On May 10th, 1978, Salma Bennani was born in the city of Fez, which is known as the cultural center of Morocco. A private party that she went to in 1999 when she was 21 years old was the event that altered the course of her life forever. It was at that place when she first made the contact of the man who would eventually become her husband. He wasn’t just any man, though. He was Mohammed VI, the only Crown Prince of Morocco.
Because the future king was instantly drawn to the stunning redhead, you might say that it was love at first sight between the two of them. Salma did not react to him right away since she was still a student and wanted to finish her education before making any kind of commitment to anything else, despite the fact that it is every girl’s desire to marry into royalty.
The king had agreed to wait when she asked him to.
It is said that Salma had set a set of rules for herself before agreeing to the king’s proposal. She was adamant that the two of them enter into a monogamous marriage, and this was just one of her many adamant rules. In spite of the fact that polygamous marriages within the royal line were considered to be the standard in Morocco due to the fact that every king in Morocco has been known to have more than one wife, King Mohammed had promised to remain faithful to Salma!
This marriage broke with tradition in other ways, too, because the king also showed the world his bride. In Moroccan culture, the wives of the kings were traditionally seen as private characters who were required to remain behind the walls of the castle. Therefore, it came as a surprise to the people of Morocco when they opened their newspapers on the day of the royal marriage to learn that the young lady who was going to be their queen was a tall young woman with red hair.
She was given the formal title of Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Salma, and some have referred to her as one of the most beautiful first ladies in the world.
‘Lalla’ is a traditional honorific for high-born and royal ladies that is equivalent to the term “Lady” for noble women in western culture. Given that there is no provision in the Moroccan constitution for a title to be bestowed upon the King’s spouse, it is a significant step forward for the Moroccan people to have a first lady who is granted such a high level of honor.
In spite of the fact that her father, Al-Haj Abdel Hamid Bennani, was a poor schoolteacher and her mother, Naima Bensouda, was a simple housewife, Salma grew up to be an exceptionally intelligent and accomplished woman. During her younger years, she was educated in a prestigious school, and later, she attended and graduated from the National School of Computer Science and Systems Analysis with a degree in computer science. She was also the top student in her class and the year’s valedictorian.
Even though the king was surprised by Salma’s marriage customs, he still agreed because he thought it was the ideal moment to help Morocco break out of its shell.
The only way for him to achieve this goal was to step away from the shadow of tradition that had been cast by his family tree’s previous generations.
Since he was raised in the West, King Mohammed VI was not as conservative as the people who came before him. In addition to possessing a number of academic degrees, he is proficient in both English and French. All of this has provided him with sufficient exposure to see that Morocco needed to change for the better, and he started by treating his wife as an equal.
Princess Lalla Salma cares a lot about how women are treated in the country. She thought that the systems in place were unfair to women. When it came to marriage, women in the traditional nation of Morocco had almost no rights since they were not included in marriage contracts and they had restricted access to the legal right to divorce. She was adamant that the standards needed to be changed.
The royal couple exchanged vows in front of close family and friends on March 21, 2002, and later, in July, they hosted extravagant celebrations to mark the occasion of their wedding. Princess Lalla Salma wore gorgeous traditional clothes and a veil for part of the event. After that, she let her beautiful red hair fall freely and continued the party wearing a brilliant diamond meander tiara.
During their private wedding ceremony, King Mohammed VI and Princess Lalla Salma were joined by their families and close friends.
There is no doubt that the King and his wife are a powerful couple.
The King and Princess Lalla Salma often travel together for official duties. Additionally, she often represents the Kingdom of Morocco in significant events held all over the globe.
She was in attendance at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, which took place in April 2011 in London, and she also attended the investiture of King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands in April 2013.
Due to the fact that Princess Lalla Salma often participated in public events with her husband, she was able to successfully escape the traditional culture of Morocco, which did not respect the rights of women. She began to effect a slow but steady shift in how Moroccan society saw and interacted with its female citizens.
In Morocco, where most people are Muslim, it is common for women to wear the hijab, a veil that covers their head and chest. For this reason, the ordinary people are taken aback whenever they see the King’s wife out in public without a head covering.
Princess Lalla Salma does not follow this custom, and despite the fact that she does not wear as much clothing to hide her body, she nevertheless dresses modestly.
This marriage broke with tradition because Salma was the first commoner in all of Morocco’s history to marry into the royal family. They are blessed to have a daughter, Princess Lalla Khadija, and a son, Crown Prince Moulay Hassan.
The transformation of the nation into a better place was largely due to the efforts of Princess Lalla Salma. In 2005, she established the Lalla Salma Foundation for the Prevention and Treatment of Cancers with the goal of increasing people’s awareness of the disease.
In addition to this, she is quite active in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa.
She received the Sharjah Voluntary Work Award, one of the most prestigious honors in the Arab world, as a result of her efforts and deeds.
Princess Lalla Salma does not have a significant role in the day-to-day operations of the Moroccan government; yet, her presence in the nation has become a turning point for Moroccan women.
Princess Lalla Salma has helped in empowering women in her nation as she represents a new and brighter chapter for women. She rose from the ranks of the ordinary people to become the first lady of the kingdom.
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