Saudi Woman Becomes World-Class Jockey

Mohammed Rasooldeen & Naif Al-Shehri, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Mon, 2005-12-26 03:00

RIYADH, 26 December 2005 — Alia Hayel Aboutaiyh Al-Howaite has taken the reins as the first female Saudi jockey to compete at the international level.

Alia, who is being sponsored by Kingdom Holding Company Chairman Prince Alwaleed ibn Talal, participated on Thursday in the 120-km World Endurance Championship for the Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum Challenge Cup in Seeh Al-Silm near the Dubai International Village. Alia placed seventh among the 90 jockeys from around the world who took part in the global event.

“We are delighted to support the first female jockey as we did the first lady pilot who is breaking new ground for other Saudi women,” Prince Alwaleed said, adding that Alia is already a winner regardless of the results.

A current employee of the Kingdom Holding Company, Alia was given the fullest support by Prince Alwaleed to follow her lifetime dream and represent the Kingdom as a pioneer lady equestrian.

The prince has been a vocal proponent in encouraging women to excel in all fields. In a statement issued to the press, Prince Alwaleed pledged his financial support for women who shine in their respective fields of interest. “The goal is to break new ground and launch novel opportunities for women in general,” he said.

Hanadi Hindi, who became the first Saudi woman airline pilot, was the maiden beneficiary of the prince’s sponsorship program to empower Saudi women.

Encouraged by her father, Alia started with horses at an early age and competed in several equestrian marathons but never represented the Kingdom. Under the sponsorship of Prince Alwaleed, she underwent training under the supervision of the prominent coach, Najeeb Barjes and rode thoroughbred Falah, who is well known in the Kingdom for his endurance racing abilities. “I am really delighted to have performed so well in this event,” Alia told Arab News, thanking Prince Alwaleed for his support and assistance to gain fame in this sport. “If it were not for his cooperation, I would not have made this achievement.” She said she took to horse riding when she was five. “My father and my brother Sattam helped me a lot in developing the skill,” she said.

Alia, who obtained her bachelor’s degree in Jordan, said that she started to look for a good trainer when she became 16. “At 18, I took part in an event in Amman,” she said.

She pointed out that there are several Saudi women who are interested in this sport but unfortunately they do not have the means to pursue their interests. She said she will continue to participate in international events and her ultimate target is to compete in the world championship.

Alia returned to the Kingdom with her parents in the prince’s private jet and was given a hero’s welcome here.

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