A barnstorming Stratford, Ont. woman with a daredevil streak and a passion for adventure has quietly become a member of Jordan’s royal family.
Aerobatic pilot Basmah Hasan became Princess Basmah in January after she wed Prince Hamzah of Jordan’s Hashemite royal family.
Prince Hamzah is the son of the late King Hussein and his American-born wife, Queen Noor, and a senior officer in Jordan’s armed forces. He is the half-brother of the current King, Abdullah II, and for a short time had been Crown Prince before being replaced by his nephew in 2004.
The couple met while 33-year-old Ms. Hasan was working as the chief pilot at the Royal Aero Sports Club of Jordan last year. She had blazed a trail in the skies over the Arab world by becoming the first certified aerobatic pilot and a certified glider pilot in the country.
The prince, 32, was a fixed-wing pilot trained at Britain’s Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.
“She fell in love with this man, madly in love with him, they’re very much in love,” says sister Yasmen Hasan of Ottawa, the family’s spokesperson.
“You can just see it. When you’re in the room with them it’s electric. She happened to fall in love with a man who’s a prince, but it’s the man she’s with, that’s who she’s dedicated her life to, and him to her, and he just happened to have that title and come from that family.”
Ms. Hasan had moved to Jordan in 2004, leaving her mathematics studies at the University of Western Ontario to pursue a dream of becoming a pilot. Her parents Mike and Halloul were from affluent Jordanian families, their four children were born in Canada.
Sister Yasmen, who lives in Ottawa, says Princess Basmah always had the spirit of adventure.
“In high school, she started cycling and going different places like Panama and doing tours, and she used to go to Grand Bend (Ont.) to skydive for the weekend,” said Ms. Hasan.
“She’s a totally adventurous person, but she’s the most humble, graceful, gracious, intelligent person you’re ever going to meet. She fits perfectly with the (royal) family, she really does.”
Basmah Hasan kept adding up her pilot credentials, learning how to do aerial manoeuvres, how to fly engineless soaring aircraft, how to fly commercial and jump planes and how to ferry planes to other countries. She is also a certified flight instructor who has taken other women under her wing.
In a 2011 interview with Australia’s Aviator magazine, Ms. Hasan spoke candidly about her love of flight.
“Aerobatic flying is blood pumping, exciting, thrilling, challenging, and in my opinion unmatched by any other sport in terms of adrenaline and skill,” she said.
“It has been compared to driving a racing car in three dimensions. It pushes skills to the ultimate, and completely changes your perceptions of time.”
The Hasan family was thrown into another dimension as they received notice late last year that Basmah was to become a royal.
Sister Yasmen calls the whole wedding “surreal,” as she and her family stood alongside King Abdullah II, his wife Queen Rania, and Queen Noor for the nuptials. The small ceremony took place at Ms. Hasan’s grandfather’s home in Amman, the same place where their parents had been married in 1976.
The new Princess Basmah al Hussein wore a blush, beaded and embroidered dress picked out for her by elegant new mother-in-law Queen Noor.
Yasmen Hasan says while the experience was unusual, the fact her sister was marrying a Jordanian and making her life there was not. Father Mike was a restaurant owner and businessman around southern Ontario, but her parents made it a point to keep strong ties to their homeland.
“We’re very proud Jordanians, it’s our heritage, we went every summer,” said Ms. Hasan.
“We’ve always been in love with that country, as much as we love being Canadian first. For her to blend the two cultures and upbringing and experience together was pretty remarkable.”
What’s next for the high-flying princess is not clear. The Jordanian royal family jealously guards its privacy, and even her sister knows few details about Basmah’s immediate plans.
“She’s just very happy, and she’s started her life with him a few months ago and that’s it, that’s all I know. She’s happy to be in Jordan. It’s been her home for the last seven years and she’s happy it’s now part of her life permanently.”
King Abdullah has been under pressure to introduce democratic reforms, Jordan’s constitutional monarchy not immune to the Arab Spring that swept the region. Protests have gone on in Jordan for the past year-and-a-half, aimed at loosening the royal family’s grip on government.
Last week, Jordan’s Parliament passed a law to encourage a true multi-party system in the country, rather than one that favoured the King’s political allies. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for later this year.