The Yasmeens and the Danas of Saudi Arabia

The Yasmeens and the Danas of Saudi Arabia

Samar Fatany

By Samar Fatany

Two highly impressive, progressive and determined young Saudi women were among the guests at the Indian Consulate in Jeddah celebrating the international women’s day. Yasmeen Al-Maimani, a commercial pilot, and Dana Algosaibi a professional horse trainer. Both women boldly pursued their careers and were not dissuaded by anyone or anything that attempted to block their way.

Yasmeen who dared to dream as a child to become a pilot, had to go through many hurdles to make her dream come true. Her struggle to become a pilot is very inspiring.

She worked hard to receive a scholarship from Effat University and after graduation with the support of her father she joined the Royal Jordanian Air Academy one of the most reputable flight schools in the region. During her training her colleagues teased her saying that she was wasting her time and it is wishful thinking for a Saudi woman to become a commercial pilot. However, that did not stop her from training and succeeding in getting her first license.

In 2011, she was faced with another hurdle and had to quit when her father suffered financial problems and could not support her training any longer. Again she tried to get a scholarship but found no support at home. After knocking on many doors she finally worked in a flight school in Jeddah (Rabigh Wings), as assistant of chief pilot. She had hoped to train in the same school but could not get an approval from the General Authority of Civil Aviation of Saudi Arabia, (GACA).

Yasmeen’s dream came true when Aerosim Flight Organization in USA/FL a Flight Academy, which trains pilots internationally, contacted her, to be their representative in the Middle East. The academy gave her a scholarship to train and study for the auto commercial pilot license. When she obtained the American license in 2013 she applied for the Saudi license and had to take 3 written tests and Check ride, Practical + Oral tests. In early 2014 she went to Jordon for her Check ride, and was the only one out of seven, six of them males, to pass the test.

With a certified Saudi flying license in hand she still struggled to find a job. Rejected by Saudi Airlines, Flynas and all other airlines, she could only work for aviation-related businesses, first with Nexus as coordinator and then with ARABASCO as project manager-business development. She excelled in her job and was able to establish a whole Flight Center and a new branch of ARABASCO in London.

The licensed pilot finally got her break in 2015 when she met Qatar Airway’s CEO Akbar Al Baker, who encouraged her to apply to the airlines. She was then asked to take one extra course in the US to qualify for the job. With whatever savings she had, Yasmeen flew to the USA where she succeeded in passing the (ATP CTP course) and finally got accepted as Qatar Airways cadet. Now she is waiting for her training with the airlines. Meanwhile she hopes to start her own business and to obtain her European license.

Dana Algosaibi is another brilliant young and energetic Saudi woman who was inspired by her love of horses, art and healthy living. Dana grew up among horses in the Eastern Province and Bahrain where she learnt to ride. Horses have always been a big part of her life. She worked in barns in many different locations around the world. Her travels have enriched her experience and exposed her to different schools and disciplines.

Not many people in Saudi Arabia may approve of her as a horse trainer but wild horses would not stop her from working with the animals she loves. Dana became a volunteer for disabled equine therapy and is currently back in Saudi Arabia where she is training her two beautiful horses, Tod and Copper.

The horse trainer also has other talents. She studied Art at Lassal College International School of Fashion, Art, and Design in Montreal. She took courses in artistic makeup for filmmaking and theater. Later in 2008 she joined Emerson College in the UK and studied Art of Education, Storytelling, Theater and Performance. She toured Europe and North America with her performances, (biographical-traditional stories) and workshops and now she is doing improvisation shows and workshops with her team (Ewa Improv).

Dana was always eager to learn. In 2011, she joined the International Macrobiotic School in Devon and in 2012 she enrolled in the Kushi institute leadership program in Boston where she studied Macrobiotics seeking a healthier lifestyle and an alternative way to heavy medication. In 2014, she joined the Arab Yoga Foundation in Saudi Arabia and completed 200-500 hours in yoga teacher training and ranked first in performance in prenatal yoga therapy.

The two bold and contemporary women represent a new wave of young Saudis who are talented, ambitious, hardworking and above all determined to pursue their dreams. The Yasmeens and the Danas who are willing to explore new avenues and are passionate about the work that they do, will be the ones to create a progressive society that blends our culture with 21st century modernity.

The international women’s day (2017) was celebrated throughout the Kingdom with many examples of educated and highly qualified women calling for change and an end to discrimination.
Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at samarfatany@hotmail.com