A Saudi Woman; A Saudi Pioneer

Posted: March 25, 2010 in My Articles

       I was inspired to write this after my visit to Darat Safiya Binzagr with my students on March 17, 2010.



If many people think that the “Abaya” hinders Muslim women’s development and dreams, they should have a broader vision and a closer look at Muslim women in general, and at Saudi women in specific. Safeya Binzagr, a Saudi female artist, is a live proof of the fallacy of such a belief. When I visited Mrs. Safeya’s Museum for the first time, I felt the aroma of the genuine Saudi culture, the beauty of Mrs. Safiya’s art, the charm of her modest personality, and the prolonged struggle and hard work of her rich experience. Mrs. Safeya is not just an artist; she is a historian and a true Saudi patriot.



Mrs. Safiya with King of Spain, Juan Carlos, in 2008


       Mrs. Safeya’s art is an honest depiction of the simple Saudi life before the economical boom. It is a depiction made by a woman who loves her country and who cares about capturing the smallest details of the daily life of Saudis in the early fifties and sixties. Mrs. Safeya’s love for her country has gone beyond painting. Mrs. Safeya has made a collection of the jewelry and gowns that were used by Saudis, especially by women. The collection and the effort she has done in gathering the costumes are indescribable and can only be felt by those who see the collection, and those who truly love the original, simple Saudi culture.



  Mrs. Safeya has chosen a life of devotion and determination. Her goal is to preserve the Saudi culture and traditions, and she thought that her art wasn’t quite enough to fulfill her grand objective, so she started writing books that tell the story of the mysterious land. According to Mrs. Safeya, “It wasn’t an easy task, for I am not a writer”, but her love and strong will have made the difficult mission possible. Now, many researchers refer to Mrs. Safeya’s books as they can find in them what they cannot find in other books about Saudi Arabia .

        The essence of the beauty and charm of Mrs. Safeya’s art lies within her personality, not just in her works. Mrs. Safeya’s presence enchants your heart by her modesty and simplicity. While speaking about her work, she tries to avoid talking about it as a surpassing achievement. A great pioneer she is, but a pompous arrogant person she is not. Unlike many famous Saudi women, Mrs. Safeya works more than she talks. She is not the kind of a woman who fights, objects, complains, or seeks public attention; her work speaks volumes, and that is enough for her. She works in reverence, beauty, and silence. Once she was asked by a German visitor, “How can you survive with the Abaya and without driving?” She simply and humbly replied, “Not only that I survived, I have also established this museum with the Abaya and without driving….I never cared to learn how to drive although I lived for many years between Egypt and Britain”.

       How many Saudi women are like Mrs. Safeya Binzagr? How many have done what she has accomplished? How many of those who complain day and night about the Abaya and the Saudi system have done half of what she has attained? I believe all of us need to learn a lot from Mrs. Safeya. Greatness is achieved by hard work, not by scattered useless words. I can say I am proud to be a Saudi woman because of a woman like Mrs. Safeya. If you fight and complain all the time, you might get part of what you want, and you might get the public’s attention for a while, but if you set your goals and struggle to achieve them, you will definitely impose your presence. Only at that point you can say, “This is my work, and here I am”. You only exist by the number of your achievements; not by the number of your battles. You can only feel the beauty of life by the things you have given, not by the number of voices you have muted, and the number of votes you have collected.


Zafat Al-Shibshib - gathering all the bride's things to take them to her new house

According to many non-Saudis who have visited Darat Safiya Binzagr, visiting the museum is one of the most eye-opening experiences to them. Yet it is not only a rich experience for Westerners; it has been so for me and for many Saudis who have seen the great artistic work of Safiya Binzagr.

     Thanks to Mrs. Safeya who has taught me many valuable lessons about life and art. My warmest regards and greatest respect to a woman, who has made me proud of being a woman and a Saudi.


