She will turn 53 on August 31st, has been queen for 24 years and this year she celebrated three decades of marriage. Rania is much more than the wife of an Arab king. While she is considered one of the world’s most elegant women, she is a sovereign committed to human rights and has no qualms about writing love messages to Abdullah II on social media.
Love has no borders! Rania was born in Kuwait in August 1970 and, upon meeting Prince Abdullah, became Queen of Jordan years later. Since she arrived at the Hashemite court, but especially since her husband became king, Rania has been on the list of the most famous women on the planet, but her life is not just about wearing international brand clothes and luxury accessories, accessible to very few. Rania is a woman who has committed herself to helping others, to using her visibility to give the limelight to other people’s problems. Without ever neglecting her role of supporting the king, with whom Rania has built a family with four children…
From Kuwait to Jordan, where she found love
Rania al-Yassin was born into a Palestinian family from the West Bank who moved to Kuwait in search of better living conditions. She is the daughter of Faisal, a doctor, and Ilham Yassin, who reportedly gave her a Western-style upbringing while never losing her Arab roots. When it came time to choose her higher education in 1991, Rania decided to study abroad, enrolling in business administration at the American University in Cairo. A year earlier, Saddam Hussein would turn the tables on the Yassin family. Due to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Rania and her family moved to the Kingdom of Jordan. It was here that she started working in a bank and then at Apple. It was 1993 when Rania al-Yassin met Prince Abdullah at a dinner party.
Even a princess, she was not destined to rule
Despite being the eldest son of King Hussein of Jordan, Abdullah was not crown prince and was not destined to reign, because the position belonged to his uncle, Prince Hassan. But that’s another story, which we’ll get into in a moment. But first, let’s go back to the year they met and the dinner where Rania, a technology manager, and Abdullah crossed paths… Their fate was sealed. She was 23, he was 31. It is said that he was captivated by the young woman’s communication skills and her sense of humor. Five months later, and 30 years ago, they married, on June 10, 1993. Unlike his father, who was married four times, divorcing to remarry, Abdullah had only one wife.
Rania joins the Jordanian court as she says “I do” to the man she had only recently met. The wedding took place at the palace of Zein al-Sharaf, the Queen Mother, in Amman, and was a real people’s party. Even though she is not an Arab princess, her academic background shows that she is ready to be part of the court and of the royal family that has led the country for more than 1,400 years. And, of course, her beauty enchanted the country… The marriage of the king’s son, a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, recalled the magic of the tales of The Thousand and One Nights… He in military uniform and decorations, she in a white gown with gold embroidery, signed by Bruce Oldfield (the same who designed Queen Camilla’s coronation gown), with veil and a fabric tiara.
A year later, the couple’s first child, Prince Hussein, now the heir apparent, was born, but he was not destined to reign either. In 1996, Princess Iman was born. The couple’s life was going smoothly until Hussein, married to Queen Noor, fell ill and, before dying, decided to change the law of succession, stripping his brother of the title of crown prince and giving the title to his eldest son. Even though he lost his status and was no longer number one in the line of succession, Hassan accepted his brother’s decision at the time of his death and was never displeased, being one of his nephew’s trusted men.
On February 9, 1999, Abdullah ascended the throne of Jordan and took his oath as king in parliament. One of his first acts as the new sovereign was to fulfill his father’s last will and name his brother Hamzah, born of his marriage to Queen Noor, crown prince, a position he held until 2004. From that day on, 28-year-old Rania became his consort, with the title of Queen of Jordan and being addressed Your Majesty. Since 2009, the couple’s eldest son has been number one in the line of succession.
The role of mother and the absence of the veil
It was after she became queen, in 2000, that Rania gave birth to Princess Salma. The couple welcomed the arrival of another son five years later, Prince Hashem, now 18, who played an important role in the wedding of his brother, the crown prince, by walking the bride down the aisle.
In addition to her work at home, for which she is responsible, especially in what regards the education of her children, the queen did not want to spend her life in the palace but be active in the kingdom, often taking the country’s name beyond borders, which has helped to show Jordan as the most westernized of the Arab states. The fact that Bono, the lead singer of U2, is one of the queen’s friends also helps Rania’s image to enter the universe of pop culture and show that communion is possible even when you come from such different universes.
