I grew up in a home where our intellectual growth was a focus. My father established one of the first and largest intellectual property firms in Saudi Arabia, representing brands like Apple and Versace. My mother has been a social activist for as long as I can remember and still devotes herself to many charities in the Kingdom.
My background made me a curious and rebellious child, I never listened to what I was told. This drove my parents and teachers to distraction. I would always ask “why should I do this?”, “why can’t I do this?” And the most important question of all to me, “why can’t GIRLS do this?” This has shaped the woman that I am today.
Not being able to drive used to upset me. It dates back to an incident when I was 8 years old and tried to drive a golf cart without my family knowing. I was caught right away. I’m sure it will be no surprise that I have my driver’s license now.
When I was very young my mother always surrounded me with educational material, buying me chemistry sets and encyclopedias and I loved it! I would spend hours reading about photosynthesis instead of playing with my cousins. She also saw my love of art and would teach me how to do art and crafts, encouraging me to keep pursuing my talent.
She also introduced me to charity work, which I am still heavily involved in. When I was very small, I remember having to stand on a chair to reach a cotton candy machine – it was my job to make and sell it to raise money for charity.
Around the time I graduated high school, I took first place in a nationwide art competition. I had two interviews in “Sayidaty” magazine and “Al Watan” newspaper that focused on the fact that I was the Kingdom’s youngest designer. After this, I participated in countless bazaars and in theater productions to raise funds for different charities.
I love art and analytical thinking, so when it was time to go to college, I chose to study architecture. My family tried to persuade me to study Law like the rest of my family, but I refused and went with my heart. Even my extended family did not approve because they did not think it was appropriate for a woman to study alongside men. I didn’t let their negativity affect my decision.
While in college, I drove my professors crazy asking questions about every single design decision. Sometimes it affected my grades, but I believed in myself. At the end of the semester, I would present a project so good that it proved my questions had purpose. I simply wanted to grow, which eventually earned me the respect of the faculty. By the end of the course, I was tutoring fellow students privately and charging them for it!
When I was 8 I tried to drive a golf cart without my family knowing. I’m sure it will be no surprise that I have my driver’s license now.
My final project was the largest in the university’s history. Conceived as a giant indoor theme park, had it been built it would have broken the record for the largest dome size and would have been the second largest theme park in the world. Initially, some of my professors pushed back thinking the concept was altogether too large, but my stubborn nature helped me to keep going and, in the end, everyone loved it.
When I graduated, I worked in different companies from design to IP, and also as a freelancer. One of my projects was designing a cafe in Riyadh called Symphony Lounge.
A turning point in my career came when my father established a real estate company called Al-Ard Al-Salbah. He asked me to lead and manage the company and I knew instantly it was the right move for me. In less than a year it became one of the first companies to be licensed by the Ministry of Housing. We are currently finishing construction of 4 villas and renovating 2 multi storey buildings. I have a clear vision for the company and always apply the work ethic I learned from my family.
My father and I sometimes disagree on management systems. I am still inquisitive by nature and think it’s important to ask yourself if the well-trodden path is the best way forward.
I try to strike a balance between work and my personal life. As important as my work is, it is not more important than my charity work. I am a member of a children’s charity called Kayan, which supports orphans. I also volunteer with animal rescue centers, helping to pay vet bills and when I can, fostering. I have fostered over 40 cats, dogs, birds and even rabbits! I take care of them until they find a forever home or until their medical care is sponsored. I have 3 dogs and 8 cats of my own. Most are rescued from the street and have different medical issues.
My favourite pets are my 4 parrots. I raise awareness of avian care – most people don’t realize how sensitive and intelligent birds are. Most parrots live a minimum of 45+ years! They are a forever family members and not for entertainment.
In my spare time I still paint and teach art to beginners on my Instagram channel. I have exhibited my artwork on a few occasions.
I am disciplined and goal driven even with my hobbies – nothing feels more amazing that when you aim for something and achieve it. My favorite quote is by Confucius, “It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”