#WCW: Princess Lalla Salma, Morocco’s First Royal Highness

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Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco with her children and husband
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images

Thanks to Disney fairy tales and other fanciful myths, millions of young women have grown up wishing they could one day become a princess. If you’re not already of royal descent, however, that’s a pretty tough position to land. Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco is the living embodiment of such a dream, having arrived from humble origins to become the wife of King Mohammed VI and Morocco’s First Royal Highness.

Salma’s father was a teacher, and her mother passed away when she was just three years old, but her lack of royal upbringing was no stumbling block for the brilliant future princess. During her formative years, the princess proved her keen mind by learning four languages – Arabic, French, English, and Spanish. She also became valedictorian at the top engineering school in Morocco, earning a degree in mathematical sciences and a state engineering diploma in computer engineering.

The princess encouraged her husband to take an interest in women’s rights.

The famously guarded Moroccan royal family did not reveal how King Mohammed VI came to meet the computer whiz and distinctive redhead, but young Moroccans took their low-key royal wedding as a positive sign that the king was investing in a modern future for his country. Prior to King Mohammed VI’s reign, Moroccan kings were polygamous and had multiple wives, but Salma changed history when she and the king agreed to no additional wives.

While little is known of how they met (reportedly, it was at a private party while she was still attending university), Salma’s reign has made a tremendous impact on the region, both philanthropically and sartorially. She is not one for extravagant public appearances, preferring to effect changebehind the scenes, where she has proven to be a strong, progressive voice in the Arab world.

In fact, the princess encouraged her husband to take an interest in women’s rights. Just two years into their marriage, King Mohammed VI announced reform of Moroccan law concerning the status of women, recognizing them as adults for the first time. “How can society achieve progress while women, who represent half the nation, see their rights violated and suffer as a result of injustice, violence, and marginalization?” he asked in an address to Moroccan parliament. Previously, women in Morocco had been treated as legal minors with no rights, no say in their marriage contracts, and limited access to divorce.

Salma’s reign has made a tremendous impact on the region, both philanthropically and sartorially.

In addition to influencing policy in Morocco, Salma is a passionate advocate for cancer prevention. In 2005, she launched the Lalla Salma Foundation that is dedicated to promoting cancer awareness and prevention in partnership with research institutes around the globe. Additionally, she opened her own Cancer Research Institute, which is the first of its kind in Africa. It now has 24 early-detection centers, with 13 more under construction and additional mobile units preparing to run. She also supports the Fez Sacred Music Festival and was awarded the Sharjah Voluntary Work Award for her HIV/AIDS prevention work in Africa.

When Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco isn’t busy with royal duties, raising her two children Crown Prince Moulay Hassan and Princess Lalla Khadija, or organizing philanthropic events, she is traveling the world as the king’s consort. Her graceful elegance at these events caught the notice of the international press, who dubbed her the “most elegant guest” at the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton.

She has landed on many “Best Dressed” lists, with a signature look comprised of beautifully appointed caftan gowns and unruly locks of flaming-red hair. She has also been named the “Most Beautiful First Lady in Africa” and ranked third on the Richest Lifestyle website. Although she does not seek the spotlight often, when she does, her style is ruled by tasteful proportions and rich embellishment. See more of her inspiring style in the gallery below.

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