The Star

Article from The Star, the leading malaysian newspaper:

Saturday February 23, 2008


Stories by KEE HUA CHEE


Tengku Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, youngest daughter of the Sultan of Selangor, would have had the world at her feet living in Kuala Lumpur, but instead she has chosen to stay in Paris.

Tengku Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah leads a charmed life.        

Daughter of the Sultan of Selangor, she has walked along palatial corridors. She is also a very lucky girl, having had close calls with death.

In New York, her limousine skidded and overturned but she emerged from the wreck with only minor bruises. In Paris, a snatch thief grabbed her handbag and dragged her some 30m towards the Place de la Madeleine.


Leading an ordinary life: Tengku Zatashah is a working royal in Paris, even riding the train and a scooter sometimes.

Despite such experiences, Tengku Zatashah, 34, continues to live abroad in Paris, practically a commoner.She does not have a bodyguard, catches the bus, takes the underground Metro and pays bills like everyone else. She also makes do with a Piaggio scooter when the occasion calls for it.

“I’d like to think I am a world citizen, though my heart will always remain in Malaysia,” says Tengku Zatashah.

“I spent my formative years abroad, in London, Barcelona, New York and Paris, in that order, before returning to Kuala Lumpur about six years ago to work as a journalist with a local daily. I chose journalism for a reason.

“I realised writing was the ideal way for me to re-acquaint myself with my homeland and to learn about the people and cultures. My father brought me up to be well-read and open-minded, with a strong sense of responsibility towards Malaysia and her people.

“It’s always a proud moment for me when I see him fight for the rights of women and against all forms of injustice. I want to continue what he has achieved and taught me by organising projects for the good of Selangor and my country.”


With mum Raja Zarina

Tengku Zatashah has always been linked to the Malaysian Red Crescent Society. Once, she even took on the role of Malaysian Youth Ambassador for the organisation. Helping the less fortunate is something she inherited from her mother Raja Datin Paduka Seri Zarina Raja Zainal.“Mum has spearheaded charities all over the world and with such incredible energy,” she says.

Lest anyone thinks Tengku Zatashah is just a pretty face, let it be known that she has a BA (Hons) in Spanish with French studies from Middlesex University, North London, Diploma Cours de Civilisations from Sorbonne University Paris and, since last year, a Masters degree in International Relations and Diplomacy from American Graduate School (AGSIRD) in Paris. She graduated with a magna cum laude.

In the last two years, she has been international corporate communications manager at L’Oreal’s headquarters in Paris.


A Malaysian-French friendship

Tengku Zatashah is currently a specialist in European Union foreign policy affairs and EU integration and expansion.

“My thesis was quite a mouthful: The Challenge of the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy – Why is it difficult to implement a common European Policy with a case study of EU and US relations.

“I have participated in international political conferences like the First Global International Studies Conference organised by the World International Studies Committee in Istanbul, Turkey where I was a panel member and presented my paper entitled Turkey and the European Union – Integration of Disintegration? I also sat on the panel for Human Rights and Good Governance in Turkey,’’ she says.

It was in Turkey that Tengku Zatashah was mistaken for a man – before they saw her in person.


With hubby Aubry Rahim Mennesson and the Sultan of Selangor.

“When I submitted my name, people assumed I was a man due to the ‘Shah’ in ‘Zatashah’. In official communications, I was referred to as Mr Zatashah!” 

Promoting Malaysia

“Malaysia is always in my heart. My dream is to be a goodwill ambassador, if you like, promoting Malaysia and France. It’s important to build bridges as the world is shrinking and globalisation exists whether you like it or not,’’ says Tengku Zatashah.


(Left) The newlyweds Tengku Zatashah and Aubry Rahim Mennesson leaving the Royal Banquet Hall after the dinner on Wednesday, followed behind by the Sultan of Selangor, Regent of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, Raja Puan Besar of Perak Tuanku Zara Salim and the Crown Prince of Selangor Tengku Amir.

“The more we learn about other nations, the more open-minded we become and the more we can grow as a nation. Malaysia deserves to be firmly on the world stage especially in light of our 50th year of Merdeka (independence).“We have shown as a nation that peace among different races and religions can be achieved, economic growth is sustainable, and that we have a country that is beautiful, generous and hospitable,” she adds.

Determined to promote the country, the princess is planning an exhibition entitled Gateway to Malaysia in Paris this year.

“I have lived for three years in Paris and realise that many are unaware of Malaysia despite the two countries enjoying bilateral trade for 50 years – France was among the first to establish its embassy in the country in 1957. Hence my idea of a major exhibition on Malaysia in Paris.

