The Face: Fatmah Al-Rashed, a Saudi architect

21/02/20

“Ithra was a wonderful opportunity and a joyful experience that added so much value to my life.”
Early on in life I learned that there is no one way to happiness, no one stereotype for accomplishment or self-satisfaction. This belief has been a drive for me to achieve more. I was born and raised in Alkhobar city; my father was a businessman and my mother was a housewife.

My life is rich with love provided by my family, my siblings, nieces and nephews and I’m enjoying motherhood and my family through nonconventional means.

My parents raised us as equals, they supported us, thought very highly of us and believed that we could excel in anything that we did. Our opinions were highly respected, but there were high expectations to be upheld.

My father once told me after finishing a novel on Marie Curie, “you know you’re no less than she is, you can be the Marie Curie in your own field. You have all it takes.”

I enrolled in the Imam Abdulrahman Al-Faisal University as I’ve always wanted to become a pediatrician. My parents raised my siblings and I with one motto in mind: “It’s not about you, it’s about how you can give back to your community.” My mother was not in favor of my chosen vocation. This is not to say that she went against me; in fact, I was given the freedom to decide my life path and my parents were supportive.

In those days, you had to apply to the university by physically providing all the necessary paperwork. As I stood in line to apply for medical school, I saw another queue. Inquisitive by nature, I went to ask what it was for. The administrators told me it was for the department of architecture and planning. Upon hearing that the course was just 5 years, I remembered my mother’s words, and within a minute, I decided to enroll in the department.

Two steps is all it took, stepping into the queue to the right and that decision changed my life’s path and helped make me who I am today. After graduating, I was hunting for jobs with no luck.

As I am not the type to lay back and do nothing, I volunteered to teach English at a local charity. One day, my father surprised me and said I had a job interview in Aramco.

I was shocked since I never applied and because it’s my father, he simply said that I applied for you because it’s time for you to give back. He told me: “The country invested in you, you are smart and you can take whatever job they give you. Who’s going to build the country but you and your generation?” Doors were opened.

I worked in my field for a while and that led me to the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra.

Twenty-five years later, I’m a still proud employee at Saudi Aramco and one of the first to bring the concept of Ithra to life. My role in Ithra began as an architect and was extended to be part of the creative team responsible for managing the creative program, its concept, and established the first Fablab at the King Fahad University for Petroleum and Minerals — the first in the Eastern Province. Building the concept of Ithra, or as I prefer to call it “the land of dreams,” was a group effort.

I joined with a dream and it was fate that we, the dreamers, were able to gather and meet at the right time and place, and most importantly we were given the opportunity to build something amazing.

This was a selfless act from our end because we wanted to see it come alive, to ensure that we played our part in giving back to a community that helped us grow to who we are today.

Ithra was a wonderful opportunity and a joyful experience that added so much value to my life. What comes next is going to also be part of my journey of growth, to explore our identity.

My life has been a whirlwind of opportunities. One lesson I learned was to never underestimate an opportunity no matter how small it was. You never know what you’ll get out of it.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi shoe designer Lulu Al-Hassan shows off new collection at LFW

Time: 19 February, 2020

Saudi shoe designer Lulu Al-Hassan unveiled her latest collection at London Fashion Week. (Getty)

LONDON: OK ladies, take a deep breath and get ready for a new way of looking at shoes. Are they items to protect your feet? Fashion statements from towering heels to trending trainers? Comfy  friends or crippling assassins? Or as Lulu Al-Hassan, founder and creative director of the Lu Vixen luxury shoe brand would have it ‘lingerie for the feet?’

Yes, you heard that right. That was the message the Saudi national wanted to convey at her mind-boggling show at the Hotel Café Royal’s Oscar Wilde Lounge as part of “Stories from Arabia” at London Fashion Week.

It was as though someone in Hollywood had shouted: “I want a room full of international people of glamour – people of all races, all styles from outrageous to demure – and I want them to assemble in a big crush in the Oscar Wilde Lounge right now!”