While her image and elegance certainly make headlines, Rania doesn’t just make the best-dressed lists; she was named one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine. All because she is an influential voice that helps us look at the role of Jordanian women in a different light. Most of the time, Rania dresses in a Western way, not wearing the Islamic veil (unless she enters a mosque or is received at the Vatican) and shows her hair, which is not the case with the sheika Mozah of Qatar, the queen of Bahrain or the women of the royal family of Brunei, for example. “In the West, people see the veil as a symbol of oppression. That’s not true, as long as the woman wears it out of conviction and her own will,” she said. But Rania is much more than the designer clothes she wears, although they, too, take on great significance.
Wearing clothes and accessories from leading fashion houses in the world sends the message that Jordan is an open country, and while deeply rooted in tradition, also tolerant. Rania knows that her image is symbolic in that regard, but her importance as the king’s wife goes beyond her physical appearance and the messages of her attire.
Jordan’s westernization is also due to the reign of Abdullah, a peace activist, which has allowed the country to have a more stable economy and increased foreign investment. Thanks to this position and the fact that there is no war within its borders, as well as the image conveyed by the queen, Jordan is increasingly considered a tourist destination, full of exoticism.
Activist awarded in Portugal
The queen’s major causes are women’s and children’s poverty, which she works on through UNICEF and the non-profit Jordan River Foundation. Rania also works in key areas such as education, health, economy, but not only. Refugees are one of her major concerns and she also promotes intercultural dialogue in an increasingly cosmopolitan world, but paradoxically with many examples of extremism and fanaticism. These causes have earned the king’s wife great popularity, far greater than the criticism of her spending on clothes or her alleged cosmetic surgeries.
Thanks to her humanitarian work, in 2009 Rania visited Lisbon to receive the North-South Prize of the Council of Europe, in a solemn session that took place in the Assembly of the Republic, where the solidarity role that aims at “greater understanding and tolerance around the world” was highlighted. As a curiosity, among the various foreign decorations she holds, the Jordanian queen received the Portuguese Grand Cross of the Order of Prince Henry the Navigator and the Grand Cross of the Military Order of Sant’Iago da Espada.
Queen and writer
One year after King Hussein’s death, Rania published her first book, The King’s Gift, as a tribute to her father-in-law. It was a children’s book, the proceeds of which went to the country’s underprivileged children. In 2008, to mark Mother’s Day, Rania wrote Eternal Beauty. A year later, she published Maha of the Mountains, about the importance of education. In 2010, The Sandwich Swap, inspired by Rania’s childhood, was published to talk about appreciating differences and accepting one another. It was a bestseller.
She is not the only queen of Jordan
There are currently two queens in Jordan, but it should be explained that Rania is the consort, i.e., the wife of the king, and the other, Noor, is the stepmother of Abdullah II. Despite their titles, they have different official designations: Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan and Her Majesty Queen of Jordan (for Rania), meaning that the current king’s mother, Princess Muna, has a lower title than the stepmother. Noor has not been seen at court lately and it is unknown how relations are between the king and queen and the queen-widow, but Rania seems to have a close relationship with her mother-in-law.
Queen of social media
Being a king’s wife does not prevent Rania from being an active user of social media, which does not happen with any European queen, for example. Rania was even the first queen ever to have a Twitter account. The Hashemite monarch often uses Instagram to showcase her work on behalf of those in need, but what surprises the world most is how she uses it to make intimate confessions about her husband and children, even using emojis (a sign of the times), such as hearts, to caption photos and show her pride in her family.
Last June, when celebrating her 30th anniversary, Rania said: ” Every day that passes brings us closer, and every year spent together makes me realize how lucky I am to have shared my life with you”. In another caption, in January 2023, the Queen declared: “There is no greater blessing than walking the journey of my life with you. Grateful for every day with you”. The public expressions of love are many, like this one: “My joy is being with you. I love my life with you” or “My heart has a king”. Rania is a queen who is not afraid to expose her feelings….
By Alberto Miranda