A young ambitious girl, passionate about learning …eager to be creative and productive in order to serve her beloved country…great potential she has, glowing with vibrant energy and love to devote her talents and abilities to her community, yet sadly, her financial condition stands as a gloomy obstacle in the way of her educational ambitions and her career plans because she cannot join the university, which offers the specialization she dreams of.

This is not a fictional story; it’s a story from our reality…a story of destroyed hopes and collapsing aspirations…it’s a story that we witness at the beginning of every academic year, when hundreds of distinguished high-school graduates face a shaky and non-promising future.

Therefore, every year Dar Al-Hekma University comes up with creative ways in order to urge notable men and women from our society to financially support students to achieve their educational ambitions, which in turn, will benefit the whole society.

This year, our wonderful president, Dr. Suhair Hasan Al-Qurashi, has given her directives to engage everyone to participate in such a great cause; to fund a scholarship for a student! Hence, the Student Development and the Drama Club teamed up to organize a Cultural Night under the name Harmony of Civilizations, which is meant to serve several purposes and areas.

The Cultural Night is mainly a fund-raising event for scholarships at Dar Al-Hekma University, and it’s certainly a noble cause. Is there anything more rewarding than contributing to a girl’s education and hence bringing happiness to her? You might think that the girl who will continue her education will be just another Bachelor’s degree holder, but in fact, every well-educated girl is a treasure in our society because she will give back to her family and her community. This cause is not just a scholarship for one girl only; it’s a genuine investment and a gift to the whole society. By supporting our girls’ learning journeys, we are also empowering women because providing education for our girls is the real power that women and societies require. 

In addition, the event aims at entertaining women and girls since entertainment is a human need in order to recharge energy, relief stress, and have a balanced life full of joy and giving.

The third goal of the event is to convey a very vital message to the young generation; tolerance and acceptance among different nations and cultures, and this is what creates harmony in life. In our time of endless disparities, wars, and prejudices, the Harmony of Civilizations event sends  a message of peace and love to all; a message that urges us to rise above our differences, to respect one another, and to accept and understand the differences among nations while holding onto the values and principles that distinguish our culture.

The show opens with a comic miming scene of two different cultures; a folksy Egyptian wedding party and a French wedding ceremony. Each wedding has its own traditions and customs, but what happens when the two meet? Will they accept each other? Unfortunately, they will look at each other with contempt, and a fight will start for a very trivial reason; each team believes it is superior and better than the other.

After that, a war dance begins. The two teams fight and the war ends with the loss of everyone, for war is always destructive. After they all die, a fantasy scene begins; a young girl dressed in white appears sad and shocked at the consequences of the war. The dead rise with remorse and sorrow on their faces. They look at each other and start realizing that they had killed people who are not very different from them, for there is the loving mother, the caring father, the responsible employee, and the passionate learner…they decide that nothing can make life better than love and tolerance.

A “peace” contemporary dance performed by Yogini Fatima follows, and then the journey of Dar Al-Hekma starts as the different performances take the audience to five cultures/countries starting with Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, India, Syria, and then heading back home to Saudi Arabia.

What is so special about this event?

It’s a Saudi product, sponsored by the General Committee of Entertainment, presented at Dar Al-Hekma Auditorium, managed by Dr. Sanaa Askool, Dean of Student Affairs, and organized by a team of dynamic and enthusiastic Saudi females such as Ms. Sahar Bahrawi, Marketing Consultant, Ms. Areej Fida, Ms. Lina Kurdi, Ms. Dona Al-Mohammadi, Ms. Haneen Osta, Ms. Sarah Jamjoum, Ms. Dina Hawandaji, Ms. Maysoon Al-Sowayeg, and Ms. Hind Sahtoot.

There are over 150 Saudi girls participating in the event, which is divided into several groups, each group is being trained by a professional trainer and choreographer. The wedding and war scenes were developed and written by myself in an attempt to send a message of how ridiculous intolerance can be.

Participants were trained by professional fitness and dance trainers such as Coach Norah Al-Badr, Yogini Fatimah, notable Kuwaiti trainer Awash, and the well-known Zubma trainer Hanaa Al-Sapan. For the Indian dance, our student Maysaa took charge of the training, and the Bangladesh dance was trained by Coach Ellen Poly.

Moreover, Ms. Eman Jabr was in charge of a Dabkah performance in order to show support to our beloved Syrian brothers and sisters.

