Queen Rania of Jordan is one of the most intriguing and beautiful women on the planet—but she's also a working mom at heart. In addition to tackling the issues that face her country, the queen also drives car pool for her four children and also makes a mean chocolate chip cookie!
Born in Kuwait to middle-class Palestinian parents, Rania al Yassin was busy pursuing her own career when she met Jordan's Prince Abdullah at a dinner party. Five months later, 22-year-old Rania married the prince and started a family.
In 1999, Jordan's ailing King Hussein named his son, Prince Abdullah—not his own brother—as heir to the throne. At 28 years old, Rania became the world's youngest queen.
When she's not taking care of her family, Queen Rania is a modern monarch on a mission to help girls around the world secure an education.
Queen Rania says she doesn't think of herself as royalty at heart. "Eighty percent of my life is normal like any other mother. I worry about my children, if they're doing all right. I worry that my husband is doing well," she says. "The 20 percent is just the queen aspect that factors in. But for me, it's life as usual and it's just taking care of my family."
Queen Rania says her day begins like any other mom's—getting the kids ready for school. "There's a typical mayhem in the morning of taking care of the children, making sure they're ready for school and they've had their breakfast and everything," she says. "I have some help, [but] there's some things that only a mother can do."
Once the kids are off to school, Queen Rania says she has a little time to herself. "I go into my email, check my Twitter, all that kind of thing," she says. "If I have the energy, I'll do a little bit of exercise."
When the king and queen need a night to unwind, Queen Rania says their favorite thing to do is stay in for a movie night. "Just sitting around eating popcorn," she says. "The Hurt Locker was great. The Hurt Locker was filmed in Jordan, actually."
In July 2009, it was announced that Queen Rania's oldest son, Prince Hussein, would be heir to the throne of Jordan.
Queen Rania admits she had mixed feelings about the decision. "A mom part of me wants him to just have a normal life and just have the normal teenage experience and have friends and not have any pressure," she says. "But another part of me understands that by having the title, he can learn more about the people, the problems and the protocol of our country."
Despite her family's royal status, Queen Rania says she works hard to keep her children grounded. "With my son, I make sure that he understands that he, at the end of the day, needs to be a decent guy," she says. "He needs to be compassionate and inclusive."
Queen Rania says she most hopes her son learns that it's more important to be likable than popular. "Being popular comes when you have everything," she says. "But to be liked, it means that you must be treating people with respect and you must be showing kindness toward them."
Although she has a royal title and lives in a palace, Queen Rania doesn't take her role for granted. "There's not really a day when I don't have anything to worry about," she says. "In addition to taking care of my family, there are also the 6 million people in my country that I have to think about, and I have to think about the issues of our country and everything that faces us."
To connect with the people of Jordan—and the rest of the world—Queen Rania uses her blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel and has more than a million followers on Twitter. "My virtual self can get closer to people easier than my real self," she says. "People sometimes think of queen as a title that's shrouded with protocol and formality, and for that reason sometimes people are not easily saying what they want to say. They're reluctant to express their opinions, and I kind of find that frustrating because I want to know what people really, really think."
Being online breaks down barriers between the queen and others. "It creates a space where titles mean little and people can just say what they want," she says. "It opens a window to my life and opens a window for me into other people's lives so I can see what people are thinking or what the sentiment out there is all about."
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."
As Queen Rania approaches age 40, she says she still feels like a kid inside. "The lines crept on my face when I wasn't looking," she says. "Now when I go to department stores and the saleswoman's like, 'Do you want to try this anti-wrinkle cream?' [I think]: 'Who is she talking to? She must be talking to somebody else.'"
Still, Queen Rania says she's ready to embrace aging. "We're programmed to believe that time is the enemy, that it takes away from us or that it diminishes us," she says. "I have found that it's done the opposite to me. Life is in perfect balance. It's just that our perception of it isn't."