Archive for the ‘The Truth about Saudi Girls’ Category

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.

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A spark of Disney’s magic twinkled in a girls’ school in Jeddah on the night of May 24th in the year of revolutions!  It was a school performance of the Disney classic Beauty and the Beast, and this might seem just ordinary; some school girls acting on their school stage, but that’s not all! What happened was exceptional in every sense!

Against all odds, and at the time when Saudi women were (and still are) fighting for their right to drive, 13 to 18 year- old-girls of Jeddah Private School were practicing their right to breathe and enjoy a productive joyful life!

To begin with, the whole play was arranged by the Student Government of the school, and this preparation included modifying the text to suit the stage performance, choosing and training the cast, and fund-raising! Yes! It was a 100% students’ effort. It was their idea, their initiative, and their organization without any sort of help from any teacher.

Weeks before the performance, the directors and cast came up with the idea of funding the play. They needed props, costumes, microphones, background decorations for the setting, and a whole sound system, but it wasn’t easy to get the money. The team made a Feast Day at the school in which they created a buffet and invited other students in the school to bid for their tables! Students had to actually pay for the tables in order to reserve them and in order to be served (by the cast members themselves) their favorite dishes! What happened was and will always be really a source of pride! In one school day, the team collected 10000 SR! But that wasn’t enough! The next week, they held a bake sale to get more money, and they succeeded as well!  Those were practical and simple ideas, but their benefit was great!

 Those are definitely the businesswomen of the future!

Behind the scenes and during the well-organized and timed rehearsals, spirits were high, and love and cooperation prevailed. Directed by sophomore student, Jawaher Al-Saud and senior student, Jude Mulla, the rehearsals were full of delight, excitement, lots of harmless pranks, and loads of laughs. And despite their young age, the cast managed to commit and deliver on time!

Simplicity, organization, and refinement! Those were the words that came to my mind when the play began. Everything was perfectly structured, and everyone knew what they had to do. The whole atmosphere was just classy and so elegant!

Watching the opening scene of the village was overwhelming that I could sense and deeply feel the girls’ passion, enthusiasm, and team spirit! Nevertheless, the best was yet to come!

The performance of Sara Al-Mehdar, The Beast, was exceptional and so convincing! And as I told Sara that day, she was the “bestest” beast I’ve ever seen!

Lina Al-Sayed, Gaston, really shocked me! I could never imagine seeing the sweet and funny Lina act the role of the conceited, self-centered Gaston so perfectly! I didn’t even know her at first!

What gave me the chills were the enchanting voices of Noura Abdul Jawad, Belle, and Nadine Linjawi, Mrs. Pot. Those girls really created the Disney atmosphere with their captivating vocals!

Hanin Nasser as Cogsworth, Sara Abdul Jawad as Lumiere, Ghazal Trabzouni as Chip, and Arwa Al-Saati as Enchantress gave life and joy to the play and added amusement and amazement with their adorable  performance and bedazzling costumes.

Fifty one girls, including cast and backstage volunteers, were one team that night! Everyone did their job, and sure it was a hell of a job!

And….on a side-note…Some of those girls were my students when they were in grade three, and I am so proud to have taught them! <<<< Trying to attribute their success to me 😀 Nah! Just kidddin!

Saudi girls are coming, people! They have talent, passion, skills, determination, and above all, the will to live and be proactive and productive!

And as Belle sings it“New and a bit alarming…who had ever thought that this could be!!”

It’s truly new alright….but it happened!

Jeddah Private School girls brought beauty and happiness to all of us that night when we were least prepared and least optimistic! They made us see a beam of hope in the future of this country…and I am positive they will be able to make us see hidden beauty by their constant hard work and love of life!

 Thanks to the administration of the Jeddah Private Schools that made this event possible by facilitating whatever was needed to make those girls’ dream come true!

Nadia Dandachi: A Seventeen-Year-Old Talented Saudi Girl


Before you read this, please say “Masha Allah”!

Many years ago when I was a novice teacher, I worked in a primary school. I taught grades three and six, and I have to say it was one of the most challenging and interesting things that I have done.

In one of my English classes, I met this amazingly “annoying girl!” Don’t get me wrong; annoying children are “brilliant” and usually grow up as unique adults!

With a squeaky voice, she said complaining about the “enormous” number of assignments I have given my class (which I gave only once a week), “But this is not fair! We need to have fun!” I looked at the little munch-kin who said that to only find out it was “Nadia Dandachi”, my grade three student, who would always complain about absolutely anything! That was my first encounter with Nadia, and that was when I instantly realized that the tiny sweet girl sitting in front of me is going to be “something” one day!

Today, Nadia is a fine, bright 17 year-old girl, who studies in Jeddah Private Schools for Girls, and she is in Grade 12.

Nadia speaks and writes English and French fluently, plays the piano, has an exceptional talent in photography, and has a great cause to work and live for!  She is also the Co-Senior Copy Editor of her school’s magazine, JPS Connect.

I received Nadia’s answers via email and left them unedited because they are too good to alter!

Go on reading, enjoy Nadia’s pictures, and keep saying “Masha Allah!”


Hobbies and Activities

  1. 1. Who is your role model or the most influential person who had an effect on your life and way of thinking?

Well, to be honest, I don’t really have a specific role model or influential idol. Throughout my life, I have learned from many different people, including my own parents. This was useful for me, because each taught me something completely different, depending on their experiences. Moreover, I am a very independent girl, especially in my way of thinking. I have my own opinions and my personal beliefs. Also, in the past few years, I have learned much throughout my own experiences, and it has all affected my life.

