When Queen Alia Al Hussein – mother of HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein – died, her home country of Jordan deeply mourned the loss of its pioneering royal mother. Queen Alia’s touch is still felt, from the airport in Amman named after her to her superhuman efforts to serve women and children of impoverished backgrounds through the Office of the Queen of Jordan’s foundation. This pioneering prototype for philanthropy is continued by her successors even today.
Suffice it to say, Queen Alia left enormous shoes to fill, but Princess Haya’s father, the late King Hussein of Jordan, urged his daughter to be her own person and find her own path in life. Fortunately for the citizens of the UAE, over which Princess Haya presides as the wife of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, she inherited her mother’s genuine compassion for others. Not only is she a driving force behind the UAE’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria as the Chairperson of Dubai’s International Humanitarian City, but she is also a UN Messenger of Peace and a recipient of the World Food Programme’s Hunger Hero Award – the list goes on forever.
But before Princess Haya was a humanitarian hero, a royal icon, or a loving wife and mother, she was a young girl growing up in Amman with a father whose moderate political views, attempts to make peace with Israel, and strong stance against extremism made him a target. This upbringing fortified Princess Haya’s noteworthy willfulness and helped form her identity as a fearless, compassionate leader for women and children in the Middle East and beyond.
As a child, her love of horses soon led to a competitive career – not only is Princess Haya highly decorated for her humanitarian efforts, she is also highly respected for her sportsmanship. At the age of 13, she became the first female to represent her country internationally in the field of show jumping and is the only female equestrian to win a Pan-Arab Equestrian Games medal.
Additionally, she competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, won multiple Jordanian national show jumping championships, was the youngest person to win the International Golden Helm Award in 2000, raised German tourism to Jordan from two percent to 12 percent with an International Association of Golden Helmsmen of Tourism campaign, and more. Princess Haya is also a member or chairperson of more than a dozen sports and philanthropic organizations around the world.
As the above list may indicate, Princess Haya is no stranger to firsts. She was the first Arab to become President of the International Equestrian Federation, the first Arab and first female to become a Goodwill Ambassador to the UN World Food Programme, and the first and only female in Jordan to hold a heavy and articulated vehicles license.
Her competitive equestrian background is what led to her happy marriage to HH Sheikh Mohammed. The two fell in love in Jerez, Spain, where they both rode in the World Equestrian Games. “We had met before, but we fell in love in Jerez. It was wonderful to understand someone without the need for words,” Princess Haya said in an interview with the Daily Mail.
To this day, her happy marriage is evidenced by her close-knit relationship with her husband, her palpable admiration for him, and the support that he gives her philanthropic endeavors. The two have a daughter named Sheikha Al Jalila bint Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whose arrival coincided with the 36th annual celebration of the UAE’s National Day – an auspicious birthday, indeed.
Princess Haya was educated in the UK, like many Arab royals, attending the Badminton Boarding School for Girls in Bristol, followed by Bryanston School in Dorset. She later attended Oxford University, where she received an Honors Degree in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. Clearly, her time in the UK has influenced the way she dresses, as she is often seen at royal functions in extravagant hats and polished suit skirts – very “Queen Mother”.
With the amount of fame, privilege, and power that coincides with such a lofty royal title, Princess Haya lives under the microscope of public scrutiny, yet she has managed to become one of the most inspirational women in the Arab world. Her ability to balance both modernity and tradition, combined with a personality that radiates positivity, has made her one of today’s most influential icons.
Princess Haya goes for a bold gold pencil skirt on day four of Royal Ascot 2014 at Ascot Racecourse with her husband HH Sheikh Mohammed.
Princess Haya dons a pinstriped wrap top and matching skirt for the Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge.
Princess Haya greets the crowd at day two of the third Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge.
Princess Haya looks smart in a pale-yellow suit skirt and feathered hat at the Royal Ascot 2008.
Princess Haya hobnobs with pals Sting and Trudie Styler at a gala dinner honoring Luciano Pavaotti.
Princess Haya and HH Sheikh Mohammed are #CoupleGoals at the Royal Ascot 2012.
Princess Haya travels with her husband and entourage along the racecourse of the Royal Ascot.
Princess Haya holds her fashionable own in a flowing turquoise dress alongside style icon Olivia Palermo at the 10th anniversary of the Cartier International Dubai Polo Challenge.
Princess Haya goes for the fully matched look in a lovely shade of red at Royal Ascot.
Princess Haya opts for a modern, ruched frock in the perfect shade of blush pink for the Royal Ascot.