She was educated National Cathedral School from fourth to eighth grade, before she briefly attended The Chapin School in New York City. She went on to graduate from Concord Academy in Massachusetts. She attended Princeton University with its first coeducational freshman class, and received a BA in Architecture and Urban Planning in 1973.
After she graduated, Lisa Halaby moved to Australia, where she worked for a firm that specialized in planning new towns. She became increasingly interested in the Middle East and immediately accepted a job offer from a British architectural firm that had been employed to redesign the city of Tehran. In 1976, she moved back to the United States. She thought about earning a master's degree in journalism and starting a career in television production. However, she accepted a job offer from Managing Director of Arab Air Services, which was founded by her father, who was commissioned by the Jordanian government to redesign their airlines. She became Director of Facilities Planning and Design of the airline he founded.In 1977, she was working for Royal Jordanian Airlines, in which capacity she attended various high-profile social events as the Director of Facilities Planning and Design. This is where she met Hussein of Jordan for the first time on the development of the Queen Alia International Airport. The airport was named after Queen Alia, Hussein's third wife, who died in a helicopter crash the same year. Halaby and the king became friends while he was still mourning the death of his wife. Their friendship evolved and the couple became engaged in 1978. Wearing a Dior gown, she wed King Hussein on 15 June 1978 in Amman, becoming his fourth wife and Queen of Jordan.
Together, they have four children, two girls and a boy, and five granddaughters:
- Prince Hamzah (1980)
- Princess Haya bint Hamzah (2007)
- Prince Hashim ( 1981)
- Princess Haalah bint Al Hashim (2007)
- Princess Rayet bint Al Hashim (2008)
- Princess Fatima Al-Alia bint Al Hashim (2011)
- Princess Iman (1983)
- Princess Raiyah (1986)
Queen Noor plays an active role in promoting international exchange and understanding of Arab and Muslim culture and politics, Arab-Western relations, and conflict-prevention and recovery issues such as refugees, missing persons, poverty and disarmament. She has also helped found media programs to highlight these issues. Her conflict-recovery and peacebuilding work over the past decade has focused on the Middle East, the Balkans, Central andSoutheast Asia, Latin America, and Africa.
Queen Noor's work in Jordan and the Arab world has focused on national development needs in the areas of education, conservation, sustainable development, human rights, and cross-cultural understanding. She is also actively involved with international and UN organizations that address global challenges in these fields. Since 1979, the initiatives of the Noor Al Hussein Foundation (NHF) (which she chairs) have transformed development thinking in Jordan and the Middle East through pioneering programs in the areas of poverty eradication and sustainable development, women's empowerment, microfinance, health, environmental conservation, and arts as a medium for social development and cross-cultural exchange, many of which are internationally acclaimed models for the developing world. NHF provides training and assistance in implementing these best-practice programs in the broader Arab and Asian regions.
She chairs the King Hussein Foundation and the King Hussein Foundation International (KHFI), founded in 1999 to build on her late husband's humanitarian vision and legacy in Jordan and abroad through national, regional, and international programs that promote education and leadership, economic empowerment, tolerance, and cross cultural dialogue and media that enhance mutual understanding and respect among different cultures and across conflict lines. Through KHFI, headquartered in the United States, Queen Noor awards the annual King Hussein Leadership Prize to individuals, groups, or institutions that demonstrate inspiring and courageous leadership in their efforts to promote sustainable development, human rights, tolerance, equity, and peace.
Queen Noor is co-founder of The Alliance of Civilizations Media Fund, an unprecedented, not-for-profit initiative formed out of a partnership between private media, the United Nations, and global philanthropists to promote and support media content that enhances mutual understanding and respect within and among different societies and cultures.