Here are some pictures that I have taken of Darat Safiya and pics of some of my students whom I took on an educational trip:

1. Darat Safiya Binzagr from the outside and the entrance hall (Unfortunately, taking photos of the paintings is not allowed)…you can still see some of  Mrs. Safiya’s work on the website.  http://www.daratsb.com/


Mrs. Safiya's house - next to the museum




the garden of the museum



at the entrance door of the museum- they had no idea about what they're gonna see:)


Mrs. Safiya's certificates of honor and achievement



the central hall of the museum


even the stair way to the 2nd floor is elegant



2.  A room from the past:

This is my favorite section of the museum. It is a room furnished exactly as rooms used to be in the fifties and sixties.


a traditional cabinet for clothes


tea/coffee set


traditional music set rich families used to keep for their entertainment


My students in the magical room


3. The Gallery Workshop:

Here are some pics of Mrs. Safiya’s working place, the workshop gallery, the children’s drawing room, and the entrance hall room of the gallery area.


my students at the entrance of the 2nd floor - entrance of the gallery and workshop


my students in Mrs. Safiya's drawing room


a corner at the entrance to the gallery and the workshop rooms


children's paintings in the display room



Mrs. Safiya's drawing and working room


one of my students, Hind, in the drawing room


part of the working room


Mrs. Safiya's drawing tools


workshop room where girls and children take drawing and painting lessons


I hope you’ve enjoyed the topic althoug it is nothing like the  real live experience.








  1. Oh wonderful! I was supposed to go there last week with a group and at the last minute I couldn’t go because the driver I had arranged to take me never came!!! I simply MUST go there, especially after seeing your post. Thanks! I’m glad you were able to take your students there – they will always remember it, I’m sure.

    • مها نور إلهي says:

      Thanks Susie…glad you like it and hope you could visit it soon…I will be waiting for a post about your visit 🙂

  2. coolred38 says:

    Art is a great expressor and its always interesting to see how others depict their own experiences and surroundings. Its all subjective but art manages to cross barriers and bring down walls in order to facilitate dialogue and questions.

    Nice post and pics.

    • مها نور إلهي says:

      Yes…art is subjective and that’s the beauty of it..you can be as subjective as you want without anyone blaming you 🙂
      Thanks a lot

  3. […] female artist, is a live proof of the fallacy of such a belief.” Said Maha Noor Elahi in her blog’s post A Saudi Woman; A Saudi […]

  4. W says:

    I am an expat & lived in this country for 20 years yet we were never able to the culture & heritage of Saudi Arabia as you would see in a month of any othr country you are visiting for your summer holidays!! I am back in the country for a work purpose and one of the main goal for me is to experience saudi culture as much i can and going to such a place would be great addition in my adventures of suadi aradbia book :)!!! Thanks a lot….can i know where it is?! what are the opening hours and do we need to take some permission before we go and visit!!! Thnx for all your help!!

    • مها نور إلهي says:

      Dear W
      I am so sorry for my late reply..I was very busy…
      Thank you for your comment and interest…all the information you need is posted on the site http://www.daratsb.com/

      I’ll post the number of the museum soon..I just don’t have it right now.

  5. olga-lednichenko-saree-blouse-lehenga says:

    thanks for the educational site. Truly beautiful.. and while I am a jew – believe you me, i appreciate your work

    olga lednichenko

  6. chaman rahim says:

    your blog has really been very helpful. I have to give a presentation in the General Education dept Conference at Dar al hekma College on “”Women make a difference” I am working on Saifya Bin Zagr’s works.
    Thank you. I am impressed and I will Inshallah take my students to visit this amazing museum

  7. Sophia Mahha says:

    ” You only exist by the number of your achievements; not by the number of your battles. ”

    Can you tell me who is behind this qoute?

  8. angel says:

    Beautiful … your blogs are a window to SAUDI(which is closed form outside world)…

    Now i know where it go and how to spend time …inshalllah ill be seeing it when i am free from work when iam there…. and saudi culture is fast fading its a nice move to preserve in canvas … wondering how was she allowed to draw animate drawing which are strictly prohibited in quraan and sunnah…..

  9. zinnia says:

    Thanks Maha for sharing this. Yes, she is a true patriot, a true model for all especially we muslim women; avoiding complains but keeping the good works. I love your articles ❤

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