Hatoon Kadi: Comedian

In our season finale, Hatoon talks about the video that accidentally went viral and made her famous. From being named as BBC’s 100 Women in 2014 to dealing with trolls, this is the journey of Saudi’s first female comedian.

Follow Hatoon Kadi on social media: @hatoonkadi. This episode was produced by Hebah Fisher and Dana Ballout, with editorial support by Linah Mohammad and Alex Atack. Sound design by Mohamad Khreizat, and fact-checking by Zeina Dowidar. Our original sting was composed by Ramzi Bashour. al empire is a Kerning Cultures Network production. Search ‘Kerning Cultures Network’ to hear other podcasts like this one, and follow @kerningcultures on Instagram to stay in touch!

Support this podcast on patreon.com/kerningcultures for as little as $1 a month.


في ختام هذا الموسم، تحدثنا هتون القاضي، أول فنانة كوميدية سعودية عن الفيديو الذي حصد شهرةً واسعة فغيّر بدوره مجرى حياتها، كما تشاركنا مسيرتها المهنية منذ تصنيفها ضمن قائمة بي بي سي لأكثر النساء إلهاماً لعام 2014 بالإضافة لمشاعرها الشخصية بعد تعرضها للتنمر الالكتروني وموجات الانتقادات التي تعرضت لها.

يمكنكم متابعة هتون القاضي على وسائل التواصل الاجتماعي.

هذه الحلقة من إنتاج هبة فيشر ودانة بلوط وبمساعدة تحريرية من لينا محمد واليكس اتاك.

التصميم الصوتي: محمد خريزات و تدقيق الحقائق: زينة دويدر.

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Transcript

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[AD BREAK]

DANA: Hi everyone, I’m Dana Ballout

HEBAH: And I’m Hebah Fisher

DANA: And this is Al Empire.

[AL EMPIRE STING]

HATOON: I took the recording — the first episode — I sent it to my sisters and to my cousins. Then suddenly, it was everywhere. It was everywhere. The episode went viral. We had two and a half million hits in five days. And, suddenly everyone was calling me. I started having calls from agents… and I didn’t know how to do it, I’m a housewife, minding my own business, doing my PhD — why are you calling me? I didn’t know what to do!

DANA: Today, we’re sitting down with Hatoon Kadi, a Saudi comedian. She’s the creator, scriptwriter, and presenter of the show Noon Al Niswa alongside writing and presenting the MBC show كلام نواعم. But, she didn’t start off in media — actually, her background was in IT management. And then, sometime in her late 30s, she decided she’d make people laugh for a living. In Saudi. And as the very first woman to do so. 

HEBAH: Yeah, Hatoon is the first female Saudi comedian in existence. Her show Noon Al Niswa gets hundreds of thousands to millions of views per video. 

So, I called Hatoon one late evening — she actually drove around Jeddah for something like an hour trying to find the recording studio because I accidentally had sent her the wrong pin… but she arrived, thankfully, and we got into it. 

Where were you born?

HATOON:  I was born and raised in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. 

HEBAH: If your mom had to describe you at the age of 12 what would she say about you? 

HATOON: Oh, at the age of 12, I was a very hard teenager to manage. Well, actually she would describe me as the child who is very good at school and very tough at home. Actually, we were six children and — and I was the second child — the first child from my mum and dad was Hadeel and she, she was a girl and then I went after her and I was a girl and then I was nothing special. I was not a boy. I was not special so, I needed to find my place — And then my my mum and dad they ended up having six children in ten years. So actually to find your position… it was so crowded. You needed to do something – I was trying to create a space inside home by being sometimes violent. So yeah, I was very hard to manage. 

HEBAH: What was your relationship like with your siblings?

