Queen Rania of Jordan
The annual Miss Universe Pageant has now passed and once again the winner was a Latina—Dayana Mendoza, a multi-lingual Venezuelan model and most certainly lovely. She won the Donald Trump Jr. Miss Universe Pageant, the one everyone watches.
But, another competition, the James Tipton Miss Universe Pageant, which I hold here at Lakeside annually in my head, produced a winner even more beautiful than any of those young models in the big extravaganza held this year in Vietnam: I speak of the Palestinian refugee who became Queen Rania of Jordan…or more formally, Her Majesty Rania Al Abdullah, Queen of Jordan. Queen Rania invites all of us to join in her “global conversations.”
Born in 1970 in Kuwait to Palestinians living in exile, educated in both Kuwait and Egypt, in 1993 (at age twenty three) Rania Al-Yassin was working in Jordan for Apple Computers. One night at a dinner party she met the young Prince Abdullah, who was dazzled by both her beauty and her intelligence. Less than six months later they were married.
Following the passing of King Hussein in 1999, Prince Abdullah became King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein, and his young wife became Rania Al-Abdulla. At the time of her coronation she was the youngest, and beyond doubt the most beautiful, queen in the world. Fashion designer Georgio Armani says “She has the body of a model and holds herself like the queen she is—what more could you want?”
But Queen Rania wants a lot more. She wants us to sit down together as a world and talk about everything we have in common. Growing up in a large expatriate community in Kuwait, Rania remembers: “My classroom had children from many different nationalities, so I grew up with people from Europe, the United States, Africa and the Far East. These interactions made me realize how alike we are, that what makes us similar is much more than what separates us.”
As Queen, Rania chose to become a voice for Jordan’s disenfranchised: “I work in areas related to child protection and family safety, women’s empowerment, the creation of opportunities for youth…” Education has been a primary focus, and she has worked to improve school facilities in Jordan, has fought to make English mandatory, and has helped Jordan develop a micro-loan program to entrepreneurs. She is also the mother of four children: Prince Hussein, Princess Iman, Princess Salma, and Prince Hashem.
Forbes includes her on their list of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the World, and in 2005 Harpers & Queen magazine named her one of the three Most Beautiful Women in the World. She travels widely, representing Jordan in worldwide causes, including to the United States where in 2006 she was interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey show, talking about the role of women in Islam and about popular misconceptions about Islam.
These past few months, Queen Rania has held “conversations” on YouTube (www.youtube.com) in which she answers viewers’ questions about Islam and the Arab World. She wants to hear the stereotypes, because she wants “to break them down one by one.” Rania has covered challenging subjects like the role of Arab women, honor killings, and terrorism.
This former Palestinian refugee who now finds herself Queen of Jordan is reaching out to the world. On her first YouTube video Rania encourages us to change the way we think: “In a world where it is so easy to connect to one another, we still remain disconnected. There’s a whole world of wonder out there that we can’t appreciate with stereotypes. So let’s join forces, and bring down those misconceptions.”