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Queen Noor

noor_hpthumbHer Majesty Queen Noor is an international public servant and an outspoken voice on issues of world peace and justice. She plays an active role in promoting international exchange and understanding of Arab and Muslim culture and politics, Arab-Western relations, as well as conflict prevention and recovery. Her Majesty chairs the King Hussein Foundation (KHF) which she founded in 1999 to build on her late husband’s humanitarian legacy in Jordan, in the Middle East and abroad as well as the Noor Al Hussein Foundation which she founded in the 1980s to facilitate sustainable social and economic advancement throughout Jordan.

In 2007, KHF US launched a Media and Humanity Program to promote film and media projects that highlight shared values across cultural and political divides with special emphasis on the Middle East and Muslim world. Her Majesty was also co-founder of the Alliance of Civilizations Media Fund to promote and support media content that enhances cross-cultural understanding. In October 2009, the Alliance merged with Soliya, a non-profit industry leader in using new media technologies to foster cross-cultural understanding. Queen Noor is a Founder, President or actively involved in a number of international organizations advancing global peace-building and conflict recovery among which are Global Zero – an international movement to eliminate nuclear weapons, United World Colleges – a global education for peace network, Refugees International, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. She has published two books, “Hussein of Jordan” (2000), and “Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life” (2003), a New York Times bestseller.

Her Majesty Queen Noor’s great-grandfather, Elias Halaby, came to New York around 1891 as one of the earliest Syrian immigrants to the United States. A Christian and provincial treasurer or magistrate in the Ottoman Empire, Halaby left Syria accompanied by his two eldest sons. His wife Almas and their five remaining children joined Elias in 1894. He died three years later, leaving his teenage sons, Habib and Najeeb (Her Majesty’s grandfather), to take over his import business. An enterprising young man, Najeeb moved to Dallas in the 1910s and assimilated rapidly into American society. Her Majesty was born Lisa Najeeb Halaby. She went on to earn her Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Urban Planning from Princeton University and became the Queen of Jordan upon her marriage to His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal in 1978. She has four children, Their Royal Highnesses Princes Hamzah and Hashim and Princesses Iman and Raiyah, and three grandchildren, Princesses Halaah bint Hashim, Haya bint Hamzah, and Raiyah bint Hashim.

  • Marco

    Actually her grandfather being a Syrian probably had not a drop of Arab blood in him at all. If she wants to know about her fathers background she has to know about the ancient Syrian civilization and how they were conquered by Arabs and the Arab culture imposed on them.

  • Marzouq

    Actually you don’t know what are you talking about.

  • Akr Jordan

    As Marzouq says ” Actually you don’t know what are you talking about “. The Arabs
    have been in Syria for such a long time. The Arabs didn’t conquer Syria, 14 centuries
    ago the armies of Prophet Mohammad conquered Syria who was Arab at the time for
    the cause of spreading Islam religion in that area which was not Moslem at the time
    but was Arab indeed.
    So please Marco go back and read some history books.

  • Serge

    Akr Jordan’s account is a bit strange. There was no such thing as “Arabs” before the last half-century or so: this is a way of thinking about identity that was created as part of 20th century nationalism, and certainly it is not how the very significant Levantine immigration to the U.S. of the earlier 20th century — most of which is assimilated into America’s “white” population — thought of itself. As to describing the Levant’s pre-Umayyad population as “Arab”, i.e. prior to their conquest by the Arabians, this is plainly ridiculous, even filtered through modern biases.

  • George Gotthard

    Syria: 3-rd millenium BC, Amorites, 2-nd millenium BC, Canaanites, 1100 BC Aramaeans, Hittites 10-th century BC, Assyrians 8-th century BC, Babylonians + Chaldeans 7-th century BC, Persians 6-th century BC, greeks 333 BC, Romans 63 BC, part of Byzantine Empire 395 AD, overrun by arabs 633-636 AD. Converted to Islam after that. Umayyad caliphate 651-750 AD, under Seljuk after that under Ottoman Turks (until 2-nd world war). Joined the Arab League 1945.
    Language: definitely arabic. Ethnicity very mixt.

