TheFace: Alaa Bahri, Saudi Arabia’s first licensed ocularist

Alaa Bahri and her twins Cayan and Maleeka. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 21 June 2019
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TheFace: Alaa Bahri, Saudi Arabia’s first licensed ocularist

When I was young I did not know exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I knew I wanted to do something special.

Eventually, I decided I wanted to be an ocularist, which is someone who makes and fits artificial eyes. This was a big challenge. There are no schools that teach this skill; usually it is passed down from one generation to the next, so you have to be a member of a family that is already in the business. I was not.

The other challenge I faced was convincing my family to allow me study this unusual subject, as they were concerned about the risks of pursuing a career in something so unfamiliar and uncommon.

I persisted, however, and contacted the Laisca family of ocularists in Barcelona, Spain, who agreed to teach me their techniques for making artificial eyes. My education did not end there, as I was keen to learn more, and as I searched for information I found the American Society of Ocularists. I registered with it and found a certified ocularist with whom I could train, while also attending courses and classes, to become an apprentice or an associate. I went to Houston, Texas, and trained with Soper Brothers, which is well-known name in the field. However, I struggled to obtain a visa after 9/11 and so I could not work full time as an apprentice or study full time at college.

Nevertheless, I was more interested and determined than ever to learn about making artificial eyes, and so I went to Paris to learn new methods from the company Dencott. Then I returned to Saudi Arabia to open my own practice. This was another difficulty, as it was not easy to get a license for a clinic because it was a new field in the Kingdom.

After four years I managed to open my clinic and became the first licensed ocularist in Saudi Arabia. My parents, especially my dad, helped me a lot with the business and my mom was always there for me when I had to go to a meeting or appointment and needed her to look after my twins, Cayan and Maleeka. My family supported me all the way and encouraged me to succeed in something that I love to do. They understood how happy this made me and how it would change the lives of a lot of people.

Cayan and Maleeka are my support system; it is not easy to work and raise kids but I will always encourage them to choose a career that they love and to be creative. Loving what you do is a blessing. I try to explain to my kids sometimes how important my job is and what it means to my patients. Sometimes it means that I might be busy or exhausted and not always around for them, but I am doing something I know is special — I am putting smiles on faces and changing lives.

I am now a member of the American Society of Ocularists and working to become the first board-certified ocularist in the Middle East but still have a few years to go before I earn that. 


Saudi Cabinet stresses commitment to Hajj services

Updated 30 min 48 sec ago
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Saudi Cabinet stresses commitment to Hajj services

  • The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guests Program for Hajj and Umrah has benefited over 52,000 pilgrims

NEOM: The Saudi Cabinet on Tuesday reviewed topics related to the services provided to Hajj pilgrims, and to the service of the Two Holy Mosques.

Chaired by King Salman, the Cabinet discussed his directive to host thousands of pilgrims from all over the world each year as part of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ Guests Program for Hajj and Umrah. The program has benefited more than 52,000 pilgrims since its inception in 1996. 

Media Minister Turki Al-Shabanah said the opening of water projects in Makkah and the holy sites reflects the Saudi leadership’s care and attention, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The opening of the water projects, which cost a total of more than SR1.3 billion ($346.6 million), coincides with this year’s pilgrimage season.

The Cabinet condemned the Israeli demolition of dozens of houses in East Jerusalem, making hundreds of Palestinians homeless.

It urged the international community to intervene to stop this aggression and Israel’s attempts to change the legal and demographic character of the city.

The Cabinet was briefed on regional and international developments, including Iran’s violations of international law, such as the interception of civilian ships in the Arabian Gulf.

The Cabinet praised the results of the 50th ordinary session of the Council of Arab Information Ministers chaired by Saudi Arabia.

Participants stressed the role of Arab media in consolidating citizenship, strengthening national identity, and combating terrorism and extremist thought.

The Cabinet expressed its condolences to Japan’s government and people on the deadly fire in the city of Kyoto, and wished the injured a speedy recovery.

Al-Shabanah said local affairs discussed by the Cabinet included the King Abdullah International Parks project in Riyadh.

The Cabinet praised the crown prince’s support for sports, and the distribution of SR2.5 billion to sports clubs.