My 1woman this month is one of the ‘Most powerful Arab women’ according to Forbes! she marks her own path, doesn’t really “play” and doesn’t tend to do “social” without a cause, she will even clear cut not respond to some snoopy questions I might have! but underneath this determined temperament is a humble , loyal , protective mother that is substantially committed to her values and although she feels that she hasn’t done anything worthwhile (except raising her children) she has achieved more than anyone could in a lifetime.
Thus without further ado, get to know this extraordinary woman with many hats :Mary Nazzal-Batayneh
Mary Nazzal-Batayneh is deputy chairperson of Landmark hotel Amman, after taking over ownership of the property from her hotelier father, Yousef Nazzal, in 2009. Nazzal-Batayneh then canceled the hotel’s management contracts with Radisson SAS and founded the first (and only) Jordanian owned and run five-star hotel in the Kingdom with her husband Aysar Batayneh, whom she affectionately calls her rock and ‘The best idea she ever had’.
Taking the hospitality sector by storm, she breathes new life into an industry her grandfather once pioneered. (I know where I am staying in my next visit to Amman 😉 )
In addition, Mary is a barrister specialised in international human rights law with a particular emphasis on Palestinian legal rights. She is a member of the Bar of England and Wales.Her academic background includes a BA in political science from Columbia University in New York; a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) from the College of Law in London and the Bar Vocational Course at Inns of Court School of Law.
She is the co-founder and Chair of the Palestine Legal Aid Fund (PLAF), which is non-profit entity was designed to facilitate strategic legal action on behalf of Palestinian victims of human right abuse and to hold Israel accountable for violations of international law. PLAF was responsible for the planning and execution of several civil and criminal cases across a variety of jurisdictions including England and Spain.
In 2013 , She was the only Jordanian selected as a Young Global Leader (part of the World Economic Forum) who are chosen based on their commitment of their time and talent towards making the world a better place. And in 2014, she was chosen as a cover story for Forbes magazine and one of “Forbes’ 200 Most Powerful Arab Women”. She is also a devoted mother of 3 young children.
1w: What woman inspires you and why?
MNB: My mother of course – she is self-made, real and totally devoted.
My daughter, although she is tiny, is also an inspiration because she is a true star – she is happy, fun and kind.
Also recently, I’ve been working with a small group of women who are the founders of the boycott, sanctions, and divestment (BDS) movement in Jordan. They are intelligent, motivated, and dedicated to an important cause.
1w:How were you as a child?
MNB: I think I came across as quite mature for my age. I went to a Catholic Convent for primary school which I suppose played a role in shaping me to take responsibility at an early age. I had a very exciting imagination too and played a lot alone in the outdoors.
1w: What type of people do you normally gravitate towards? What influence do they have on your life/business?
MNB: I tend to connect with extroverts and passionate people. I suppose we energise and feed off each other. But overall I can’t say that I get influenced easily, I seem to mark my own path.
1w: As founder/CEO of your own hotel chain, how do you seek to inspire and motivate your team?
MNB: I’m genuinely positive, optimistic and I believe that anything is possible. I think that helps.
Of course, if things are not going in the right way I am upfront about it and will expect an improvement. But I will also try and help in achieving the desired result.
1w: Listed as number 38 in the ‘’Most powerful Arab women” as well as the only Jordanian selected as a Young Global Leader, how does this make you feel and does it shape the way you contribute to society?
MNB: It is very common amongst women to feel like they do not deserve such recognition and I must admit I sometimes fall into this trap. I was a little embarrassed on the Forbes recognition especially because I didn’t expect to be the Cover Story of the magazine. It got widespread attention but I still haven’t felt comfortable sharing it on my personal Facebook page for example. Others may have jumped at the opportunity to display the achievement. My father got very excited about it which of course made me happy.
Both awards have given unprecedented exposure to some of the important work I do. I think the Landmark story of a successful local hotel is important because it can instil confidence in the local community and illustrate that imported ideas are not always the best. If we build capacity amongst our local community then we can do wonders.
Also I am grateful that some of my activism like the Palestinian legal work I support or BDS has received attention in such mainstream sources. While grassroots work is key in changing the tide on the issue of Palestine, reaching other audiences like the business community is also critical.
1w: What steps do you take to stay conscious of the need to sustain a balance of work, family and play? what is your daily routine?
MNB: I don’t really “play” and I don’t waste time. I don’t tend to do “social” without a cause. My children are my priority especially now because they are young. I am trying to be a mindful parent and create a very peaceful and happy household so that requires me to shut off distractions when I’m with my children.
I have become very selective as to how to spend my time. I am always trying to kill many birds with one stone, like setting up meetings back to back at night when my children are asleep.
1w: Which prejudices, if any, influence your attitudes and behaviour?
MNB: I tend to gravitate towards women in the workplace and in the sphere of activism. I also tend to like things to get done quickly and if they don’t I look elsewhere or do them myself.
1w: If given the opportunity, what advice would you offer to today’s entrepreneurs as they step into reality?
MNB: Be bold and please present something new, not recycled!
1w: What has been your best idea to date?
Marrying my husband (but I get good ideas all the time honestly!)
1w: In ‘your’ ideal world, how should people communicate?
MNB: Honestly but mindfully and face to face. (Failing that, I must admit I am a fan of whatsapp especially the voice message option!)
1w: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
MNB: Nothing yet – but it could be raising my children, it’s early to tell!
1w: What did you learn from your biggest failure and what was it?
MNB: I think I handled one of my first business partnerships wrong. I still haven’t figured it out. I think I didn’t understand the calibre and motivations of the partner I chose. But sometimes I also think that maybe I gave too much and other times I think I gave too little.
1w: Who is the real Mary when no one’s watching?
MNB: A pensive planner who is happy and grateful.
1w: What do you think about when you’re alone in your car?
MNB: The quickest way to get from A to B with the least traffic lights. And if I do happen to meet that dreaded red traffic light, I see how many emails, texts and phone calls I can make in those few minutes while waiting.
1w: If I came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare?
MNB: I tend to go overboard when I entertain – I like to have a wide selection of Arabic and international starters and mains – and it has to look beautiful. Often guests take pictures of my table for their Instagram account! I like to think it is always a memorable experience.
1w: What are you most afraid of?
MNB: Something harmful happening to my children, explosions and sharks.
1w: From the Many hats that you have is there an extra skill you would like to learn? and why?
MNB: Languages! I wish I had the time and talent to pick up languages!
1w: My Life Mantra is……
MNB : To be grateful and joyous.
1w: A Woman can have it all….Myth or Reality?
MNB: I’m not sure what “it” is! “It” should be happiness – and yes of course we can.