Boom! I found myself transported into that opulent room and, to be honest, at first it was all a bit overwhelming. Pouting models with impossibly long legs reclined languidly on chaise lounges dotted around the room.

In the middle of all this glitter, glamour and mayhem stood Al-Hassan looking like Goldilocks. As she moved about the room in her floaty green gown, graciously posing for pictures with well-wishers, you had to admire her chutzpah.

In fact, one of Wilde’s quotes could have been written for her. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”

She has bravely forged her own path to follow her passion for shoes. Her journey has not been an easy one, particularly as her family did not support her breaking away from her corporate career.

“My family really did not like my idea because I have a masters in IT from a good university in the US and I was holding a good position in Saudi Arabia,” she told Arab News. “All of sudden, I decided to quit all that and go to Italy and study shoe design which is my passion. It wasn’t easy because at that time Saudi wasn’t as open as it is today. So, I had to struggle and make my own way.”

She studied shoemaking and pattern cutting at Milan’s prestigious Arsutoria School, established in 1947. She also took pattern-cutting classes in London.

“I wanted this collection to be very chic and detailed,” she said about her latest collection. “We have used a lot of chiffon and delicate fabrics not usually associated with shoes. Lu Vixen is basically lingerie for the feet so the shoe has to be soft on your skin and comfortable.”

Alongside the stilettos with gold and silver metallic aspects paired with classic black were beautifully crafted lower-heeled shoes and sandals in suede and leather. Chiffon trims complement a palette of fuchsia, orange and lime green.

“I try to focus on a big range because whatever I like you might not like. It is important for women to understand their feet and to choose shoes not just by brand but by what works for them. What is comfortable for one woman might not be comfortable for another because everyone is different in terms of height and weight.”

Al-Hassan has made a success of a dream she nurtured from a very young age through using her initiative.

“Shoes are my passion. I have loved them since childhood and over the years I have done a lot to learn about the shoemaking craft. I used to be a collector and I taught myself. I studied the anatomy of the feet. I was so thirsty for knowledge. I used to travel and pay all my own costs to attend leather fairs and the like just to educate myself.”

The numbers of guests entering the Oscar Wilde Lounge for the show were restricted for safety reasons, meaning hundreds of people had to stand outside on Regent Street waiting for admission. That they did so on a cold February night is a big tribute to the designer, who is brimming with talent, vitality and fun.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Princess Lamia bint Majed, goodwill ambassador for the Arab world

Time: 13 February, 2020

Princess Lamia bint Majed

Princess Lamia bint Majed, secretary-general and a member of the board of trustees of Alwaleed Philanthropies, has been appointed as the first regional goodwill ambassador for the Arab world by the UN Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat).

Her appointment came during a press conference held on the sidelines of the 10th session of the World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Princess Lamia will advocate for sustainable urbanization, helping UN-Habitat to address urban challenges in Arab states and advance sustainable urbanization as a driver of development and peace.

Princess Lamia has also worked as the secretary-general of Alwaleed Philanthropies since March 2016. She also worked as executive manager of media and communications at Alwaleed Philanthropies between 2014 and 2016.

Princess Lamia has a bachelor’s degree in public relations, marketing and advertising from Misr International University in Cairo, Egypt.

In 2003, the princess founded Sada Al-Arab, a publishing company operating from Cairo, Beirut and Dubai.

Princess Lamia also co-founded Media Codes Ltd. in Egypt and the Fortune Media Group in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

She was editor in chief of Rotana magazine between 2004 and 2006. She held the same position at Mada magazine between 2002 and 2008.

In 2017, she was awarded the prestigious Arab Women’s Award for her charitable work.

