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

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. 


Dr. Abdullah bin Rafoud Al-Safiyani, Saudi Shoura Council member

Updated 18 January 2020

Dr. Abdullah bin Rafoud Al-Safiyani, Saudi Shoura Council member

  • He was appointed to the consultative body in 2016
  • He has been awarded a medal of excellence from the Ministry of Education

Dr. Abdullah bin Rafoud Al-Safiyani was chosen as a Shoura Council member by a royal decree from King Salman in 2016.

The Shoura Council convened on Wednesday, and Al-Safiyani demanded that the National Anti-Corruption Commission investigate and set up an authority to oversee influencers’ activities on social media.

He said it had become important for the anti-graft body to monitor influencers as they were paid tremendous amounts to publicize government entities, and that there needed to be regulations to process such transactions.

Al-Safiyani has a bachelor’s degree, a master’s and a doctorate from Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah.

He is a member of Almajmaa (Virtual Academy of the Arabic Language), the Saudi Scientific Association for Arabic Literature, the Saudi Association for Education and Psychology and the Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States, in addition to his Shoura Council membership.

He is also the vice dean of community service and continuing education at Majmaah University in Majmaah City, Saudi Arabia, and has collaborated with the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for the Arabic Language on several programs.

He has been awarded a medal of excellence from the Ministry of Education, and is also the director general of Adab (International Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature). He has been a teacher and an administrator in public education since 1998.