A Business Journey


Deena Al Faris shares her story of success.

Tell us all about yourself.

I was born and raised in Khobar and attended finishing school in Switzerland where I got to practice French and learn a few things about business. That time was a starting point for me. I had a year off during which I interned in accounting and finance in my father’s factory, before finally attending and graduating from Oxford University.

How did you start your successful journey in the world of business?

I have a great father who believes in me and my potential. Around the time of my graduation from university, my father sold his vehicle factory and started a caviar farm with the purpose of tackling a new challenge and bringing something new to the area. After doing a lot of research on it and testing the possibility of running it here, he made it work.qamrah_courtesy-3

It took seven years for the first caviar to be produced, but he got it certified from the Ministry of Agriculture and we eventually started exporting to Russia. At the time, I was running the development and marketing of the business, then eventually I rose to take on the CEO position. Recently I stepped down from running the business while still retaining a spot in the board of directors.

You recently switched into the fashion industry?

I couldn’t re-invent the wheel in any way when it comes to fashion, but I like to challenge myself. My dream is to see us having academic resources, like a real cut and sew and pattern-making facilities in Saudi one day. With that in mind, I started my own clothing line: Qamrah.qamrah_courtesy-2

 What is the idea behind Qamrah?

As much as I appreciate the traditional concept of fashion startups here, when I started Qamrah I wanted to create something new. Being one of many other Saudi-working women, I wanted to create a clothing line that provides working women with chic/easy-to-slip-on wear. Qamrah is named after my mother and means “moon” in Arabic. The moon goes through phases, so I thought it was the perfect name since women go through phases whether on a daily or monthly basis.

What do you attribute your success to?

When I think about the success of Qamrah, I can’t attribute that all to myself without thinking about the endless support I get every day from my loving husband. He believed in me when I had nothing to prove it was going to work.qamrah_courtesy

What advice can you give to Saudi women who are starting up their own business?

I’d like to say to all the women out there that you shouldn’t worry if you failed once or twice, as long as you have your ideas and conviction. As long as you wake up for it every morning, you will get there. Yes, you’ll face challenges, but it’s all a part of the journey.

Web: qamrah.com


Home is Where the Palm Trees Are


A pictorial journey of one woman’s heart and home.

I grew up among palm trees and water springs. I played hide and seek around citron and pomegranate trees and grape vines. I made little tent homes under vast lime trees that filled our family farm.

My childhood was awesome.alahsafarms_travel_2015_haa_10

I can still feel the fresh earthy air filling my lungs as I played tirelessly around the farms as a little girl. We would run around looking for wild dandelions to blow, or stare deeply into watering pools, mesmerized by a froglet as they swam by in the still water.alahsafarms_travel_2015_haa_11

My parents would tell us stories about gigantic turtles and endless, natural water springs. They’d talk about the times they hunted frogs and rode donkey carriages when they were children, and the nights at their grandfather’s farm where they laid their little tired bodies and let their sleepy eyes shut at the sight of stars in the clear night sky.alahsafarms_travel_2015_haa_16

All grown up and busy with the trappings of life, I still try to steal moments when I can to go back, sit in our farm with a cup of red tea in hand, and get lost in utter reverie of times past but never forgotten.alahsafarms_travel_2017_haa_22

Any Hasawi could surely relate to my wistful emotions towards our oasis of a home. But, for the rest of Sharqiya, I figured I’d try to capture those emotions on camera and show you around the closest place to my heart.


Turkish Delight


Big Chefs, the restaurant for those with big appetites.

Before we get to the meat of the matter, let’s give kudos to the ambiance of Big Chefs. From the hanging lights that look like twinkling fairies in the high ceiling to the beautiful bookcases filled with, well, books, this place is just a lovely spot to dine in.

We started off with an oldie but a goodie: the Mezze plate – a mixture of hummus, mutabbal, pickles and grilled halloumi. Then we tried the Goji Berry and Avocado salad which really hit the spot with its delightful mix of flavors.yoghurt-kebab_bigchefs_khobar_2017_aa-1

For the main dish, everyone talked up the Yogurt Kebab so we simply had to try it. At face value just layers of bread, kebab, tomato sauce and yogurt, this dish transformed into something greater than the sum of its parts and left us absolutely delighted and satisfied.

Ah, but then there was dessert. The best baklava we’ve had in the longest time. Sweet but not too sweet, you’re invited by the warmth of the pistachio within the juicy flakes and the perfect topping of vanilla ice-cream.baklava_bigchefs_khobar_2017_aa-1

Pro tip: you can’t have something this tasty sweet without the tasty bitterness of their excellent Turkish tea, bringing both worlds together in a subtle explosion of joy and yumminess.

