Compatibility and long-term happiness are challenges for any relationship but when you throw in the mix the restrictions of royal life, a strong-willed mother-in-law and a complicated political situation…these challenges sometimes become the road to failure in a marriage. This much can be said about a royal couple that unfortunately didn’t last long but nevertheless left traces and lessons for other marriages in the Royal House of Jordan.
Dina bint ‘Abdu’l-Hamid was the first of four wives of King Hussein of Jordan. The marriage lasted only two years and produced a daughter, Princess Alia, but their story is Hollywood movie material.
The beautiful Dina was born in Cairo, in 1929, and through her father’s family, she was a member of the House of Hashemite, and also a third cousin to her future father-in-law, King Talal of Jordan. Dina’s lineage, like that of her future husband, could be traced back to the Prophet Muhammad. Like many children of Arab aristocratic families, she was sent to a boarding school in England, and she later obtained a degree in English literature from the prestigious Cambridge University as well as a post-graduate diploma in social science from Bedford College, London.
Sophisticated, highly educated and extremely good-looking, Dina returned to Cairo and began teaching literature and philosophy at Cairo University. But her university career did not last long. In 1952, while on a trip to London, she met King Hussein of Jordan who was studying in England at that time. Six years her junior, the young King impressed her, and they kept in touch over the next years enjoying some secret meetings in Cairo and London.
In 1954, the King’s mother, Queen Zein, who had a considerable influence over her son, announced his engagement to Dina who was seen as a good choice of a bride: a Hashemite Princess brought up with the best education the West had to offer and also a mature person who would be able to navigate the complicated situation in Jordan. They were married on 18 April 1955. The bride was 26, and the groom was 19.
Dina had to give up her teaching career, her family and friends in Cairo and started a new life at the Royal Jordanian court where her mother-in-law ruled with an iron fist. The marriage was full of discord from the beginning. Hussein believed that his wife should have no political role, while the well-educated Dina found this very stifling. There was also much tension between Dina and her new mother-in-law. Queen Zein had promoted the wedding between the two but then found that she resented Dina taking her position as the senior female figure in the kingdom.
The couple’s daughter was born in 1956, but by that time the marriage was beyond repair. A year later, they divorced, and Dina lost her title as a Queen but was given instead the rank of a Princess of Jordan. After a painful period of separation, princess Alia was allowed to make visits and spend some time with her mother.
Dina led a quiet life in Cairo (where a street was named for her), and in 1970, she married her second husband Lieutenant-Colonel Asad Sulayman Abd al-Qadir, a high-ranking official in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). He was imprisoned by the Israelis in 1982. A year later, Princess Dina negotiated one of the largest prisoner exchanges in history and freed her husband and 8,000 other prisoners.
Her first husband, King Hussein married three more times (Princess Muna Al-Hussein – the mother of the current King of Jordan, Queen Alia and Queen Noor) and had 11 children and a life full of events and assassination attempts. He became one of the most respected figures in Middle Eastern history.
Probably some lessons were learned by the Jordanian Royal family from the failed marriage between Dina and Hussein. The next Queens were allowed to play a public role and were involved in humanitarian projects, becoming true ambassadors of Jordan and used their talents and skills to promote the image of their country and dynasty. The current Queen of Jordan, Rania al Abdullah, is a famous public personality and a valuable asset for Jordan’s image in the world.
But it all started with a beautiful emancipated young woman from Cairo who was denied the chance to make a difference through her talents and knowledge.