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Thirty-year-old Zain Al Sabah was born into Middle Eastern royalty—her great uncle is the Emir, the current ruler, of Kuwait. And Zain created a stir when she announced she wanted to marry a commoner instead of following the old Kuwaiti tradition of marrying your cousin to preserve the family name and wealth. Now Zain lives in a stunning home with her husband's parents, which is common for young married couples here, but she is building her own home, complete with a pool, gym, tennis court and theater.

In this tiny, oil-rich country, wealth is not reserved just for royals. Zain explains Kuwaiti citizens get free education through college, free medical care and they don't pay taxes! When a Kuwaiti couple gets married, the Emir gives them a $12,000 wedding gift! Most native Kuwaitis also enjoy extravagant lifestyles—mansions, servants and lots of shopping. For example, Zain says her friends fly to Paris and Milan just to buy their wedding dresses. "You don't have to worry about your college education, so why not spend that money on your daughter's wedding gown?"

There are freedoms that Kuwaiti women do not enjoy. Though it's considered one of a few democracies in the Middle East, women do not have the right to vote. "There's nothing I can tell you right now that can justify that," Zain says. "It's a basic, civil, human right. We're considered to be a democratic country. Obviously that democracy is kind of lopsided. I don't mind at all taking it one step at a time. Because, you know what? When the women come on the scene, it's going to be amazing."
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FROM: Around the World with Oprah
Published on October 06, 2004

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