TheFace: Mezna Al-Marzooqi, assistant professor at King Saud University

Time: October 18, 2019  

Mezna Al-Marzooqi (right) and her mother. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)

I am from a middle-class family; my father was a businessman and my mother taught illiterate adults how to read and write.

I am also a middle child, the third among three sisters and two brothers. My oldest brother died in 2007, and my father passed away a year after that. My mother is the resilient one in the family and she managed to hold us all together. I learned a lot about life and love from my Mama.

She showered us in unconditional love, letting me pursue my education and giving me the freedom to travel.

She is also very enthusiastic about helping others through volunteer work and she expects nothing in return.

One incident that really had a big impact on me was when she supported my uncle with the running of his date factory and brought in low-income families to help them find jobs.

Her passion to help others has inspired me to keep on giving. She is my biggest source of inspiration and I hope one day I can be like her.

My family moved around a lot as I was growing up. I was born in Alkhobar, but we moved to Buqayq and lived on a farm, something my father encouraged as he was very outdoorsy.

When I was in elementary school, I remember regularly walking to my aunt’s house in Alkhobar. She worked for Saudi Aramco, and there were a lot of communities and sports clubs that I joined in with. I have fond memories of attending karate classes with my cousins and getting my yellow belt during my sixth grade.

During high school, we moved to Al-Ahsa, and I later applied to King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh, where I studied medical science and health education.

I then traveled to the US to pursue a master’s degree in public health. I was fortunate enough to be accepted for a six-month training program with the World Health Organization (WHO). Working with a big, multicultural team, I learned a lot, especially from my supervisor.

After gaining my master’s degree, I returned to Saudi Arabia where I was recruited by KSU. I had signed my contract with the university while in America through its program of attracting outstanding professors and researchers.

After teaching for one year at KSU, I went to Australia for four years to do my Ph.D.

I now live in Riyadh working full time as an assistant professor teaching public health in the community health science department at KSU’s applied medical science college.

My research is currently focused on physical activity, especially for female school students and those at college level. One of my projects is aimed at increasing physical activity awareness among small female students and physical literacy, another area I am trying to add to my research. The Kingdom has few women in this field, so I would love to help as many Saudi female researchers as I can.

My family, mother, sisters, brother, niece and nephew remain my top priorities. I believe that life is short so live moments to the full, enjoy life and do all things possible to bring peace to my community.

I am passionate about having harmony with the people around me. Community members may have different attitudes or views, but they all have the same human feelings.

My favorite quote is by Jiddu Krishnamurti (Indian philosopher) who said: “Self-knowledge has no end — you don’t come to an achievement; you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.”

I have never regretted the career path I’ve taken. I love what I’m doing and am glad to spend my free time engaged in community work and helping others, as my mother has always done.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Zahra Al-Ghamdi, Saudi academic

Time: October 16, 2019  

Zahra Al-Ghamdi
  • Al-Ghamdi is also an artist whose works have been displayed at numerous exhibitions
  • Al-Ghamdi was born in Al-Baha in the southwest of the Kingdom

Dr. Zahra Al-Ghamdi is an assistant professor at the College of Art and Design at the University of Jeddah.

Al-Ghamdi is also an artist whose works have been displayed at numerous exhibitions held in the UK, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

Her most recent solo show, “Streams Move Oceans,” took place this year at Athr Gallery in Jeddah.

Al-Ghamdi was born in Al-Baha in the southwest of the Kingdom. She moved to Jeddah for her undergraduate degree in Islamic arts from the King Abdul Aziz University (KAU), where she graduated with first-class honors in 2003.

After her graduation, she worked as a lecturer at KAU before she moved to the UK to pursue further education. She holds a master’s degree in contemporary craft from Coventry University in England, where she also obtained her Ph.D. in design and visual art.

Al-Ghamdi is inspired by her hometown and the history of Saudi Arabia. Most of her work reflects an element of the Kingdom’s history and evolving identity, but also her own history, acting as an expressive form of self-portrait.