  • Laura Saxton

    Her Magesty would probably smile to think that ‘her story’ is creating some chatter. Educated as she is, I think she knows where her family originated. Check out Leap of Faith if you want to learn about Jordanian culture and politics. Very interesting.

  • Mark Carlquist

    Laura, Great point. In fact, Her Majesty Queen Noor’s “story” transcends her family’s origins. Her story is one of a good and decent person who continues to forge an identity for herself based on her passion and commitment to the causes of peace and understanding.

  • Visionary

    …and your point?

  • Darlene Clark

    The current king of Jordan and his younger brother both attended school in Deerfield, MA. They attended Deerfield Acadamy and graduated from there. Every once in awhile we read about his coming by helicopter to visit the school. We are all very proud of him even if we did not meet him. He has been in articles in our newspaper along with his brother. We like to read about his wanting to make his country a peaceful one. God bless him and his family.

  • Lance Powers

    Queen Noor is just a fascinating and captivating person. Gates series is excellent. I am enthralled by it.

  • Arthur Sudfield

    Her Majesty Queen Noor is a most extraordinary and courageous woman. I learned much about her and her life with King Hussein through “Leap of Faith”. Dr. Gates’ interview with the Queen is most poignant as well. She is one of the leaders of the world who I would be honoured to meet some day.

  • TJ

    “The Arabs didn’t conquer Syria” directly conflicts with “14 centuries ago the armies of Prophet Mohammad conquered Syria,” unless you are claiming that somehow Muhammad and his armies were not Arabs (which would be nuts to claim). This is extremely basic logic. I’ve read history books; you need to read a book on basic logic.

    Since Muhammad and his early army were Arab (as in, from the Arabian peninsula), a group of Arabs obviously conquered Syria. The fact that the native Syrians happened to be Semites doesn’t negate the fact that it was conquered by the armies of Muhammad from the Arabian peninsula.

    A Christian from Syria probably doesn’t have any ancestors from the Arabian peninsula (if they did, they’d likely be Muslim, because almost always those born to Muslim parents can’t change religion). Rather their ancestors are from Semitic groups outside of Arabia (from the Levant, specifically). If you want to call them ‘Arabs’ because (like Jews) their linguistic system was closely related to (but definitely far from identical to) that spoken in the Peninsula, go ahead that’s fine, but this is hair-splitting. They don’t have ancestors from the Arabian Peninsula. They are Levantine Semites. And as you admit yourself, they certainly *were* conquered by people from the Peninsula.

    I’d have left this topic alone but your contradiction within the same sentence is maddening. Please read up on basic logic.

  • TJ

    Their languages were related, but then again Hebrew is also related to both, and IIRC historically the language spoken in Syria is more closely related to Hebrew than to the language spoken in the Peninsula. It is a different branch of the Semitic language family from those spoken in the Peninsula.

    The whole region generally also happens to be related. The language family that includes Semitic and ancient Egyptian and Berber and various other Near Eastern and North African anguages is called “Afro-Asiatic”. It is a sister language family group to Indo-European (In which you find English, Gaelic, French, Russian, Farsi, Greek, Hindi, etc.).

    By the logic that says, “since the pre-Islamic Levantine Semites spoke a related non-identical language to that spoken in the Arabian penninsula, and are of a related but non-identical genetic group, they are Arabs” you could easily by that standard claim the Jews are Arabs. Arguably you even could say everyone from Ireland to Russia is Arab (the languages and gene pool are related though non-identical). Thus you need some totally arbitrary and inconsistent degree of “non-identical” specified, or you need some other extra criteria, in order to apply the term in a justifiable way.

    Post-Islam, that extra criteria for using the term is cultural ties to the Arabian peninsula, specifically having had the Islamic religion, language, and political system put into place of cultural dominance (yes, often by conquerors). This is why Egyptians–who are far more distantly related from both Peninsula and Levantine Semites than are the Jews–are sometimes called Arab. However, the Islam-based reason for use of the term ‘Arab’ outside the Peninsula makes little sense when talking about the time before Islam existed to tie these different areas together culturally.

