I see from today’s online Jordan Times that Jordan’s Princess Haya has been proposed as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The proposal is a formality; she will become an official member when the group actually meets. Her Royal Highness is the daughter of the late King Hussein and Queen Alia al-Hussein, the wife of Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad Ben Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, and is well known in Jordan for her equestrian competition in the Olympics.
When I first arrived in Jordan, I stayed with a family as part of studying the language. My host father, some ten years my junior, solemnly declared that as my father he would give me an Arab name, and promptly named me Haya, after a Jordanian princess, he said. How sweet. Named after a little princess, I thought, picturing a small child in a flowing satin gown with flowers in her hair. My American friends took to saying “Hiya, Haya” when they saw me.
But in Jordan, if you are patient, the Arab culture will slowly unfold for you.
Fast forward a year. I am in a photography shop in Amman getting a roll of film developed, and I happen to mention the naming. Do you want to see a picture of the Princess Haya, asks the guy in the shop, which was run by a Palestinian family. Out of sight around a wall and behind a curtain was a bulletin board with a whole series of photos of the Princess. Clearly someone was taken with her. Everyone in Jordan thinks she is the most beautiful, he explained.
And so she is.