She has also participated in numerous conferences, including “Art in a cold climate: A Turning Point, West Midlands,” in partnership with Birmingham City University and the University of Warwick, “Research Symposium” at Coventry University, and “Cutting-Edge Symposium: Lasers and Creativity” at the Loughborough University School of Art and Design.

Her work titled “After Illusion” is also on display at the 58th Venice Biennale 2019 Art Exhibition’s Saudi pavilion.

“After Illusion” consists of 50,000 pieces, which tackle themes of doubt and uncertainty, in an attempt to restore confidence and optimism.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Nidaa Abu Ali, first secretary of the Saudi mission to the UN in New York


Nidaa Abu Ali is a Saudi diplomat who is currently serving as the first secretary and member of the Kingdom’s permanent delegation to the United Nations in New York.

Abu Ali, who was born in 1983, has also worked as a journalist and researcher. She has written for prominent Saudi newspapers and authored four novels.

She began her journalism career with Al-Hayat, a pan-Arab newspaper that has been based in London since 1988 and launched its Saudi edition in 2005.

She has held several posts at the Kingdom’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs since joining it in 2009, and was an attache at Saudi Arabia’s mission in Singapore from 2009 until 2013.

Between 2007 and 2009, she worked as a researcher and analyst at the International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism, and at the Middle East Institute of the National University of Singapore.

She received her master’s degree in 2009 in strategic studies from the city-state’s Nanyang Technological University. Her bachelor’s degree is in management information systems from Jeddah’s Dar Al-Hekma University.

Abu Ali worked at Al Eqtisadiah newspaper between 2014 and 2016, and Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper from 2016 until the present day.

At the meeting of the UN General Assembly’s Sixth Committee, she stressed the Kingdom’s support for the rule of law. She said the Kingdom agreed with member states on the importance of concerted action by the international community and the need for international cooperation based on shared responsibility.

This article was first published in Arab News

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TheFace: Haifa Abuzabibah, Saudi human resources leader

Time: October 11, 2019  

Hayfa AbuZabibah and her Son Abdulrahman & Panda the Cat! (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)

I am a human resources leader at a prestigious private company. In the summer of 1983, a traditional Saudi family broke out of their cultural bubble and began a new life experience. My father applied for early retirement after 20 years of working in a big company. In one month, we had packed and moved to the Sunshine State: California.

We were a typical Saudi family of six children, which was not a normal sight in California. My youngest brother was barely 2 years old and my older sister was around 13. I am the second oldest and had just turned 11. I didn’t know a word of English except “yes” and “no.”

My father went to the US to complete his higher education. He took a risk and traveled with his whole family for the purpose of education. Education and learning became forever ingrained in me.

Being immersed in America was easy for me because I was young. I learned the language and acquired an American accent quickly enough. More importantly, I thrived on practicality, inclusiveness and multi-cultural landscape inherent in the DNA of America.

Returning to Saudi Arabia in 1997 was easy, too. I landed my first job in human resources, started a family and managed to balance family and a fulfilling career.

I have two children. Bayanne is 18 years old and Abdulrahman is 16. As my father invested in me, I now invest in my daughter’s college education at Dar Al-Hekma College.

Before college Bayanne, along with my son Abdulrahman, went to an international school. Their father and I wanted them to gain a global perspective and become responsible global citizens.

Challenges in life helped me become empathetic. I feel strongly that everything happens in life to help us understand that life is a journey. Discovering that people and materialistic things come and go, I knew that what remains constant is Allah.

When I was younger, my parents solved all my problems. As I came into adulthood and became a parent myself, I noticed that problems got bigger and more difficult and that only God can help me overcome them and improve the quality of my life, and I seek his guidance to become a better person.

I truly saw life as a mirror, as it was important for me to reflect by assessing where I was in life. So I like focusing on what I can control and I know that I always have choices in life, because I do not like playing the victim.