  1. 2. You are a multi-talented girl. Who is behind developing your talents and encouraging you?

As a young child, I was constantly curious and eager to discover more about the little world that surrounded me. I had many interests ever since my young age, and my parents did their best to encourage me. They noticed my talents and decided to develop them. I will thank my parents forever for that, because without them I never would have been able to do what I am able to do now.

  1. 3. When did you start learning French?

I speak French since as far as I can remember. French language is my favourite, and I have been speaking it ever since my young age with my family. Technically you’d say it is almost my mother language. Also, all the cartoons and Disney movies of my childhood are in French!

  1. 4. Who encouraged you to learn playing the piano? Was it your desire or your parents’?

My parents bought me a small piano keyboard when I was around 4 years old. I loved playing on it all the time, and started making up some melodies on it. My parents saw how much I loved this instrument, and decided to buy me a real piano and to start giving me professional lessons with a private tutor. I have been playing the piano ever since, for around 10 years now, and I totally adore this instrument with its pure black and white harmonious keys.

  1. 5. Tell us about your daily routine; a typical school day.

I don’t really follow a certain routine. Every day is a new one, different in its schedule and mood. However I mainly spend it studying, and then doing whatever interests me, like: reading, watching series, playing piano, surfing the internet, SOUP-ing, developing my photography pictures, listening to music, and most importantly staying with my family.

Save Our Planet

  1. 6. SOUP is one of the very few Saudi websites that is concerned with the environment. Please, explain the idea of SOUP and who is behind it.
  2. SOUP, or Save Our Unique Planet, is an organization that I have founded myself when I was in 9th grade. I have worked on developing it ever since. The main goal of SOUP is to spread global awareness about the environment, its ecological issues, and to teach people how to make simple but great positive changes to help our beloved planet Earth. The idea came to me when I saw that, locally, there was no environmental awareness in schools, so I decided that I wanted to change that. I worked on its official website, which I worked on  100% alone, in order for people to be able to join SOUP as members, and help achieve its goals. It all consumes a great deal of work and time from me and the website is still under construction. You may visit: http://www.soupearth.org/ , and Join Soup!

    Photography

  1. 7. You have great passion for photography. How did this passion develop and who encouraged you?

My father is a dentist, and one day I discovered that he owned a really old and huge macro camera which, a long time ago, he used for taking dental pictures of his patients. My father gave it to me, and I got very excited. It was the head start of growing my interest in photography. When he saw the picture that I first shot with it, he noticed my talent and love for photography. That is when he decided to offer me a professional camera to encourage me.

  1. 8. What camera do you use and what techniques?

My current camera is a Nikon D3000 but I am intending on upgrading it to a better one, also a Nikon. I also wish to buy a fish eye and macro lens hopefully soon! I use various techniques and always experiment and try new things with my camera. I try to learn and use all of its options in order to make the best out of it, and I feel very satisfied when I get good results! One of my favourite techniques is playing with light in the darkness, and it is quite known among photographers.

Family & Dreams

  1. 9. How would you describe your relationship with your mother and father?

Well, I’d say that I am a typical teenage girl that has her ups and downs. However I love my parents a lot! I’m glad that I make them proud, and I hope that I always will.

  1. 10. What are your dreams for the future? What do you want to major in when you go to college/university?

I’m extremely interested in medical studies, and I am willing to major in Dental Medicine. I will stay in Jeddah for college, and will continue my specialties abroad later on, when I’m older.

Saudi Girls

  1. 11. How can you describe Saudi girls to someone who only takes their information about Saudi girls from the media?

To say it simply, like any other society in the world, there are various kinds of people in a community. Unfortunately, most information on the media portrays Saudi girls as dependant, close-minded, and suppressed women, who have no rights or will of their own. Well it is all wrong. There is so much about Saudi girls that people don’t know. Many are extremely talented, smart, and open-minded. They enjoy life to its max, and face life with a smile. There are women fashion designers, poets, doctors, engineers, and lawyers, which have gained their places in the Saudi society. Women are gradually gaining more rights and freedom with time in Saudi, and I know that, someday, they will prove themselves to the world!

  1. 12. As a Saudi girl, do you feel oppressed or deprived in any way?

Not at all; I enjoy living in Jeddah as a Saudi girl. It feels safe and happy, and I never have to worry about great issues. I could wish for more rights; however life is easier here, and the deprivations that women suffer from are mostly minor to me. For example, it isn’t a great deal for me if women cannot drive. On the contrary, in Europe or America, it is a luxurious lifestyle to have a driver, while Saudis are lucky enough to be able to afford it as a normal lifestyle. I am always positive about change, and in only the past few years, women have gained a lot!

  1. 13. Is there anything you would like to say to readers from all over the world?

Exploit your talents. Follow your dreams. Look into yourself and decide what you want to change in life, how you would like to affect your world. I think it is excellent for young people like me to spend their extra energy in useful things such as art, instead of doing other bad things that may lead them to a darker path in life. Finally, and most important of all, always feel confident with what you do!

And now…enjoy Nadia’s pictures! 🙂

For more pics, you can visit her site:

http://rock–me.deviantart.com/

Rain

Typical London

Autumn Falling

Eiffel and her Chevalier

Frog en Azul

Paint

Solar Flare

Venice Beauty

No to Racism