Emara: The superhero who dons a headscarf

The caped crusader.
Updated 06 September 2018
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Emara: The superhero who dons a headscarf

  • Emara is the superhero alter ego of a young Emirati girl called Moza
  • Fatma Almheiri would like to see more Arab and Muslim representation from Hollywood

DUBAI: Picture your average female superhero, and she is probably dressed in spandex with long bouncy hair and an illogically tiny waist. 

But Emara dons a navy blue headscarf, a green, white and gold costume, a cape lined with red, and golden specs inspired by the burqa. 

Born and raised in Dubai, Fatma Almheiri was just 21 when she created the mini-series on YouTube in 2016. She now aims to put Arab female superheroes on the map.

“I’ve been doodling since I can remember. I grew up watching my mum draw and paint, as well as my cousins, so it’s always been part of my life. But I didn’t decide to take drawing more seriously until high school,” recalled the Emirati.

It was then that she transformed her hobby into a career and enrolled at the Cartoon Network Animation Academy in Abu Dhabi. 

From there, she interned at the UAE’s Cartoon Network Studios Arabia before working fulltime on her personal project, the five-episode cartoon “Emara: Emirates Hero,” which boasts more than 75,000 subscribers.

“Emara is the superhero alter ego of a young Emirati girl called Moza, who harnesses a special power to fight crime in the bustling streets of the UAE,” said Almheiri.

Why create her own show with a strong female lead? “Representation,” she said. “I tried to create the kind of character I wanted growing up but never got.”

In comics and other areas of pop culture, said Almheiri, representation matters because fictional characters are a mirror to society. 

Like Latifa, Saudi Arabia’s first female comic superhero, and Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel, Almheiri said she wants Emara to give a sense of identity to children who, like her, could not relate to traditional superheroes. 

The reaction to her YouTube series has been “overwhelming,” Almheiri added. “I didn’t expect so much support, especially not internationally.”

She said: “The female main character is in a hijab. You don’t really see that often in cartoons… It’s the characters that make the show great.”

While Emara is currently discontinued unless it gets commissioned — “animation isn’t cheap and it takes a lot of time” — its creator has her sights set on the big screen.

“I’d like to create my own animated feature film one day,” said Almheiri. “I’d like to see more Arab and Muslim representation from Hollywood.” 


Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

Crique du Soleil in Riyadh. (Arab News)
Updated 24 September 2018
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Cirque du Soleil in Saudi Arabia: The perfect tribute to a rich culture

  • Crique du Soleil created a spectacular show in Riyadh
  • They paid tribute to Saudi culture and heritage

RIYADH: The circus — a place that is almost synonymous with joy and delight. Since time immemorial, circuses have been places of celebration and glee, and few as much as the premier name in the industry: Cirque du Soleil.

The show has had a devoted fan in me since 2006, when I attended a performance of their production “Quidam” and my definition of the word “circus” was turned upside-down. Their unique approach to art, performance, costumes and music has secured their status as a household name and a benchmark for all other circus shows to be measured against.

On Sunday night, Saudi Arabia’s National Day, the circus brought their incredible acrobatics to Riyadh’s King Fahad Stadium and it turned out to be a night to remember.



Prior to the event, Cirque’s Vice President of Creation Daniel Fortin offered little in the way of spoilers but hinted that we would see something the likes of which we never had before. With the promises of exclusive new acts, music, costumes and stage tricks piquing my excitement, I joined a throng of green-and white-clad spectators flooding the stadium. Performing to a sold-out crowd, the show kicked off at exactly 8.30 p.m. and the magic truly began.

Barely five minutes into the show, something stole over me as I settled into the rhythm of the music, something I saw flickering over the faces of those in the crowd around me: Recognition. We were seeing ourselves, our identity, echoed back at us, but with a twist. We saw ourselves through someone else’s eyes — someone respectful and admiring.



As a Saudi youth today, it has become an unfortunately common occurrence to face negativity from various outsiders, born of ignorance or fear. It has become dreary and repetitive to have to continually defend my people and my culture from those who have no wish to understand us.

But at this show? I saw my country once more through the eyes of an outsider, but this time, it was different. I saw my culture and my heritage lauded, celebrated, delicately fused with that tangible Cirque du Soleil flair. The attention to detail was careful, almost loving, but also daring and outlandish. It was a glorious fusion of classic Saudi aesthetics with the ethereal, bizarre beauty of Cirque du Soleil.


The symbolism was not always obvious, sometimes it was subtle, constrained to the beat of a drum or hidden in a snatch of song. Other times, it was blatant and bold, in the sloping hump of an elegantly clumsy camel costume, or the billowing of the Bedouin Big Top in the gentle breeze. And yet, unmistakeably, I felt the Saudi influences in every note of the performance. It felt like an homage, and yet it did nothing to diminish its own identity. It remained unquestionably a Cirque du Soleil performance, only below the usual circus frippery, there was a ribbon of something else that lay coiled beneath the surface. Something bright, vibrant green. Saudi green.

The spectacle rounded off with an astonishing display of fireworks, so plentiful that for a moment, the sky glowed bright as day. To me, each one felt like a promise fulfilled. A dream achieved. A miracle witnessed. Here, on my own home soil, it was the perfect tribute to a rich and vivid culture.