How Arab News helped support one Saudi woman’s dreams

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Updated 20 April 2020

How Arab News helped support one Saudi woman’s dreams

  • Lina Almaeena was teen editor in chief of the Jeddah Girls Gazette
  • Her 1995 article ‘Wild Female Dreams’ envisioned more freedoms

JEDDAH: “Wild Female Dreams” is the title of my article as a teen editor in chief of the Jeddah Girls Gazette in 1995. Writers and contributors were dynamic high-school friends and family members. My uncle Tariq was our mentor and publisher. 

It took 25 years for all my teenage dreams to come true. My first dream turned into reality on June 24, 2018, when women were allowed to drive, not just their cars but also the country’s development. It was one of the most liberating feelings I have ever experienced, simple as it may have seemed to women living outside the Kingdom.

I dreamt in my article about women in the police force, only to see in 2018-2019 women progress as far as joining security services, drug enforcement and military jobs, with possible ranks from private soldier to sergeant in the army’s branches of ground, navy and air defense.

My third dream, as simple as it may have seemed, related to the sense of modesty for women. In the 1990s, there were no women in retail, and salesmen dominated female apparel outlets. The campaign in 2008, headed by Reem Assad and aimed at replacing salesmen with women in lingerie shops, made waves and eventually victory was achieved by a royal decree in 2011.

My fourth dream was to buy tickets to attend a local match in Saudi Arabia. That came true in January 2018 when I attended the first local match in King Abdullah Aljohara Stadium between Alahli Club and Al-Batin FC. It was an ecstatic feeling with beautiful and respectful cheering crowds, eroding certain segments’ fears regarding a possible catastrophe with women attending games in stadiums. 

My fifth dream was to switch on the TV and watch girls play basketball. That came true in 2017 when Jeddah United women’s basketball team participated as the first local team under the Saudi Arabian Basketball Federation in the fourth Arab Club tournament in Sharjah, the UAE, and winning the tournament’s sportsmanship award.

As I reflect 25 years later on the Jeddah Girls Gazette article, I realize I had listed six dreams, of which the last long-awaited one came true in August 2019: The lifting of a travel ban for women without a male guardian. Even though the travel permit was not a personal issue, I still felt the relief for many women of all ages with various circumstances. Widows who had to get permission from their sons was an ironic example.

Twenty-five years may seem like a long time, but in the context of women’s evolution, and considering the young age of Saudi Arabia as a country united in 1932, it is considered a fast pace. I say that now since all restrictive walls have fallen.

That is not how it felt years ago, with continuous frustrations and limitations, especially as a teenager. But women have endured and struggled for decades all over the world; in Saudi Arabia, it took less than five years since the announcement of our Vision 2030 reform plan on April 25, 2016, for transformation to take place.

A famous Japanese proverb states that a vision without an action plan is a daydream, but an action plan without a vision is a nightmare. I am proud and humbled to say we have one of the most promising and empowering visions. Vision 2030 has enabled 50 percent of the population to play an active part in nation-building. 

That is not to say women did not contribute prior to that. If I just look at my immediate family, my mother Samar Fatany was one of the first TV and radio presenters in the Ministry of Information in the 1970s.

During her 35 years at the ministry, she was the chief broadcaster of the English section at the Jeddah Broadcasting Station, a columnist for Arab News and the Saudi Gazette, and a participant in many local and international conferences. She also has four publications to her name, the last titled “Modernizing Saudi Arabia,” published in 2013. 

Times have changed, indeed. It was only in 2013 that women joined the Shoura Council. I am honored to have joined the 2016 second term for women on the council as I strive to recommend reformist legislation and participate in a friendship committee that communicates with parliamentarians around the world.

Reflecting on all my dreams, and on this occasion of the 45th anniversary of Arab News, the newspaper known as the “Green Truth” played a huge role in female empowerment. It was one of the first papers that hired women in a mixed environment. It was the only local paper that was happy to cover our first women’s street basketball tournament in 2006-2007, when all other publications politely refused. 

If I were to ask myself what my dreams are today, I would say I dream of more women actively participating in decision-making in Saudi Arabia and the globe. I dream of world peace, I dream of a green planet, but above all in these times, I dream of a healthy planet, conquering COVID-19 and having treatments available for all illnesses.

As we experience the curfew, I also get to do something I was never able to do in the past. I ride my bike safely around my neighborhood before the 3 p.m. curfew and visit the mini-market next to my house. 

All I can think about is the last two questions in my article “Wild Female Dreams.” Can these dreams be reality? Can the impossible be possible? The answer is a double YES. But we will need a newspaper to document this, and what better one than Arab News to do so. Happy 45th anniversary and many more anniversaries to come.

• Lina Almaeena is a member of  the Shoura Council, co-founder of the Jeddah United Sports Co., and on Forbes’ list of Most Powerful Women in the Middle East. She is also a member of the Top 20 Young Leaders of the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Region.


How brands are celebrating Saudi National Day

Updated 24 September 2020

How brands are celebrating Saudi National Day

RIYADH: The 90th Saudi National Day is one of pride and celebration not only for the people of the Kingdom – but brands too. From offering discounts, to musical playlists, and social media events, here’s how brands are joining in:

Amazon.sa

In celebration of National Day in Saudi Arabia, Amazon.sa is running a sale until Sept. 26 offering discounts of up to 70 percent. It represents the first National Day sale for Amazon.sa, which launched earlier in the year for customers in the Kingdom.

