Monday, January 03, 2005

Crossing Jordan

CairoTraffic.JPG, originally uploaded by Miloflamingo.
I've spent the past few days reading Queen Noor of Jordan's memoirs, "A Leap of Faith". Aside from being simply fascinating as a story, the book really touched parts of my being. I'm a couple of years older than Queen Noor, and I remember being quite aware of King Hussein as I was growing up, if only because he was without any doubt the epitome of what a king should be in my mind. His strength and courage, his presence and the look in his eyes that welcomed even in photographs...all of these combined such that he was indeed the stuff of fantasies, and I remember thinking, "Wow, now that is a lucky young woman!" when I read of their engagement and marriage.

When I married Diaa a few years later, my sister commented that I'd managed to marry one of "those" and I knew that she was referring as well to the qualities that I'd admired in King Hussein and that were also present in my husband. The physical presence was similar although Diaa was taller than King Hussein, but they both had that charm and totally attractive aspect such that they'd light up a room on entrance. It was impossible to know the man without being aware of his dreams and of the fact that his dreams encompassed much more than just his own accomplishment and welfare. Diaa didn't have the responsibility of a nation on his shoulders, for which I am eternally grateful, but his work was not aimed at becoming wealthy and/or powerful, but at creating needed infrastructure for Egypt. He saw himself as the tool for the building of needed activities in his country, and he was a very willing tool indeed. Frankly, if he'd been the kind of person who was only in the game for the money, I doubt that I'd have had the same respect and love for him.

It may be that it seems rather presumptious to compare my late husband to one of the great men of our region, but the similarities between the two in lifestyle and passions were striking to me, although definitely Diaa was on a smaller scale than the King of Jordan. King Hussein was also one of my husband's heroes, as it were, with his work for peace, his accessibility to his people, and his love of flying. It's not so much as a comparison of two men, as I note that there are simply people who live their lives in a larger scale than most of us, and those of us who share those lives have our own difficulties but are nonetheless blessed.

I'm sure that there must have been many times during the years when Noor wondered what in heaven possessed her to join this life of Hussein's. Learning new languages, customs, being thrown into some of the deepest political waters around...not really enticing is it. Plus she was stepmother to his children from previous marriages, not an easy task, especially when you are raising future heads of state. It's hard enough to raise children to be responsible adults, but to raise them to be responsible for an entire nation is on another scale.

I must recommend Queen Noor's book to everyone. It's a fascinating look at the Kingdom of Jordan from the inside, her reflections on the politics, the problems and joys of working with King Hussein and international events. She offers new insight into the life of someone who has chosen to make her life in this region. If I could choose a woman to be able to get to know, she would definitely be right up there at the head of the list. If you don't have access to the book, you can check out her website Well worth the visit.

And what do the sheep in traffic have to do with all of this? Not much really. This is another one of Kareem's wonderful shots of the complexity that is Egypt, a shot that could probably be taken in Jordan as well.


Amira said...

I loved Queen Noor's book too. And I've enjoyed reading your blog. I only discovered it a few weeks ago. It brings back memories of the weeks I was able to be in Cairo while I was studying Arabic. Thanks!

Twosret said...


When the whole world is degrading the arab image. Here you are a fresh breeze of air writing some wonderful topics that deserves so much respect.

Thank you and may the memory of your husband always inspire you.