Last but not least, the event closes with a finale Saudi performance led by Ms. Samiah al-Bishri, the director of the Committee of Female Theatre under the Society of Culture and Art in Jeddah.

And of course, all of this wouldn’t have happened without our students’ commitment and efforts to practice and balance their busy schedules between studying, exams, projects and 30 hours of training rehearsals. “Participating in this event was like a practical lesson in time management,” one student said during one of the rehearsals. “We are under a lot of pressure, but we are enjoying our time as well,” added another student.

The most beautiful thing about this event is that it’s not just for entertainment; it’s an experience that combines charity work with fun, boosts self-confidence, and promotes team work among students, trainers and employees. Throughout the process of arranging and organizing the event, all teams have shown a great sense of responsibility, cooperation, and coordination among the different departments and divisions of Dar Al-Hekma University as each and every one had the same goal; to make this event a success in order to contribute to the students’ scholarships.

Harmony of Civilizations is a panoramic theatrical performance which includes comedy, dancing, and amusement conveying a heart-warming, elevating message that emphasizes peace, acceptance, and respect towards other cultures.

And the cherry on the top is that Harmony of Civilizations is an all-female production that can be added to Saudi women’s numerous achievements.

Don’t miss the event! It’s Wednesday, May 3rd and Thursday, May 4th.

harmony 1

Advertisements

Nike, Just DO Your Homework!

Posted: March 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

As a Saudi woman who loves exercising and lives by the belief that working out is an essential part of any daily routine, I felt personally offended when I watched the recent Nike ad. Since my teenage years (in the early 80’s), my mom, who was born in the early 50’s, has taught me that working out is not something temporary in our life; it’s a life style. During the 80’s, my mom and I would play workout videos of Jane Fonda, Raquel Welsh, and later Callan Pinckney at least 3 times a week along with half an hour of swimming or walking in our small garden.

Back then, it wasn’t ordinary to work out, but our family and friends would always look at mom with respect for committing to exercising. I have to also mention that my eldest aunt, who is 11 years older than my mom, has always been (and until now) crazy about working out!

Exercise back then was not the usual thing for a woman to do (not even for a man), but it was never frowned upon by people in our community.

Moreover, things have become better when I moved from Makkah to Jeddah in the early 90’s after I got married. My two sisters-in-law used to go to a gym called KTG (as far as I remember). I couldn’t join them back then because I was a new mom busy learning how to take care of my first child, but I would never quit exercising at home. It only needed a video tape and some comfy clothes to be fit, and I managed to be fit and stay fit till this day.

Later on, one of my cousins, Nada Hamza Al-Suleimani, who is the first Saudi certified fitness trainer in Jeddah, guided me a lot with the most updated nutrition and workout plans. She also introduced me to Cindy Crawford’s Shape Your Body program, which did wonders to me. Of course, I had my ups and downs during my journey with exercise, but it never stopped; rather it developed. I joined several gyms in Jeddah (some were part of hospital programs), and very few were independent gyms like Concept 10 and Gold’s Gym. And finally, after many years of going to different gyms, which are always crowded with women from different ages, I managed to have my own home gym.

And today, after all of that, Nike creates an ad that shows us as a society that rejects working out and stigmatizes women who exercise! I really feel offended! I know not all women in Saudi Arabia exercise, but I am, along with so many women, are part of this society. We exercise, and we observe how people react to us. I have never heard of a Saudi woman being shamed for exercising (at least not in the urban areas).

Moreover, since 2010 and until now, there have been many groups of female and male experts, nutritionists, trainers, and doctors whose sole goal is to spread health awareness and to motivate people to eat healthy and to exercise. Those experts are young and middle-aged Saudi men and women. Among them is Dr. Rayan Karkadan and his wife Dr. Shaymaa Al-Shareef, Ms. Jumana Jalal, Dr. Manal Marghalani, and Dr. Abdul Rahman Bukhari, to mention a few.

Due to those people’s motivational campaigns, more and more girls and women started to embrace exercise in their lives, and more gyms have opened based on the high demand.

Also, most private schools (since the late 90’s till now) offer PE classes, and there have always been competitions and tournaments among the best schools. Leading universities in Jeddah such as Dar Al-Hekma University and Effat University have amazing and well-equipped gyms for students and for employees (free of charge). Also, these universities have teams of basketball and tennis, and those teams compete in annual tournaments. Here, I am talking about Jeddah alone, but I know from some of my friends who live in Riyadh and Dammam that the situation is almost the same in their cities.

