Fraser Nelson

Queen’s gambit

Queen's gambit
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Is Queen Rania of Jordan turning into the Marie Antoinette of Jordan? She is loved in the West, and seen as the very model of a modern Muslim monarch. But in Jordan she's viewed with increasing resentment. As the Arab Spring shakes thrones all over the Muslim world, Mary Ann Sieghart jetted off there to find out – and the results are in this week's magazine. I thought CoffeeHousers may appreciate a preview.

We all Queen Rania's her background: a Palestinian beauty, hailed by Oprah as an "international fashion icon," who speaks up for women's rights. But, as Mary Ann writes:

"If she mingled at parties with Hollywood stars, her people read about it online. Given her countrymen's traditional hostility to the West, and particularly the US, this did not go down well. Rania thought she was selling Jordan: many Jordanians thought she was selling out.

This anger came to a head last September when Rania held a lavish 40th birthday party in the Wadi Rum desert, Jordan's answer to Monument Valley. Six hundred guests were flown in from all over the world. To giant figure '40s's were beamed on to mountainous outcrops – although the neighbouring villages don't even have electricity. Locals still speak of the water used to dampen down the sand, so that the guests could walk more easily – though there were desperate water shortages nearby. It might not have been as excessive as the party the Shah of Iran threw before his downfall, but that hasn't stopped Jordanians from drawing the comparison."

Mary Ann speaks to Fares Al-Fayez, a senior figure of the Bani Sakher tribe which is a bulwark of the Jordanian monarchy. In his house last month, he and 35 other tribesmen drafted a letter to King Abdullah, complaining about his wife – a pretty drastic step in Jordan. Al-Fayez says:

"She's spending a lot of money on jewellery and shoes. Some people say she's like Imelda Marcos. Then there was her birthday party. Poor people see that – they have eyes – and this hurts their feelings. I want the king to stop her. Some people spend hundreds of millions, and others have nothing to at but bread and tea. It's painful and sad."

Anyway, the whole thing is a spread in this week's magazine, on p20-21. Subscribers can read it free, online, or from the iPad. To join our subscribers for just £1 a week, click here

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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