In 2019, Princess Lamia was appointed as a champion of Generation Unlimited, a global partnership that aims to boost the productivity of young people. Her Twitter handle is @lamia1507.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Basmah Al-Mayman, Middle East regional director at the UN World Tourism Organization

Time: 12 February, 2020

Basmah Al-Mayman
  • Forbes Middle East published a 2020 “power list” ranking 100 businesswomen who are at the top of their game, with Al-Mayman ranking 13th and the only woman representing tourism in the Arab world

Basmah Al-Mayman is the Middle East regional director at the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), and the first national from a Gulf Cooperation Council country to become director of that department since the agency was established more than three decades ago. She is also the first woman to lead the Middle East region in the UNWTO’s history.
Forbes Middle East published a 2020 “power list” ranking 100 businesswomen who are at the top of their game, with Al-Mayman ranking 13th and the only woman representing tourism in the Arab world.
Forbes said its list was built through nominations and in-depth research based on criteria including the size of the businesses headed by the 100 women, “their accomplishments over the last year, the initiatives they champion, and their overall work experience.”
She obtained her bachelor’s degree in English literature and linguistics from King Saud University, and an MBA from Al-Faisal University.
She is a founding member of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) and later became a member of the board of directors.
She has held many positions and pioneering roles. She was the only Arab founding member of the UNWTO’s Program and Budget Committee, which sets the agency’s work and that of its executive council. From 2013 she was manager of the international organizations and committee department at the SCTH, and continues to be the official Saudi focal point for the UNWTO and other international organizations.
Al-Mayman was appointed to her UNWTO position in 2018, beating hundreds of applicants from all over the world to get the job.
She is on Twitter as @Basmah_Aziz.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Mayada Badr appointed CEO of Culinary Arts Authority in Saudi Arabia

Time: 12 February, 2020

Mayada Badr, CEO of Saudi Arabia’s Culinary Arts Authority. (SPA)
  • Badr is a chef who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris
  • Culinary Arts Authority is one of 11 bodies by the Saudi Culture Ministry

RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan has appointed Mayada Badr as CEO of the newly formed Culinary Arts Authority, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

Badr is a talented Saudi chef who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and trained under a number of renowned international chefs. Through the Culinary Arts Authority, she will be responsible for regulating and developing the Kingdom’s culinary sector and supporting other practitioners in the field.

The Culinary Arts Authority is one of 11 cultural bodies launched by the ministry to manage, promote and advance the Kingdom’s cultural sector. It will be responsible for issuing licenses for culinary activities; organizing conferences and exhibitions; providing courses and vocational training programs; and encouraging research, studies, and development in its field.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Dalia Fatani, founder and CEO of Studio Lucha

10/02/20

Dalia Fatani is the founder and CEO of Studio Lucha. Since 2012, she has led the art, craft and design studio, aiming to build a creative community in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi basketball team Riyadh United recently celebrated a year of sporting diplomacy aimed at strengthening international relations. Through a unique initiative, the players have been holding regular games with the capital’s diplomatic community in a bid to promote the message of peace and understanding between nations through sport.

Fatani, who was one of the first members to join Riyadh United, attended the anniversary event in the capital. She said that the teams were established to build bridges between countries through sport.

Fatani obtained three diplomas in space design, fine art techniques and product design in 2011 from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Canada. In 2015, Fatani received her diploma as an accredited art, craft and design trainer from SB Arts Academy in the UK.

Between 1995 and 1997, Fatani served as an ophthalmic assistant at King Khalid Specialist Hospital, before moving to the hospital’s research center to work as a neonatal intensive care assistant until 2000.

Between 2005 and 2006, she worked for the World Trade Center as an HR training and development officer. In 2006, she switched to the Mainline Media company as an account executive till 2007.

Fatani worked for a freelance art project in 2012 in the Five Houses Gallery. Between 2013 and 2013, she was a content manager in Al-Holair Fashion Retail. Her last appointment was at the General Authority for Culture, where she was a visual arts consultant from March 2018 until the end of the year.

