US Olympic medalist Ibtihajj Muhammad reflects on her Hajj journey

Muslim American Olympian Ibtihajj Muhammad. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 28 August 2018
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US Olympic medalist Ibtihajj Muhammad reflects on her Hajj journey

  • Ibtihajj Muhammad: The best experiences was seeing people from different parts of the world unite in devotion to their faith
  • The American Olympian lauded the Kingdom's efforts for the organization of Hajj this year

MINA: Muslim American Olympian Ibtihajj Muhammad, who performed Hajj this year, told Arab News that during her pilmgrimage one of the best experiences was seeing people from different parts of the world unite in devotion to their faith. 

“It is something as a Muslim growing up and living in the US that you don’t get the opportunity to see. I feel I get that sense when I travel to the Middle East, particularly this trip to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj — it is something I will never forget,” she said. 

Ibtihajj did not know she was coming to Saudi Arabia for Hajj until about three weeks before it began. She was invited by Dar Al Islam travel agency. “I felt like it was something Allah called on me to perform Hajj and I was very excited. I was also very apprehensive and did not know what to expect; as you read and try to prepare for the journey it is more than anything you can anticipate. It feels like a blessing and I am really excited,” she said.

Ibtihajj said her visa process was easy and fast; it took one day to obtain. Her journey was long due to the fact that she traveled from Los Angeles, California and had a few flights before arriving to Saudi Arabia.

The American Olympian lauded the Kingdom's efforts for the organization of Hajj this year. “To the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia I thank you for having me; it has been a really transformative experience.” In her opinion Saudi Arabia had done a really good job to accommodate millions of people; she said that she can only imagine how difficult it is.

Ibtihajj felt that Madinah was one of the most peaceful places that she has been to during her trip to Saudi Arabia and said it was a great starting point to prepare and acclimatize to “Saudi Arabia and to prepare for Hajj itself.” 

“Once I had arrived to see the Kaaba for the first time — it is something that you read about it and hear about from your parents — but to see it for the first time for yourself and to see so many pilgrims walking around it was one of the greatest sights I have ever seen. It is something that you dream of and you pray that Allah invites you, so to have the opportunity to do that was very exciting,” she said.

Ibtihajj Muhammad is a member of the US fencing team. She is best known for being the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the US in the Olympics. She earned bronze at the Games, becoming the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics.


Local designers to share the spotlight during second Saudi Fashion Week

Updated 47 min 22 sec ago
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Local designers to share the spotlight during second Saudi Fashion Week

  • Riyadh will be the hub of Saudi Fashion Week
  • The Grazia Middle East Style Awards will this year take place in Riyadh

RIYADH: Emerging Saudi fashion designers will get a chance to showcase their work alongside internationally renowned peers — including Yahya Couture, Yuliya Yanina and Lama Askari — during the second edition of Saudi Fashion Week, which runs from October 21 to 25, 2018.

The dates were revealed by the event’s founder, Princess Noura bint Faisal Al-Saud, who made a statement with her choice of outfit for the official announcement: a black abaya with a traditional Saudi hand embroidered, red design.

The princess, who is honorary president of the Arab Fashion Council in Saudi Arabia, said she always dreamed of being part of the fashion industry and is working hard to help the dreams ofothers come true as well, by supporting local designers,providing them with a platform on which to showcase their creativity, and supplying them with the tools they need to succeed.

“This fashion week is sponsored by the GCA and we want to highlight our Saudi culture,” she said when asked how the second edition will differ from the inaugural event in April 2018. “Every designer is unique and designs in a different way. Our culture is not only about wearing an abaya; it’s what makes you comfortable as a person.

“We have more local names coming out and a program to support emerging designers. This is a platform with which we support Saudi designers, in their country, which they represent.”

However, it also embraces the wider international fashion industry, as well.

“it’s an exchange of cultures. It’s a platform for Saudi and other countries,” said Princess Noura. “When we speak about fashion, it’s a mirror that reflects our culture and modernity.”

To help launch the careers of Saudis who are just starting out in the fashion industry, a “Top emerging Saudi designers” program has been developed, and the country’s fashion community has chosen six designers to participate, some of whom are recentcollege graduates. It will offer them support and give them real-world experience of the fashion industry.

Riyadh will be the hub of Saudi Fashion Week, with three runway shows each day, beginning at 8pm. In addition, a fashion festival featuring pop-up stores will run throughout the event. The Grazia Middle East Style Awards, which is usually held in Dubai, will this year take place in Riyadh on the final day of Saudi Fashion Week.

“I want every designer in Saudi Arabia to not be afraid and to come out and show what they are made of. Be Brave,” added Princess Noura.