  • mido aboshihata

    Gates did a wonderful job of hosting the show and getting his guests to share these experiences. I love how she shared her story and how she talked about the traditions she held. Her father was the great NaJeeb Halaby who was pointed by John F Kennedy as the head of the FAA.

  • Elias Salam

    -Elias Halaby (name, location, profession) was probably Jewish-Christian, who emphasized his Christianity when migrating to the States. Genetically, he was probably of Mediterranean ancestry (Judea-Lebanese-Turk) than Assyrian. Odds are against him being Arabian (a genetically small pool principally from coastal Iraq through the Arabian peninsula to Somalia. The first Islamic conquest was mostly locally conscripted armies with western Arabian peninsula officers. Under Suleiman the Magnificent, the TURKS spread their gene pool extensive through the Islamic world.

    Queen Noor’s side was Swedish, if I am not mistaken.

  • nikko

    Wonder if “Air Jordan” was an Arab? Does anyone know?? LIghten up its the USA “UNITED” being the point of all of this…

  • Richard Khuzami

    It is so interesting for me…I come from the same mixed family, Lebanese Christian and European, my father coming to America (Brooklyn) during the same immigration of the early 20th century. And we also did not grow up in the Arab community, but in neighborhoods where we were the only Middle Eastern family.
    I am the only one in my family who embraced his Middle Eastern background, traveling often there, involved in trade, and performing the music of the region here in the USA. I still today perform in NYC. I have nothing but pride in my Lebanese background.
    It is painful to have the blanket of distrust that other Americans feel for those of middle eastern descent. But nothing is static: attitudes will change. If nothing else, the middle east teaches us that the patience of history will prevail.
    As far as what defines an Arab, there is no pure ethnicity anywhere in the world. It is just a moment in time.

  • francis fox

    i have not seen lisa halaby…. queen noor …… since childhood ….. washington d c …….

    our fathers worked aviation era … with jfk administration ……project horizon ….

    francis fox …. general manager lax ….. halaby … head of faa….. and pres of pan am ….

    great show…. francis fox jr…..

  • Gulshanin

    Marco: Please study the History with open minded. Majority of Syrians were and are Arabs.
    And were Christians, and some converted to Islam.
    Just like Queen Noor after marriage accepted Islam, but I doubt if she is a practicing Muslim.

  • Patrick

    I have a great respect and affection for Queen Noor, and this documentary has only reaffirmed that.

    She’s such a warm, intelligent person. Her book was such a thoughtful exploration of a world and a faith that many of us in America know and understand very little about.

    And I loved her comments re: the Irish in NYC, and drawing the line between cartoonists demonizing and stereotyping the Irish in the 1800s, just as they do with the Arab/Muslim world now.

    Her appearance had such light and dignity to it. Her prayers at her ancestor’s graves moved me. The lives of her forefathers seemed to affect her more deeply than some of the other participants.

  • Anne Hassan

    The fact that Lisa Halaby would deride stereotyping folks ís unfortunate, since she was the consort to the King (and mother of the first in line to the throne) of a of a dictatorial monarchy which is, to this very day, guilty of innumerable human rights violations, including institutional persecution of ethnic and religious minorities. A political cartoon is surely far less painful than what many citizens (and certainly foreign workers) of Jordan experience everyday. Her PR campaign, as well as those others carried on by the royal family, do little to actually help the people of their country. It would be a far greater thing, in the name of her late husband, to providing schools, job trining and health facilities for their people. Much of what they do involves putting on a smiley face for American camera crews, in an effort to make Americans love Arabs. I love Arabs, but I do not love the idea of a dictatorial, theocratically driven, monarchical government in 2010. Many immigrants came to this country to escape just such a thing, as well as the crushing poverty faced by most Jordanians. I love this series, but am sorely disappointed that she was chosen, as I find her the antithesis of everything American. It is a slap in the face to the thousands and thousands of young Jordanians, unable to book steerage passage as they did in the olden days, who “enjoy” an appalling standard of living. Why do Americans want to romance figures like King Hussain (or Abdullah), but decry Bashar Assad as a tyrranical dictator. Neither are evil and neither are holy. They are just humans.

