Jordan’s royal wedding underway with the arrival of William and Kate


Jordan’s highly anticipated royal wedding day began on Thursday with the surprise announcement that Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate had arrived to witness the nuptials of Crown Prince Hussein and his Saudi Arabian bride.

The attendance of the British royals was kept secret and was only confirmed by Jordanian state media a few hours before the start of the ceremony at the palace.

The wedding of Jordan’s heir to the throne, 28, and Rajwa Alseif, a 29-year-old architect with ties to her own country’s monarch, emphasizes continuity in an Arab state prized for its longstanding stability. The festivities, which will begin on Thursday afternoon, also introduce Hussein to a wider global audience.

The celebration reinforces the royal family’s order of succession, refreshes its image after a palace spat and may even help resource-poor Jordan forge a strategic link with its oil-rich neighbor Saudi Arabia.

On Thursday morning, Saudi wedding guests and tourists — the men in white dishdasha robes and the women in brightly colored abayas — filtered into the elegant marble lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman. Noura Al Sudairi, an aunt of the bride, was wearing sweatpants and tennis shoes as she headed to breakfast.

«We are all very excited, very happy for this union,» he said. «Of course it’s a beautiful thing for our families and for the relationship between Jordan and Saudi Arabia.»

Excitement for the nuptials, Jordan’s biggest royal event in years, has been building in the capital of Amman, where congratulatory banners of Hussein and his beaming bride adorn buses and hang above winding hillside streets. The shops had competitive displays of royal regalia. Royal watchers speculated which clothing designer Alseif would select, which remains an official secret.

Nancy Tirana, a 28-year-old law intern, said she has spent the past week scrutinizing Alseif’s every move and item of clothing.

Crown Prince Hussein upon his arrival at a dinner hosted by the king on Wednesday evening.AFP Getty Images

“She is so beautiful, so graceful, and her body language makes it clear how much she loves the queen,” he said, referring to Hussein’s glamorous mother, Rania. “I feel like all of Jordan is getting married,” Tirana gushed as she ate mansaf, Jordan’s national dish of lamb pudding and rice, before heading to a wedding-themed concert.

Jordan’s 11 million citizens have seen the young crown prince rise to prominence in recent years, as he increasingly joined his father, King Abdullah II, in public appearances. Hussein graduated from Georgetown University, joined the military, and gained some worldwide recognition by speaking at the UN General Assembly. His wedding, experts say, marks his next crucial rite of passage.

«It’s not just a marriage, it’s the presentation of the future king of Jordan,» said political analyst Amer Sabaileh. «The topic of the crown prince has been closed.»

The wedding can create a brief moment of well-being for Jordanians during difficult economic times, including persistent youth unemployment and a failing economy.

Palace officials have turned the event, a week after Jordan’s 77th birthday, into something of a public relations campaign. Combining tradition and modernity, the royal family introduced a wedding hashtag (#Celebrating Al Hussein) and a ubiquitous logo that fuses the couple’s initials into the Arabic words «We rejoice.»

Photos and videos of Alseif’s henna party, a traditional pre-wedding celebration with the bride and her friends and relatives, and the couple’s engagement ceremony in Saudi Arabia last summer have appeared in state-linked media.

The kingdom declared a public holiday on Thursday so that crowds of people could gather after the wedding service to greet the couple’s motorcade of red Land Rover jeeps, a nod to the traditional procession of horsemen clad in red coats during the reign. the founder of the country. King Abdullah I. Tens of thousands of supporters are expected to flock to free concerts and cultural events. Huge screens were set up across the country for the crowds to watch the occasion unfold.

The signing of the marriage contract will take place at the Zahran Palace in Amman, which has not seen such pomp and circumstance since 1993, when, on an equally sunny day in June, Abdullah married Rania, born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents. Decades earlier, Abdullah’s father, the late King Hussein, had sealed his vows in the same garden with his second wife, British citizen Antoinette Gardiner.

jordanian royal wedding
Jordan’s King Abdullah II, left, welcoming his uncle Prince Hassan bin Talal to a dinner for his son on Wednesday.AFP Getty Images

In addition to the Prince and Princess of Wales, the guest list includes a variety of foreign aristocrats and dignitaries, including royals from Europe and Asia, as well as First Lady Jill Biden and US climate envoy John Kerry. . Other likely attendees include Saudi aristocrats, as Alseif’s mother traces her roots to the influential wife of Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdul-Aziz Al Saud. Her billionaire father owns a major construction company in the kingdom.

After the ceremony, the wedding party will move to Al Husseiniya Palace, a 30-minute drive away, for a reception, entertainment and state banquet. The royals are expected to welcome more than 1,700 guests at the reception.

Experts consider the marriage an advantageous alliance for the Hashemites, historical rivals of the Al Saud family in the east. Jordan has recently sought closer ties with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf oil states, which once doled out billions of dollars to the aid-dependent country but have since reined in its spending.

Even as restaurants played call-and-response Arabic wedding songs and cars honked at the downtown celebration, some pointed out that the royal fairy tale was fraught with trouble as Jordanians struggle to make ends meet.

Osama, a 25-year-old bookseller, was excited by the occasion and adorned his car and shop windows with portraits of the royal family. But he also knew that reality would return quickly.

«Of course, it’s cheerful,» she said, declining to give her last name for fear of retaliation. «But in a couple of days, we’ll be back to our problems.»

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