By Mussa Hattar
Jordan is gearing up for Crown Prince Hussein’s wedding on Thursday, an event already greeted with fireworks, concerts and social media frenzy in the usually quiet desert kingdom.
The eldest son of King Abdullah II will marry Saudi fiancee Rajwa Al Saif at the grand royal wedding with regional monarchs, US First Lady Jill Biden and the king of the Netherlands among the guests.
On the big day for the Hashemite kingdom, a key Western ally, the royal red motorcade, reserved for special occasions, will cross the capital Amman to celebrate the bride and groom who are both 28 years old.
In the lead-up to the wedding of the next in line to Jordan’s throne, the country has been gripped by royal fever.
Photos of Saif’s henna bridal party took the internet by storm last week as she donned a white gown with an Arabic poetry verse embroidered in gold: “When I see you, life becomes sweet”.
The Royal Hashemite Court published a YouTube video of Prince Hussein’s mother Queen Rania and his sisters, Princesses Salma and Iman, singing and dancing with guests at the party.
“Like any mother, I have long dreamt of his wedding day,” the queen said in a speech, telling her subjects that “Hussein is your son, and you are his family, and this is your wedding”.
After the party, drones hovering over Amman formed the shape of a crown in the sky.
– ‘Like a family party’ –
Such highly public displays may be common for Western royals, but they are a rarity in the Arab world where conservative monarchies seldom share any details of their private lives.
“Everyone took pictures and posted them on social media — this perhaps wouldn’t be possible with other royal families,” said one bridal party attendee, Lara al-Laty, a 35-year-old travel agency employee.
She shared pictures of the party on her Facebook page, with guests seen wearing traditional abayas embroidered with Arabic inscriptions.
“The atmosphere, the decor, the ululations all had a humble Jordanian character that made you feel like you were at a family party,” she said.
The Western-educated crown prince, officially became heir apparent at the age of 15, has long grown accustomed to the spotlight.
Hussein has amassed four million followers on his Instagram account where he shares eclectic photographs of hiking trips, military training and royal functions.
On Monday, famous musicians from across the Arab world flocked to the Jordanian capital to perform at a free concert to honour the couple, among them Lebanese star Ragheb Alama and Egyptian singer and actor Tamer Hosny.
– Groomed for succession –
Among the concertgoers, Suhad al-Idrisi, her sister and her niece all wore T-shirts that read: “We are happy for Hussein”.
“We have not witnessed such moments of joy in a long time in Jordan,” a country plagued by economic woes, said Idrisi, 45, who has prepared candy and roses for the day of celebrations.
The Hashemite family is “not like other Arab ruling families”, she said, because they use social media and live broadcasts to share details of the wedding with “nothing to hide”.
King Abdullah II, aged 61 and on the throne since 1999, has long groomed his eldest son to succeed him, bringing him along to important visits and meetings, former information minister Samih Maaytah told AFP.
The Jordanian king has wide-ranging political powers in the country of 11 million people, a parliamentary monarchy, and also acts as supreme leader of the armed forces.
Hussein followed in his father’s footsteps by attending Britain’s Sandhurst Military College and then studied history at Washington’s Georgetown University.
His bride-to-be was born and raised in conservative Saudi Arabia but is also Western educated, having studied architecture at Syracuse University in New York.
“The royal wedding crowns an advanced step” in Hussein’s succession to the throne, said analyst Oraib al-Rantawi, head of the Al-Quds Center for Political Studies.
The high-level celebration would bring him closer to his people and allow him to mingle with international royals, he said, adding that “this consolidates the prince’s network of relations”. — Agence France-Presse