Location: Prince Faisal bin Fahd Rd., Khobar
Timings: Saturday – Wednesday: 8 – 12 a.m.
Thursday – Friday: 8 – 1 a.m.


A Life of Yoga

Downward Facing Dog

Calm your mind, hone your body.

As we sat down with Marleni – both a yoga teacher and student for life – we were mesmerized by her positive energy and passion for the practice of yoga. She kept on reciting quotes from the book “Light on Yoga” by B.K.S. Iyengar, telling us it was her yoga bible.

“The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ meaning to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply. It means the discipline of the intellect, the mind and the emotions, and the will. A poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all aspects evenly.”

Modern yoga derives from the ancient 6,000-year-old practice of Hatha yoga in India. Hatha is the mother of yoga and it focuses on the structure of alignment in the body parts and feeling the connection of the body and the soul. All other types of yoga fall under it, including vinyasa, ashtanga, bikram and restorative yoga.

Benefits of Yoga

  • Improves memory and focus.
  • Increases flexibility.
  • Increases muscle strength and tone.
  • Improves respiration and energy.
  • Increases and maintains healthy metabolism.
  • Possible weight loss.
  • Reduces levels of stress, anxiety and
  • Improves circulatory health.
  • Protects from sport related injury.

The Flow

Child’s Pose (Balasana)

  • Stretches the lower back.
  • Massages and tones the abdominal organs.
  • Stimulates digestion.

    Child’s Pose

Cow Pose (Bitilasana) & Cat pose (Marjaryasana)

  • Both poses together warm the body.
  • Bring flexibility to the spine.
  • Stretch the back, torso and neck.
  • Stimulate and strengthen the abdominal organs.
  • Open the chest, encouraging the breath to become slow and deep.
    Cow Pose

    Cow Pose

Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)

  • Energizes the body.
  • Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches and hands.
  • Strengthens the arms and legs.
    Downward Facing Dog

    Downward Facing Dog

Lunge Pose (Anjaneyasana)

  • Stretches legs and arms.
  • Opens heart and chest area.
  • Opens and aligns hips.
    Lunge Pose

    Lunge Pose

Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I)

  • Stretches the chest and lungs, shoulders and neck, belly, groins.
  • Strengthens the shoulders and arms, and the muscles of the back.
  • Strengthens and stretches the thighs, calves, and ankles.
    Warrior 1

    Warrior 1

Warrior 2 (Virabhadrasana II)

  • Strengthens and stretches the legs and ankles.
  • Stretches the groins, chest and lungs, shoulders.
    Warrior 2

    Warrior 2

Standing Forward Fold (Uttanasana)

Strengthens knees and thighs while stretches hips, hamstrings, calves (it is safer to practice it with slightly bent knees).

Standing Forward Fold

Standing Forward Fold

Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

  • Improves posture.
  • Strengthens thighs, knees and ankles.
  • Tones abdomen and buttocks.
    Mountain Pose

    Mountain Pose

Instagram: yogawithmarleni


Thank God it’s Friday


You cannot top Haya’s weekends, ever.

“Be fearless; you’ll never know if you never go!” – Haya Al Samari

Petroleum system analyst in Saudi Aramco by weekday and surfer, hiker and fearless expedition guide by weekend, Haya Al Samari is an outdoor adrenaline junkie extraordinaire.

“I’m also a certified advanced diver and part of a running team called Jude,” reminds us Al Samari.

The fun began when she started taking trips with Hussak, a group that offer exploration trips to hike the outskirts of Oman, Alaska, Mongolia and many more exciting locales. The first time she went on a trip with the group, it was a life changing experience. “The whole time, I felt like I was in a movie. I was staggered by the amount of scenery in Oman and I wondered why I haven’t been there before.”

During an 8 day excursion in the Red Sea, diving multiple times a day and swimming with dolphins.

During an 8 day excursion in the Red Sea, diving multiple times a day and swimming with dolphins.

Bewitched by the magic of her previous trip, went a second time with the group on a surprise trip where they didn’t know where they were headed. During that trip, she met the founder, Ali Husain, for the first time.

“I was actively helping fellow travelers and Ali noticed how passionate I was, so he challenged me to hike in very risky locations and I beat him every time.” From that moment, Al Samari became a part of the Hussak team. “When Ali asked me to join the team, at first I was very reluctant. I felt like I was putting myself ‘out there’ and I was worried about my family’s and my manager’s reaction. Still, in the end I made it work!”

