Out & About BY A.L. GORDON www.nysun.com
April 12, 2005
Queen Noor of Jordan was guest of honor at a benefit dinner last week for the Versailles-Giverny Foundation at the Carlyle Hotel. Guests began their evening in a receiving line, at the end of which was the prize: a chat with the queen and a warm welcome from the evening's hostess, Barbara de Portago, and the foundation's benefactor, Gillian Spreckels Fuller. Mrs. de Portago's mother, Florence Van der Kemp, was also a hostess at the event.
During short speech, the queen spoke about the importance of the foundation's preservation work, comparing Versailles to Jordan's Petra. Both, she said, are "combinations of nature and manmade design" that appear on Unesco's World Heritage List of sites requiring preservation.
The former Lisa Najeeb Halaby, an American native, said her late husband, King Hussein, took "an enormous leap of faith" when he married her in 1978. She was a member of Princeton University's first coeducational freshman class and had dreamed of entering the Peace Corps before she met the king.
Queen Noor said her husband "believed that Jerusalem should ultimately be a symbol of peace, open and available to all children of Abraham." She spoke hopefully about opportunities for peace in the Middle East.
"The so-called clash of civilizations is really a clash between the moderate majority and extremists," she said. "There are those in our region who are capable, if they choose it, to make peace." She hopes, she said, for "Jerusalem once again to be the cradle of a civilization that unites people, not divides them."
One of the guests, Shahara Ahmad-Llewellyn, said that while she has always supported the organization, her admiration for Queen Noor was what attracted her to the dinner. "When she was queen, she did tremendous work," Ms. Ahmad-Llewellyn said. "Her being the speaker tonight got me to come and not just send a check."
Several other royals were on hand. Princess Zarina Zainal, wearing a Valentino gown, said Queen Noor had visited her in Malaysia in the past. The Earl and Countess of Albemarle - she wore Zac Posen - who live in New York, and Prince Michel of Yugoslavia were also among the guests. It was a week of royal news: The dinner took place just hours after Prince Rainier of Monaco died, and three days before the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles.