“In the early 20th century, Princess Fatima Al Zamil qualified as one ruler. A blue-blooded lady born of a marriage between members of the Al-Rasheed and Shammar tribes - which makes her a relative of the current Saudi Arabian King Abdullah - she ruled the province of Ha’il from 1911 to 1914 as an administrator of her minor grandson’s estate.
Princess Fatima ran the affairs of her society and people from the historic and lavish three-storey Barzan Palace, over which she had full authority. She received foreign guests such as the British writer and politician Gertrude Bell, a close friend and associate of TE Lawrence (of Arabia). She allowed her visitor to photograph her in her residence with her long beaded hair adorning her chest and with her face uncovered, something that is taboo for many Arab women almost a century later.
What is possibly the most significant fact of Princess Fatima’s reign wasn’t that she ruled over the now demolished 300,000 square metre Barzan Palace, but that she was chosen by the elders of the two most powerful tribes of the central Arabian peninsula in what may be one of the few exercises of tribal democracy in the Gulf.
One may ponder the obstacles that would hinder women from reaching the top post once again. Religion is often used by conservatives to maintain the status quo. However, in modern history, years before Hillary Clinton decided to run for president of the (secular) US, more than one woman has reached the helm of power in Bangladesh, a country founded on Islamic tenets.”
(Above: Fatima Al-Zamil Al-Sabhan Al-Quwaei)
(full article here)