Dr. Nourah Al-Yousef, Saudi Shoura Council member

Time: 17 January, 2020 

Dr. Nourah Al-Yousef
  • In May 2017, she became the first Saudi woman to chair the Saudi Economic Association
  • Al-Yousef has also worked as an adviser to prestigious regional institutions including the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources

Dr. Nourah Al-Yousef has been a member of the Shoura Council since her appointment by royal decree in December 2016.

She is also a professor of economics at King Saud University in Riyadh where she served as the vice dean of the economics department and college of law and political science respectively between 2010 and 2015.

Al-Yousef has also worked as an adviser to prestigious regional institutions including the Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources between 1999 and 2007, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Secretariat from 2003 to 2008, and the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority during 2002 and 2003.

In May 2017, she became the first Saudi woman to chair the Saudi Economic Association.

Al-Yousef gained a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in business administration from Bellarmine University in the US city of Louisville. She also holds a master’s degree in economics from King Saud University and a Ph.D. in in the same subject from a university in the UK.

As an active researcher, she has conducted post-doctoral work at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, and the Secretariat of OPEC. Her main fields of research have been concentrated on macroeconomics, energy economics, and econometric applications.

Al-Yousef was named one of the top 10 Saudi women in the field of economics in the December 2019 issue of the leading Arab women’s magazine, Sayidaty, chosen for

her active contribution to the finance and business worlds locally and regionally.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al-Saud, board member at the Saudi aviation authority

Time: 16 January, 2020

Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al-Saud
  • She started her career at HSBC Holdings
  • She attained her master’s in business administration and management from the London Business School in 2017

Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al-Saud was on Tuesday appointed as a member of the board of directors of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) as a representative of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH).

The appointment was made during Tuesday’s Cabinet session, and by a royal decree from King Salman stating promotions and restructuring of several government entities.

As part of the reshuffle, three more women were appointed to leading positions, including Haifa Al-Mogrin and Nada Alismail.

Princess Haifa attained her bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of New Haven, US, in 2008.

She attained her master’s in business administration and management from the London Business School in 2017.

She started her career at HSBC Holdings as an analyst, progressing to senior associate of equity sales before leaving in 2012 to join the Ministry of Higher Education as a senior consultant.

She was also managing director of the General Sports Authority between 2017 and 2019, with a focus on developing the sports economy. She became secretary-general of Formula E Holdings in July 2018, a position she still holds.

Princess Haifa has been vice president of strategy at the SCTH since March 2019. She is also vice chairwoman of the Saudi Fencing Federation, and chairwoman of the women’s committee at the Arab Fencing Federation.

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Princess Haifa Al-Mogrin, Saudi diplomat

Time: 15 January, 2020

Princess Haifa Al-Mogrin
  • Princess Haifa currently serves as the assistant deputy minister for G20 Affairs under the Ministry of Economy and Planning, a position she took up in 2018

Princess Haifa Al-Mogrin was appointed on Tuesday as Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The Kingdom became a member of UNESCO’s Executive Council in November, and will remain so until 2023.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan has said that, during its membership, the Kingdom will seek to extend cooperation with all members of the Executive Council, as well as to preserve Arab culture and heritage, support innovation and technology for sustainable social development, and promote a tolerance.
Princess Haifa received her bachelor’s degree in Economics from King Saud University in Riyadh in 2000 and her master’s degree in Science in Economics with Reference to the Middle East from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in 2007.
In 2009, she briefly took up a part-time role lecturing at King Saud University, before starting work with the United Nations Development Program. In 2013, she was promoted to the role of program analyst there, covering social development and human rights.
She joined the Ministry of Economy and Planning as the head of the sustainable development goals sector in 2016 and was appointed assistant deputy minister for sustainable development affairs in 2017. She currently serves as the assistant deputy minister for G20 Affairs under the Ministry of Economy and Planning, a position she took up in 2018. That same year, she was a speaker at the Second Urban Planning Forum — a testament to her expertise in the empowerment of youth and human-rights advocacy. Her Twitter handle is @HaifaAlMogrin.

