Princess Haya, always considered a free spirit in the world of Middle Eastern royalty, where protocol and obscurity are expected of women, has fled her husband, the ruler of Dubai, and reportedly gone into hiding in England.
She also has hired a divorce lawyer who has worked for the British royal family, according to Business Insider.
The decision to leave her husband and Dubai arose from disturbing details the princess reportedly learned concerning one of the sheik’s daughters, who herself tried to flee Dubai last year. The daughter, Sheikha Latifa, appeared in a 40-minute video saying she had been imprisoned on and off for several years and had been abused. Her friends say she was forcibly returned after commandos stormed a boat carrying her off the coast of India when she tried to flee the Emirates.
Princess Haya’s escape was brought to light, ironically, by her husband, a poet who penned a few lines to lash out at his wayward bride – one of six and the most high-profile.
The poem, titled “You Lived and You Died” and posted by the Dubai ruler’s son, is about disloyalty, leading to speculation it is about Princess Haya.
“You betrayed the most precious trust, and your game has been revealed,” the poem says. “Your time of lying is over and it doesn’t matter what we were nor what you are.”
The Oxford-educated princess, who is the daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan, has been quite the rebel even before her very public act of “good riddance” to her billionaire racehorse owner husband, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The princess, who is 45, is an accomplished Olympic equestrian and is friends with Queen Elizabeth II. She married Sheik Mohammed, who is 69, in 2004. The Dubai ruler is said to have 23 children by different women.
Princess Haya’s flight paves the way for a showdown in a London courtroom later this month.
The family division court hearing scheduled on July 30 is expected to focus on who will have custody of their two young children now that the princess has left Dubai.
The sheikh, who is the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates in addition to being the ruler of Dubai, is among the most influential figures in the Middle East.
The harsh words of his poem about the princess caused reverberations and speculation throughout royal circles in the Middle East and beyond.
The couple has a daughter, 11, and son, 7, together. Both were educated at elite English universities and they share a love for horses.
Media reports indicate she took the children with her when she left Dubai. Under Islamic law, a woman can at least nominally retain custody of her children in a divorce. Nonetheless, decisions about schooling, travel and lifestyles of the children often remain with the father in the Middle East. Given the Dubai ruler’s power, it is unlikely Princess Haya would have had a say in her children’s ability to leave the UAE had she not reportedly fled with them.
Haya’s half-brother is Jordan’s current monarch, King Abdullah, who was pictured at her side when she wed Dubai’s ruler, reportedly becoming his sixth wife.
She is a former Olympic athlete who competed in equestrian show jumping in the 2000 Sydney Games, a taboo-breaking feat for women from traditionally Muslim countries. Her love of sports and horse riding began early — she was just 13 when she became the first female to represent Jordan internationally in equestrian show jumping.
Haya has long stood out from other wives of Gulf Arab rulers not only because of her Jordanian royal background and Olympic ambitions, but because she was seen and photographed in public. Most rulers’ wives in the Gulf are never photographed and their faces and names aren’t known to the public. But Princess Haya wasn’t only visible at humanitarian events, often seated front row in Dubai by her husband’s side, but was a stylish fixture in glossy magazines and at prestigious equestrian events in the U.K,, like the Royal Ascot and Epsom Derby.
In a 2009 Daily Mail interview, the princess said she deliberately postponed marriage until she could meet a man “who doesn’t feel he has to mold me.”
She was quoted as saying, “You have to accept that you’re in control of yourself but not your destiny.”
The government of Dubai hasn’t commented on the media reports about Princess Haya fleeing with her children to Europe.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.