Queen Rania of Jordan: A Beacon of Cultural Change in the Middle East

Harpers and Queen named her the most beautiful first lady in 2011, while Hello Magazine called her a “true woman of the new millennium”. Strikingly beautiful, unveiled and unusually outspoken, Queen Rania of Jordan positively defies orientalist Western stereotypes of Arab women.

Few royals could match her devotion to her family, her country, and to improving the lives and opportunities of others. Rania has become renowned for her contribution to education, community empowerment and youth work both in Jordan and internationally, and her work to improve girls’ education has drawn attention worldwide. She is also an avid user of social media, regularly posting updates of her work on her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

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“I am an Arab through and through. But I am also one who speaks the international language.” (image: greenprophet.com)

The 44 year old queen was born in Kuwait to Palestinian parents. She obtained a business degree from the American University of Cairo before moving to Amman in 1991, where she worked for Citibank then Apple. It was there she met Abdullah, then crown prince of Jordan. The pair, described by a close friend of Abdullah as a “perfect match”, have since had four children and appear to be just as much in love as they did twenty two years ago.

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“22 years on and my heart still skips a beat… So blessed to be at your side. Happy anniversary, Your Majesty” (image: posted by Rania on Instagram)

Her public position, chic Western clothes and progressive views have drawn criticism from the more traditionalist elements of Jordanian society. Yet it is precisely her non-traditional role that gives her the potential to empower women across the region. Idolised locally and respected worldwide, she occupies a position of power that is exceptional both in the Middle East and worldwide.

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“When girls prosper, everyone benefits.” Rania and her daughter on a visit to a home for the elderly (image: royalista.com)

With almost 4 million Twitter followers and 740,000 on Instagram, Rania is truly in the public eye. She lives a life many girls and women would dream of, comparable with the likes of iconic royals like Kate Middleton and Queen Letizia of Spain. Yet the significance of her role far outweighs that of other female royals, due to the way she defies and denounces the limits often encountered by Arab women.

Rania has proven that she is not afraid to speak out against the more repressive forces at large in the region. In March this year she made the headlines by declaring the group known as ISIS as unislamic fanatics in an interview with the Huffington Post. “I would love to drop the first ‘I’ in ISIS because there’s nothing Islamic about them,” she said prompting applause from the audience. In her discussion of the group, she demonstrated a flawless understanding of what drives people to support them and how the international community can counter their appeal.

This Jordanian beauty continues to be a true role model for girls and women both in the Middle East and worldwide, encouraging them to ignore debilitating stereotypes and traditions in order to become leaders of change.

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