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Princess Reema bint Bandar and Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz bin Musaid attend International Olympic Committee meetings

Time: 15 January, 2020

 

Princess Reema bint Bandar and Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz bin Musaid attended the meeting in Lausanne. (Photo Supplied/Greg Martin)
  • Princess Reema expressed her delight that Saudi Arabia had made considerable recent progress in its efforts to encourage all segments of society “to embrace sports as a way of life”

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s representatives to various commissions of International Olympic Committee (IOC) attended the IOC’s annual meetings in Lausanne, Switzerland this week. The meetings coincide with the Winter Youth Olympics, which are currently being held in Lausanne and end on Jan. 22.
Two board members of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee — Princess Reema bint Bandar (Women in Sports Commission) and Prince Fahd bin Jalawi bin Abdul Aziz bin Musaid (Public Affairs and Social Development Through Sports Commission) — represented the Kingdom.
Saudi Arabia has three representatives in the IOC, with Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal on the Marketing Committee.
Among the topics discussed during the Women in Sports Committee’s meeting were gender equality in sports, the participation of women in community sports, and the prevention of harassment.

SPEEDREAD

• Among the topics discussed during the event were gender equality in sports, the participation of women in community sports, and the prevention of harassment.

• Saudi Arabia has made considerable recent progress in its efforts to encourage all segments of society to embrace sports as a way of life.

“We work closely with all members of the Olympic family through the IOC Women in Sports Committee to support the participation of women at all levels of sports,” Princess Reema said after the meeting. “We discussed all the advances that have been achieved in this area, as well as some of the key challenges that are facing women currently.”
She also expressed her delight that Saudi Arabia had made considerable recent progress in its efforts to encourage all segments of society “to embrace sports as a way of life.”
Prince Jalawi said that, given Saudi Arabia’s preeminence in the region, the Kingdom has made its presence felt in the Olympic family. “At the Public Affairs and Social Development through Sport Committee, we work to harness the power of sports to serve all communities and help to build cultural bridges between them. Sport is a very powerful tool to realize these goals,” he said.

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Princess Haifa named UNESCO permanent representative

Time: 15 January, 2020

Saudi Arabia plays a prominent role in UNESCO and in November 2019 assumed membership in its Executive Council until 2023. (AFP)

RIYADH: Assistant Deputy Minister for Sustainable Development and G20 Affairs, Princess Haifa Bint Abdul Aziz Al-Mogrin, has been appointed Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Princess Haifa worked as a lecturer at King Saud University from 2008 to 2009. She has held key positions at the Ministry of Economy and Planning, including assistant undersecretary for sustainable development affairs since December 2017, acting assistant undersecretary for G20 affairs since June 2018, and head of the Sustainable Development Goals Sector between 2016 and 2017.

In 2007, she obtained a master’s degree in economics from the School of Oriental and African Studies in the UK. She received her bachelor’s degree in economics in 2000 from King Saud University in Riyadh.

KSA Mission EU
@KSAmissionEU

Congratulations to Princess Haifa Bint Abdul Aziz Al-Muqrin @HaifaAlMogrin on her appointment as Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the (UNESCO) another landmark achievement of 🇸🇦 Vision 2030, which aims to empower Saudi women and enhance their leadership positions.

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The Kingdom plays a prominent role in UNESCO and in November 2019 assumed membership in its Executive Council until 2023.

Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan said earlier that the Kingdom will seek to extend cooperation with all members of the Executive Council, as well as preserving Arab culture and heritage, supporting innovation and technology for sustainable social development, and working to promote a tolerant global society.

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Selwa Al-Hazzaa: The Saudi doctor giving the gift of sight

14/01/20

Selwa Al-Hazzaa was granted the degree of Doctor of Humanities, Honoris Causa the highest honor of the Franklin University in Switzerland in 2017 and presented the 48th commencement address at the graduation ceremony. (Supplied)
  • Selwa Al-Hazzaa shares her 27-year journey of devoted work to bettering the health care system

RIYADH: Professor Selwa Al-Hazzaa is a Saudi female success story set on the road to excellence from childhood.