Her Twitter handle is @DselectiveD

This article was first published in Arab News

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Racism goes beyond words or beliefs

09/02/20

HODA AL-HELAISSI

The King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies has an amazing program that should be replicated by other institutions. It is called Gateway and it invites students from some of the best universities in the world to visit Saudi Arabia. It’s a program that, in a distinctive and interesting way, tries to shatter countries’ stereotypes of the Kingdom. Participants, like many people visiting Saudi Arabia for the first time, are amazed at how different the reality is from the perception they have been fed throughout their lives.
I was recently asked an interesting question by one of the students. He wanted to know what caused the world to hate Saudi Arabia so much. Although there are many reasons, the one I elaborated on was racism, which is destructive globally.
Racism takes on many forms and has reprehensible consequences. Starting from biological race and developing into exploitation and the more commonly seen human invention of cultural differences, racism goes beyond words or beliefs. It touches attitudes and behavior, is disdainful and disrespectful, affects the dignity and self-esteem of victims and, as such, harms society in general.
It is a vehicle of recognition and admission of differences between peoples, communities, cultures, faiths, traditions and deeds, provoking disruptiveness, divisiveness and dissention, prompting hatred and misunderstanding based on suspicion and doubt. Racism is not only founded on hatred, it is also built on ignorance and fear, usually of minorities who are seen as threats to national identity or social security. Often, national pride is used as a justification for this loathsome behavior and it is interesting to see that certain words and expressions have become interchangeable either to justify a certain stance or to hide deeper nefarious feelings without being outspoken about it.
We have seen countries which once prided themselves on being multicultural and multifaith fight the very richness of their diverse social fibre in the name of nationalism. The melting pot of globalization is rapidly being replaced by inner-looking individualism which can no longer accept the other, the different or the diverse, and which breeds sentiments of prejudice, discrimination and sectarianism.
Today, abusive, violent or intimidating racist behavior has found a new and more powerful platform — social media, where racial harassment marginalizes or excludes individuals. Cyber-racism commits these blatant offenses — which spread like wildfire — under the blanket of anonymity and in the name of freedom of speech. Traditional media, too, is a perpetrator of racism by voicing unfair or negative opinions on racial minorities, or unknown and misunderstood cultures in articles or programs that are capable of reaching millions of readers or viewers. People use this information as a weapon to attack and judge that of which they know nothing about, as is the case for Saudi Arabia.
Racism is learned. A child is not born racist. Racism is wrong. It challenges social equity and value systems. It needs to be fought, if not eradicated, through awareness and education and by denouncing practices that are demeaning and patronizing. Although laws and policies cannot change mindsets, they can nevertheless restrain social conduct and attitudes.

Hoda Al-Helaissi has been a member of the Shoura Council since 2013. She is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee within the Shoura.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point-of-view

This article was first published in Arab News

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Sarah Al-Suhaimi, chairperson of the Saudi Arabian Stock Exchange (Tadawul)

09/02/20

Sarah Al-Suhaimi

The Saudi Arabian Stock Exchange (Tadawul) recently reappointed Sarah Al-Suhaimi as chairwoman for the board of directors for a new three-year term.

Al-Suhaimi has been at the head of Tadawul, the largest stock market in the Middle East, since February 2017 and is the first Saudi woman to hold the position.

She has also been the chief executive officer and a board director of the National Commercial Bank (NCB Capital), also known as Al-Ahli Bank, since March 2014.

She attained her bachelor’s degree in accounting from King Saud University in Riyadh with highest honors, and completed the general management program at Harvard Business School in Boston, Massachusetts, US in 2015.

Prior to her current position, Al-Suhaimi served as the vice chairperson of the advisory committee to the board of the Capital Market Authority between 2013 and 2015.

Al-Suhaimi worked as the chief investment officer at Jadwa Investment, where she led the asset management and wealth management business lines and was also a member of its management committee between 2007 and 2011.

Al-Suhaimi was named one of “50 people to watch” by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2017. It wrote: “The first woman to chair Saudi Arabia’s stock market, she will preside over the exchange with what’s likely to be the world’s most valuable business once Saudi Arabian Oil, the state-run oil company, completes its initial public offering (slated for 2018).”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi businesswomen in Forbes Middle East top five

05/02/20

Samba Financial Group’s Rania Nashar, center, was ranked third on the Power Businesswomen in the Middle East list. (Supplied)

  • Rania Nashar, Sarah Al-Suhaimi and Lubna Olayan find special place in the list of exceptional businesswomen

JEDDAH: Saudis dominate the Top 10 of Forbes annual Power Businesswomen in the Middle East list, with three of the country’s biggest names in the top five.

