Stranger than fiction: 15-year-old girl is youngest English-language Saudi author

Leena Althekair, second right, with her family at her book-signing event in Jeddah. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 09 September 2018
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Stranger than fiction: 15-year-old girl is youngest English-language Saudi author

  • Young author said she had her share of naysayers and detractors who told her she was not old enough to succeed
  • Althekair recently appeared at the Virgin Megastore in Jeddah to sign copies for excited readers

JEDDAH: At the age of just 15, a schoolgirl has become the youngest Saudi to publish an English-language novel. Leena Althekair started writing her book, “Foreshadow,” in the summer of 2017, when she was still only 14.

“I have always had this idea but it wasn’t clear,” she said. “But as I kept writing, it got easier and now it’s in the form of ‘Foreshadow.’”

The idea for the story originally emerged from a school writing assignment.

“I actually wrote an essay for school and when I re-read it I thought, ‘You know what? This is a pretty good novel idea’ — and then I spent whole summer writing it,” she said.

“For me, it was never about becoming well known, it was getting the message across that age doesn’t really matter; what matters is that you need to work hard. You are never too young or too old to be chasing your dreams.”

Althekair said she had her share of naysayers and detractors who told her she was not old enough to succeed.

“People would say to me, ‘You are still young — don’t do it now because you have so much ahead of you.’ But my mom and dad and my friends have been such a big support, cheering me on,” she said. “Sometimes I would just want to stop but my friends told me to go on. In the beginning it was hard, because people wouldn’t take me seriously. A lot of them didn’t say anything but they would give me strange looks. I focused on the people who supported me instead.”

It is well known that writer’s block is the worst enemy of an author. Most will face it at some time, and Leena was no exception.

“In the middle of the book I started panicking because I had only planned it that far,” she said. “There were times I deleted whole chapters right before sending it to the editor and wrote the whole thing again.”

After pushing through the tough times, the book was finally completed and published, and Althekair recently appeared at the Virgin Megastore in Jeddah to sign copies for excited readers. Her family were there, as always, showing support for their talented daughter.

The book features a suspenseful, well-written story that draws the reader in from page one. The plot revolves around the adventures of Meghan, who is about to start high school. Her older brother is a physics geek, and she is spending time with him in his lab when an accident changes her life.

As for Althekair’s own continuing adventure as an author, she said she has ideas for further novels, including a possible sequel for “Foreshadow.”


FaceOf: Princess Lamia bint Majid, secretary-general of Alwaleed Philanthropies

Princess Lamia bint Majid
Updated 18 November 2018
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FaceOf: Princess Lamia bint Majid, secretary-general of Alwaleed Philanthropies

  • She has a bachelor’s degree in public relations, marketing and advertising from Misr International University in Cairo, Egypt
  • In 2017, she was awarded the prestigious Arab Women’s Award for her compassion and charitable efforts

Saudi Princess Lamia bint Majid has been secretary-general of Alwaleed Philanthropies since April 2016, and is a member of its board of trustees.

The Riyadh-based charitable foundation supports and initiates projects worldwide to empower women and the youth, develop communities, provide disaster relief and create cultural understanding through education. It has donated $4 billion to humanitarian causes in more than 60 countries.

Before becoming secretary-general, Princess Lamia was executive manager of media and communication at Alwaleed Philanthropies between 2014 and 2016. 

She 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. 

She 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, and of Mada magazine between 2002 and 2008. 

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

“Our aim is to ensure gender equity,” the princess said during her speech at the first World Tolerance Summit in Dubai. It is “a message of tolerance when you highlight the strength of women,” she added.

Princess Lamia highlighted the need to bridge gaps between Islam and the West, and the lack of research into the “gaps or shortcomings” that prevent more tolerance in society.