  • Hana Gordan

    Queen Noor has done, and continues to do a lot of what Anne suggests is needed — through her foundations. She founded a school for underprivileged children, a family health institute that serves primarily women and children, a leading microfinance organization that provides loans to women to start small businesses, a massive job training initiative for rural communities, and so much more. Read about her work at The current Queen Rania also has many important initiatives in education, women’s economic development, etc. Jordan is only 60+ years old so it is a young country that is struggling to grow in a global economy, with very little resources and scarcity of basics like water.

  • Joanette Godoy

    It is a very positive move of Dr. Gates to have the privilege of tracing what exists of Her Majesty’s Queen Noor of Jordan ancestry. I do not think that anyone can precisely trace where there bloodline begins but for whatever it is worth viewing and also seeing a woman such as Queen Noor continue to strive to do what she can as a human being to make the world better. Poverty regardless of high the magnitude is world wide will never be conquered as we can clearly see in this modern day world. Look at Haiti for example all they had were tyrants and dictators ruling a poverty stricken country. Even after the earthquake I truly hope that good and positive changes take place for those that have survived the earthquake. For those that speak negatively of Queen Noor you should not fault her for who she is and for the privilege life that she continues to lead. She is one of many monarchs and or people that have power of high recognition that received what was meant for her. Perhaps we need to begin change we taking a look at ourselves and changing the way we think and view others regardless of their heritage and ethnicity.

    Some people can be their own worst enemy let go of the resents or at least try to and maybe you get some of the answers to your own issues instead of lashing out on others. Remember life is not always fair!

  • JC

    Is there any place online where we can see and read those newspaper articles that were published about her grandfather’s family? Thanks!

  • miriam

    The episode on Noor omitted important information. What is the name of the cemetary in Brooklyn where her grandfather was buried? I am from the Brooklyn Syrian/Lebanese community and they were all buried in one cemetary. Also, Gates mentioned they were Christian but did not specify which faith? They must have been either “Syrian orthodox” (eastern Orthodox) or Maronite Catholic. Also very important, that would have enlightened viewers unfamiliar with the Christian religions predominant in Syria and Lebanon. Also I would like to add I have my grandfathers citizenship papers. He had to take a test in both Arabic and English, and had to sign a paper–written in French–renouncing his allegiance to the Sultan of Turkey. If you want to see those papers, I can scan them and send them to Professor Gates.

  • Grace

    @ Mirian: You can find the answer from the credits of this video. It is probably one of the three: the “Green-Wood Cemetery”, the “Mt. Auburn Cemetery”, or the “House of the Redeemer”. Since I do not live in New York, I would not know which one is closest to Brooklyn. I am sure you can find that out. Hope this helps.

  • K.Harper

    It is Greenwood Cemetary, very historical and famous. Lots of interesting and noteworthy people buried there including my own grandparents

  • doctoratemath

    I am so honored to hear your interview your majesty. I read your book leap of faith two times and i enjoyed it so much. You are a lady and will always be our queen. As and arab american, originally from jordan, i have always admired and respected you and all your hard work that you do for the jordanian people and specially the women. May god always bless you and your children and grandchildren as well. May his light always shine upon you. You keep out heads always high and proud. Keep up the good work you majesty. I would love to meet you in person one day. God bless you always and give you long healthy life.

  • Lorna

    “There was no such thing as “Arabs” before the last half-century or so:”

    Serge: Arabs are mentioned in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testament. For instance, Arabs are one of the ethnic groups mentioned as being present at the day of Pentecost. ( Acts 2:5-13)

  • Sergei_Sidoroff

    In this case why does the Syrian Y-DNA pool closely resemble other Levantine countries, and is much further from Saudi Arabia or Yemen? Can you answer me this?

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