Oct. 29, 2007 — -- In her role as the world's youngest queen, 37-year-old Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan has learned many lessons. But way before she became a royal, she had her first ground-breaking experience: a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
It all started when she was a child in Kuwait, with a schoolmate's little lunch box.
"One day, I sat next to one of my friends and watched her open her lunchbox," said Queen Rania in a speech before 14,000 women at the Women's Conference 2007, held last week and hosted by California first lady Maria Shriver and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "But what was inside? Not a hummus sandwich, but peanut butter and jelly. And I thought, 'How revolting.'
"And then one day, my friend suggested I might like to try her sandwich," she continued. "I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I braced myself and took a small bite. Do you remember Scooby-Doo, how Scooby would literally float off the ground at the thought of a Scooby-snack? Well that was my reaction to peanut butter and jelly. I thought it was heavenly."
With that bite, her life lessons began.
Rania met her future husband when she was 22, a well-traveled business school graduate who had done stints at Citibank. The commoner met Abdullah bin Al-Hussein II at his sister's house.
"In a situation like this, you have to wait for him to make the first move because he was who he was and I just didn't want to make any assumptions," said Rania.
It wasn't long before Rania was invited to meet her future father-in-law.
"Growing up, King Hussein was someone I always admired and I always looked up to him," she said. "When he first invited us for lunch, I kind of in my mind envisioned something very, very formal, kind of like a banquet or something."
But when the two did meet it was much more casual -- falafel sandwiches from a takeout joint.
"There was no protocol, no pretense," she said. "That was an important lesson because we have to show up in our lives as ourselves no matter what roles we play or what title we carry."
She has passed this lesson on to her children, including her eldest son, 13-year-old Prince Hussein, who may one day be king.