She is brilliant, breathtaking and not about to go Hollywood. This week's issue of PEOPLE features exclusive photos and details examining how Beirut-born lawyer Amal Alamuddin, 36, ended the reign of world-famous bachelor George Clooney (who turns 53 on May 6). Although the betrothed pair have not yet made an official engagement announcement, they let their joy - and that ring, an emerald-cut diamond estimated at over 7 carats, which Clooney himself helped design - do the talking. "They want the people they love to know that this is real," says a source in Clooney's circle, "and that they plan on being together forever." Ever since his first marriage, to Talia Balsam from 1989-1992, ended in divorce, Clooney had often said that marriage was something he wasn't "looking out for," as he told PEOPLE in 2006. That was before last October, when he was first linked to the Oxford-and-NYU-educated Alamuddin, an attorney specializing in international law and human rights. "Amal seems to be the best fit for him he's ever had in a partner," says a source who knows Clooney. On April 22 Clooney got down on one knee to propose to her.

An Alamuddin relative says the actor visited Dubai in March to meet her family, including a 48-hour yachting excursion with Amal's sister Tala and half brothers Samer and Ziad. The siblings "weren't surprised that this is such a lightning relationship," the family member tells PEOPLE. "They found George very easy to get along with, cool. They felt at ease with him immediately." A one-woman guy who "loves taking care of someone," says the Clooney source, the actor has rarely been unattached through the decades - but until now, he never felt ready to permanently share his carefully cultivated, zealously guarded dolce vita. "He waited until he was in the right space to meet the right woman. He has matured and evolved, and he has found someone who can keep up with him."

George Clooney's engagement -- and more stories -- are featured in the 5.12.14 issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now.

*Also in this week's People:*
Queen Latifah, Caring For Her Ailing Mother: "We Stay In The Here And Now"
Cold Case Shocker: "We Want To Bring Justice For This Girl"
Celebrity Mother's Day Gift Guide