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8 of the Arab World’s Most Successful Female Athletes Share Their Fitness Tips

Entering the male-dominated sports industry is no easy feat, however, these eight trailblazing Arab athletes not only persevered, and thrived, but many also achieved world firsts. Recognized as some of the best in their field throughout the Middle East (and across the globe), these women are not only shattering outdated stereotypes and defying gender norms but also paving the path for future generations of women from the region to do the same. From figure skating and fencing to parkour and motor-racing, these inspiring athletes share with Vogue Arabia what steps they took to accomplish their dreams and how others can reach the same heights.

Zahra Lari

Zahra Lari

Zahra Lari photographed by Sabrina Rynas for Vogue Arabia April 2019

The young Emirati athlete became the first figure skater to compete in a hijab and the first skater from the UAE to compete internationally — all while studying at school. Time management was key in order to juggle her various priorities, including a wake-up call at 4:30am every morning so that she could be on the ice by 5:15am ready to train. Even now that she’s graduated, balancing all the hours in a day is paramount to her success. “I am thinking about getting a job and having that normal life as well as train and compete; I can do it all,” said Lari. “I mean we have 24 hours in a day — it’s a lot of time — so I feel like if you really want something, you can make it happen…Never give up. There’s going to be a million obstacles that will come your way, but every single one of them has a solution so instead of focusing on the problem, always focus on the solution. Just give it your all. Give it 100% and follow your heart and you can accomplish anything you want to accomplish.”

Amal Murad

Amal Murad

Amal Murad photographed by Francesco Scotti for Vogue Arabia, January 2018

It’s hard to catch Amal Murad. Often called the “monkey” of her family because of her habit of climbing walls and jumping over boxes – Murad began her life-changing journey becoming the first Emirati female parkour trainer from a young age. While the calisthenics athlete highlights the physical strength one gains from the fast-paced sport, she also stresses the mental strength one builds along the way. “It helped me overcome my mental barriers through the process of learning how to overcome the physical ones,” said Murad in an interview with Vogue Arabia, adding that the fear of getting hurt shouldn’t stop anyone because “injuries are part of any sport. Sometimes they put things in perspective. Being injured teaches you to be patient and reminds you to be humble.”

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Farida Osman

Farida Osman

Farida Osman photographed by Batool Al Daawi for Vogue Arabia

Egyptian Olympic swimmer Farida Osman is making lasting strides towards shattering stereotypes about Middle Eastern women in sports one record-breaking race at a time. Whether it’s medaling at both the 2017 and 2019 World Championships and becoming the first Egyptian swimmer to do so or it’s competing at two Olympic Games and setting a new African record, Osman is transforming the perception of female Arab athletes around the world. For Osman, “it just doesn’t happen overnight.” She trains nine times a week swimming-wise — not mentioning the other times she’s in the gym or completing dry-land exercises.“Short bursts with high technique, high execution, I think that’s how you improve your speed,” said Osman. “At the end of the day, it’s your journey, you’re in control of it. Just do whatever it takes until it becomes a reality. Commitment, discipline, sacrifice, patience—so you can swim fast.”

Aseel Al Hamad

Aseel Al Hamad

Aseel Al Hamad photographed by Abdullah Alshehri for Vogue Arabia, January 2019.

It was not just culturally challenging for Aseel Al Hamad to pursue her dream in motorsport, it was illegal. Yet, as soon as Saudi Arabia historically lifted its ban on women driving in June 2018, Al Hamad was the first to drive a Formula One car in addition to being the first female member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, demonstrating the drive and dedication needed to follow your heart. “Growing up in a country where it was illegal for women to drive was one of the biggest challenges I’d faced in my life, since my main passion has always been around cars,” wrote Al Hamad for Vogue Arabia. “As a young girl, I played with toy cars and Lego more suited to boys. My passion led me to buy a car, which I parked in the UAE. Over time, my love of cars evolved, and I became even more curious. I started taking courses and attending events in the racing and track world, fully engaging with the industry. This led me to build the relationships that I have now, both with the driving tracks and also car brands.”

Nouf Alosimi

Nouf Alosimi

Nouf Alosimi. Photo: @redseacitizen

Nouf Alosimi has a habit of diving deep into the unknown as Saudi’s first female technical diver. However, as the founder of Pink Bubbles Divers — a community that aims to empower Saudi women to scuba dive — Alosimi is also a professional at encouraging others to join her at such depths. “The first step when learning scuba diving is to accept your fear. It’s absolutely normal. We all had it in the beginning; it’s the fear of the unknown. But, once you go down, it will gradually disappear because you will be distracted by the magnificent underwater beauty.”

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Manal Rostom

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Manal Rostom wears the Nike Pro Hijab. Image courtesy of Manal Rostom

Dubai-based Egyptian runner Manal Rostom is all about routine and consistency. The first woman to compete in an international marathon while wearing a hijab as well as the first hijabi Nike + Run Club coach is no stranger to endurance and perseverance and recommends continuing your full-body workouts no matter the time of year—even during Ramadan. “You only stay focused and stay in shape if you make sure you’re getting the right things into your body, you’re drinking enough water, and you’re exercising three to four times a week,” Rostom tells Vogue Arabia. “Put some running shoes on, grab a friend, and hit the road. Don’t try to go too fast. Focus on breathing and enjoying the scenery. Increase the distance gradually on a weekly basis until you reach a comfortable pace and keep building from there…It will be long, but crossing the finish line of your first marathon will be so life-changing.”

Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibtihaj Muhammad photographed by Ziga Mihelcic for Vogue Arabia April 2019

As the first American to compete at the Olympics in a hijab and the first Muslim-American woman to win a medal when she placed third in fencing at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Ibtihaj Muhammad is overcoming prejudice from not only within the sporting industry but also her own team to show other young athletes they can do the same. “I’m just a girl from Jersey who chose to work hard,” Muhammad explains to Vogue Arabia. “I genuinely don’t think I’m special, I just want the youth out there to know that they can have the same thing with hard work.”

Fatima Al Ali

Fatima Al Ali

Emirati ice hockey player Fatima Al Ali. Photo: @fatima_al_ali

Emirati ice hockey star Fatima Al Ali may have caught the attention of a visiting US hockey player with a nifty trickleading to her traveling to America, meeting the Washington DC team, making the ceremonial puck drop at one of their games, and becoming an internet sensationbut the triple-threat athlete caught our attention as a woman who doesn’t back down. Starting out as a sports photographer to becoming a member of the UAE women’s hockey team, the first Arab woman to officiate at an International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship, and a National Hockey League global ambassador, Al Ali is as tough as the sport she lives and breathes. “Hockey is one of the toughest games in the world,” revealed the player-coach-referee. “Hockey players have to be in full shape and fit by doing things off-ice, running and going to the gym, plus knowing how to skate. Eating healthy food and getting enough rest is very important for recovery before and after practices and games.”

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