01 Apr 2005

Agence France Presse

I believe that April 10th was the first anniversary of Your Highness’s marriage to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed…

All my years in professional sports haven’t prepared me for the pace at which His Highness Sheikh Mohammed works, I can hardly keep up with him! He has so much energy, and such a strong desire and commitment to serving his people, ensuring that they have the best quality of life, and putting Dubai on the global map. His efforts are tireless. I find that everyone around him feels inspired by him; not only by his mere presence, but by his energy, his youthful spirit and love of life and his appreciation for other people and their own talents and creativity. His vision and commitment truly inspires everyone around him.

It has been said that you have a lot of interests in common….

We do, yes. We share a great passion for horses and equestrian affairs, and that was actually one of the main issues we shared in common when we first met. As time passed, we soon realized that we also share a passion for poetry and writing as well, as well for Muslim and Arab history and culture, and for preserving and enhancing our traditions. Much of both of our work is dedicated to this end.

What will be the main areas of focus in your work in Dubai?

Since His Highness Sheikh Mohammed and I married last year, I have been closely monitoring what Dubai’s social needs are. I have my own areas of interest and expertise of course that I will be continuing to develop on both a personal level and in Dubai; namely that of show jumping and equestrianism and issues related to youth in general. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed has asked me to develop the sport of show jumping in Dubai, and I have been working on that front for several months now; trying to assess where Dubai is at in this sector, identifying some of the challenges being faced, and some of the solutions. Our aim is to bring show jumping to global standards and to make Dubai a leader in this sport in the world.

My other areas of focus in my work are related to health and education in Dubai. Both of these issues are of particular importance to me because they form the basis of life. My work in these sectors is another way to ensure that I am in touch with people at the grassroots level, and this is of utmost importance to me. It is what I have learnt from both my father, King Hussein, and my mother, Queen Alia. My mother died in the service of her country and was actually returning from a visit to a health center in the south of Jordan when her helicopter crashed, and my father’s efforts in both the health and education sectors are known to all in the region

Over the past several months I have carried out extensive visits to all of the city’s public hospitals and other public and private health centers. Apart from some of the support that I would like to extend to these sectors, I always relay what I see and hear during my visits and meetings to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed.

By far, my most special visits have been those to centers catering to children with special needs. My most recent visit to one a few weeks ago inspired me in so many ways. The children were so creative, loving, and warm and I was so happy to see them so well-cared for and nurtured. I was supposed to spend an hour at the center and it extended way beyond that!

I have just begun my visits to public schools in Dubai and am very much looking forward to meeting with Emirati children and youth throughout my visits, and hearing from them firsthand about their aspirations and hopes.

I hear that you have carried out in-depth analysis of both the health and education sectors in Dubai…

Yes I have. In order to properly examine areas of possible support it was imperative to carry out strategic assessments of both the health and education sectors and to ensure proper mechanisms and ideas for follow-up, and I found that the efforts on the ground in both the public and private domains very admirable and visionary. I have some ideas that I would like to implement in the near and distant future, but I primarily see my role as simply acting as support in my personal capacity, and as wife of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed.

And how about your professional career as a rider?

I have been competing in equestrian events as I normally did in the past, and of course plan to continue to do so. This has been life-long profession and my passion, and had also been a dream of my father, who had always supported me in my ambitions to compete globally. How involved are you going to be in women’s issues and in supporting the development of women in Dubai and the UAE?

I have closely been watching women in the Emirates, and am in great admiration of them. I closely watch and admire the steps of people like Sheikha Fatma, and I see and meet Emirati women from all walks of life, in both professional and social contexts, and I never fail to be amazed at the way in which they combine modernity with Arab and Muslim traditions. They are proof to me that an Arab woman can be modern without feeling the need to be westernized. Many of these women embrace work, embrace the chance at being a professional working woman, and embrace modernity, but they are so respectful and protective over their traditions and values, and do not forgo them. I have so much respect for the way they balance the two, and genuinely believe that an Emirati woman can serve as an example of a modern Muslim woman, to the rest of the Arab and Muslim worlds. I feel that women can support women’s rights in general by being true to themselves and doing whatever it is they choose to do with absolute conviction and confidence. The woman who chooses to work in a bank, the woman who decides to stay at home with her children and husband, the woman who decides to set up her own company—each of these serve as inspiration to other women they come into contact with. I don’t believe women need to go to conferences and talk about women’s rights to make a change, I believe you make a change by living and acting according to what you believe in and what God created you for. I am not saying that we should not exert efforts across the Arab and Muslim worlds to further better our chances on the legal and socio-economic and political fronts, but we must respect the women’s choices themselves and to encourage those who simply want to live according their own dreams. And will you be continuing any of your work in Jordan? All my projects in Jordan are on-going, I have institutionalized them to ensure that the work continues regardless of my absence. Many of the initiatives that I have undertaken in Jordan are continuation of efforts made by both my father and mother in the past and it is very important to me that my connections to Jordanians at the grassroots level are maintained at all costs. Additionally, I see it as my duty to assist my brother King Abdullah in his noble endeavors in providing for his people and I will always support his efforts in this regard. It is my duty as his sister, as a Hashemite, and as the daughter of King Hussein.