Faiza Ambah, behind the veil

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Faiza Ambah.
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Behind the scene photos of Mariam.
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Updated 13 May 2016
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Faiza Ambah, behind the veil

Saudi director, screenwriter and producer Faiza Ambah is one inspiring woman. She started her career as the first Saudi female journalist working for Arab News and took her passion for writing and delivering a message to a whole new level.
“Many people from the West think that Saudi women are oppressed, there are a lot of ways that Saudi women’s lives can be challenging but from my personal experience, my father and my boss were a great support in my education, experience and career,” said Ambah. “When I used to travel and tell people that I am a journalist from Saudi Arabia, they would ask many questions about how women live here. I always say that there is nothing that I couldn’t do in Saudi Arabia. I was very lucky to have my father and boss who were both understanding and supportive about me being a journalist in a newsroom filled with men,” she added.
After working for a Saudi newspaper, Ambah had to start from scratch as a reporter and translator for the New York Times in Cairo. “I started at entry level for years and I traveled with them to Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Yemen and other places to report and translate from there. Then I started doing my own stories for other newspapers and that’s how I got my break,” she said. “I did some radio for different channels and I used to take any job I could get to gain experience. I think you really have to work at entry level before you get your big chance to shine,” she added.
Ambah later worked as the GCC correspondent for The Washington Post covering stories about politics, oil and economy out of Jeddah.
She later decided to end her journalistic career to focus on her secret passion for filmmaking by attending an online screen-writing program at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. “I would work five times a week for The Washington Post and then work on my screenwriting studies on my free days. I later felt there was a tug of war between the two. My heart was no longer in journalism and being a correspondent for such a huge newspaper was a big responsibility and I had always wanted to do a good job so I had to quit my newspaper job,” she added.
After Ambah finished her course, she wrote a feature length script about an Egyptian Imam running a mosque in Brooklyn, titled ‘Omar of Brooklyn’. “I sent the script to a workshop called the RAWI Sundance Institute, it is a workshop for Arab screenwriters and I got accepted. They flew me to a desert resort in Jordan where I got coaching from a professional screenwriter,” she said.
It was at the RAWI Sundance Institute’s Screenwriters Lab where she honed her storytelling skills. “I then applied with the same script to Doha Film Institute and they gave me a development grand and invited me to the Doha Film Festival. I didn’t have any knowledge about directing but people told me that if you want to protect your story, you should direct it yourself. They meant that if I wanted my film to reflect my image and vision, then I should be behind the camera,” she said.
Ambah then took two courses in direction, a summer course from USC School of Cinematic Arts in 2010 and another summer course from Paris in 2012.
In 2013, Ambah was a jury member at the Gulf Film Festival in Dubai. She organized a festival specifically for Gulf films at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, France in the same year. Ambah has a feature-film writing certificate from UCLA extension and has taken directing courses at the Cinematic Arts School at the University of Southern California and the New York Film Academy.
Ambah also worked on another film called ‘Mariam’, which was inspired by the French ban on hijab. The film was shot in French language with English subtitles in France.
’Mariam’ tells the story of a young girl of Arab origin who was born and raised in France and who must decide between wearing hijab or getting expelled from school. “It was weird for me watching this happen because I come from a country where it is essential to wear hijab. This triggered so many things in me. Women should have the freedom to do what they want to do and I felt offended by this whole issue,” she added.
For her film, Ambah chose a 15-year-old actress because “when you are at that age, everything is life and death.”
“To me the idea that you are forcing these girls to choose between something they believe in and their school is very dramatic. It is an age when they are curious and develop their personalities with all life’s ups and downs,” she said.
The film has an awkward length of 44 minutes, it is not a short film and it is not a feature film. “There were many festivals that did not accept it for that reason, but my decision for not cutting it was made even though I knew it was going to hurt me with festivals but I was hoping it would help me with viewers and I did not want to lose this connection with my audience,” said Ambah.
’Mariam’ was screened in Dubai and won a special jury award. “This is my pride and joy, I cried when I heard the name on stage. I was happy that Dubai accepted it and to win something after going through all these stages was worth it,” she said.
Saudi directors such as Ahd Kamel and Haifaa Al-Mansour are both inspirations for Ambah. She usually meets them in film festivals. “I met my producer through Kamel, she is a great support to me. Al-Mansour is one of the people who encouraged me to direct my own film by sharing her own experience and stories about directing her short film ‘Wadjda’,” she said. “I wanted the best for my film and I told her that I was afraid to direct, she told me ‘Faiza, you are the best for your film,” she added.
’Mariam’ was awarded the Special Jury Prize at the Dubai International Film Festival 2015. It was screened at UNESCO as part of the commemoration of the 2015 International Day of Peace, and is now available on iTunes for viewing and for school and community screenings.
’Mariam’ was also screened at the French consulate in Jeddah, The Core Club in New York, Women’s Film Festival in Philadelphia, Geneva International Film Festival and Maryland International Film Festival. It will be be shown this month and next month at the Athens International Film + Video Festival, Festival de film Cinema Arabe in Amsterdam as well as the Arizona International Film Festival.

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Mo Salah’s wife: Egyptian women’s icon who shuns limelight

Updated 18 September 2019

Mo Salah’s wife: Egyptian women’s icon who shuns limelight

  • Salah prefers to keep his private life in general away from the glare of the media

CAIRO: Magi Sadeq, 25, is known for keeping a low profile in the media compared to the wives of other footballers. 

The wife of Liverpool and Egypt star Mohamed Salah has become something of a celebrity in her own right after appearing with her husband while maintaining a conservative look.

Salah prefers to keep his private life in general away from the glare of the media, but sometimes there is no escaping the spotlight for his wife and daughter.

Sadeq appeared with her husband at celebrations held by the Confederation of African Football when Salah won the African Player of the Year award. She also appeared with their daughter Makka during celebrations marking Salah’s winning of the Premier League Golden Boot award, and after Liverpool won the 2019 UEFA Champions League.

Sadeq was born and raised in Nagrig, a village in Gharbia where Salah was also born. It is the same place where they like to spend their holidays and special occasions whenever they have the chance.

FASTFACT

Sadeq appeared with her husband at celebrations held by the Confederation of African Football when Salah won the African Player of the Year award.

She has a twin sister, Mohab, and two other sisters, Mahy and Miram. Their parents were both teachers at Mohamed Eyad Al-Tantawi School, where she met the future Egyptian international.

Sadeq, who maintains a simple lifestyle, fell in love with Salah 10 years before they married. Their love story was the talk of the town where they lived.

They were married in 2013 as the player started taking his first steps in Europe with Swiss football club Basel. They married when he returned home for his first holiday.  

She keeps her husband connected to his rural roots. She doesn’t have any social media accounts, and unlike other footballer’s wives, she is not interested in appearance and makeup. She prefers to wear body-covering conservative clothes.

Sadeq and her twin sister both obtained their degrees in biotechnology from Alexandria University. She is responsible for her husband’s charity work in Egypt. Her neighbors say that she helps in buying the necessary home appliances and other needs of newly married couples. She also supervises charity work and regularly attends the special events staged by her village even though she has been made busier after her husband joined Liverpool.

Salah once said of his wife: “I am unfair to Magi as I give her the least of my time due to the nature of my work. I would like to thank her for her support and for being in my life.”