, which became a bestseller.


  1. Office of Her Majesty Queen Noor, Queen Noor Personal Profile. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  2. Office of Her Majesty Queen Noor, Queen Noor Personal Profile. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  3. Office of Her Majesty Queen Noor, Queen Noor Personal Profile. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  4. Queen Noor, Leap of Faith (Miramax Books, 2003), 28.
  5. Cable News Network, Then & Now: Queen Noor. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  6. Office of Her Majesty Queen Noor, Queen Noor Personal Profile. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
  7. Office of Her Majesty Queen Noor, Projects. Retrieved January 18, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Queen Noor. 2003. Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life, New York: Miramax Books. ISBN 0786867175.
  • Queen Noor. 2000. The Responsibilities of World Citizenship. Waging peace series, booklet 41. Santa Barbara, CA: Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.
  • Queen Noor. 2003. The Human Condition: Women in the Developing World. CIO. 32.
  • Queen Noor. 2002. Memoirs. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0297646648.

External links

All links retrieved December 7, 2022.


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