Jordanian industrialist Elia Nuqul dies at 93

Refugee from Palestine, Nuqul founded one of the kingdom's most well-known brands

Elia Nuqul has died in Amman on Wednesday at the age of 93. Photo: Nuqul Group
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Elia Nuqul, a prominent Jordanian industrialist who began to make tissue paper at a small shop in central Amman in the 1950s and expanded the business to make it a regional brand, died in Amman on Wednesday. He was 93.

His family announced his death, saying in his obituary that he spent his life as “a pioneer and faithful to his homeland”.

Born in 1928 in Ramla, a central Palestinian town now in Israel, Nuqul was one of a generation of dispossessed Palestinians who underpinned Jordan's economy and played a central role in modernising the desert kingdom after fleeing there around the time that Israel was created in 1948.

Fine, the tissue brand he founded, is one of the few Jordanian products known outside the kingdom and can be found on supermarket shelves from Lebanon to countries in the Gulf region.

In a 2008 television interview, Nuqul recounted how his family fled first to Ramallah, then to the town of Al Salt in central Jordan, where they stayed for two months at a church, and then to Amman, where they found a small house and slept together on the floor.

After the family's dispossession in Palestine he promised his father, Costandi, who was a grocer, that "none of his grandchildren will be humiliated as long as I exist".

Nuqul had three brothers and four sisters, but felt "stronger than them" even though he was not the eldest, he told Lebanese television host Ricardo Karam.

He began working in the late 1940s as an employee of a trading business owned by Tawfic Pasha Qattan, one of Amman's biggest merchants who was friends with King Abdullah, the great grandfather of the current king.

He recalled that he used his first salary to buy a coat for his mother and a radio for his father.

"He liked listening to the news," said Nuqul, who stayed away from politics.

In the early 1950s he opened a shop in Souq Al Sukkar, a commodities market in central Amman, and imported a machine from Germany and raw material to make tissues on a small scale.

His business grew into Nuqul Brothers, a group of 30 or so companies based in Amman. They include a ready-mix concrete division, car dealerships and a sponge producer.

However, the manufacture of hygiene and sanitary paper remains the company's core business.

He is survived by his wife Samira and four children, including son Ghassan, chairman of Fine Hygienic Holding.

In 2008 the family established the Elia Nuqul Foundation, which focuses on providing education scholarships for the underprivileged. Nuqul attended Al Aamereh School in Jaffa and received a certificate after completing his Palestinian and UK matriculation in 1948.

Well into old age, Nuqul regretted that the 1948 war forced him to focus on helping his family and to quit the pursuit of a higher education.

"I had no hope that someone else would step in to help them, whether morally or materially," he said.

Updated: June 16, 2022, 1:50 PM