HATOON: We are five girls and one boy. And you know, my relationships with my sisters — actually, we are very close in age. And my older sister, she was like the big boss and she was taking my other sisters Heba and Hanna under her wings and I was left alone. So what would I do? I’m alone so I need to fight. And I used to tell my other sister that she is just controlling you and you are not saying anything. I don’t want to be controlled so I would turn to violence instead. I was… I was just trying to attract the attention of my mom and dad by being the girl who was always having issues. So that’s actually how I was dealing with my childhood. And, and the other thing that I will have always throughout my life I was overweight and being overweight for a non-overweight… parents was very hard. And, actually my mom and dad they were very beautiful and you know to be a child for very beautiful parents… it’s a challenge. So I had — I’m used to challenges since I was a little girl. 

HEBAH: What did you and your sisters and your brother fight about? What… what were some of the things that you guys argued over?

HATOON: Well, all kinds of fights. Actually with my older sister, with Hadeel, it was always because we used to share a room. So, I want to sleep early she doesn’t and I have always wanted to have the AC on a certain temperature. She always wanted higher. And  I like to have a little bit of lights when we sleep. She didn’t. So there were fights every day. Everyday. And I mean it, everyday — and now when my children are fighting I just let it go because I just remember myself. I will not play the cards that when I was your age I wasn’t like this because I was worse actually. So yeah I don’t  say anything to my children [laughs].

HEBAH: Were you always the funny one in the family? 

HATOON: When I was at school, I was always the funny girl. But, at home there, there was no audience. As I said before when, when, when you had one of six, it’s so hard. It’s so hard to stand out. So at school, I was always the girl who speaks up for the class and to mock other teachers. And I was always the girl who would sing and make everyone everyone else sing. I mean I was really good academically that other teachers were putting up with, with me singing all the time, with me having fun all the time. So at school, yes, I knew that I, that I can make other people laugh. People used to laugh at my joke, but at home no one, no one was listening. [laughs] I’m not complaining. You know, I’m not complaining. I had a wonderful childhood, actually, but it is true — I always say this when you, when parents have more than three children, it’ll be really hard for the rest of the of the children. It will be very hard for them to stand out. So it was just a fact. 

HEBAH: What did you want to be when you grew up? And how did that manifest at a young age? So say when you were 15, did you have an idea of what do you what you wanted to be when you were older? 

HATOON: Well, actually I really knew what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a doctor. And I was planning this throughout my childhood. And you know, and then when I reached the second year of high school I decided that I didn’t want to be a doctor anymore and that was, that was for a reason. I have always loved to have fun. I loved studying. I mean I was really good academically but I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life studying. I knew this by the second year of my — of high school, and I used to really love reading — I was a bookworm — and then I decided to go and study computer science. 

People, they don’t expect me to think this way but actually — during, well, when I was at school and then when I went to university — I was a typical Saudi girl who was looking forward to getting married. And actually my younger sisters they got married before me and that was… that was I mean, I felt during that time that the world is not good and that my life is over and that I will never get married. So, actually I decided that I will pursue my education and I will be the girl with education because I don’t have luck in marriage. And how old I was when I was thinking this all of those thoughts? Nineteen, eighteen. And I thought that the might my life is over because no grooms were proposing during that time. So, I had, I had it planned all the way that I will be pursuing my education. But then at the last a year of university I get engaged and then I get married. And then I started the career actually. I started a career at IT. So, I settled down. I was not thinking about pursuing my education because I’m married now, you know? When you are married in the Arab world you have I mean achieved 60 percent of the requirement as a as a woman. So, I don’t need to do other things. And, I also started having children. So actually what do I need to do more? And as my career was advancing and then I started thinking about being a modeera — about being a manager. And to be a manager, and it was a very tough field. I was in IT and it was not easy to be a modeera, or to be a manager. So then I decided to pursue my education and to take the master degree. So I took my children and they went to the UK and I did my master’s degree in I.T. management 

So, I studied information technology management and organizational change and I would say that me studying at the UK… well, it was a turning point in my life because the education there was so much different. I was introduced to something called Critical Thinking [laughs]. You may be wondering, we’ve never came across this. We were not allowed to think, to be honest. And I’m not saying this that this is only the education system here. It used to be in Saudi Arabia, but actually it and I think we shared this with the Arab world because you know, when they used to give us assignments about that we need to be critical with papers and I was like, what do you mean by critical, you know everything? How can I criticize you? How can I bring a journal article written by professors, by people with higher ranks than me and then I criticize it? It was very hard to me and it took me one year — which is the master’s degree — for me, to understand. So yeah, really studying in the UK, it really changed me. Actually, it has… I mean, it changed my mindset. And now I think differently. 

