by Susan Flantzer
Salma Bennani was born on May 10, 1978 in Fez, Morocco. She is one of two daughters of Al-Haj Abdel Hamid Bennani, a school teacher, and his wife Naima Bensouda. Salma’s mother died when she was three years old and thereafter she was raised by her maternal grandmother.
Salma Bennani was educated in private and public schools in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. There she attended Lycée Hassan II, Lycée Moulay Youssef, and l’École Nationale Supérieure d’Informatique et d’Analyse de Systèmes (National School of Computer Science and Systems Analysis), where she received a degree in computer science and was her class valedictorian. Salma is fluent in Arabic, French, English, and Spanish. After graduation, she worked in Casablanca, Morocco as an information services engineer at Omnium North Africa Group, the country’s largest private holding company.
In 1999, Salma met her future husband, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, at a private party. Reportedly, Salma set some ground rules, one of which was insisting on a monogamous marriage as a condition for accepting the King’s proposal. King Mohammed’s father had two wives as had many rulers of Morocco before him. Traditionally, wives of Kings of Morocco remained private figures, so the King surprised many in Morocco when he announced his future wife’s name.
On March 21, 2002, Salma Bennani married King Mohammed VI of Morocco at the Royal Palace in Rabat. She was granted the style Her Royal Highness and the title Princess Lalla. Lalla is a traditional honorific for high-born and royal women that approximately corresponds to the western “Lady” for noble women.
The couple have two children:
Although her predecessors were private figures, Princess Lalla Salma has become a public Islamic consort in the style of Queen Noor, the wife of King Hussein of Jordan and Queen Rania, the wife of King Abdullah II of Jordan. One of her major achievements was the founding in 2005 of the Lalla Salma Foundation – Prevention and Treatment of Cancers to raise public awareness on cancer. With this organization, Princess Lalla Salma organized the first national cancer registry and worked with many international partners in the fight against cancer. Princess Lalla Salma is also involved in HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa and she received the Sharjah Voluntary Work Award, one of the most important awards in Arab world.
Princess Lalla Salma often represents Morocco at events around the world. She attended the wedding of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in London in April 2011, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands’ investiture in April 2013, and the wedding of Prince Guillaume, Hereditary Grand Duke of Luxembourg and Countess Stephanie de Lannoy in October 2013.
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