However, public schools do not have PE classes for girls and only one class or two maximum per week for boys. The problem with these schools is far more complicated than having PE classes or not for girls; they don’t have basic educational facilities for students (boys and girls) and the situation is worse than being described by anyone ever (don’t get me started…I would need volumes!).

So, coming from such a background, being a vibrant woman who has embraced physical activity most of her life, and witnessing such a boom in the workout world in my city in less than 5 years…all of that makes me really upset to see an ad that degrades my society and trivializes the issue in such an inaccurate way. I guess, we as Saudi women, are doomed to be stereotyped forever and doomed to be looked at as the oppressed beings who are in desperate need of the white woman or man’s help! I think the media loves this image of us; otherwise, they won’t have any material to talk about.

Yet the problem of the ad is not just my personal reaction towards it; it’s four more major issues!

The first is in the way the ad showed Muslim women revealing their bodies in order to workout. I am not a hijabi fanatic, but wearing shorts is not an image of a true Muslim woman. Besides, as a woman who knows very well what it means to work out, I know that wearing shorts or revealing outfits is not a requirement. Female Muslim athletes around the world have proven that they can be athletic while preserving their decency…remember the Burkini athletes?

The second issue is that the ad is creating a new image for women to follow; being strong makes you a better woman as opposed to being beautiful/vulnerable makes you more desirable. Who are they to impose on women what and how to be? A woman can be anything she wants to be; strong, vulnerable, peaceful, calm, rebellious…etc. No one has the right to tell us how we should be. The ad is actually contradicting itself, and it can easily backfire. “What would they say about you?” Ok, Nike…what if I don’t want to exercise or reveal my body, what would people say about me? What if I wanted to look more feminine? What would people say? What if I didn’t spend my money on your sportswear? What if I bought my sportswear from Reebok or from an unknown brand?

What would people say? I really don’t care, and it never crosses my mind when I exercise. What I care about is how ads shape our thoughts and impose on us certain images. “Be strong and rebellious” is the new “Be slim and beautiful”… It’s just another way to control women and to shape the public opinion. That’s not empowering, guys! It’s just another way of changing women to fit certain media-made standards! I wonder what the next image would be!

The third issue with the ad is that it is not really helping us as Saudi women; in fact, such an ad, when seen by conservatives, will only prove them right! They will take this ad against all our calls for equal rights and for promoting exercise for women. Now they have a solid proof that the whole idea of working out is part of a Westernization conspiracy against Muslim women; a conspiracy that aims at encouraging women to rebel against decency. What people don’t realize is that any interference from the American and British media in our issues as Saudi women has always been nothing but a hindrance to any progress. Anything that comes from the West (good or bad) …absolutely anything is just looked at as pure evil, and hence, any decision in the favor of women is frozen. Even within families, I believe now after this ad, some conservative fathers’ attention would be dragged to the issue of indecent clothes while working out…this will make it much harder for their daughters. I think it’s going to be “an eye-opener” for such fathers. (pun intended) You guys are not helping; you’re adding fuel to fire.

Most importantly, the core of the problem of exercise for females, as notable Saudi economist Reem Asaad has put it in her Snapchat account, is that the whole idea upon which the ad is based is inaccurate. Is it really the society who prevents women from working out or frowns upon their physical activity? “No” says Reem Asaad, “It is all in the hands of the decision-makers, which is not the society whatsoever!” It is true that the society has a role, but once a decision is taken from “above”, everyone conforms to it, even if they disagree with it, adds Reem Asaad.

And this leads me to the fourth problem with the Nike ad; they didn’t do their homework well! I have done a quick and simple survey a month ago, to which 323 women from different cities in Saudi Arabia responded. Most respondents were women from Jeddah, Makkah, and Riyadh; others were from Dammam, Al-Jubail, Al-Madina, and Al-Qaseem.

The survey included girls and women from different ages and different educational backgrounds and work fields. It also included students and stay-at-home moms. 33% of women said they exercise regularly, 53% said they exercise sometimes, and only 13% said they never exercise. 54% said they exercise at home and 10% said they exercise at the gym.