Careem

Careem KSA is celebrating by offering people getting engaged on its social media platform a chance to win gold bars and coins.

Twitter

With current circumstances changing the way people celebrate, and to mark the Kingdom’s 90th National Day, Twitter launched a 90-minute trivia quiz via its @TwitterMENA account in the region. The virtual celebration challenges people on their knowledge about the Kingdom, from historical moments and culinary arts, to hidden gems and sporting prowess.

Twitter teamed up with a series of Saudi experts, covering a wide range of sectors including travel, food, history, entertainment, education, and sports.

The experts, including Abdullah Al-Jumah (@AAlJumah), Abdul Aziz Alyami (@azeez000a), Dr. Bandar Alghamiz (@BAlghmaiz), Bader Al-Fouzan (@B_alfouzan), Malk Alsulaimy (@ARCH1993), and Abdulelah Alfares (@AbdulelahAlfars), also supported the campaign by sharing hints and insights about the topics.

In addition, Twitter has created an emoji of the Saudi flag that is triggered whenever the following hashtags are tweeted throughout the month of September: #SaudiNationalDay; #SaudiNationalDay2020; and #SaudiNationalDay90.

A dedicated event page in both Arabic and English will also be launched, providing people with real-time updates on activities, including videos and Moments (collections of tweets). The event page will be accessible through either the Twitter Explore section or on top of people’s timelines, for those who have already engaged with #SaudiNationalDay content on Twitter. Alternatively, people can find the page by searching Saudi National Day on Twitter.

Snapchat

To celebrate the 90th Saudi National Day, Snapchat’s official lens creator, Fahad Mutlaq, has created an anti-reflection (AR) lens that allows Snapchatters to celebrate the event even when physically apart, giving them the chance to share cool snaps while celebrating at home.

Abdulla Al-Hammadi, regional business lead at Snap Inc., said: “We are committed to bringing AR experiences to Snapchatters in the KSA. Given the exceptional times that the world is going through due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this lens comes to provide our community in Saudi Arabia with the chance to express their love for their country while they are celebrating National Day.”

Mutlaq said: “Creating an interactive lens that allows Snapchatters to celebrate this occasion from home, using the Kingdom’s official National Day slogan, colors, and logo, has been an absolute honor.

“By leveraging the power of AR, Snapchat has been bringing exceptional experiences to Snapchatters in the Kingdom, allowing them to create memorable, interactive moments on unique occasions such as the Saudi National Day.”

Emirates NBD

The 90th Saudi National Day comes amid a challenging year on all levels. Emirates NBD wanted this film to act as a thank you letter on behalf of all Saudis to those who have helped the Kingdom reach its 90th National Day safely – the heroes who have relentlessly and responsibly worked behind the scenes hand-in-hand with the government to ensure people’s safety, making the Kingdom a safe land full of blessings.

The film celebrates Saudi National Day through an emotional script, written in a poetic way and complemented by a musical score that goes along with a compilation of footage showing people and scenery from throughout the Kingdom.

Deezer

The global music streaming service Deezer launched a campaign called “Let’s sing for the homeland,” inviting all music fans to use a specially designed online feature to nominate songs that best express the love that people have for the Kingdom.

The final compilation of songs, unveiled on Saudi National Day under the banner “Saudi Flow: Le Noghani Lel Watan,” offers a unique musical experience created by music fans and curated by Deezer to celebrate the country. The campaign aims to bring the nation closer together through music.

Tarek Mounir, Deezer CEO for the Middle East, North Africa (MENA), and Turkey said: “We want every music fan to be able to celebrate their love for this beautiful and spirited country. We have imagined ‘Let’s sing for the homeland’ as a place where people can come together as one, united by music.

“Saudi Flow will reflect the nation’s musical DNA. I would like to invite everyone to join the online celebrations and create the nation’s first flow.”

Saudi Flow has been inspired by Deezer’s signature feature Flow, which is based on a proprietary algorithm and recommendations from its professional music editors. It offers an endless mix of old favorites and new recommendations in one ever-evolving stream.

While Deezer’s algorithm is responsible for presenting every listener’s personal preferences, the flow of a whole country should reflect the preferences of its people, but it is still supported by Deezer’s editors and technology.

Join the celebrations today and nominate your song by visiting http://nationaldayplaylist.com.

Ithra

As national identity remains resolute in the face of a global pandemic, Ithra, the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, is proud to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s 90th National Day with a host of activities dedicated to the Kingdom’s culture.

Ithra’s National Day offering runs until Sept. 26 with events including exhibitions, family activities, storytelling, a game competition, Saudi cuisine, workshops, poetry, music, dance, and folk performances.

Highlights include the opening of the Kingdom of Cultures exhibit, which takes visitors through Saudi Arabia’s varied landscapes to meet its diverse people and experience its rich cultural legacy. It will run for 90 days.

Takya is a fine-dining experience featuring an innovative blend of authentic, fusion, and contemporary cuisine. There is also The Market, which brings creativity and design into Khobar with a reimagining of the central vegetable market in Al-Ulaya with an artist area, performances, and food trucks.

Al-Farabi band accompanied by Abeer Balubaid on piano and singer Ameen Farsi headline the music program, while Abdulatif bin Yousef presents poetry night.