“The date is still not fixed but should be around May or June this year, if we manage to receive financial support from Malaysia. With the support of the Malaysian Ambassador to France, Datuk S. Thanarajasingam, and my husband Aubry (Rahim Mennesson), I began working with one of France’s leading stage designers Jean-Christophe Choblet, the man behind the creation of Paris-Plage (a manmade beach along the River Seine).

”This interactive, world-class, international platform will showcase Malaysia’s cultural delights, exotic destinations, facts and figures, as well as legendary characters.

“Called Gateway to Malaysia (Les Portes de la Malaisie), it will be held at the world-famous and prestigious Musee Quai Branly.

“This premier museum is dedicated to indigenous arts, cultures and civilisations from Asia, Africa, Oceania and Americas. As it is, Quai Branly Museum holds 1,337 Malaysian primitive art objects, of which 12 are on permanent display.

“Holding Gateway to Malaysia at Quai Branly is a major coup as it will give us international exposure and it is an honour for both sides as the Museum is under the aegis of the French Ministry of Culture,” says the princess.

During the three-day exhibition, there will be three workshops targeted at families and children.

“These will focus on batik, traditional Malay kite-flying and silat, as they form the backbone of our national culture.

“I am still looking for corporate sponsorship and ministerial assistance. Our Prime Minister has kindly lent his support, and the event will be under the royal patronage of my father, the Sultan of Selangor.”


Tengku Zatashah’s friends from France.—AZMAN GHANI/TheStar

Eco concern

Tengku Zatashah is also a bit of an environmentalist.

“My key interest is sustainable development as we must continue to progress and yet maintain our environment. There has been too much degradation and abuse for too long!” she says.

“Global warming affects us all, whether you live in an idyllic kampung or swanky penthouse in KL. It’s a global problem and needs global solutions, and I plan to contribute in my way, however small.

“The European Union’s approach in environmental initiatives and legislation of laws that protect the environment is a stunning example of how diverse nations can work together towards a common goal.

“Countries in the Asian-Pacific region have made substantial efforts to address climate changes at national and international levels. We now know the weather is changing as we speak. We need to be pro-active and innovative in pursuing sustainable development.”

Does she have thoughts of returning home?

“Of course. Working and living in Paris is not forever. I intend to come home as I miss Malaysia; KL and Shah Alam are both my hometowns.

“I was brought up with a Malay sense of duty, and I am also very lucky to have studied and lived abroad for decades. I have the best education from East and West, so I am sure I can do some good based on what I have learned and experienced.


“My father always reminds me to never forget one’s roots, and, as he is an example of working for the good of Selangor, it’s only natural for me to want to emulate that.” 


November nuptials

Tengku Zatashah and Aubry Rahim Mennesson, 35, tied the knot three months ago in Paris.“We were married last November at La Grande Mosque in Paris. The ceremony was officiated by the Grand Imam and rector of the mosque, Algerian-born Dr Dalil Boubakeur. He is the head of the French-Muslim association and works closely with President Nicolas Sarkozy. We were very fortunate to have him kindly officiate our wedding,” says Tengku Zatashah.

Her family and close friends celebrated the union by chartering one of the bateaux (open top boats) for a romantic dinner cruise on the Seine.

On Wednesday, the Sultan of Selangor hosted a wedding reception for some 500 guests at Istana Alam Shah in Klang. About 30 guests from France flew in for the happy occasion.

The Sultan’s new son-in-law is an entrepreneur and also specialises in film and cultural events and communications.

Tengku Zatashah had her official portraits taken at Harcourt Studio. Founded in 1934, the studio in London is famous in the photographic world for its black and white photos. Actors, entertainers, sport stars, authors and politicians have swanned through Harcourt’s doors. The studio’s inimitable lighting technique is known as “the Harcourt style”.


Did you know?

Tengku Zatashah had her official portraits taken at Harcourt Studio. Founded in 1934, the studio in London is famous in the photographic world for its black and white photos. Actors, entertainers, sport stars, authors and politicians have swanned through Harcourt’s doors. The studio’s inimitable lighting technique is known as “the Harcourt style”. 


3 thoughts on “The Star

  1. I have come across this incredible article about you and your life in Europe. I had the pleasure of meeting your Mum in the Hamptons and spent many wonderful times getting to know her and what was important to her. I remember her talking of your wedding and now see photos of you and your handsome husband. Much good luck and good fortune to you both. I just email your Mum and hope to hear from her soon. It is nice to finally put a name with a beautiful face. I hope our paths can cross in the future.

    Albert Lynch
    Luxury Marketing Council

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