A California Girl in a Jordanian World
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.: As Arab American Heritage month comes to a close soon, it is important to bring Mona Naffa Nazzal's Story to the surface and celebrate this native Californian. Growing up in Southern California, Mona Naffa Nazzal never expected there would one day be a month long celebration dedicated to her Arab American heritage. In fact, Mona never expected to call The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan her home and most definitely the California girl never thought she would find the love of her life in Jordan.
Then something else happened along the way. Her life's work became apparent and Mona's journey from that point unfolded into her becoming a master weaver; braiding stories that connect cultures and tapping into her fierce drive that was fueled by the love of both countries, her family and a notion that the story must be told.
Like all diverse heritages the Arab American is a like a piece of fabric, richly interwoven with many colors and textures, and yet somehow always original and special. The characteristics of parents, grandparents and a loving environment are handed down and interlaced into the next generation. While Mona grew up she drew inspiration for building cultural bridges as she observed her parents reaching across to all cultures as educators, friends and most importantly family. Starting at a young age Mona believed in the importance of unity, tolerance and understanding.
Mona's father who recently passed away in early 2019 was Dr. Kamal Naffa. He was a beloved Jordanian Scholar, Intellect, Activist and Professor of Philosophy & History. Dr. Naffa was active in the Arab American Community, President of the Jordan American Association in Southern California and a spokesperson for Arabs in the USA.
Mona's mother was Gulnar Tuqtuq, a compassionate nurse whose parents were from Palestine and Lebanon. Mona's mom was also the former Ms. Jordan in the International Beauty Pageant of 1960. Gulnar was crowned at the Philadelphia Hotel; the first hotel in Jordan owned and operated by the Nazzal Family. The hotel was at the center of culture, music and diplomacy of the Amman Society.
Years later Gulnar's daughter Mona and the grandson of the owners of the Philadelphia hotel Michael Nazzal would meet and marry.
Inspiring Arab Americans like Mona Naffa Nazzal have a story that is less traveled by most and marked with persistence and passion. While growing up in California and to this day, Mona's youth was filled with American friendships that began in her early school years. Mona was always happy to share her Arab heritage with her friends, which was made possible through her family's generous traditions of offering wonderful food and conversations. Mona remembers the door were always open, inviting guests and welcoming all.
While still young and before her decision to move to Jordan, Mona became curious about her heritage and began sharing her father's love of history. She explored her roots and became active in the Arab American Community. After her education, Mona entered the field and excelled in corporate America in the industries of hospitality, telecom and pharmaceuticals.
A Life Changing Trip to Jordan
Life took on a major transformation when Mona took a trip to Jordan, after years of not visiting the 'old country'. She had no idea the wedding she was about to attend would be a year prior to her own wedding to Michael Nazzal and in the same country. Mona and Michael's wedding took place at the Holy Site at the Jordan River, the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ. The year was 2005 and it is still the only wedding that has been performed at the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ at the Greek Orthodox Church.
Mona's new family, the Nazzals, were from 5 generations of hoteliers starting with Michael's great grandfather and a generation later his grandfather who built the famous Philadelphia Hotel in downtown Amman. As Mona reflects, 'life takes a full circle sometimes' as she references the 1960 pageant crown going to her Mom in the same hotel owned by the Nazzal family. Later in 2005 it would be the same two families reunited through marriage with Mona and Michael.
Fast Forward 2019
Today Mona continues as a leading trailblazer through her work as a Cultural Ambassador for Jordan. Leading campaigns that reflect the progressive and upbeat Jordanian lifestyle, Mona and her team are breaking Guinness World Records and creating fun-loving and innovative events and experiences, that captivate and enrich people's lives from all over the world.It is no secret that Jordan is known as a haven of tolerance and has been referred to as the 'Switzerland of the Middle East". Mona feels it is her duty, linked to her heritage, and a special calling to share the good in people, places, sights and sounds. Mona believes there has never been a better time to share an appreciation of this wonderfully mystical and gracious culture. Her message has never faltered, "Come to Jordan and see for yourself! "