Speaking to Arab News, Al-Hazzaa, an ophthalmologist and chairman of the ophthalmology department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center (KFSHRC), told of her 27 years of devoted work to bettering the health care system, becoming the first woman to hold a high position at the hospital where she dedicated her life, energy and time to making a difference in her field.
Al-Hazzaa’s career took off in 1995, as the first Saudi woman to be made a member of the Medical Advisory Council at King Faisal Hospital. Her journey wasn’t the easiest, but with her talent, hard work and ambition, she was recognized by the Saudi leadership early on and used the platform to pave the way for future women in medicine and other fields.
Born into a family of five girls, she grew up in Tucson, Arizona in the 1960s while her father was completing his studies.
She excelled in her school years, always living up to the highest standards and expectations which she has placed upon herself.

I didn’t choose ophthalmology, ophthalmology chose me.

Prof. Selwa Al-Hazzaa

“I went into medicine not wanting (to do) it,” she said. Nevertheless, she put all her energy into studying, because she had a higher ambition and was keen to make a difference.
One of her biggest challenges was when it was time for her to enroll in university. She wanted to travel abroad to study, but was unable to, because it was rare for women to do so at the time.
Back then the only two real professional options women had were medicine or education, and her father gave her a choice: Either to become a teacher or a physician. She chose the latter.
After obtaining her medical degree from King Saud University, she did her fellowship at the Wilmer Ophthalmologic Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, in Washington, DC.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Selwa Al-Hazzaa became the first woman to hold a high position at the hospital where she dedicated her life, energy and time to making a difference in her field.

• With her talent, hard work and ambition, she was recognized by the Saudi leadership early on and used the platform to pave the way for future women in medicine and other fields.

• Her first patient was a 9-year-old Saudi girl born blind, a case Al-Hazzaa had followed since the girl was less than a year old.

She returned to the Kingdom, where she was later chosen by the head of KFSHRC, Dr. Anwar Jabarti, to be the late King Fahd’s ophthalmologist. She credits Jabarti for realizing her potential, dedication and skills by looking beyond gender and solely at talent.
Her dream of representing her country came true, though under sombre circumstances, when she went on her first diplomatic mission after the fatal Sept. 11 2001 terror attacks in the US, remembering her father’s words: “When people trust you, they will then let you represent the country.”

Selwa Al-Hazzaa. (AN photo by Ali Aldhahri)

And represent her country she did, as she was the only woman between men, and with no training whatsoever in the political arena, she spoke from the heart, connecting with people. “From that day on, the government took me as their voice of Saudi Arabia after Sept. 11.”
Through a lifetime of giving, people would ask her what was the secret to her success. “There is no secret — females are always givers. When we are young, we take care of our siblings, when we are married we take care of our husbands, we get pregnant and take care of our children,” she said.
Elected as an executive member of the International Council of Ophthalmology (ICO) in 2002, she became the youngest member, the first woman member from the Middle East, and the only female on the council from 2002-2006. She stood down in 2010.

NUMBER

2.2bn – There are an estimated 2.2 billion people with vision impairment or blindness globally, with an estimated 1 billion who suffer from moderate or severe distance vision impairment or blindness (WHO 2019).

In 2017, Al-Hazzaa was granted the degree of doctor of humanities, honoris causa, the highest honor at Franklin University, one of many honorary titles she’s received in her career. She is also a member of various editorial boards, fellowships and committees, and was one of the first group of women appointed to the Saudi Shoura Council by late King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz in 2003, in a historic move, allowing women for the first time to be part of the Kingdom’s formal advisory body.

FASTFACT

Last November, Selwa Al-Hazzaa, alongside her colleague Dr. Mohamed Khuthaila and a medical team consisting of entirely of Saudis, put the Kingdom on the map as the first country in the Middle East, and the 5th globally, to utilize LUXTURNA, the first USA FDA-approved gene therapy treatment for any genetic disorder to treat blindness in children.

