Tue, May 30, 2023 5:15 AM
By KARIN LAUB, Associated Press
AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Several thousand cheering and flag-waving Jordanians packed a sports stadium for a free concert in the capital of Amman as part of celebrations leading up the kingdom's first major royal wedding in years.
Crown Prince Hussein, 28, is to marry Saudi architect Rajwa Alseif, 29, on Thursday at Zahran Palace in downtown Amman, the same wedding venue previously chosen by the prince's father, King Abdullah II, and his grandfather, the late King Hussein.
The nuptials come after a rough patch for the royals, including a public rift between the king and his half-brother, and are seen as a way of shoring up public support at a time of persistent economic difficulties.
Designed to convey a sense of continuity, Thursday's ceremony is expected to include some of the same features as previous royal weddings, including a motorcade of red Land Rover jeeps escorting the couple through the streets of Amman after the ceremony.
Palace officials have been tight-lipped about other elements of the wedding, including the complete guest list and details about the bride's dress. U.S. first lady Jill Biden and several royals from around the world have confirmed attendance, among them the king and queen of the Netherlands.
Celebrations kicked off last week with a henna party for Alseif, hosted by Jordan's Queen Rania and attended by several hundred women. Alseif has a degree in architecture, and has lived and worked in Los Angeles. Her father is a founder of one of Saudi Arabia's largest engineering firms, and her mother is a relative of Saudi King Salman.
On Monday evening, several thousand young Jordanians attended a free concert at Amman International Stadium. Performers included well-known Arab singers, including Egypt’s Tamer Hosny.
Midway through his set, Hosny took his performance offstage and walked while singing towards the stands. With call and response, he encouraged the crowd to sing along.
“For his excellency the beloved crown prince let’s hear a huge round of applause,” Hosny said while surrounded by a roving entourage in the stadium.
Friends Rahma Beljas and Shireen Shirbati, both 18, were all smiles during the concert in the stadium where they both train as competitive runners.
Beljas said that while they were enjoying the night’s festivities, more was to come. “This Thursday we’ll celebrate even more.”
One of the last attention-generating royal weddings in Jordan took place in June 1993 when Abdullah married Rania, who was born to a Palestinian family in Kuwait. They had met in Amman earlier that year, when he was not yet crown prince and she worked in marketing.
The couple's trajectory changed in January 1999 when Abdullah's father, who was near death at the time, awarded the title of crown prince to Abdullah, his eldest son. After Hussein died on Feb. 7, 1999, Abdullah became king.
Associated Press journalist Sam McNeil in Amman contributed to this report.