TheFace: Fatmah Al-Rashed, Saudi architect

Fatmah Al-Rashed and her family. ( AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
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Updated 10 March 2020

TheFace: Fatmah Al-Rashed, Saudi architect

  • "Ithra was a wonderful opportunity and a joyful experience that added so much value to my life."

Early on in life I learned that there is no one way to happiness, no one stereotype for accomplishment or self-satisfaction. This belief has been a drive for me to achieve more. I was born and raised in Alkhobar city; my father was a businessman and my mother was a housewife.

My life is rich with love provided by my family, my siblings, nieces and nephews and I’m enjoying motherhood and my family through nonconventional means.

My parents raised us as equals, they supported us, thought very highly of us and believed that we could excel in anything that we did. Our opinions were highly respected, but there were high expectations to be upheld.

My father once told me after finishing a novel on Marie Curie, “you know you’re no less than she is, you can be the Marie Curie in your own field. You have all it takes.”

I enrolled in the Imam Abdulrahman Al-Faisal University as I’ve always wanted to become a pediatrician. My parents raised my siblings and I with one motto in mind: “It’s not about you, it’s about how you can give back to your community.” My mother was not in favor of my chosen vocation. This is not to say that she went against me; in fact, I was given the freedom to decide my life path and my parents were supportive.

In those days, you had to apply to the university by physically providing all the necessary paperwork. As I stood in line to apply for medical school, I saw another queue. Inquisitive by nature, I went to ask what it was for. The administrators told me it was for the department of architecture and planning. Upon hearing that the course was just 5 years, I remembered my mother’s words, and within a minute, I decided to enroll in the department.

Two steps is all it took, stepping into the queue to the right and that decision changed my life’s path and helped make me who I am today. After graduating, I was hunting for jobs with no luck.

As I am not the type to lay back and do nothing, I volunteered to teach English at a local charity. One day, my father surprised me and said I had a job interview in Aramco.

I was shocked since I never applied and because it’s my father, he simply said that I applied for you because it’s time for you to give back. He told me: “The country invested in you, you are smart and you can take whatever job they give you. Who’s going to build the country but you and your generation?” Doors were opened.

I worked in my field for a while and that led me to the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, also known as Ithra.

Twenty-five years later, I’m a still proud employee at Saudi Aramco and one of the first to bring the concept of Ithra to life. My role in Ithra began as an architect and was extended to be part of the creative team responsible for managing the creative program, its concept, and established the first Fablab at the King Fahad University for Petroleum and Minerals — the first in the Eastern Province. Building the concept of Ithra, or as I prefer to call it “the land of dreams,” was a group effort.

I joined with a dream and it was fate that we, the dreamers, were able to gather and meet at the right time and place, and most importantly we were given the opportunity to build something amazing.

This was a selfless act from our end because we wanted to see it come alive, to ensure that we played our part in giving back to a community that helped us grow to who we are today.

Ithra was a wonderful opportunity and a joyful experience that added so much value to my life. What comes next is going to also be part of my journey of growth, to explore our identity.

My life has been a whirlwind of opportunities. One lesson I learned was to never underestimate an opportunity no matter how small it was. You never know what you’ll get out of it.


It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

Updated 04 April 2020

It was Russia, not Saudi Arabia, that pulled out of OPEC+ deal: Saudi ministers

  • Saudi foreign and energy ministers say Moscow's claim that Kingdom withdrew from the OPEC+ deal was unfounded
  • They said it was Russia that abandoned the agreement, leading to a collapse in world oil prices

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia's foreign and energy ministers on Saturday denied Russia's claim that the Kingdom abandoned the OPEC+ deal, leading to a collapse in world oil prices.

In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said "a statement attributed to one of the media of President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation claimed that one of the reasons for the decline in oil prices was the Kingdom's withdrawal from the deal of OPEC + and that the Kingdom was planning to get rid of shale oil producers."

"The minister affirmed that what was mentioned is fully devoid of truth and that the withdrawal of the Kingdom from the agreement is not correct," the statement said.

In fact Saudi Arabia and 22 other countries tried to persuade Russia to make further cuts and extend the deal, but Russia did not agree, it said.

Prince Farhan expressed surprise that Russia had to resort to "falsifying facts" when Saudi Arabia's stance on shale oil production is known, the statement said.

He pointed out that Saudi Arabia is one of the main investors in the energy sector in United States, implying that there is no reason for the Kingdom "to get rid of shale oil producers" as Russia has claimed.

He further said the Kingdom "is also seeking to reach more cuts and achieve oil market equilibrium for the interest of shale oil producers."

OPEC+ refers to the cooperation between members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC oil producers. The cooperation deal which called for cuts in production by the producers was meant to stabilize oil prices. 

In a separate statement, Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman rejected Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak’s similar claim that the Kingdom refused to extend the OPEC+ deal and withdrew from it.

Novak "was the first to declare to the media that all the participating countries are absolved of their commitments starting from the first of April," Prince Abdulaziz said in a statement.

He said Novak's statement led other countries to decide "to raise their production to offset the lower prices and compensate for their loss of returns." 

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia called for an urgent meeting of oil exporters after US President Donald Trump said he expected the Kingdom and Russia to cut production by 10-15 million barrels per day.

Prince Farhan said he was "hoping that Russia would take the right decisions in the urgent meeting" so that a "fair agreement that restores the desired balance of oil markets" could be achieved.

The global oil market has crashed, with prices falling to $34 a barrel from $65 at the beginning of the year, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Fuel demand has dropped by roughly a third, or 30 million barrels per day, as billions of people worldwide restrict their movements.

A global deal to reduce production by as much as 10 million to 15 million barrels per day would require participation from nations that do not exert state control over output, including the United States, now the world’s largest producer of crude.

A meeting of OPEC and allies such as Russia has been scheduled for April 6, but details were thin on the exact distribution of production cuts. No time has yet been set for the meeting, OPEC sources said.