With her 27 years of experience in the field, publishing 69 accredited papers and more, her life’s work finally paid off in November of last year when she, alongside her colleague Dr. Mohamed Khuthaila and a medical team consisting entirely of Saudis, put the Kingdom on the map as the first country in the Middle East, and the 5th globally, to utilize LUXTURNA, the first USA FDA-approved gene therapy treatment for any genetic disorder to treat blindness in children.
Her first patient was a nine-year-old Saudi girl born blind, a case Al-Hazzaa had followed since the girl was less than a year old. The successful utilization of the treatment was one of her finest career achievements to date.
“If you are going to take a certain specialty, don’t take what everybody’s taking — take something that doesn’t exist and make it exist. Take something hard, because then when you are called upon, it will be regardless of your gender.
“I didn’t choose ophthalmology, ophthalmology chose me.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Princess Maha bint Mishari Al-Saud, vice president of external relations and advancement at Alfaisal University

14/01/20

Princess Maha bint Mishari Al-Saud
  • Princess Maha holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery from King Saud University’s College of Medicine in 1986

Princess Maha bint Mishari Al-Saud has been the vice president of external relations and advancement at Alfaisal University in Jeddah since 2014.
Princess Maha holds a bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery from King Saud University’s College of Medicine in 1986. By 1993, she concluded her residency program at George Washington University Hospital for Internal Medicine.
A year later, she was certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, a certification she still holds.
The princess has been a consultant in internal medicine and has been senior clinical scientist at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center since 1995, and used to be an assistant professor at the College of Medicine at Alfaisal University.
Between 2015 and 2019, she was governor of the American College of Physicians’ Saudi Arabia chapter, as well as a member of its global international council.
She represented Saudi women in the International Professional and Cultural Program of the People-to-People Congress, which was spearheaded by the head of the American College of Physicians in India.
The princess pioneered women’s enrollment at Alfaisal University in 2011 and continues to act as a director of the board of trustees and president of the advisory board on external relations.
She is currently running Taskforce 9 as lead co-chair of migration and young societies at G20 Saudi Arabia 2020.
Princess Maha is also the president of George Washington University Medical Alumni for Saudi Arabia and the Gulf region.
She has participated in many international conferences, from Kuwait to the US, representing Saudi Arabia in several fields in science, technology and engineering.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Dr. Rimah Saleh Al-Yahya, deputy minister of private higher education

 13/01/20

  • Dr. Rimah holds a Ph.D. in English literature from Princess Nourah University, and a master’s and bachelor’s degree from King Saud University in the same field

Dr. Rimah Saleh Al-Yahya is the first female deputy minister of private higher education at the Saudi Ministry of Education.
An active researcher in the field of immigrant literature, her primary focus of interest is in developing higher education practices.
Al-Yahya served as the first female vice rector of Prince Sultan University and acting dean of the College of Humanities at the same university.
She was also a member of several academic committees and research groups, both local and regional, and held a number of academic and administrative positions between 2012 and 2019.
As the daughter of a diplomat, Al-Yahya was raised in the US and returned to Saudi Arabia after completing her basic education.
She began her career in academia as a lecturer in English literature, working at the College of Education, Prince Sultan University, and the Arab Open University before moving to Princess Nourah University in 2006 as chairwoman of the English and translation department.
She holds a Ph.D. in English literature from Princess Nourah University, and a master’s and bachelor’s degree from King Saud University in the same field.
In October 2016, Al-Yahya received the Middle East Education Leadership Award, offered by the Gulf Cooperation Council.
Due to her passion for social work, she earned the title of Goodwill Ambassador for Peace and Women’s Development in Saudi Arabia from the Multipurpose Inter-Parliamentary Union in June 2016.

This article was first published in Arab News

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INTERVIEW: Nadia Abu Sarah: the ambitious woman in charge of Aramex finances

12/01/20

Nadia Abu Sarah.

  • Nadia Abu Sarah, who wants to go all the way to the top in finance, explains why women are good for business.