Samba Financial Group’s Rania Nashar is ranked third on the list, followed by Tadawul’s Sarah Al-Suhaimi and Saudi British Bank’s Lubna Olayan.

On the cusp of International Women’s Day next month, Forbes Middle East has unveiled its annual Power Businesswomen in the Middle East list, packed with 100 exceptional businesswomen at the head of many of the most influential and transformational companies in the region.

In the 2020 list, there are 22 new entries and 23 nationalities represented across 28 sectors. Emiratis are the most prevalent nationality with 23 entries. There are also nine Egyptians, eight Lebanese and eight Omani women.

The Forbes list was constructed via nominations and through in-depth research based on criteria including the size of the businesses that these women head, their accomplishments over the past year, the initiatives that they champion, and their overall work experience.

The majority (79) of the 100 women are self-made, 16 of whom have started their own businesses. And 21 women work in their family businesses, with many of them starting out when it was rare to find women in the workplace. There are 21 women from the banking and financial services sector, including four from stock exchanges and financial regulators.

FASTFACT

In the 2020 list, there are 22 new entries and 23 nationalities represented across 28 sectors. Emiratis are the most prevalent nationality with 23 entries. There are also nine Egyptians, eight Lebanese and eight Omani women.

The public sector is also well represented, with 13 women on the list heading government organizations, including Director General of Smart Dubai Aisha Bin Bishr, who is overseeing Dubai’s digital transformation. Sarah Al-Suhaimi chairs Tadawul, the region’s biggest stock exchange, which recently handled the IPO of the world’s most valuable company, Aramco.

Half of the list head large corporations, including Nadia Al-Saeed, who runs Jordan’s fourth biggest lender, Bank al Etihad, and Pakinam Kafafi, CEO of Egyptian energy company, Taqa Arabia, who is the only female leader in the oil and gas sector on the list.

The Middle East’s outstanding female leadership was reflected internationally in 2019 when Forbes’ list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women featured three women from this region — who now make up the top three. Raja Al Gurg (#84 on the Forbes list) manages her family’s business, which was first founded by her father. Indian national Renuka Jagtiani (#96 on the Forbes list) has built a retail empire in the UAE. And Rania Nashar (#97 on the Forbes list) became the first female CEO of Samba Financial Group in 2017, Saudi Arabia’s fourth-biggest bank by assets.

“These Arab women are not only driving economic growth in the region, but they are also representative of the Middle East’s strong female leadership and influence across all areas of life, from e-commerce to financial services,” said Khuloud Al-Omian, editor in chief of Forbes Middle East.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Sarah Ayed Al-Ayed, Chief Strategy Officer of Trans Arabian Creative Communication Services

Time: 29 January, 2020

Sarah Ayed Al-Ayed
  • She is one of the leading female Arab PR figures, and one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent and successful businesswomen

Sarah Ayed Al-Ayed is the Chief Strategy Officer of Trans Arabian Creative Communication Services (TRACCS), a network that serves a growing portfolio of clients across the Gulf region that was launched in Jeddah in 1998.
Al-Ayed set up TRACCS with her brother, building it from the ground up. Today, it is one of the largest public relations (PR) businesses in Saudi Arabia, operating with world-renowned corporations as well as governments, banks and other entities.
She is one of the leading female Arab PR figures, and one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent and successful businesswomen.
Al-Ayed received her bachelor’s degree in 1997 in English literature and linguistics from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, later obtaining executive education certification in 2015 from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government in the US.
She held the position of operations manager and associate director at TRACCS until 2009, having become a managing partner in 2006. In 2010 she was appointed director of strategy, before later rising to her current position of chief strategy officer.
In 2012, she launched an enterprise initiative, the Art of Business Communication, which seeks to expand accessibility into the field of communications for young people.
In March 2013, Al-Ayed was named by Forbes as one of the most influential women in business in the Arab world. In 2015 she became regional ambassador in the Middle East and North Africa for Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, and a board member at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry in 2019. Her Twiter handle is @Sarah_AlAyed.

This article was first published in Arab News

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