Now the central question in the survey was “If you do not exercise at all, what are your reasons?” and guess what the majority said? Nope, they didn’t say that they were worried about what the society might say about them. 55% of the women who said they never exercise chose this answer “the cost of gyms is so high”, and 17% said “the cost of workout equipment is high.” Other responses varied between 16% “I don’t like exercising”, 45% “I don’t have time”, 1% “I don’t believe in its importance” and 2% “My family/husband prevents me.” Zero percent said they believe it was forbidden by religion.

Another essential question in the survey was “Do you know women (in your society) who exercise?” 80% responded with a “yes”! Also, when asked about people’s reaction to women who exercise and how the society looks at those women, 70% responded that people admired and encouraged such women who exercises, 29% said that people were neutral about those women, and only 1% said that people questioned those women’s morals.

What does this show? Two things; the Nike advertisement team hasn’t done their homework well, and that their popular slogan “Just Do It!” seems to be a “Just Don’t Do It” when it comes to researching and surveying. I wonder on what basis they have created such an ad; on Middle Eastern societies in the eighties? Maybe! Or maybe they were driven by their “Just Do It” thingy that they just did the ad without thinking! Way to go, Nike! What enthusiasm!

To conclude, I am glad that Nike did this ad because it made me realize how aware our society has become regarding exercising. My last question in the survey was “What is the most thing that helps women embrace an active and healthy lifestyle?” and the answers were heart-warming. 85% responded “having self-motivation and a true desire to live a healthy life.” Other responses included: 65% “having more gyms in all neighborhoods with reasonable prices”, 46% “Family and up-bringing”, 28% “Nutrition and fitness programs on social media”, 27% “School and university”, 21% “specifying time for exercise during working hours”, 14% “not depending completely on housemaids”, and only 1% responded by “having equipment and sportswear from costly brands”…the last one made me laugh hard; how ironic! It also made me happy and proud that Saudi women are becoming more and more aware that it’s not about buying stuff from well-known brands; it’s about their deep desire to change and commit to a healthy lifestyle.

Truly, wise and well-educated women know it’s not about buying sportswear from Nike that will free them and make them commit to exercise. More and more women now are starting to realize that the best gym and sportswear is “commitment.” God bless Saudi women. They are great whether they purchase or don’t purchase Nike products.

*The survey is still active and I will update it every week.

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PVJ6XSW

Written by: Eman AlWazeer
Translated by: Maha Noor Elahi

After more than ten years of suffering and being forced to leave his homeland, Makkah, Prophet Mohammad
(Peace Be Upon Him) returned to the sacred land with his heart full of love and eagerness. After all that struggle, he returned to where the body of his beloved wife, Khadija, rested in peace. He returned to that woman who embraced his tears after a long period of deprivation. How can he forget all that compassion? In spite of the passing of years, despite her death, the shade of the sweet memories he lived with her still moves his heart. A tear dropped from his eyes as he remembered her, wishing that she could be with him during these glorious moments as she had shared with him torture and pain. After standing sadly and silently for a while in front of her grave, his army got inside Makkah from all directions, and he started calming down Makkah’s people, who used to torture him, by saying his famous words: “Go…You are free!” How can humanity not bow in reverence to this great and forgiving heart?

Yet, it pleased him that, at least, Khadija could hear the axes breaking the statues that she had always despised and could never worship. Khadija, that great woman who comes from an original Arabian descent, famous for its courage, generosity, and nobleness, had refused all marriage proposals of the noblest and wealthiest men in Makkah in order to take care of her daughter and son from her deceased ex-husbands. But the wealth she had inherited obliged her, as it was the custom in Makkah, to invest in trade business. Hence, she needed an honest strong man whom she could trust to assist her. In search for this man, she heard about the greatness of Mohammad, the young man who has been well known for his incomparable rare honesty.

Naturally, she employed him to be in charge of her business.
Khadija looked at Mohammad with the insights of a mature woman who appreciates men for their morals and intellects, not for their appearance and wealth. She was overwhelmed by his nobleness and wisdom in spite of his young age (twenty-five years old), and she saw in him a promising great man. However, she kept her feelings hidden, for how could she think of a man who was fifteen years younger than her? And that was not all; she thought that he would probably never think of her, as he knew her high position among the people of Makkah surrounded by all those rich men, who were asking for her love. How could he, the poor orphan, think of her without possessing anything in the world except his honesty and his pure great Arabian origin?

