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Hani Mahmoud Hourani is a Jordanian artist, photographer, scholar, journalist, and political activist.


Hourani (Hani Mahmud Hawrani) was born in al-Zarqa, Jordan, on 1 June 1945 to a family of Jordanian Arab Muslims. As a young man, he took drawing and painting classes in Amman beginning in 1961, and was a founding member of the Society for Painting and Sculpture in 1963. His first solo exhibition of oil and watercolor paintings took place in Amman in 1967. In 1970, he graduated from the University of Jordan with a B.A. in political science.

Hourani also became active in antigovernment politics. He was associated with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP), a Marxist faction within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) that was headed by a fellow Jordanian, Nayif Hawatma. In addition to its commitment to fighting Israel, the DFLP also opposed Jordan’s King Hussein, and tried to forge political links between antiregime East Bank Jordanians and Palestinians based on their mutual hostility to the Jordanian government. When the Jordanian army expelled Palestinian guerrillas and organizations after the bitter fighting between the two sides in September 1970, Hourani fled into exile in Beirut, where the PLO set up its new headquarters.

Hourani lived in Syria and Lebanon thereafter, although he also spent time pursuing a Ph.D. in social sciences at the Social Sciences Institute in Moscow in the 1980s. From 1971 to 1977, Hourani was a researcher at the Palestinian Research Center in Beirut and was an editor for the DFLP magazine al-Huriyya (Freedom). From 1984 to 1990, he served as editor in chief of the journal al-Urdun al-Jadid (The new Jordan). Hourani also published the book Al-Tarkib al-Iqtisadi al-Ijtima’i li-Sharq al-Urdunn: Muqadimmat al-Tatawwur al-Mush-awwa , 1921–1950 (The socioeconomic structure of Transjordan: introduction in distorted development, 1921–1950) in 1978. Still cultivating his artistic side, Hourani took photography courses in Beirut in 1974 and in Moscow in 1975.

Following Jordan’s political liberalization in 1989, Hourani and other political exiles were allowed to return to their homeland. He continued his scholarly activities, founding al-Urdun al-Jadid Research Center in Amman in 1990. He has authored or coauthored dozens of books and articles on Jordanian history and politics since then, and has been heavily involved in associations promoting civil society and democratization in Jordan and the Arab world. He helped found the National Society for the Enhancement of Freedom and Democracy in 1995, the Jordanian Association for Democratic Elections in 1997, the Arab Civic Network for Democratic Reform in 2005, and both the Arab Democrats Network and the Arab Program for Democracy in 2006. Hourani also briefly was involved with the Jordanian Democratic People’s Party (known by the Arabic acronym “Hashd”), the Jordanian political party that grew out of the DFLP after parties were legalized in 1990. He and others soon split from Hashd to form the Jordanian Democratic Party in August 1990, and in 1992 he left that party to help form the Jordanian Democratic Platform.


Name: Hani Mahmoud Hourani (Hani Mahmud Hawrani)

Birth: 1945, al-Zarqa, Jordan

Family: Wife, Su’ad Isawi (Issawi), a Palestinian; three daughters, Lama, Reem, and Farah

Nationality: Jordanian

Education: B.A., University of Jordan, 1970; Ph.D. studies (not completed), Social Sciences Institute, Moscow, late 1980s


  • 1963: Helps found Society for Painting and Sculpture
  • 1967: First solo exhibition of paintings, Amman
  • 1970: Flees Jordan for Lebanon
  • 1971: Begins work in Beirut as researcher for Palestinian Research Center and as editor for al-Hurriya magazine
  • 1984: Editor in chief, al-Urdunn al-Jadid
  • 1989: Returns to Jordan after democratization
  • 1990: Establishes al-Urdun al-Jadid Research Center and Baladna Gallery in Amman
  • 1993: First solo exhibition of paintings since returning to Jordan
  • 1996: First photographic exhibition in Jordan
  • 2006: Helps establish Arab Democrats Network and Arab Program for Democracy

Hourani pursued his artistic endeavors as well after returning to Jordan, displaying paintings and photographs at numerous exhibitions both there and abroad. In 1993 he mounted his first solo exhibition of oils and watercolors in Amman since 1968. His first photography exhibition, “People and Places,” opened in Amman in 1996. He since has participated in ten other photographic exhibitions in Jordan, Sweden, Syria, and Egypt. He and his wife, Su’ad Isawi, opened Baladna Gallery (now called Foresight Art Center) in Amman in 1990.


Hourani has been a pioneer in scholarship about Jordan. His 1978 book Al-Tarkib al-Iqtisadi was the first book to analyze Jordanian history critically from a political economy perspective. Published in Beirut, it stood in marked contrast to the bland political histories produced in Jordan that offered no critical scholarly analysis of Jordanian history and Jordan’s ruling monarchy. Hourani’s perspective, his past political activities, and the fact that the book was published by the PLO, caused it to be banned in his native Jordan. However, it was an influential book for a new generation of Jordanian and foreign scholars studying outside Jordan who, beginning in the 1980s, began producing insightful books, articles, and doctoral dissertations on Jordan’s history. The many books and conferences Hourani has produced through al-Urdun al-Jadid Research Center also have become staples for those who have sought penetrating studies about subjects such as Jordanian political parties, elections, civil society, labor history, and women’s history.

Hourani also has contributed significantly to democratization and the strengthening of civil society in Jordan following the liberalization begun in 1989. His many books, the many activities he has been involved with through al-Urdun al-Jadid Research Center, and his involvement in nongovernmental organizations promoting democracy have played an important role in the country’s intellectual and political life. His artistic work has contributed to the flourishing of cultural life in Jordan in recent years.


Hourani is recognized internationally for his contributions to Jordan’s intellectual scene, as demonstrated by his involvement with projects in conjunction with organizations and foundations worldwide such as the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Third World Forum, the United Nations University, and the G8 summit.


Hani Hourani’s legacy will be his many contributions to the development of Jordan’s intellectual and cultural life, as well as his commitment to democracy and human rights in Jordan and throughout the Arab world.


Lama Hourani (1978–) is the daughter of Hani Hourani. Born in Damascus, Syria, she moved to Jordan in 1989 when her father was permitted to return to his homeland. Lama Hourani has followed in the artistic path of her father. She graduated with a B.A. in painting and drawing from Yarmuk University in Irbid, Jordan, in 2000, took gemology and jewelry design courses in Italy through the Gemological Institute of America in 2002, and by 2007 was working on an M.A. in product design at the Istituto Marangoni in Milan. While doing this, Hourani worked as project manager at Baladna Gallery in Amman from 1999–2002.

An internationally known jewelry designer, Hourani established Lama Hourani Creations in 1999, which since 2004 has been based at Foresight Art Center in Amman (Web site: http://www.lamahourani.com). Exhibitions of her work have appeared in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, India, Bahrain, Canada (at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa), and the United States (at the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Cincinnati Museum in Cincinnati). Frequent buyers of her jewelry include Queen Rania of Jordan, Queen Noor of Jordan, Queen Sofia of Spain, and American actresses Renée Zellweger and Ashley Olsen.

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