Jordan’s Queen Noor made a surprise appearance in Washington to present British rock star Sting with an award for promoting cross-cultural understanding, calling him one of “the heroes of our time.”
The Arab American Institute Foundation gave Sting one of its 2001 Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity awards to honor what it said was his “commitment to indigenous people and the environment, as well as his efforts to promote cross-cultural understanding.”
Noor, the wife of the late King Hussein, praised Sting for his activism on issues such as saving the rain forest.
“I think we can count Sting among the heroes of our time,” Noor told the black-tie event Saturday.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who spoke earlier, also praised the rock singer for his work on human rights issues.
Sting won wild applause when he greeted the 700 guests at the awards dinner with the traditional Arabic greeting, “Salaam-aleikum” or “Peace be with you.”
Long known for his innovative musical style, Sting brought Arabic music to the top of the U.S. pop charts with his song “Desert Rose” from his “Brand New Day” album. Performed with Algerian rai artist Cheb Mami, “Desert Rose” included Arabic lyrics and traditional Arabic instruments.
Sting said it was the first duet involving an Arabic and a Western singer, and it had become “an enormous hit all over the world” – in the United States, Europe, Arab countries and Israel – despite initial skepticism by his recording company.
“Although it didn’t help the peace process, it nonetheless made a difference,” he said.
He also paid homage to Gibran, the Lebanese-American author of “The Prophet” calling him one of the greatest spiritual writers, and said Western society owed an enormous debt to Arabic culture for its contributions to art, architecture, science and spirituality.
Other recipients of the group’s award included Reading Is Fundamental (RIF), whose 360,000 volunteers teach children to read; the Grameen Global Network, which created a microcredit program; and the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, a nonprofit Michigan organization that helps newly arrived immigrants become self-sufficient.