Yet Khadija could hide her admiration towards Mohammad no more. Her feelings were obvious while she was talking to her friend, Nafeesa Bent Monya, about the honesty and nobleness of that young man. Her friend could see her eyes’ radiance while she was describing Mohammad’s virtues, and so she decided to do something about it. She immediately went to Mohammad asking him about his reasons for abandoning marriage while he needed a caring wife to share with him life’s sweetness and difficulties. Nafeesa did not want to embarrass Mohammad nor Khadija; she made her offer without mentioning any name saying to Mohammad: “What would you do if you were called to beauty, original descent, wealth, and honor?” Immediately, Mohammad realized with his innate intelligence that Nafeesa was referring to Khadija, for who else but her had these qualities altogether?

Mohammad hastened to his uncles to go with him to ask Khadija’s hand for marriage, and the blessed wedding happened quickly in splendor and purity. It was a marriage based on true mutual feelings of respect and love, not on secular or momentary benefits. The Prophet lived with Khadija for twenty-five years in which she was to him the loving caring wife and the mother of their six children. Moreover, she was a mother for him when he needed her support and sympathy. She healed his heart’s wounds and made him forget the days of deprivation and cruelty.
When the spirit of Gabriel visited the Prophet in “Ghar Hera” for the first time, Mohammad rushed to Khadija horrified by what he had seen. Khadija, in turn, absorbed his fears and calmed him down by her motherly love saying: “Rejoice at this, my cousin, and fear nothing. I hope you will be the Prophet of this nation!” According to her prior knowledge gained from a Christian relative, Werqa Ben Nofel, she had heard about the last Prophet’s prophesy. The incident that happened to Mohammad had only assured her that the new religion would be conveyed through her beloved great husband. Now, that is an image of a true graceful woman with a broad vision; a woman who has inspired her husband and strengthened him for the sake of truth, not mundane desires.

Since then, the couple’s life had changed from comfort and prosperity to a severe flood of hardship, pain, and distress. Since the announcement of “Da’wa” or Call for Islam, the couple’s life transferred into a different phase. The Prophet used to return to his house with hurt feelings, dust on his head, and thorns stuck on his clothes to find Khadija waiting for him with a steady shining smile spreading hope and patience in his heart encouraging him for more forgiveness and tolerance. Isn’t this the best thing a man can find in his wife during hard times? But that was not all; khadija had spared all her money for Islam without giving a second thought of saving some for her and her family as she believed that there would be no poverty with the glow and light of Islam, and no wealth with the darkness of atheism and disbelief. Those are truly the deeds of a woman who had surpassed men by her unique virtues.

Khadija remained supporting her husband and believing in him and in the new religion until she died as a result of the harsh “She’b” siege. It was a melancholic year for the Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), but life had to go on. The Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) got married to other women, but he could never forget Khadija as the fragrance of her genuine love was engraved deeply in his memory embracing his being for the rest of his life. That was Khadija; the loyal wife, the compassionate lover, and the great mother who comprehended the true meaning of love, and enfolded the Prophet’s heart even after her death. She was and will always be a glorious example for Muslim women who are willing to have a role in their husbands’ lives and in the history of their nation.

My Book is Released!

Posted: June 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

It has been a while since I last updated my blog, but this was for a reason and a good one too! I have been working on editing and publishing my poetry compilation; A Saudi Woman’s Voice!

The poems in the book display my simple journey and experiences in life since 2001 till 2015, and I was fortunate and blessed to have the book edited by the distinguished editor Ms. Linda Yamak and reviewed by two of the most unique women I have met online; Ms. Mira Al-Khateeb and Dr. Zilal Meccawy. The cover was designed by Syrian designer, Ms. Nour Al-Sebai.

The book is available in paperback, hardcover, and e-book formats.

You can find it on the following pages:

On Xlibris:

http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-001020214/A-Saudi-Womans-Voice.aspx

On Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Saudi-Womans-Voice-Maha-Elahi/dp/1503563626/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1433583341&sr=8-1&keywords=a+saudi+woman%27s+voice&pebp=1433672284770&perid=1GBQB861BCS87Y06YJYA

On Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-saudi-womans-voice-maha-noor-elahi/1121881218?ean=9781503563629

I hope you enjoy it. Waiting for your feedback.

