Modestly Active - Arab Women in Sport

At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, as many as 26 countries refrained from sending female athletes. However, by Beijing 2008 that list had shrunk to just three nations; Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei. Four years down the line, London 2012 is set to be the first Olympics in history whereby every participating nation will have at least one female representative. 

And with the inclusion of women’s boxing, it will also be the first Olympics to involve female athletes in every sport. Saudi Arabia, who had opened the doors for women participants last month, were the last one to complete the numbers when they named two female athletes on July 9. 
Middle distance runner, Sarah Attar, 17 and Judoka, Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahman Shahrkhani, 27, are Saudi’s historic first-ever female Olympic selections. Attar, born in California of mixed Saudi and American parentage, is the youngest Arab athlete competing at the Olympics.
From renowned photographer, Brigitte Lacombe, an exhibition and book celebrating Arab women in sport.
Saudi Arabian basketball players and Qatari swimmers feature in Brigitte Lacombe’s striking portraits of Arab women in sport. Commissioned by the Qatar Museums Authority, Brigitte and her sister, the documentary filmmaker Marian Lacombe, stayed at the pre-Olympic Arab Games in Doha for ten days last December to find their subjects. Traveling extensively around the Arab world, visiting Qatar, Morocco and Saudi Arabia, Lacombe photographed athletes who were often from economically deprived or war torn countries. “The young girls and women athletes we met were spirited and full of joy,” says Lacombe. “For them to arrive at this level of excellence requires extreme determination to overcome resistance––not only cultural, but economic and political". 

The work will be shown at Lacombe’s first exhibition in London, Hey’Ya: Arab Women in Sport, opening at Sotheby’s in late July, alongside a video essay from Marian, and an accompanying large-format book designed by 2x4 and published by Q.M.A. to be published at the same time. 
Lifted from an Arab expression meaning “let's go,” the show’s title suggests that this is only the beginning for Lacombe. “I hope it will help to open some minds,” she says. 

“It could end up being an important project, one I will continue to work on.”Hey’Ya: Arab Women in Sport by Brigitte Lacombe and Marian Lacombe is running at Sotheby's London from July 25 to August 11, traveling to the Q.M.A. Gallery in Doha, Qatar, Spring 2013

Sprinter Ruqaya Al Ghasara of Bahrain isn't held back by running in a hijab, a full Muslim headscarf. In fact, she says, it makes her even quicker.
"Wearing traditional Muslim dress has encouraged me. It's not an obstacle -- quite the opposite". 

Some athletic wear companies specialize in "modest" sports attire, including ResportOn
and Modestly Active

And sometimes women cover-up for non-religious reasons. The "Domestic Goddess" Nigella Lawson on Bondi Beach 2011 and Cathy Freeman winning Gold at The Sydney Olympics 2000.


  1. It’s great to see that even female athletes are taking the centre stage and gaining attention these days. My daughter also wants to be an athlete someday and I would like that to happen. She is already accompanying me for my workout sessions, and we both love to go shopping for fitness clothes, specially the designer leggings and cool tees and tank tops.


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