Skip to main content

Genevieve Chauvel, Sygma / Corbis

When Arab-American beauty Elizabeth (Lisa) Najeeb Halaby met the late King Hussein of Jordan at an Amman airport ceremony in 1976 it was the beginning of an improbable royal fairy-tale.

The Princeton-educated daughter of an Arab-American airline executive was working with her father (a friend of the king's) on a consulting project. The stunning and articulate young woman, who would become Jordan's Queen Noor, has said there were no special "sparks" on that fateful day.

That would change following the tragic 1977 death of the Arab leader's third wife, Queen Alia, in a helicopter crash. The heartbroken king, raising eight children from his marriages, eventually began to court the 26-year-old American beauty.

After a six-week romance, Halaby hesitated at the king's life-altering marriage proposal, made as the two shared an after-dinner plate of apples. The young urban planner finally accepted after a few days of contemplation. She would later say her decision to marry the monarch 16 years her senior was out of love "for the man, not the king."

Sahm Doherty, Time Life Pictures / Getty Images

Their semi-private wedding on June 15, 1978 at Zaharan Palace was a simple Islamic ceremony. The queen described the day to CNN's Larry King as "as perhaps one of the most modest royal weddings of all time." Although in this case, her "simple" included a Dior wedding dress.

The bride wore her long, blonde hair down and pushed back off her face and fastened with a short veil. Her face was deliberately free of make up. Her low-heeled shoes were custom-made for the ceremony and she carried a cascading bouquet of white flowers.

Official portraits of the ceremony show the royal couple seated in room holding hands and beaming at each other.

Still, the ceremony had to serve as form of romantic culture shock for an indepedent woman: The queen-to-be was the only woman present during the formal, four-minute event.

The new Jordanian queen, raised an Episcopalian, converted to Islam (by tradition, Hussein is a blood-descendant of the Prophet Muhammad) and renounced her American citizenship. King Hussein formerly changed his bride's birth name to Noor al-Hussein, or "Light of Hussein."

In keeping with tradition, the King paid Halaby's father a dowry.

After the ceremony, the couple made a brief public appearance for photographers and attended a reception at the home of the king's mother, Queen Zein. There, the newlyweds spent the afternoon shaking the hands of hundreds of guests. "There was a moment of cutting the wedding cake in a very traditional fashion and we were off," she said of her new royal life.

The couple spent part of their honeymoon at the King's Red Sea resort at Aqaba, where Queen Noor insisted on the inclusion of her stepchildren so she could begin establishing parental bonds. Later, the royals would have four of their own children.

Although the Jordanian people initially received their Westernized queen with skepticism, Noor eventually gained more acceptance by immersing herself in the country's culture, customs and concerns.

Following her husband's death from cancer in 1999, Queen Noor has remained active in national and international affairs. She notably took on the international campaign to ban landmines first championed by Britain's late Princess Diana.

Queen Noor's oldest son, Prince Hamzah, held the title of Crown Prince for several years following the death of his father and succession of his half-brother, King Abdullah. The Jordanian sovereign has since given that title to his own son, Prince Hussein.

For another royal wedding that transformed an American beauty into a royal, read about the nuptials of actress Grace Kelly to Prince Rainier of Monaco.

And read the latest news on upcoming wedding of Kate Middleton and Britain's Prince William on

Royal Wedding Videos

Add Your Comments

  • New Users
  • Returning

If you are posting a comment for the first time, please enter your name and email address in the fields above. Your name will be displayed with your comment. Your email address will never be displayed.

Add Your Comment

Please keep your comments relevant to this blog entry. Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments.

When you enter your name and email address, you'll be sent a link to confirm your comment, and a password. To leave another comment, just use that password.

To create a live link, simply type the URL (including http://) or email address and we will make it a live link for you. You can put up to 3 URLs in your comments. Line breaks and paragraphs are automatically converted — no need to use <p> or <br /> tags.


Follow Us