In a Flash

Posted: August 27, 2014 in Uncategorized

Angelic innocence
Shimmering on children’s faces…
Spring’s fragrance
Encircling heavenly bodies with laces;
Vanishing in a flash!
An effervescent laughter
Of friends and lovers
Ascending higher and higher
Spears of youth and power
Standing still as a royal tower;
Fading in a flash!
The most joyous times;
The unforgettable.
The most melancholic mimes;
The indelible…
Are liquefied by the spin of life…
A reality that is inconsolable;
An eclipse that occurs in a flash!
The precious, the cheap
The superficial, and the deep…
All evaporate in a flash!
Eventually…the leader and his herd
The valuable moments and the absurd
Will be dim in a flash!
End of scene…
End of tale…..
Approaching the inevitable
Blackout….

Monday, July 14, 2003

Grace

Posted: August 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

In the heart of the frosty land
As spring was thriving to take its stand,
There, at the tranquil city of Göteborg,
In a melodic solitude by the Göta Canal,
Anonymously wandered I.
In a walk not set nor planned
Buoyantly unaccompanied;
No one but nature & I.
Allured I was by the naked trees
Boasting their nude branches reaching sublime
Philandering with the azure blue skies.
I walked airing an ecstatic chime
Shivering as the crisp wind passed by,
Yet feeling divinely warm from the inside.
Perhaps at forty three,
There’s nothing that can blow one’s mind
Like a silent talk with nature’s moody sighs.
Perhaps there’s nothing at forty three
That can be as animating as a solitary embrace
That unswervingly connects you to God’s grace.
Nothing as emancipating as listening to the trees
As they tempt you to read between their lines
Untold stories hidden beneath the booming pines.
It’s the enthralling luxury of being lost
Of having the ability to take a path
And then changing it at the same instant
Without worrying about that vile clock
Or about what that switch might cost.
A liberating care-free walk it was indeed
Away from Capitalism’s straining slavery
I was simply breaking free
Breathing the entity of my being
In my long-sought solo stray
Cuddled by the morning breeze
Delving deep in the human in me!

Göteborg, Sweden
March 27, 2014

٢٠١٤٠٨٠٣-٠١٣١٠٤-٥٤٦٤٨٨٨.jpg

٢٠١٤٠٨٠٣-٠١٣١٠٤-٥٤٦٤٥٨٩.jpg

٢٠١٤٠٨٠٣-٠١٣١٠٤-٥٤٦٤٢٩٧.jpg

Saudi Arabia; oppression, rigorousness, and a great deal of limitations; perhaps that’s all what you’ve heard or read about Saudi Arabia, and when it comes to women, the case is even worse. I am not trying to change what you think about Saudi Arabia here; rather I will just take you on a quick fresh journey from the heart of Jeddah…fresh as in 2013! With all the negative international media coverage about Saudi Arabia, you might find it almost impossible to believe that you are going to read about entertainment and fun in Saudi Arabia!

In the last few years, a lot of Saudi young men have amazingly overrun YouTube channels through a variety of short comedy programs criticizing common social, economic, and political issues, and later on, they went on different theatres in Riyadh and Jeddah, performing what is internationally known as stand-up comedy, doing a great job ever since they started. Amongst them are Omar Hussein, Fahad Al-Butairi, HishamFaqeeh, BadrSaleh, and many others, but it may seem just normal for those young men to bloom in a male-dominated society. What you might have never heard about is that there are a few notable female entertainers in Saudi Arabia, specifically in Jeddah, for “life” finds its way in those who want to enjoy it regardless of their condition or the restrictions around them.

A few years ago, a young Saudi academic and IT specialist, who happens to be a friend of mine, confined to me that she wanted to do something really big…something that would create a buzz in our society! And since she had always had this sharp and thought-provoking sense of humor, her dream came true, and she has become the first YouTube Saudi female entertainer! Hatoon Kadi is not a full-time comedy program presenter; she is a wife and a mother of two adorable boys.

Hatoon 1

Hatoon Qadi and her sons

Her YouTube program “Noon Al-Niswa” represents the voice of every-day Saudi women, who are not from the high or velvet class, and who have balanced, wise attitudes and insights about life, family, and work. The program; in addition, criticizes many female behaviors in the Saudi society, especially acts that are associated with the nouveau riche and the so-called “cool” generation of females. In a cynical light-hearted way, Hatoon mocks the “cool wannabes”, who are usually appearance-centered, show-offs, and completely dependent on maids to serve them and raise their kids. Hatoon tackles these social issues from a woman’s perspective, without making judgments or offering solutions; she just displays reality in her own way, and if that makes her “audience enjoy a good laugh, she feels satisfied.”