DUBAI: Not many women make it to the rank of chief financial officer (CFO) in the Middle East. There are only three working in that role at the 85 companies listed on the Dubai Financial Market and Nasdaq Dubai, for example. Nadia Abu Sarah of Aramex is one of them.
But she admits that by her own high standards, she has fallen short of her childhood ambition growing up in Jordan.
“My expectation was beyond this. I wanted to be head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in New York,” she told Arab News.
That big ambition makes her a perfect role model for aspiring women in the Middle East business scene, long dominated by men to an even greater extent than elsewhere in the world. The fact that she got where she has at Aramex is a sign that times are changing at last.
It is also an indication of the powerful effect an encouraging family environment, and an inclusive corporate culture, can have on a young woman’s career. “I was lucky to be born into a family where my mother and father were open-minded and had traveled all over the world, and encouraged me and my sisters to follow our ambitions,” she said.
She has been with Aramex — one of the few Middle East companies to have made it in a global context — for all of her career, and has benefited from its commitment to international standards. Founded and built up by renowned Jordanian entrepreneur Fadi Ghandour, Aramex has a policy of continuity in its executive selection.
“Most of my colleagues, including the senior leadership team, have also been with the company for a long time. We have a tight corporate culture at Aramex — the company feels very much like a family,” Abu Sarah said.
She began as a financial analyst in Jordan, moving to the UAE head office in Dubai in 2010. She was made acting CFO in 2017, and rewarded with the permanent post last summer. “Fadi called me and told me I’d got the job. I saw it as a result of all the steady steps I’d been taking toward achieving my dreams, with the full support of my family and with my work colleagues around me,” she said.
Since she has been at Aramex, the company has undergone a dramatic expansion, clocking up more “firsts” than most see in their history: First delivery firm to offer express, domestic and freight forwarding services under one roof; first company from the Middle East to get a listing in New York; and a record-breaking initial public offering in Dubai after it decided to “come home” from the US in 2005.
Perhaps the comparatively enlightened policy Aramex displays toward its female employees is a contributor to that corporate success. As Abu Sarah points out, a recent Harvard Business Review study found that women outperformed men in 84 percent of the competencies that differentiate excellent leaders from average or poor ones, such as taking initiatives, acting with resilience, practicing self-development, driving for results, and displaying high integrity and honesty.
She believes that there is a sound business case for gender equality in the corporate world. “Business-critical challenges require problem-solving capabilities and creativity that can only be found through diverse leadership. Gender-diverse leadership has been proven to help companies benefit from a broader mix of perspectives and skills, leading to richer debates and more creative problem-solving, as well as clear business advantages,” she said.
Perhaps it is this diversity of decision-making that has kept Aramex profitable over the years, allowing it to weather the global financial crisis and the slowdown in regional business activity after the oil price collapse in 2014.
Financial results at the third-quarter stage last year were impacted by pricing pressure in the increasingly competitive international courier industry, where the shift toward e-commerce has led to huge opportunities, but also attracted a lot of new entrants to the business. The company is awaiting results from its all-important festive season before it publishes figures for the full year.
Abu Sarah knows the history of the company by heart, and catalogued its development from a US wholesale delivery business into a truly global operation with product offerings across the full logistics range.
“We’ve seen success in maintaining an agile, low-cost, high-margin business, and our investments in technology and innovation have placed us in good standing to compete in the competitive e-commerce space and strengthen our last-mile delivery capabilities,” she said.
The rise of e-commerce has dramatically altered the landscape of the courier industry. “The opportunities are immense — more and more e-commerce companies are emerging from all around the world, notably from Asian markets, and more people are choosing to switch to online channels to shop,” she said.
“This is also forcing several traditional retailers to tap online delivery as a key channel to sell goods to their customers. Aramex is offering warehousing and logistics solutions to help companies tap the online shopping industry.”
Aramex has an ally in the shape of Mohamed Al-Abbar, the founder of Emaar and a big advocate of the benefits of an indigenous e-commerce industry via his Noon platform. Al-Abbar is a significant shareholder in Aramex.
The firm’s operations, Abu Sarah believes, “are more efficient than ever before,” but continued efficiency is more dependent than ever on getting deliveries through the final leg of the process, where delay and confusion can undo all the good work higher up the chain.

BIO

NAME: Nadia Abu Sarah

DATE OF BIRTH: 1972, Lebanon

EDUCATION: Degree in economics and business administration, University of Jordan

• Executive development program, Oxford University, UK

• Leadership executive program, American University of Beirut

CAREER: Aramex — senior financial analyst •Executive corporate financial controller •Interim CFO •CFO