She has traveled extensively throughout the Balkans since her first humanitarian mission in 1996 after the fall of Srebrenica. She is a Commissioner of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) created through the Dayton Accords to promote reconciliation and conflict resolution through the search for, recovery, and identification of missing persons from the armed conflicts in the Balkans. She has supported and overseen the ICMP's groundbreaking forensic DNA identification and families/community reconciliation programs, and advocated with the leaders of BiH to finalize the establishment of The Missing Persons Institute, critical to resolution of the tragedy of tens of thousands of missing and murdered in the 1990s Balkans conflicts. She has assumed an advocacy role in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and has traveled to Central and Southeast Asia, the Balkans, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America to advocate with governments, support NGOs, and visit with landmine survivors struggling to recover and reclaim their lives. She has testified before the U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus, appealing for humanitarian assistance and justice for hundreds of thousands of landmine victims worldwide.
At the invitation of President Andrés Pastrana and President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Queen Noor has undertaken several humanitarian missions to Colombia to try to negotiate a series of humanitarian accords with the leaders of the country's guerilla insurgency on landmines, child soldiers and kidnappings, to promote mine awareness programs in rural and conflict areas with UNDP, to advocate against the use of anti-personnel mines especially in civilian areas, and to oversee the destruction of Colombia's last arsenal of anti-personnel mines. In gratitude, the Government of Colombia granted Queen Noor full Colombian citizenship.
In 2004 and 2005, as an expert advisor to the United Nations, Queen Noor traveled to Central Asia to advocate for adoption and implementation of the Ottawa Treaty throughout the region and for multi-sectoral commitment to the Millennium Development Goals in Tajikistan, one of the world's poorest countries. She is a board member of Refugees International and an outspoken voice for the plight of refugees, displaced persons, and other dispossessed people around the world. She has visited Pakistan to assess the Afghan refugee situation and is advocating for international support for the nearly 5 million Iraqis displaced in Iraq and in Jordan, Syria, and other countries after the 2003 US invasion of Iraq.
Queen Noor is actively involved in a number of international organizations advancing global peace-building and conflict recovery. She is a founding leader of Global Zero, an international effort to eliminate nuclear weapons worldwide, an Advisor to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Seeds of Peace, Council of Women World Leaders, Women Waging Peace, and the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, and International Patron and Honorary Chair of Survivor Corps.
She is President of the United World Colleges, Board Member of the Aspen Institute, Refugees International, America Near East Refugee Aid, and Conservation International, Patron of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Founding President and Honorary President Emeritus of BirdLife International, and a Patron of the SOS Children's Villages - USA in Jordan.
Noor is on the board of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, alongside former President Bill Clinton. She is the International Spokesperson for the McGill Middle East Program of Civil Society and Peace Building (MMEP); in this capacity she has twice visited Montréal, Canada, officially and unofficially visited a number of the MMEP's centres in Jordan and Israel, and undertaken a number of fundraising activities, including the establishment of an MMEP program fund in her name.
Queen Noor has been awarded numerous awards and honorary doctorates in international relations, law, and humane letters. She received the United Nations Environment Program Global 500 Award for her activism in environmental protection and advocacy and was honored with the 2009 Global Environmental Citizen Award by Harvard University's Center for Health and the Global Environment. In June 2009, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Los Angeles Chapter, honored her with its Healing the Planet Award.
She has published two books: Hussein of Jordan (KHF Publishing, 2000) and Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life (Miramax Books, 2003), a New York Times best seller published in 15 languages.
She divides her time between Jordan, Washington, D.C., and London. She continues to work on behalf of numerous international organizations and makes 70 to 100 speaking appearances annually.
She holds numerous orders and honors from various countries, including:
- Grand Cordon of the Orders of Hussein ibn 'Ali with collar, Renaissance special class (5.6.1978)
- Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (26.11.1983)
- The Virtues (Nishan al-Kemal) of Egypt (1989)
- Member of the Royal Family Order of Brunei (DK) (1984)
- Royal Order of the Seraphim of Sweden (15.9.1989)
- Knight of the Order of the Elephant of Denmark (27.4.1998)
- The Grand Decoration of Honour for Merit in gold with sash of the Republic of Austria