In my opinion, my greatest achievement in life is being an independent mother, leader and a corporate citizen. I aim to become my best self, help others who cross my path to fulfill their potential and have a positive impact where I can. My curiosity for learning and my wish to inspire others to learn continues to grow.

My favorite quote is by someone I think of as my hero — Oprah Winfrey — and it reads: “When you do your best, people notice. So, wherever you are, always do your best, and doing your best puts you at the next level.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Female empowerment vital for Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reforms, says Saudi Human Rights Commission GM

Time: October 11, 2019  

Amal Yahya Al-Moualami has over 23 years of experience in education, training and social development. (Photo/Supplied )
  • Saudi Arabia’s positive accomplishments reflect a positive image in the Human Rights Council in Geneva

RIYADH: Amal Yahya Al-Moualami’s appointment as general manager of international cooperation and organizations at the Saudi Human Rights Commission (SHRC) is a huge step toward fulfilling the Vision 2030 reform plans in empowering women.

She told Arab News that it “clearly shows that the Kingdom’s journey toward empowering women has taken wider and quicker strides and continues to open up new doors every day.”

She was one of six women being appointed to the SHRC, representing 25 percent of its membership. They are the first women to participate on the commission.

Their appointments mark the beginning of an era where women are engaged in this field, “something that could not have happened without necessary support and patience,” she said.

“We were able to reach a stage where we could acquire the necessary expertise and gain the tools that would help us become more involved in the next stage, which is now.”

When she was appointed, Al-Moualami received an “avalanche of calls” from women congratulating her. Many of her male friends also reached out to support her in her new role. “I always say that Saudi men are the source of our national pride because they set a great example of support to their wives, daughters, female colleagues and families.”

Previously, Al-Moualami was assistant secretary-general at the King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue and a member of the council of the SHRC.

A key part of the Vision 2030 reform plans is promoting the standing of women. “Today, women’s empowerment has been represented in appointing a woman leader in an important position, which is concerned with human rights in the Kingdom. It is a major issue that reflects the attention given to women,” she said.

She added that the Kingdom’s positive accomplishments should reflect a positive image in the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Al-Moualami is proud of Saudi Arabia’s legal accomplishments, such as the new Juvenile Offenders Act and the personal civil status laws, which have been developed substantially.

“These laws have helped a lot in empowering women within the context of a family. They mark the beginning of real change. When you empower a woman within her family and help her be a real mother to her children and not treat her as a child but as a fully legal and competent citizen, that is called empowerment.

“Today, women are in charge of their children, manage their affairs and apply for passports and finalize all transactions. These are great messages that should bring positive reactions at the local and global levels.”

Even with all these changes and accomplishments, she said that Saudi Arabia has “not received fair international coverage.

“We were always stuck in the position of defense and justifications. They would draw attention to certain issues and we would respond to them. This time, we will talk about progress and show our achievements to them. We will set the best practices and show them good reforms and we will say to them that we would love to know more about what they have accomplished in their own countries.”

She encourages “mutual dialogue” instead of being “stuck in a defensive position where they challenge us and we give justifications.”

Today, women are in charge of their children, manage their affairs and apply for passports and finalize all transactions. These are great messages that should bring positive reactions at the local and global levels.

Amal Yahya Al-Moualami, SHRC division manager

Her next role will be a difficult one, but she already has a plan in mind. Al-Moualami is seeking mutual dialogue on an international level through enhancing efficient interaction and engagement with all concerned organizations.

She hopes that Saudi Arabia will be successful in joining the Human Rights Council in the upcoming sessions as members and will contribute to developing the performance of the council.

“We might make mistakes and need to reconsider our approaches from time to time, which is a perfectly healthy and natural thing. If we discover at some point that a certain method has not brought about the desired results, we will reconsider and change it.”

