Born in Pontiac, Michigan in 1935 and raised in Detroit, Ann Sawalha met Sami in 1956 at the hospital where she was training to be a nurse. After graduating, and until their marriage, she worked as a surgical nurse in urology. In March 1959, Ann and Sami left America in its post-war golden age to go to the Middle East.
It was a time when air travel was rare, telephone connections were relayed by appointment, and the region was underdeveloped. On her arrival in Jordan Ann was introduced to her husband’s large Arab Christian tribe, the Azzizat, and began to learn about their heritage, culture and customs. Sami entered the family hotel business and during their 53-year marriage they lived in three of the five Palace Hotels owned and operated by the family on both the east and west banks of the River Jordan.
Ann’s nursing qualifications proved useful in Jerusalem after the June War of 1967, where they lived for 18 years, raising their children under Israeli occupation.
The frustrations and uncertainties of life in occupied Jerusalem prompted Sami to build two hotels in Amman, where they eventually moved in 1982. Ann has looked through the various Palace keyholes at the culture, religion, war, politics, business and family that have surrounded her. Her life with family unfolds simultaneously with the tumultuous events of a region in crisis and transition.
Ann’s beloved Sami died in 2011, but she continues to live in Amman, Jordan. She is mother to Leah, Lenna, and Hanna and grandmother to Rawan, Shereen, Sami, Nadine, and Rakan.