Queen Rania of Jordan: ‘a mum and wife with a really cool day job’

Friday 28/08/2015
Jordan’s Queen Rania walks to her car following a state celebration in Amman.

Amman - Abroad, Jordan’s Queen Rania is an eloquent spokeswoman for the kingdom. She takes the international podium to daringly discuss taboos, such as honour killings, in her conserva­tive society. She’s also not afraid to stand up to Muslim militants.
In New York and Washington, Ra­nia, 45 years old as of August 31st, enjoys celebrity status. She appeals to some as a cross between Audrey Hepburn and Cindy Crawford.
At home, the Palestinian-born wife of Jordan’s King Abdullah II is everywhere.
She participates in public func­tions, where her royal duties are of­ficially confined to ribbon-cutting ceremonies and social welfare. That includes meeting with global leaders to promote education and health initiatives for children in the developing world.
However, she is frequently seen embracing women villagers work­ing in the field in outlying towns, cuddling cancer-afflicted children, dropping in on schools to inspect the quality of education or walking in the street, like an ordinary citi­zen, chatting with people.
She also pops up on social me­dia, tweeting liberal and moderate views, or posting pictures of her four children, including her eldest son and heir to the throne, Prince Hussein, on Instagram — where she has more than 4 million followers.
Recently, she tweeted a descrip­tion of herself, saying she was “a mum and a wife with a really cool day job”.
Generally, Rania is an idol to Jor­danians. Her countrymen passion­ately talk about her intelligence, logic and wisdom and her youth­ful good looks. Women specifically brag, or wish for her top brand-name wardrobe, jewellery and handbags.
But to others Rania’s Palestinian roots are troublesome.
Critics say her royal status gives credence to claims by right-wing Israelis that Jordan, with a substan­tial Palestinian refugee population, should be turned into a Palestin­ian state — taking in all of the West Bank’s Palestinians to make room for Jews in Israel.
“Her Palestinian descent is a weak link for Jordan,” former law­maker Ahmad Oweidi al-Abbadi said. He claims to have been jailed a few years ago because he dared to speak out publicly about the queen “influencing” policy to allow Pales­tinians to take senior government posts.
Nonetheless, many Jordanians fo­cus on other qualities of the queen.
“Queen Rania is very impressive,” Ica Wahbeh, a managing editor at the country’s sole English-language daily Jordan Times, said.
“She’s intelligent, articulate and a strong supporter of causes that affect the lives of her citizens, par­ticularly the vulnerable among them, like children, women and the elderly.
“She’s active, both in the country and abroad, projecting the striking image of a modern queen.”
That’s exactly what Rania is af­ter: to help King Abdullah II attain his goal of creating a model state for other Muslim nations, ruled by moderate Islam, tolerant of other religions and free of militants.
Rania has noticeably chosen not to wear the traditional headscarf worn by many Muslim women. She was once quoted by CNN as saying there “are many women like me who do not wear the veil”.
“So, as long as it’s a choice, I have nothing against the veil,” she said.
Rania’s popularity grew this year when she visited the village of the Royal Jordanian Air Force pilot, Lieutenant Muath al-Kasasbeh, who was captured by Islamic State (ISIS) militants on December 24th and burned alive in a cage in a grue­some crime that sent chills across Jordan.
Rania consoled Kasasbeh’s wife and led a street procession in hon­our of the slain pilot.
A few years ago, Rania and Ab­dullah fought a battle in Jordan’s conservative parliament to intro­duce harsher punishments for men who kill women relatives under the pretext of cleansing family honour. Men in such killings used to receive a sentence of just six months in jail.
Under the royal-driven amend­ment, punishment was put on par with other homicides.
Born in Kuwait to a Palestin­ian physician from the West Bank town of Tulkarm, Rania attended the New English School in Kuwait City. Later she earned a business administration degree from the American University in Cairo.
In 1991, she moved to Amman, where her parents settled after fleeing the Gulf war that liberated Kuwait from Iraq.
She met Abdullah, then a prince, at a dinner party in January 1993. Two months later, they were en­gaged and on June 10, 1993, they were married.
When King Hussein died on Feb­ruary 7, 1999, Abdullah — his eld­est son — ascended to the throne. Six weeks later, he officially pro­claimed his then 28-year-old wife as queen.
During her coronation, the king declared that his wife’s non-royal background made her better con­nected to “the hopes and outlooks of people” since she “truly believes in their causes”.
Tamara Ross, a Jordanian Ameri­can living in Oregon, said she met Rania during a visit to the United States.
“I was intrigued by her wonder­ful sense of style, which she carries so elegantly to her sense of pride, she said. “She is proud to be who she is and makes the people around her feel the same.”