Al-Moualami has over 23 years of experience in education, training and social development. On expanding opportunities for Saudi females, she said: “There have been great changes in the work environment and job opportunities for Saudi women as well as opportunities to complete college education.

“Education is instrumental to empowerment. The Kingdom has seen a boost in the number of young women in public education, colleges and those who go on scholarships abroad. The percentage of women studying abroad is higher than that of men and women study different, high demand fields. Female academic accomplishments are stronger.”

Al-Moualami said that Saudi men are supporting women in the country: “They are happy when they see any woman get to the top in her career. This is one of the characteristics of Saudi men, who are confident and capable of creating an environment that encompasses them and women.

“We all, as citizens, share the love of this country and the desire to build and develop it. We are capable of making a difference.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Reem Al-Ghanim, Saudi Aramco executive


  • Al-Ghanim obtained a bachelor’s degree in English and Education from the University of Bahrain

Reem Al-Ghanim has been the head of human resources (HR) and support services at Saudi Aramco’s chemicals division since April 2019.
Al-Ghanim has also headed the diversity and inclusion department at the oil facility and remained head of the women’s development and diversity department.
She is a seasoned HR professional who has worked on several projects in key roles throughout her career at Saudi Aramco.
She has worked as a career counselor in the competencies development division and investor relations adviser for sponsored students. Her career started with her work in establishing the Competencies-Based Development Program. She also worked in the function that supported self-initiated development in the form of administering education and learning advice and support to employees and establishing the Hosted University Programs.
Al-Ghanim obtained a bachelor’s degree in English and Education from the University of Bahrain. She did her M.ED from the University of Minnesota in 2008.
She has participated in several global conferences and workshops that include GetEnergy, WPC, MEOS, NAFSA, IP Week, and others. She also served as a member of the advisory board and panel speaker for Women’s Global Leadership Organization in Houston between 2009 and 2010.
Recently, she took part in Saudi Arabia’s biggest jobs fair for women in Riyadh and highlighted the role of women in modern industrial sectors and their ability to keep up with job requirements in areas related to advanced technologies.

This article was first published in Arab News

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TheFace: Sarah Al-Jindan, Saudi software engineer

Time: October 04, 2019  

Sarah Al-Jindan. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
  • Sarah Al-Jindan is a senior front-end engineer at Seera Group, a leading Saudi travel, and tourism company

Empathy is much stronger than sympathy — it leads towards compassion. Where you do more than a donation, you give up your time to help others who need you. 

This is something I learned from joining the volunteering world at a young age. My sisters and I were part of a big community in the city of Alkhobar because of my mother’s charitable and philanthropic work. She is the director of the Orphans Sponsorship Department at Fatat Alkhaleej Society. This experience not only gave me a strong work ethic but also made me more understanding of others.

My father is a retired doctor and university director. Both of my parents are role models, and they planted robust ethics in our minds as we were growing up.

Most of my family members work in the health sector, and that set the bar high. Everyone assumed I’d follow in the footsteps of my family but I chose a different path for myself, finding a passion for computers.

Thankfully, I have been blessed with the best support system anyone could ask for, my parents and siblings. I am the youngest in the family, and I would not be where I am right now without them, they are my backbone. I consider myself very lucky and aim to always make them proud of what I do.

I would love to start a software solution business back in Saudi Arabia, because I know that there is definitely a market for it while there is a lack of providers.

Sarah Al-Jindan, software engineer

Driven by my passion for technology, computers, and design, I did my bachelor’s degree in digital media at the University of the West of England, in Bristol, UK. My field of study included creative technologies, I was involved in game development, software engineering, web design, and animation. After that, my interest became more multidisciplinary, and I did my master’s in human-computer interaction (HCI) at the University of Bath.

It is an exciting new field of study where psychology and other social and behavioral sciences unite with computer science and related technical fields; it attempts to understand the human experience of using technology.

