5 inspiring Middle Eastern Royals making a difference within and beyond the region

By Hyacinth Mascarenhas


Being a royal is more than just wearing a pretty crown and practicing a dainty wave.

Despite the scanty news coverage of Arab monarchies except in political or economic spheres, there are multiple royals working to create change within the region and beyond. These global visionaries and international inspirations are going beyond their royal duties to develop ambitious initiatives, promote change in their region and show the world what the Middle East has to offer.

Here are 5 inspiring royals doing just that:

1. Sheikha Al Mayassa Bint Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Qatar

Sheikha Mayassa

“People have said, ‘Let’s build bridges,’ and frankly, I want to do more than that. I would like break to the walls of ignorance between East and West.”– Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani

Arguably one of the most powerful women in the art world today, Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayass bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani is a young and progressive force to be reckoned with in Qatar. As head of the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA), Sheikha Al Mayassa is committed to spark world dialogue and foster intercultural relations through art, education and culture. Her vision to make Qatar a country rich in the arts and culture and bridge relations between the East and West is embodied through the QMA’s flagship project, the Museum of Islamic Art. Her estimated budget to buy western modern and contemporary art to adorn Qatar’s museums is an estimated $250 million a year.

She is also chairperson for Reach Out to Asia (ROTA), an organization that works to provide access to education for underserved populations across Asia. Sheikha Al Mayassa’s work through art and diplomacy, however, is inspirational in its ability to expand the art scene in Qatar and the Arab world, gain recognition abroad and offer a different perspective on a region more often associated with conflict, oil and political strife.

2.      Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Jordan


“I just wake up and feel like a regular person. At the end of the day you are living your life for the people that you represent. It’s an honour and a privilege to have that chance to make a difference – a qualitative difference in people’s lives – and it’s my responsibility to make the most out of that opportunity.” – Queen Rania Al Abdullah

Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan has often been dubbed the “Princess Diana of the Middle East.” Known for her philanthropic work, elegant and stylish fashion sense and positive tweets to more than 3 million Twitter followers, Queen Rania is a role model for women both in the Middle East and across the globe.

She attended primary and secondary school in Kuwait and graduated from the American University in Cairo with a degree in Business Administration before working at Citibank and Apple. Today, she is an Eminent Advocate for UNICEF, honorary chairperson for UNGEI and a champion for women’s rights, encouraging cross-cultural dialogue especially among youth. She also established the Jordan River Foundation in 1995 which aims to rescue abused children and lift families out of poverty, called for an “education revolution” in the Arab world last year and remains a fierce advocate for women on a global scale, especially girls.

 3.      Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, Dubai

Princess Haya2

“There’s a very conscious effort to take the best globally yet maintain tradition. Consequently, the women there are modern but not in the West’s own image.” – Princess Haya Al Hussein

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein has always been pure royalty. As the daughter of King Hussein of Jordan, sister of Jordan’s reigning King Abdullah and wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates, her commitment to humanitarian causes is a reflection of her family’s legacy.

As a UN Messenger of Peace, Princess Haya focuses on hunger and poverty and is the founder of Tikiyet Um Ali, the first food assistance NGO in the Middle East. She is also the founding member of the Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva, serves as chairperson for the International Humanitarian City in Dubai, serves on the International Olympic Committee and is president of the International Equestrian Federation with the strong belief that sports can truly transform the status of women in the Middle East and around the world. She is also nicknamed “the trucker” by her father, because she was – and still is – the only Jordanian woman to hold an HGV license.

 4.      Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi


“I truly believe that we enrich our own humanity when we seek to serve others.” – Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan

Married to HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan is a remarkable philanthropist. Serving as the Chair of the Host Committee for Abu Dhabi Art, Sheikha Salama’s desire to formalize charitable giving led to the launch of the Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation in 2010. Focusing on the arts, culture, heritage, education and health, Sheikha Salama, through the foundation, has given aid across a range of issues and interests in the UAE while focusing on the UAE’s greatest resource – its people.

Her passion for the arts, education and community engagement has helped the government’s efforts to transform the UAE into a global hub for the arts as well as capture and promote the country’s cultural heritage through the foundation, her children and the country’s citizens.

 5.      Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, Saudi Arabia


“As a symbol of health and fitness, we conceptualized gathering women that were ready to be trained to be physically fit and show that if we can conquer Everest, then you can conquer Breast Cancer.” – Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud

Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud is an Arabian royal with an entrepreneurial streak and heart of an activist. As President and CEO of ALFA International and Al Hama LLC, two leading luxury retail corporations in Saudi Arabia, and co-founder of Yibreen, a women’s day spa in Riyadh, Princess Reema is a business inspiration for women across the region. She is also a champion for breast cancer awareness and founded the Zahra Breast Cancer Association to raise cancer awareness in the Kingdom.

She was also one of 11 Saudi women who climbed Mount Everest as part of the campaign, ‘A Woman’s Journey: Destination Mount Everest,’ and organized the world’s largest ‘Pink Ribbon’ human chain in Jeddah which broke a Guiness World Record and was the first time Avon sponsored a Walk for Life event in Saudi Arabia. Through her entrepreneurial initiatives and remarkable campaigns, Princess Reema is a driving force for breast cancer awareness and is breaking the mold of a traditional royal to become an inspiring example of humility, compassion and activism.





  1. So many people just think of the Middle East as oil, money and hummers. How wonderful to realize that the region is more than that and actually has beautiful, graceful royals leading by example!

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