Camel ride in Khovd, Mongolia.

Camel ride in Khovd, Mongolia.

Being in nature is Al Samari’s main motivation and driver with each trip. “I feel strange if a week passes without me going hiking in Oman. Being in nature makes you addicted to it and it makes you appreciate everything you have.”

As we listened to Al Samari talk about her experiences, we were enchanted and drawn by her energy. She told us how small in the world she felt every Saturday, when she got back home and laid in her bed staring at the ceiling, instead of lying in a sleeping bag in the mountains staring at endless starry skies.hussak-adventures_hayaalsemari_dahran_2017_aa-6

“Every weekend in Oman, I meet people from diverse cultures where they’re all just being their bare selves because we all came for the same reason. It takes someone special to go to these trips.”

Being a guide taught Al Samari how to disentangle from everything shallow in life. It allowed her to gain the power of changing people’s lives in a short period of time. The change she sees in the travelers when they first experience these trips makes her heart flutter every time. While camping, their team might run out of food, “but when we share a meal, it tastes even better!”

Between Wakan and Hadash, Oman.

Between Wakan and Hadash, Oman.

One of her most remarkable trips was when she went to Mongolia during the winter with the World Wildlife Fund. Hussak was volunteering money to collect tracking collars for snow leopards with the help of the organization. An endangered species, the initiative aimed to study the lives of these animals by tracking them.

“Mongolia is a culture of people who consciously choose not to expose themselves to modernity,” said Al Samari. “It’s also got the best scenery you will ever witness!”

On the road between Khovd to Munkh, Magnolia.

On the road between Khovd to Munkh, Magnolia.

Along with experts from the organization, Husain, Al Samari and three other members of Hussak spent that trip going out to the wild every morning and coming back at night looking for snow leopards. Enduring many challenges, including temperatures reaching -40 degrees, Haya says it was all worth it whenever they saw a snow leopard in its natural habitat.

A particular highlight of the trip was when they stayed with a Mongolian family to learn about hunting with horses and eagles. “For a week or so, we were living in a very raw environment. We ate and drank in bowls, and had a cow peeking at us in the toilet!”hussak-adventures_hayaalsemari_dahran_2017_aa-2

You’d think Al Samari would be exhausted and tired each week, coming back from such intensive weekends of adventuring and trekking. “When I go to work every Sunday, the tired me will just browse the photos of my weekend on my phone and regain all my energy. Every moment is worth it.”

Instagram: mykindofridays


Have Camera, Will Travel


Never let it be said that boredom is useless.

When Hesham Al Humaid dropped out of college for a few months, he got bored, bought a camera and started taking photos just to fill the time. Soon, he was obsessed.

In 2011, he was named one of best 10 national artists in Saudi and went to the UK with a group of artists for two weeks. The trip was organized by Crossway Foundation, and they were assigned to create something new based on the type of art they were specialized in. Hesham came up with the idea of Wojhah Expedition Group, the first Arab travel photography team. In 2012, along with his good friends Ahmad Al Saif and Mohammed AlAbdulmohsin, he went to India and pulled off his first photography trip.wojha_source_2017_1

“It was a great exposure to diverse cultures and religious backgrounds,” said Al Humaid. “At the time, as much as it was rich and enchanting, it was challenging for many reasons. No one in the area was very keen on travel photography, so when we were looking for people to join us on the first trip, we hardly heard from anyone.”

After posting the photos online, photographers started pouring in wanting to join up with them.malaysia

In 2014, as a way to support Emirati photographers, Wojhah Expeditions worked with Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum International Photography Award to have an Emirati member in their team for each trip that year.

Now, the group hosts members from all over the Arabian Gulf and has been to Cuba, Nepal, Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and other countries. Destinations are chosen based on specific criteria, with a rich and unique culture being most important.

“It was my dream to see the Buddhist temples in Burma, Myanmar,” said Al Humaid. “It was one of the most beautiful cultures I ever saw.”cuba-04

Al Humaid has a day job and keeps photography and managing Wojhah Expeditions as a side hobby. Perhaps one day he’ll give it his entire focus, but for now he’s happy working on specific projects, including a book that he plans to publish soon.