Being exposed to so many different disciplines in computer science, and doing several internships and placements focused on software engineering, I totally fell in love with programming.

Currently, I am living in Dubai working as a senior front-end engineer at Seera Group, a leading Saudi travel, and tourism company. My position is connected with my field of specialization in HCI, but more focused on programming.

Working at the online unit for the travel agency, I am the middle person between the back end and the user. I’m learning a lot working alongside very supportive colleagues and mentors, definitely a fun environment to work in. 

As digital infrastructure grows in the Kingdom, people are becoming more creative, coming up with many creative ideas for businesses, websites, apps, which will need trusted software solution providers to bring them to life.

I would love to start a software solution business back in Saudi Arabia because I know that there is a market for it while there is a lack of honest providers.

Also, I feel this problem allows many people in the market to take advantage of clients, which slows down the whole market and ideas get lost. I want to establish a place to help people to bring their ideas to life, which will benefit all.

I am currently building my portfolio to begin my startup. I want to have a strong start and not enter the market prematurely. I want to take my time, preparing myself, searching and discovering local talents and building my team.

Working with startups has always been a fun, enriching experience for me. I worked in a lot of startups, and I know how much dedication someone needs to give.

The reward is a more intense and extensive experience because there is a lot of pressure on each individual to deliver. Having fewer people on the team means more responsibility on each person, which ultimately gives you a lot of insight.

I abide by the user experience guru Steve Krug’s motto “Don’t make me think.” It means that the most critical characteristic of any technical product is to make it self-evident, that users do not think about what they are doing while using it, everything has to be self-explanatory.

This article was first published in Arab News

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TheFace: Hessa Alajaji, adventurer and traveler across KSA

Time: September 27, 2019  

Hessa Alajaji. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)

Through traveling and exploring, I want to create a directory of different places and services around the Kingdom to guide explorers through the crevices of Saudi Arabia.

Born and raised in Riyadh, both of my parents were always interested in history, culture and heritage, rubbing off their attention to detail on my siblings and me. From a very young age, my family would travel somewhere new during summer breaks, usually to a culturally and historically rich area where we’d soak into discovery, instilling in us a sense of curiosity, to know and see more of the world.

Initially, I wanted to get into interior design, but I ended up graduating from King Saud University with a bachelor’s in art education. After that, my family encouraged me to pursue my education abroad. They insisted I go, if not for my education then for the experience, and I received my master’s degree in fine arts from Claremont Graduate University in California.

When I lived in California, I enjoyed taking long drives on the weekends to explore cities, villages and museums, searching for things that stood out of the ordinary in every nook and cranny.

Coming back to Saudi Arabia made me feel a little trapped at the time, and while working one day, a light bulb went on inside my head, leading me toward discovering the land in which I was born. At the time, I thought to myself: “Why hadn’t I ever tried that?”

At the time, we ended up exploring Hail, and I decided that every month I was going to explore at least one new city or area, and it has led me to grow attached to my country in a way I’ve never experienced before. I’ve discovered that although we come from the same country, our cultures vary, so did food and the dialects.

This was the time I knew I wanted to dedicate my life to domestic exploration. I wanted to focus on tourism in Saudi Arabia and hoped my journey could help those who visit it in the future. I began to travel more, build relationships, discover new spots or forgotten places, and then I began sharing this plethora of information.

My journey on Instagram (@hessahalajaji) began back when I was in the US. Some of my friends suggested that instead of waiting to be asked about the photos of the places I’m visiting, why not share that publicly? To be honest, the number of followers I gained baffled me. Summer travelers and Californian locals were following me to learn about the places I’ve been to, and my page began acting as a directory for them.

Now, whatever services I experience during my trips, whether it’s a boat ride or a tour guide, I share their information with my followers so that it can help them find what suits them. In return, people are now leaving me thank you messages for helping promote their business.

