Queen Rania of Jordan

Known for her business savvy, elegance and outspokenness, Queen Rania has divided opinion between those who feel she should take a more traditional role and those who see her as a shining example for Arab women. "I am an Arab through and through," she insists. "But I am also one who speaks the international language." 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.

Rania never expected to be queen, however. Although Abdullah II was the late King Hussein's eldest son, his father changed the line of succession in favour of Abdullah's uncle when the boy was just three years old. On his deathbed in 1999, however, King Hussein unexpectedly named his son his successor.

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.

And, it seems, her husband would agree. "The king chose as a bride someone he considers an equal," said Prince Zeid bin Raad, a childhood friend of Abdullah's. "He listens to her ideas. They feed each other's intellectual curiosity. They're a perfect match, two people very comfortable together, who think along the same wavelength."

And while they have wealth most only dream of, Rania remains largely unaffected. She borrowed her sister-in-law's $2 million tiara for her own ascension ceremony rather than splash out on an accessory she'll rarely wear. And she regularly hops in her car alone often popping in a Lauryn Hill CD to make impromptu visits to sites of social and welfare projects.

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.

Click here for more information on the Jordanian royal family

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