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Jordan's Queen makes stereotype-correcting visit

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IT is a bit of ``pshaw'' in the midst of pageantry, a snippet of candor amid all the ceremony. When referred to as a ``Cinderella,'' the Queen -- well, the Queen simply rolls her eyes. Not that one couldn't be forgiven for describing the Arab world's first American-born Queen in fairy-tale terms. She is, after all, Queen Noor -- that blue-eyed blonde who caught America's attention and imagination when she shot from Princeton graduate to Queen of Jordan with her whirlwind marriage to King Hussein in 1978.

The former Lisa Halaby, daughter of Najeeb Halaby, former chairman of Pan American World Airways, who is the son of a Syrian immigrant, first met the King while working in Jordan as a design director for Alia, Royal Jordanian Airways.

After their marriage, the King's fourth, the Queen relinquished her United States citizenship, converted to Islam, and changed her name to Noor, which means ``light.'' Today she is the mother of three young children, is actively involved in Jordanian affairs, and serves as an unofficial spokeswoman for the Arab world. (Nearly 60 percent of Jordan's citizens are Palestinians, many of whom are refugees from the Israeli-occupied West Bank.)

Back on her native turf recently for a ``friendship visit'' to the US, Queen Noor addressed college students and granted interviews in an effort to correct the ``many stereotypes about our part of the world and about royalty.'' Her visit coincided with a flurry of new diplomatic activity in the Mideast. In her speeches, the Queen spoke of her husband's Mideast peace efforts and the necessity of an ``equitable solution'' to war, and she referred proudly to her ``dual [Arab-American] heritage.''

In person, she stops short of describing herself as just-plain-folks, but insists that she ``does aerobics'' and spends her days like many women, ``juggling personal and professional demands.''

``We don't have time for a great deal of pomp and ceremony,'' she said during an interview in her suite at Boston's Ritz-Carlton Hotel. ``We are, in fact, a working couple before anything else. We [just] have different, larger, responsibilities.''

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