Meet the Saudi women who are defying convention in male-dominated fields
- 23 May 2019
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Saudi women continue to find new ways of making a positive impact on their communities as well as creating new spaces for their fellow women. Over the past few years, many successful female figures have established their names in domains that used to be exclusively male.
Here are four examples of the many Saudi women who have been setting milestones for generations to come. Read on.
THE FORMULA ONE DRIVER: ASEEL AL HAMAD
In June 2018, Saudi Arabia officially started issuing driving licenses to women drivers. But Aseel Al Hamad, a Saudi interior designer and sports-car enthusiast, had already been driving for many years on the private roads of her family’s farm.
Aseel took to Formula One cars after completing multiple driving courses in Italy, the UK, and Bahrain. She later became more professionally involved in the racing industry, both locally and internationally, and was then chosen as the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation.
When the driving ban was lifted, Aseel said, “Having loved cars since I was a child, [the end of the driving ban] is highly emotional for me. This is the best driving moment of my life. And I hope people around the world will share in our joy.”
THE OLYMPIAN FENCER: LUBNA AL-OMAIR
تشرفت اليوم بحضور المناسبة الخاصة لاعلان #مشاريع_الرياض_الكبرى في الديوان الملكي.. مشاريع جبارة قريبة للقلب وكنا دايما نتمناها ونحلم فيها واليوم قرب حلمنا يصير حقيقة .. خالص الشكر لخادم الحرمين الشريفين وسمو ولي العهد. pic.twitter.com/sAAVORUtsv— Lubna Al Omair لبنى العمير (@lubna87) March 19, 2019
As a part of the Saudi National Day celebrations in 2017, Lubna Al-Omair’s picture was projected over the Kingdom Tower, Riyadh’s tallest building, in recognition of her achievements as the country’s first-ever female Olympic fencer.
Lubna, 32, is not only a sportswoman but also a community leader; in 2014, she co-founded the Dhahran Fencing Club, paving the road for the next generation of women athletes.
THE PHOTOGRAPHER: IMAN AL-DABBAGH
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Although she never formally studied photography, Iman Al-Dabbagh’s work has been featured in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Der Spiegel, and other reputable international publications.
Iman has a highly diverse background. She was born and raised in Jeddah to Palestinian-Armenian parents and moved to the US to study graphic design. She returned to Saudi Arabia for her professional photography career, one that now spans more than a decade. She has worked on a multitude of photography and documentary projects, many of them highlighting the achievements and the struggles of Saudi women.
THE PIANIST: EMAN GUSTI
A lack of music institutes that give piano lessons did not stop Jeddah-born Eman Gusti from learning how to play the instrument right from the age of seven.
“My mother taught me about the history of music, and how I can feel the music from the bottom of my heart. [That’s when] my love for piano started to grow,” Eman told My Salaam.
The self-taught pianist, now 21, has gone on to play professionally at more than 60 events around the Kingdom. She also played to an audience at the International Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
“It was a little hard at the beginning in facing our culture and how people accept a female musician,” she said. “Later on, to be honest, I found complete support from every single person I met.”
Eman’s passion for music did not immediately materialise as a career; she played the piano initially as a tool of self-expression. “I chose the piano because I’ve always believed that when I play the piano, it is actually a way of expressing what’s inside me when things are hard to tell sometimes.”
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