On June 15, 1978, Lisa Halaby became the first American-born queen of an Arab country when she married the King Hussein of Jordan. Adopting the name Queen Noor of Jordan, she became internationally celebrated for her advocacy work. A recipient of many awards for her philanthropic work, she is also the author of two books, including the 2013 New York Times bestseller, “Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life.”
Queen Noor was born Lisa Najeeb Halaby in Washington, D.C. She was raised in a family of privilege that emphasized the importance of public service. After attending a private high school, she enrolled in the first co-educational class at Princeton University in 1969. She earned a B.A. in architecture and urban planning in 1973. Her father had been hired by the Jordanian government to help redesign their airlines. He offered his daughter the position of director of facilities planning and design of his company, Arab Air Services.
In 1977, Halaby met King Hussein at the opening of the Queen Alia International Airport. The airport was named after King Hussein’s wife, who had tragically died in a plane crash. After their initial meeting, King Hussein and Halaby began a friendship that transitioned into a romance by 1978. King Hussein proposed to her on May 13, 1978.
At their traditional Muslim wedding ceremony at the Zaharan Palace on June 15, 1978, she was the only female present. Halaby was given the name of Queen Noor al-Hussein or “Light of Hussein.” The Jordanian people were initially wary of their new non-Arab/Muslim queen. They soon warmed up to her when she demonstrated her authentic appreciation of Jordan.
As queen, she concentrated her efforts on important philanthropic work. Some of her projects included improving Jordan’s educational system and preserving Jordanian culture. With the goal of increasing educational and employment opportunities for women, Queen Noor founded the Women and Development Program.
King Hussein passed away from cancer in 1999. Since losing her husband, her philanthropic agenda has not slowed down. Her contributions to making the world a better place are too numerous to list. She promotes peace in the Middle East with the King Hussein Foundation International and is a passionate advocate for the environment and reducing the devastating effects of climate change. She champions the cause of displaced people around the globe as a member of the Board of Directors of Refugees International. She is also a founding member of Global Zero, an international movement to eliminate nuclear weapons.