The Jordanian Crown Prince marries the scion of a Saudi family in a ceremony full of stars and symbols

Ammaan Jordan — Jordan’s crown prince married the scion of a prominent Saudi family on Thursday in a palace ceremony attended by royals and other dignitaries from around the world, as huge crowds gathered across the kingdom to celebrate the region’s latest couple.

The marriage of Crown Prince Hussein, 28, and Saudi architect Rajwa Al-Saif, 29, drew a star-studded guest list, including Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate, as well as US First Lady Jill Biden.

The ceremonies have profound significance for the region, and underscore continuity in an Arab country prized for its long-term stability and rejuvenation of the monarchy’s image after a palace dispute. It could even help resource-poor Jordan forge a strategic bond with its oil-rich neighbour, Saudi Arabia.

The bride, who was dressed in an elegant white dress by Lebanese designer Elie Saab, arrived at Zahran Palace in a 1968 Rolls-Royce Phantom V made especially for the crown prince’s late grandmother. The Crown Prince had arrived earlier in full ceremonial military uniform and wearing a golden sword.

Families and their guests gathered on an outdoor gazebo adorned with flowers and surrounded by landscaped gardens for a traditional Muslim wedding known as Kitab al-Kitab. The crowd applauded after signing the marriage contract. From now on, Al-Saif will be known as Her Royal Highness Princess Rajwa Al-Hussein, by royal decree.

Several miles away, a jolt ran through a crowded ancient Roman amphitheater as viewers watched the couple seal their vows and exchange rings on a widescreen. After several minutes of stillness, a crowd of about 18,000 rose to their feet, waving flags and shouting excitedly at one of the many viewing parties held across the country.

Samara Al-Aqrabawi, a 55-year-old mother watching the live broadcast with her young daughter, said the ceremony was more impressive than she imagined. “I hope all parents in Jordan and around the world feel as though they certainly do,” she said of the king and queen.

The newlyweds exited the palace later in a custom white Range Rover accompanied by several Land Rovers, motorcycles and a bright red military band – a nod to the traditional processions on horses during the reign of the nation’s founder, King Abdullah I.

The kingdom declared Thursday a public holiday so that crowds of people could gather to wave at the couple’s convoy amid a heavy security presence across the city. Tens of thousands of well-wishers attended free concerts and cultural events.

On Thursday morning, Saudi wedding guests and tourists — men in white dishdasha robes and women in brightly colored gowns — streamed through the marble foyer of the Four Seasons Hotel in Amman. Nora Al-Sudairy, the bride’s aunt, was wearing sweatpants and sneakers on her way to iftar.

“We are all very excited, very happy about this union,” she said. “Of course, this is a beautiful thing for our families and for the relationship between Jordan and Saudi Arabia.”

Excitement over nuptials — Jordan’s biggest royal event in decades — has been building in the capital, Amman, as banners congratulating Hussein and his beaming bride adorn buses and hang over winding hillside streets. The stores offered competing displays of royal regalia.

“She looks like a princess I think she deserves,” Suhair Afana, a 37-year-old businesswoman, said of the bride, who hangs in front of a picture of Hussein in a black suit. “But so what, I will still love him.”

She considered buying a picture of Hussein to hang in her bedroom, but her nieces convinced her that her husband might not agree.

Jordan’s 11 million residents have watched the young crown prince rise in prominence in recent years, as he has increasingly joined his father Abdullah in public appearances. Hussain graduated from Georgetown University, joined the military and gained some global recognition speaking at the United Nations General Assembly. Experts say his marriage marks the next crucial rite of passage.

“It’s not just a marriage, it’s an offer to the future King of Jordan,” said political analyst Amer Sbeila. The crown prince’s case is closed.

The wedding may create a brief moment of satisfaction for Jordanians during difficult economic times, including persistent youth unemployment and a flagging economy.

Palace officials turned the event — a week after Jordan’s 77th birthday — into something of a public relations campaign. Combining tradition with modernity, the royal family introduced a wedding hashtag (#Celebrating Hussein) and a ubiquitous slogan incorporating the couple’s initials into the Arabic words “we rejoice.”

Zahran Palace in Amman, where the marriage ceremony took place, has not witnessed such splendor and circumstance since 1993, when Abdullah married, on a similar sunny day, to Rania, who was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents. Decades earlier, Abdullah’s father, the late King Hussein, sealed his vows in the same garden as his second wife, British citizen Antoinette Gardiner.

In addition to the Prince and Princess of Wales, the guest list includes a host of foreign aristocrats and dignitaries, including senior royals from Europe and Asia, as well as US climate envoy John Kerry. Other potential attendees include Saudi aristocrats, as Rajava’s mother comes from the same influential family as the late mother of King Salman. Her billionaire father owns a major construction company in the kingdom.

A spokeswoman for the company, Marilyn Mousino, said that both Rajawa and Kate wore dresses designed by Lebanese designer Elie Saab.

The procession walked through Amman to the Husseinieh Palace, a 30-minute drive away, for the reception. There, the newlyweds walked under an arch of swords and were greeted with the traditional zaffa, a vibrant musical procession featuring drums, dancing, singing and clapping.

The royals entertained more than 1,700 guests at the reception, which featured live music and a banquet. The festivities culminated in a fireworks display that can be seen throughout the capital.

Experts view the marriage as a beneficial alliance for the Hashemites, the historic rivals of the Al Saud family in the east. Jordan has recently sought closer ties with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab oil states, which once channeled billions of dollars to the aid-dependent country but have since scaled back their spending.

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

Osama, a 25-year-old bookseller, was overjoyed at the occasion and decorated the facades of his car and shops with portraits of the royal family. But he also knew that reality would return quickly.

“Of course, it’s fun,” he said, declining to give his last name for fear of reprisals. “But in a couple of days, we’ll be back to our problems.”

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