(AP) – A look at the Middle East’s most notable “first wives.”
The 36-year-old, university educated Asma Assad is the British-born wife of Syrian President Bashar Assad. She was born to a prominent Syrian family and grew up in the affluent west London suburbs. Before the uprising that erupted in Syria last year, her image as an attractive and sophisticated woman helped boost Assad’s own as a modernizer. An article in Vogue in March, 2011, published just as protests began, hailed her as a “Rose in the Desert.” EU foreign ministers have since slapped sanctions on her, and she has been criticized for standing by Assad.
Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser is the most prominent of the three wives of the Emir of Qatar. The university educated Sheikha Moza has been ranked by Forbes magazine among the world’s 100 most powerful women. She is believed to have influenced policies through the Qatar Foundation, which she heads. The 52-year-old is mother of seven children. Rated in Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed List last year, Sheikha Moza is widely known for her elegance and expensive custom-made designer clothes. While she covers her hair with a turban in line with Islamic custom, her form-hugging dresses and lavish jewels stand out among the black robes worn by many women in Gulf Arab countries.
Queen Rania, born to Palestinian parents in Kuwait and educated at the American University in Cairo, is mother of four children with King Abdullah II of Jordan. She is active on Twitter and has her own YouTube channel to raise awareness about education and other social issues. She has written a children’s book to promote cross-cultural dialogue. The 42-year-old is considered one of the world’s most attractive women, according to Harper’s and Queens magazine. Her Western, high-end style has landed her among the world’s best dressed women.
The 50-year-old, bespectacled Naglaa Ali Mahmoud, also known as Umm Ahmed, is a longtime Muslim Brotherhood member along with her husband, Egypt’s newly elected Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi. She has a high school diploma and once worked in the United States as translator. The mother of five does not dress in the coiffed and polished style of Egyptian first ladies before her, instead donning a long, traditional headscarf and black abaya, or robe, worn by many women in Egypt’s impoverished villages and towns. She told The Associated Press she does not want to be called “first lady,” rather Egypt’s “first servant.”
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