Few among us are born into a life defined by the supremely difficult role that is bearing the sacred burden of royalty before one’s country. As to the life experiences of these highest blue blooded electees, we can only guess from what we read in books and see in movies. We all remember Au-drey Hepburn’s famous role as the princess who decides to flee from her responsibilities for a day, using her temporary freedom to cut her hair and wander around Rome, falling in love and taking a break from thinking about her regular life. But then she returns to all the rules, the etiquette and an eternally fixed smile, addressing journalists, realising that fate is indifferent to the whims of its "royal" subordinates. Her Royal Highness, Princess Hani Sofeeya Iskandar, member of the royal family of Malaysia’s Kelantan Sultanate, shares her thoughts on great dreams, eternal duty, and the challenge of freedom.

In Malaysia, there is no snow. But that’s never caused Christmas in Malaysia to be any less magical. While still in school, I went to Johor to see my beloved grandmother for the winter holidays. She adored the real fairy tale Christmas: she always loved to embroider gifts in colourful paper, to decorate the house and hang glistening garlands on the trees in the garden. Then, a large circle of our relatives would gather, and the holiday would be full of the warmth of family. We, the children, were forced to go to bed early, and the adults wrapped the gifts, quietly, so as not to wake us, as we were sleeping under the cover of Christmas night. In the morning, full of holiday energy, we’d jump out of bed, and, anticipating the joy of surprise, run around the house in search of whatever Christmas had brought us.

Winter is almost over, and snow won’t fall in Malaysia…  Still, there remains the impulse to wish for a miracle. Now, as an adult, I understand that no one is going to create magic for me, while I’m fast asleep. My fairy tale is in my own hands, no matter the day or time of year. But I know that, for the people of the Kelantan Sultanate, miracles can be created by the hands of the royal family, which I was born into. So that means by my hands.
I have always felt within myself the desire and the power to help people and do good. Still a girl, I would watch Wonder Woman cartoons and dream of being just like her. And it seems that, with every year, I do more and more of that. As for the desire to help those who are in need, I can explain that: I overflow with light when I see that my actions are helping change someone’s life for the better. I believe that people with high morals, who realise the value of love and understanding, who have a good heart, can make the world happier. And, by this, I’m not only referring to those who are in power, but to the whole of society. If everyone begins to understand that peace is birthed within each of us personally, then we can recognise how important it is to cultivate a sense of spirituality. But any nation needs an example, and if it has its own princess, then that has to be her.

The life of a royal person is always a challenge. I was born a princess and I don’t know how to live any differently. You must always be collected: to dress well and properly, to go to meeting after meeting, to closely monitor your own behaviour and carefully choose your words, to observe manners of etiquette in short, to behave as befits a royal person. That kind of person is always
being followed, and many people aspire to live up to her. Being aware of this, I, for one, prac-tice long distance running, hoping to use this example to illustrate to the girls of the Sultanate that sport is worth taking part in. The body is a temple, and it should be as beautiful as the soul. I want to explain to the girls how important it is to keep fit, so that they can achieve something for their country. I also encourage them to be proud of the religion and culture of the state of Malaysia, which their more local homeland, Kelantan, is a part of.

The majority of our country’s population practices Islam, and the royal family is likewise expected to practice and respect the laws of that religion. The princess must not contradict the ideal image of a Muslim lady. So one’s reputation is of utmost importance, with regard especially to your social circle and, of course, your significant other. I hope that someday, if God wills it to be, I’ll meet and fall in love with a good man. I’m grateful to my parents for never limiting me by choosing who my husband would be, and thereby bringing me up to understand the value of true, sincere love. To know how priceless that love is. That’s something I now strive to pass on to other people. Family really instills so much in a person.

My father played a great role in my upbringing; I would often stay with him. I can recall what a special joy came over me when my father took me to his plane, which he himself also piloted. Most of the time, it was only short distances we travelled, but I was always fascinated by the same old sky, ocean, and land as they floated by outside the window. What a beautiful planet we’re on! That must be why I dream so much about travelling. I love to see new things and discover a bit of the history and lives of the peoples of other countries. I would love to see all of the sights and wonders of the world, to meet and talk to a variety of people, but… unfortunately, that’s something I just can’t do, at least for now. I sometimes find myself overcome with an irresistible desire just to jump in the car and take off round the world. One day, a round-the-world trip will be a challenge I get to face. If it ends up actually working out like that, that would be a real miracle. But now’s not the time. Who knows, maybe the likelihood of fulfilling this dream is no more likely than the falling of snow in Malaysia, come next Christmas…  For now, I just feel that I am needed here, in my own country.