A whirlwind romance, two children, and the 2022 Fifa World Cup on the horizon, Tunisian-Spanish actress Hiba Abouk and Moroccan footballer Achraf Hakimi share their secrets to a good life.
Hiba Abouk and Achraf Hakimi have never publicly shared the story of how they met, and they probably never will; so much of their personal life as a married couple unfolds before a global audience already. Abouk, 35, is a Spanish-Tunisian actress known for her roles in television series like El Principe. Hakimi, 23, is a Moroccan footballer playing for Paris Saint-Germain and the Morocco national team. The pair protects whatever they can from the glaring spotlight following them just about everywhere these days.
Throughout the adoring duo’s hour-long Vogue Arabia interview, the subject of how they met is the only one that’s off-limits, and though it’s difficult to tell through the pixels of a Zoom screen, it might even be causing the otherwise stoic star to blush. All he’s willing to divulge about the carefully guarded details of his meet-cute with Abouk is that it blossomed from a mutual sense of admiration and respect. To that, she adds: “[For] what we do as professionals but also what we represent for our Arab culture, our Arab countries. He was very proud of me and I was very proud of him.”
A casually dressed Abouk is driving the conversation, sitting in front of what looks like a blank whiteboard, with Hakimi leaning up against her, happy to listen as his wife takes the lead. At their most comfortable, these two are unfathomably goodlooking, even more so when positioned side by side. They are joining our video conference call from Paris – the same city where Abouk had been cultivating an impressive acting career when she first encountered her now husband back in 2018. Hakimi was based in Madrid (where both he and Abouk were born), but moved to Germany shortly thereafter. This meant that the early days of their budding romance called for a dizzying series of back-and-forth trips across Europe, ultimately leading Abouk to relocate to Dortmund to be by Hakimi’s side. “Leaving Paris was a very hard decision for me to take, but I did it. For love, of course. And we knew, one day we would come back.”
That day came in July 2021, when Hakimi signed a contract with Paris Saint-Germain, the top football club in France and one of the most widely beloved sports teams in the world. The move catapulted his career into a stratosphere of superstardom as he joined the ranks of teammates like Kylian Mbappé, Lionel Messi, and Neymar Jr. When the official announcement was made, Abouk took to social media to share her excitement over the news. Channeling the famous words of Brazilian archbishop Hélder Câmara in an Instagram caption (originally posted in French), the actress wrote: “When we are dreaming alone it is only a dream. When we are dreaming with others, it is the beginning of reality.” One of the accompanying photos included the couple with their then 17-month-old son Amin.
As familiar as Paris is to Abouk, her latest chapter here looks a lot different than the one before it. Since moving back, she has given birth to her and Hakimi’s second son, Naim, who arrived one day after his big brother’s birthday this past February – a coincidence Abouk deems “a gift from God.” She was pregnant with Naim while shooting the French mini-series J’ai tué mon mari (I Killed My Husband) and will soon be returning to the big screen with a 2023 film project already on the horizon. Finding the balance between her personal and professional obligations while also facilitating her young family’s transition to life in France requires sacrifice, she says, but she’s grateful for all of it. In the week prior to our interview, for example, she had to be in Venice but could only bring Naim with her now that her older son has started school. “I’m always a mother even if I’m working and I’m shooting and I’m doing what I’m doing,” she says. “I love to spend the night under the same roof as my kids.”
Hakimi recognizes that parenthood hasn’t impacted his career in the same way that it has Abouk’s, but becoming a father at the age of 22 has grounded him in an environment where fast fame, and even faster fortune, have a dangerous habit of going straight to the heads of talented yet unseasoned athletes. “Some people my age are doing a lot of things, [living] a different life. But for me, I don’t care about that. What I want [is to] enjoy my kids, and I try when I have free time to [spend] it with my family, to enjoy it with them, to also be an example for my kids. It’s a pleasure to have my kids and my family next to me every time to help me, support me.” As for whether or not he’s got a couple of future footballers on his hands: “They will do what they want,” Hakimi insists before pointing out that Amin’s school has a special program for music. “He can be the next Beethoven or the next Hakimi, you know?”
As level-headed as the footballer strives to be, adjusting to the heightened pressure surrounding his PSG gig this past year has not been without its challenges. Gone are the days where he and Abouk can step out for a stroll or for dinner without being recognized. “We don’t enjoy the city like before,” Abouk admits. “We have to know where we go, at what time, to be careful that there’s not too [many] people and everything.” She’s also been assisting Hakimi as he adapts to the Parisian mode de vie, drawing from her experience in the city to guide him through its unique culture. Most importantly, she’s teaching him French, which is one of five languages she speaks (along with Spanish, Arabic, English, and Italian).
Hakimi underscores that his auspicious start with PSG wouldn’t be possible without Abouk’s encouragement. Next, he’s ready to advance onto the global stage at the World Cup in Qatar this November, knowing his wife and children will be cheering him on from the stands. As a member of his national team, Hakimi will face a different kind of pressure on the field. He intends to stay level-headed by channeling his younger self – the one who played football with a smile on his face, never out of obligation, and always with an unswerving love for the sport. “Here in Paris you play for the team of the city, but it’s not the same to play with the team of your country,” he explains. “Millions and millions of people are going to support you because you play for them. It’s like you play for your grandfather and their grandfathers. You play for a lot of people, a lot of Moroccans.”
As the celebrity status and scrutiny mount in equal measure, Hakimi and Abouk look to one another and to God to weather the storms. They surround themselves with the family and friends who’ve known and loved them for ages, and whose private thoughts and advice can drown out whatever noise is being peddled in public forums. Consider the couple’s appearance on the Cannes red carpet in custom Balmain outfits, which sparked outrage over Abouk’s bold, skin-baring ensemble. Though the misogyny of the backlash was evident – “We don’t expect from a man the same things that we expect from a woman… it’s like that in the whole world, and in our Arab world too,” Abouk says – Abouk and Hakimi continue to save their energy for their relationship, their sons, their roots and religion, and whatever else brings them happiness. That’s the secret to life, Abouk says. Whatever unsolicited opinions this approach invites is simply none of their business.
“We are very conscious that we have a lot of eyes on us and that we represent something in the Arab world, so we try to do our best,” Abouk says of putting forward an image “of nowadays,” which she describes as being fresh; as being free. Some people like it, some don’t – and she’s fine with that. They both are, as long as they are united in being true to themselves no matter what wild and beautiful adventure tomorrow brings. As he reflects on everything that has transpired in recent years, Hakimi sums it up perfectly: “I feel that my life changed, but I’m good with this life.”
Originally published in the October 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Style: Barbara Baumel
Fashion director: Amine Jreissati
Hair: Ilham Mestour
Makeup: Naima Bremer
Style assistants: Florian Sudres And Cristina Médina
Producer: Sam Allison