One of the biggest challenges Queen Rania faces as a Middle Eastern queen in a post-9/11 world is people's fear of the unknown. "We're still suffering from the aftershocks [of 9/11]. There was the physical stuff that we saw—the destruction, the death," she says. "But there was invisible stuff—the fear that entered our hearts. The mistrust that we view when we see new places or new faces. The suspicion that informs our decisions."
To help teach tolerance, Queen Rania has written a new children's book, The Sandwich Swap. The story is based on something that happened to the queen herself when she was 5 years old. "I went to an international school, and I used to go every day and at lunchtime I would proudly open my lunch box to find my hummus sandwich," she says. "The girl sitting next to me, she was eating something that I thought looked horrible. It was just this gooey, pasty, brown-purpley stuff."
One day, the girl offered Queen Rania a bite. "I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I kind of scrunched up my face and closed my eyes and took a bite. And then I wanted to take another bite," she says. "On a
subconscious level, I think I understood that I shouldn't fear the unknown, that I shouldn't judge something without trying it."
It's a simple childhood story that Queen Rania says adults in the East and West can learn from. "If we don't look each other in the eye, if we keep our backs to each other, then we're never going to see face to face," she says. "I think that that's a tragedy and we all stand to lose by that."