“We have a common saying in Aramex that ‘battle is won and lost in the last mile.’ Over the last several years, and undoubtedly in the years to come, the largest portion of our capital expenditure will be focused on upgrading our last-mile capabilities in the markets in which we operate, not least through our digital transformation strategy,” she said.
Much has been made of the potential presented by drones to enhance this stage of the business. She recognizes that drones and autonomous vehicles (AV) could be the next big game-changer in the courier business, but there are regulatory and political challenges to overcome before they can be introduced on a permanent basis. “Drones and AV are firmly on our technology map, and we’ll take it to the next stage as soon as it’s permitted,” she said.
Saudi Arabia has been a big focus of recent expansion. Aramex has grown in the Kingdom through the establishment of three new facilities, in response to increasing shipment volumes into and within the country.
Just over a year ago, it introduced Aramex Fleet, a crowd-sourced facility designed to speed the last-mile stage of the delivery process. The service is only available to Saudi nationals, who can enjoy the benefits of flexible working hours and earn money based on successful delivery rates. “We’re expanding massively in Saudi Arabia. The culture is changing, and we see the Fleet service as a way of increasing Saudization in the Kingdom,” Abu Sarah said.
Some 1,000 Saudi “Fleeters” have signed up since the project was launched, including a large number of women. The employee holding the record for the most successful deliveries is a woman, Abu Sarah proudly pointed out. The Fleet operation model is being rolled out across the region.
Meanwhile, Abu Sarah is determined to continue providing an example to women in business. “I find that the business environment in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) is very supportive of women, both from a government and private sector perspective,” she said.
“Women remain largely outnumbered in the logistics and supply chain sector, but have steadily advanced over the past few decades. There’s room for improvement, but I’m happy to say Aramex has created an enabling environment for female employees.”
She thinks that women still have a lot to prove in business, but they are finally being given the chance. Some 27 percent of Aramex executives are women, which is high in comparison to other companies and industries, and there are plans to increase that dramatically.
“The aspiration is to increase it to the fullest extent possible,” she said. “Women are held to higher standards than male peers, and are more likely to hold other colleagues accountable. They’re also less likely to be clouded by over-confidence.”
Self-confidence is a different matter, and her career path is a template for how young ambitious women can succeed in traditionally male-dominated businesses. And who knows? The IMF has just appointed a new (female) managing director, but maybe in a few years’ time the job will become vacant again. Abu Sarah has time, and a proven track record, on her side.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Hollywood star Dina Shihabi is forging her own path with ‘Habibti’

12/01/20

Dina Shihabi — who spent her childhood between Riyadh, Beirut and Dubai — spoke to Arab News about the challenges she has faced in Hollywood. (AFP)

LOS ANGELES: From Rami Malek to Ramy Youssef, Arab celebrities are making it big in Hollywood and one Saudi actress is forging a path on her own terms with her very own TV show.

Dina Shihabi — who spent her childhood between Riyadh, Beirut and Dubai — spoke to Arab News about the challenges she has faced in Hollywood, as well as the show she is developing.

Shihabi, who secured a role on the second season of Netflix’s “Altered Carbon,” is currently developing her own series, “Habibti.”

The series, which is still in production, is based on the overwhelming experience of living in Los Angeles and follows three Arab women as they mix two cultures and build lives for themselves in the US.

“I wrote this story with my friend. And it’s really about how America sells freedom as the answer to your happiness,” Shihabi told Arab News. “And then you move here and you do all these things that seem like freedom but actually freedom is an idea and what we really are all striving for is a connection to yourself.”

Shihabi moved to the US in 2007 and was the first Middle Eastern-born woman to be accepted to The Juilliard School and the New York University Graduate Acting Program. She began appearing in short films in 2010, but her big break came in 2017 with the role of Hanin in “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.”

“I really treated her like just a woman who is a mother and a wife who has a complicated past and all she wants to do is protect her children,” Shihabi explained. “I know that that’s my mother’s greatest priority. And when I spoke to her about this part I said you know ‘what is it like being a mother?’ She said when I gave birth to you guys, it felt like a part of me was suddenly outside of myself.”

Shihabi cited Lebanese filmmaker Nadine Labaki — whose film “Capernaum” was nominated for an Oscar in 2018 — as a personal inspiration and said she feels honored for the opportunity to inspire a new generation of Arab talent.

She even shared her advice for those who want to make it big in Hollywood.

“Look around to the people that are around you right now and start making things. And focus, hard work, determination, passion (are important). Those are real things,” she said. “I’ve been here for 12  years and I’m still working really hard to make the things I want happen and I don’t think it’s ever going to end. If you choose this life, you are choosing a life where you have to really work hard.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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