“Travelling has taught me to accept any situation I’m in,” said Al Humaid. “Life isn’t about being rich or poor, it’s about being content with what you have and finding joy in what’s around you. I witnessed people who, even though they had nothing and could barely afford their dinner at the end of each day, had this sense of peace and contentment that I’d never seen elsewhere.”heshamalhumaid_wojha_khobar_2017_aa-1

Al Humaid capped off the interview by telling us about one of the most remarkable cultures he was ever able to see and photograph: the Bajau Laut (Sea Gypsies) near Malaysia.

“It was fascinating to see people who were born in the sea, lived their whole lives in it and then died in it as well! These people rarely set foot on land… It was there that I took one of my most iconic photos.”

Instagram: wojhah


Yes, She Can

Adwa Al Dahkeel continues to inspire crowds.

A historic event highlighting Saudi women.

Thanks to the patronage of Princess Lamia bint Majed, CEO of Alwaleed Philanthropies, Saudi Arabia recently had its very first Saudi Women Conference at the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue in Riyadh.

Under the theme of “Saudi Women Can”, the conference highlighted Saudi women’s achievements and growth through history in education and the job market. More importantly, the event hosted several Saudi women icons, from entrepreneurs to mountain climbers and inventors to journalists, which filled the space with an inspiring and compelling energy we all drew from and went back home feeling empowered.fo1a9371

Speeches were given by the likes of Cherie Blair, lawyer and wife of the former prime minister in the UK; Joelle Tanguy, Director of the Strategic Partnership Division at the United Nations; and guest of honor Monique Villa, a journalist and CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The conference held two panels: one about the evolving role of Saudi women in the business market and the challenges they face today, and the other about the role of Saudi women in the media.

_dsc7512Thomson Reuters Foundation and Alwaleed Philanthropies partnered and initiated the first women’s course on journalism in Saudi Arabia called “Reporting Women”, where a number of Saudi Women journalists were selected to receive extensive advanced training on reporting strategies and tactics. The course encouraged them to take on the market of journalism on a larger and more in depth scale.


Tea-Tastic Journey


How do you like your tea?

In the movie “Siberian Education,” grandfather Kuzya tells us the rules of drinking tea: “First, we enjoy its warmth and we appreciate its aroma. And only then do we taste its flavor. Three pleasures in one. And to think, it’s only just water!”

Jesr el Musayab Resturant – Chai the Iraqi Way

iraqitea_jesralmusayab_khobar_2017_haa-1If you’ve ever been served good ol’ extra-boiled tea in a pot with loads of sugar, then make no mistake, you’ve crossed paths with the love it or hate it Iraqi style of tea. It’s famous for being concentrated and extra sweet. We went to try it at Jesr el Musayab in Dhahran.

Location: Amwaj Mall, Prince Faisal bin Fahd Rd., Dhahran

Indian Tea – Karak

karak_antrtea_khobar_2017_haaThe nutmeg, cardamom and saffron flavored red tea is something we all need to warm us up on a cold winter evening. We tried it at the famous Antr tea kiosk and sipped tea while we enjoyed the sea breeze, and we loved it!

Location: Antr Tea, Prince Faisal bin Fahd Rd., Khobar

Ceylon Tea

flowertea_herbaltea_khobar_2017_haaJust as it’s warming to your fingers when you hold the teacup as well as to your stomach when you sip it, it’s also warming to your heart. With a soothing aroma, the saffron and mint flavored Ceylon tea is just delightful. We had it at the Herbal Tea Café in Khobar.

Location: Herbal Tea Café, Prince Turki St., Corniche, Khobar

Heritage Village Market – Al Omda Tea (The Yemeni Way)

yemenitea_alahsa_2017_haa-2What makes this tea taste special is the mix of flavors of the special Yemeni Kabboos tea and basil together. According to Al Omda, who served us the teapot, the basil shouldn’t stay long in the teacup or it will ruin the balance of flavors. We enjoyed it in the Heritage Village in Al Ahsa, and as we sat sipping our tea under the soft drizzle of the end of the winter, the experience was unforgettable!

Location: Heritage Village Market, Ain Najm Rd., Mubarraz, Al Ahsa

Blooming Tea – Blooming Garden Café

tea_bloonminggarden_khobar_2017_haa-2Ever seen a flower blooming before your eyes? That’s exactly what we experienced at the Blooming Garden Café in Khobar. This hand-assembled blooming jasmine tea all the way from China leaves you in awe. Served in a glass pot, you get to see your jasmine tea as it blooms ready for you to drink!

Location: King Fahd bin Abdulaziz Rd. & Prince Faisal bin Fahad Rd., Khobar