Nevertheless, “Noon Al-Niswa” is only a small part of Hatoon’s life. Most of her time, she is a caring mother, who works half of the day and runs after her kids the other half. “I have started my career when I was pregnant with my first son Ahmed and I never stayed home. Maybe I was lucky because the place I worked at provided a very good nursery service, which was a relief, so we had always been a package, leaving home at 7:30 and coming back around 5 pm. In Saudi Arabia, I used to have a maid, but she was never a cook or a nanny as I usually take off my Abayah and put on my apron once I return home to prepare dinner for my family. I have always believed that it is the mother’s responsibility to ensure good nutrition for her family. Now as I am doing my PhD at the UK, things are different as there is no full-time maid, so in the morning I just urge everyone to do their beds, I clean bathrooms, load the dishwasher, and then come back after a full day to do the rest.Well, I know it’s not a very pinky and bright picture, but it is manageable and rewarding.”

Along with her daily chores as a wife and mother, Hatoon is preparing for her PhD degree at the University of Sheffield Information School. Her research is about the impacts of the deployment of virtual learning environment systems on teaching in Saudi higher education institutions.

Needless to say, Hatoon’s experience is a perfect example of the will-power and vivacity that Saudi women have. She is a real-life example of how Saudi women can be whenever they have the desire, knowledge, determination, and of course, family support.

And definitely, Hatoon Kadi is not the only positive archetype. There are many other women in Saudi Arabia who understand the value and importance of entertainment; not just for the sake of fun or social criticism, but for educational purposes as well. At the beginning of 2013, Mrs. Thurayya Batarji, a children’s books writer and owner of publishing house Kadi and Ramadi, decided to take an initiative of designing a public reading forum to spread the love of reading among children and to educate both children and parents through entertainment, particularly through amusing interactive reading workshops and stage performances. Planning for such a forum, which included more than 50 workshops, meetings with a number of well-known published authors, and performing two plays for children, was undoubtedly not an easy task. It needed thorough deliberate planning, putting in mind all those tiny details. Of course, such events like the reading forum happen all the time around the world, but what is unique about Jeddah’s Reading Forum for Children is that it was initiated, planned, and executed by women! A team of more than 12 women were involved in the planning and coordination procedures and more than 20 young Saudi girls volunteered to help and organize during the five days of the event.

Ms. Thurayya Batarji, Artist Safiya Bin Zagr & Dr. Thurayya Obaid - from left to right

Ms. Thurayya Batarji, Artist Safiya Bin Zagr & Dr. Thurayya Obaid – from left to right

 

The forum included a variety of engaging activities such as story-telling, an art exhibition showcasing children’s work, books signatures, and workshops that encourage reading and discuss diverse ways to help parents and children live enjoyable experiences with books.  All these activities were presented by famous male and female figures in the Saudi society; prominent authors, educators, artists, businessmen, journalists, TV presenters, company owners, and many more participated in the event, believing in the great cause behind it; the development of the new generation through non-traditional and attention-grabbing ways.

Activities from Reading Forum

Activities from Reading Forum

 

Activities from Reading Forum

Activities from Reading Forum

reading 2 reading 3 reading 4

 

In addition, two major performances took place during the forum days; a performance of a play titled The Secret Lives of Princesses by Philippe Lechrmeier and Rebecca Dautrem, performed in English and directed by a promising Saudi female director, Ms. Lana Qumosani, and another play called Dakoon the Frog by Haidar Solaiman, performed in Arabic and directed by myself. Selecting children (the actors) between ages 5 to 16 was done after a number of auditions, and the training and rehearsals of both plays continued for about 3 months, two or times a week including weekends sometimes. To prepare for the plays and the whole forum, each member of the organizing team worked day and night, dedicating their time and effort to achieve the goal of the event; spreading awareness and love of reading through entertainment. The plays were received with great excitement by the audience, children and parents, and both plays were performed more than once upon the demand of the audience. All in all, the forum received full media coverage and positive, encouraging feedback from attendants.

Dakoon Performance

Stars of Dakoon the Frog

 

Stars of Dakoon the Frog

Stars of Dakoon the Frog

 

In Saudi Arabia, people are thirsty for amusement that supports their values and principles, and this emerging culture is a translation of changing and developing needs and interests. It is a way to adapt to the rapidly changing world; it is a rather new culture full of life and energy led by women along with men.

 

This article was published in Live Encounters Magazine.