In turn, after seeing so many hidden gems, now I feel that it is my responsibility to convince people to invest in tourism in Saudi Arabia. My goal is to create a behavioral impact and get people to invest and explore these different cultures in the Kingdom.

Locals are always happy when they see others asking questions and digging curiously. It is also our duty to remind the locals of the treasures around them, and tell them that every culture is important and worth
keeping alive.

I live by an overused quote: “Enjoy the journey, not the destination,” because I enjoy every little detail of traveling, the pre-planning phase to the trip’s completion. Even if some things don’t go according to plan, such as not covering certain areas I wanted to, it gives me more incentive to return.

This experience has helped me build a name for myself. A lot of entities reach out to me to help with media coverage. I’ve helped cover Tantora Winter and Taif Season through their social media accounts.

I currently work with Turquoise Mountain Trust where we try to preserve the handcraft heritage in Saudi Arabia, while simultaneously developing existing crafts and maintain their originality and authenticity. The foundation also helps craftspeople to pursue their trade as entrepreneurs. It falls under Prince Charles’ trust in England, which has taken interest in restoring the craft industry in countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar and Jordan.

This article was first published in Arab News

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TheFace: Sarah Turkistani, Saudi intrapreneur

Time: September 20, 2019  

Sarah Turkistanni and her son. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)

I am driven by gratitude, joy and serendipity. I was born a leader since day one, as I am the eldest of eight siblings. I had to be responsible as I was the role model for my sisters and brothers.

Raised in a small city called Taif, it added a lot to my personality and helped me understand people from different backgrounds.

I am also a wife of a kind man, and a mother of an amazing son. I am proud to be called Om Hazza.

As an intrapreneur, I have a big passion for disrupting the norms, leading change and helping others. I got the chance to do what I love working as corporate social sustainability strategist and social marketing project leader at Nahdi, where innovation and change is the only constant.

With a background in clinical pharmacy and a love of business, I decided to get my MBA. This an interesting combination that bestows on the field of retail pharmacy, and health industry in general, a social marketing twist.

I did not get approval to switch from pharmacy to business from my parents easily, but I am glad that I pursued my dream of being a businesswoman, doing what I like. I got them inspired and today I am happy that I have their blessings.

Ali, my husband, has been nothing but supportive of my journey. I am thankful to have someone who appreciates my ambitions, my sense of adventure and freedom.

I am grateful for every step and challenge I have faced to become who I am today. This has led me to the joy of living in the present and appreciating the moments of my life.

In the serendipity of my life I will have the chance to pursue my new dream of changing the wellness industry for women in Saudi Arabia.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Dr. Iman bint Habas Al-Mutairi, new CEO of Saudi National Competitiveness Center

Time: September 19, 2019  

Dr. Iman bint Habas Al-Mutairi

Dr. Iman bint Habas Al-Mutairi is the newly appointed CEO of the National Competitiveness Center (NCC). Her appointment was approved by the Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday.

Al-Mutairi received her Bachelor’s degree in chemistry from King Faisal University, and her Ph.D. in bio-organic chemistry from the University of Bristol, UK. She also holds a postdoctorate in molecular biology and genetics from Harvard School of Public Health.

She did her postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard School of Public Health between 1998 and 2000. Later that year, she joined PerkinElmer as a microarray scientist in Chicago.

In 2003, Al-Mutairi began her ten-year career with Aramco, first as a preventive medicine adviser and from 2007 as an administrator of general medical relations.

In 2009, she served as chief of quality improvement and risk management at Saudi Aramco Healthcare Services, moving in 2011 to be administrator of the workforce planning and analytics division. In 2012, she was appointed as the manager of the medical support services department.

Al-Mutairi was the manager of the Johns Hopkins Aramco joint venture integration project between 2013 to 2014. In 2016, she took up the post of senior adviser to the Minister of Commerce and Investment until 2017, when she became assistant minister for the Ministry of Commerce and Investment in 2018.

This article was first published in Arab News

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