Al Hilali was born in Czechoslovakia and has lived in Baghdad. She moved to southern California in 1961. She trained as an artist in Europe, and extensively at the University of California Los Angeles.
Her early works in the 1960s consisted of flat weavings and knotted hangings. These were followed by large, room-filling installations and a series of giant brown-paper "Tongues" installed on Venice beach.
Al Hilali has described her work as "foot tracks of prolonged attention and energy," as each requires many hours of intensive handiwork.
Her work is in the collections of various museums, including the Renwick Gallery, Museum of Art and Design, and Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Her papers are at the Archives of American Art.