Queen Rania Al Abdullah
Rania Yasin was born on August 31, 1970, in Kuwait to Palestinian parents. A doctor's daughter, she grew up in a comfortable home on the West Bank alongside her two siblings. She received a thoroughly Western education, first at the New English School in Kuwait City and then at the American University in Cairo, where she graduated with a business degree.
In 1991 she moved to Amman, where her parents had settled after fleeing Kuwait along with hundreds of thousands of other Palestinians following the 1991 Gulf War. After a brief stint with international company Citibank, Rania took on a marketing position with Apple Computers. Then, a chance outing with a new co-worker to a dinner party hosted by Prince Abdullah's sister in January 1993 changed Rania's life forever. It was there that the future queen first laid eyes on her prince. When their eyes met across the room, it was love at first sight and they were married just five months later.
Despite the unexpected change in her circumstances, the young queen has taken to her role and is now known as much for her progressive social and economic agenda as for her supermodel good looks. She has promoted the creation of child abuse counselling centres – "There wasn't even terminology for child abuse when I got involved," she says – and fought to end the controversial "honour killings", murders committed by men punishing sisters or daughters who have "dishonoured" their family, often by violating social traditions.
Rania has pushed for education reform, fighting for better school facilities and mandatory English language training. She is also an enthusiastic supporter of the micro-fund movement which provides financial assistance to would-be entrepreneurs. And while some say she has overstepped her bounds, she continues to discuss formerly taboo topics. "The approach should be to talk about it, bring it to the surface – not to sweep it under the rug," she insists.
She also makes sure there is plenty of quality time with her four children: Prince Hussein, Princess Iman, Princess Salma and Prince Hashem. "I make it a point and find comfort in tucking them into bed at night, reading them their favourite bedtime stories and reciting verses from the Koran to them as they sleep," says this true woman of the new millennium.
Books:The Sandwich Swap, April 2010