My name is Samar Alhashim and I inherited a love of education that helped me to develop a business-driven mind and discover a profound passion for the arts. I am one of many and this is my story.
I was born and raised in the Eastern Province. My father was a businessman and a profound diplomat in family interactions. My mother was a disciplinarian but had a soft side. Together our parents ensured that my siblings and I grew up understanding our roles and comprehending the fact that we must take responsibility for our own futures. They raised us to think independently and take control of our lives early on, using education as a stepping stone to successful paths in life.
There were no limits to education in our family. My paternal grandfather, Abdullah, was a teacher and he instilled in my father the importance of receiving an education. My siblings and I in turn inherited this passion for learning, which helped broaden our horizons and prospects in life.
My mother was an enforcer of good manners, honesty, dedication and commitment to a job. There was no tolerance for laziness as she pushed us always to do more and realize our full potential.
After high school, I majored in English Literature in college but felt I needed a change after graduating. After moving to the US in 1993 as a newlywed, I started again from scratch. I majored in business administration, with a minor in economics, as an undergraduate at Bloch School at the University of Missouri, and went on to earn a master of business administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. I did not realize it at the time but my entrepreneurial skills were developing, even though it was a little late in my educational journey.
An appreciation of and respect for art is a major part of my being. Accompanied by my husband, Dr. Hisham Alomran, and our children, I would travel from one European city to the next, along with places such as Syria and the Levant, visiting beautiful art galleries to discover great and unique works.
I opened Acoustic Tea Lounge and Art Gallery as a place where people could relax and enjoy the atmosphere surrounded by wonderful art.
This profound adoration of art continued to grow until it culminated in the launch of my first business in 2007. The concept is simple. I opened Acoustic Tea Lounge and Art Gallery as a place where people could relax and enjoy the atmosphere surrounded by wonderful art.
Opening in Khobar was a great opportunity as it served a diverse group of people, most of them expats. The concept of lounge/cafe and art was widely appreciated and visitors enjoyed the mix of drinking a good cup of tea or coffee while admiring works of art.
A new concept for the Eastern Province, it earned such high praise that I soon was encouraged to expand to Riyadh, where the business flourished and became a central hub for families and art lovers.
Although it is a business, it is a reflection of who I am as a person. In fact all my business concepts reflect my personality and my understanding of the beauty behind such ventures.
Art and education go hand in hand. I see evidence of that in my three children, who are now grown up. Years after we took them on those “boring” trips to art galleries and museums, the experiences they had eventually resulted in them adding beautiful touches to their own lives, even if it is something as simple as hanging a piece of art to brighten up a dorm room wall.
Similarly, the support I received as a child growing up is reflected in my business ethos for the art cafe. It supports local artists in the Eastern Province by exhibiting their works and, with the help of the community, many of them have gone on to make a mark on the local art scene — or even find international fame.
The cafe has featured works by rising stars such as Saudi artist Fatimah Alnemer and Omar Alrashid from Bahrain, among others. Their success is also my success. Providing local artists with much-needed support is an essential step in encouraging a love and appreciation of beautiful art in our evolving society. We have so much potential and I wanted to give something back to my nation.
Thirteen years after I launched the art cafe, my vision and goals are now more widely appreciated and shared. Works by local artists can be found on display in restaurants and cafes across the Kingdom — it is a beautiful thing to see and I am proud to have played a part in it.
My husband is a physician, so the concept of health and wellness is an important part of my family life. With his support, therefore, I established my second business, My Saudi Wellness in 2014 where it promotes the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and was a new — almost foreign — concept in Saudi society at the time.
This year has had its challenges, the most profound of which is the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle to help protect against illness and disease has never been more important than it is now.
Just as my mother taught me to be committed and stay true to my chosen path, I hope that My Saudi Wellness will continue to provide an important service to communities and raise awareness of health issues in Saudi society. Together, we have shown this year that we can fight a pandemic, and the lessons we have learned will stand us all in good stead in the future. There is no turning back now.
Art is beautiful, health is essential and we can begin learning about both from an early age. My children are examples of that, along with the thousands of other families have also made this a goal in their lives.
My wish is to continue down this path I have forged, for the sake of the current generation and the generations to come.