HEBAH: After her Masters, Hatoon returned to Jeddah and began climbing the ranks as an IT manager. When her career became quite intense though, she scaled it back and took on a part-time teaching role. 

HATOON: And you know what I did? I resigned from my managerial job [laughs] and during that time I used to teach in a part time basis, I started having time for myself and I started realizing that I love writing. I love baking. So, it was like I really needed some break to realize that I love other things than working and other things then… maybe enjoy living, as simple as this. 

I started blogging and my blogs were sarcastic. I used to blog about social issues, about things that I see on a daily basis. I used to have stories with characters I invented: a mom’s character with children and with a maid and with a driver and they used to have — it was like a sitcom. A written sitcom. 

HEBAH: Can you describe what the comedy scene in Saudi was like in 2011 when you were — just as you were starting to think of this idea? 

HATOON: Starting I think from 2011, the YouTube shows at Saudi Arabia were booming. Actually, it was like a parallel media, a parallel media. It was not — during that time, it was the conventional media, the TV’s and satellite channels and the YouTube channels — it was, it was a trend during that time. And people were so very thirsty to this kind of contents that was produced and written by youth and was addressing youth at the same time. Actually, it was written and produced by youth but the audience were… the whole society was watching, the whole society was clapping, the whole society was enjoying and… I was one of the people who was really enjoying. 

I was really happy with that and I was really happy with the kind of… I mean, it was not, they were doing something that was not very… not very formal. Things were very informal. When we watch TV, you’ll see that the TV presenter, a male or female, you feel that they are so very distant from you because they are speaking from a very high place. And the, and the female, the female presenters, she is very heavily made up and she is just speaking with this tone like…  “I’m the queen of, the queen of the world and I know better than you.” 

So do you feel that they were very distant from them. So when those guys they started, we thought that they, that they belong to us that they can — they are talking to us. We can listen to them and we can talk to them back. We can comment. We can like. We could talk to them. So yeah, that was a very — it was revolutionary during that time. 

[CLIP FROM SHOW]

HEBAH: So it was a pretty male dominated field though — is that, is that correct — in terms of comedy? Were there any other female comedians in Saudi… in 2011? 

HATOON: In fact I wouldn’t say that it was male dominated field… actually, there were no females. [laughs] I don’t know where they were hiding and until now I don’t know what they are hiding. 

I mean it was something, because the YouTube is open and anyone who wanted to start the channel they could they could have started the channel and there were very few bloggers during that time. Blogging was not very popular during that time but if I, if I want to go back to 2011, 2012, we used to have a الجوهره الساجر and she was — I think — the first female blogger. She used to blog about the girls stuff and shopping and product reviews. Suddenly… in 2011, just the idea just popped out in my mind. It was like, I have the content and I knew that I can turn this written materials into something visual. I knew that I can do it, so why not? And there was a gap. 

There were، التاسعة الا ربع على الطاير، ايش الي… all of those were shows presented by males. But but by male and they addressed social issues economical issues political issues. So for me to stand out I need to bring something with different identity. And, when I wrote the mission and vision statements, it was about a show that will bring the female perspective of social issues. I was not thinking about let’s go and compete with the guys, why only guys are doing it? We can do it! Because this, because this mindset will just make me want to exist for the sake of existence. 

HEBAH: This was 2011, and Hatoon had returned to the UK with her family for her PhD. So she’s watching Saudi comedians on Youtube, and decided that she wanted to join them, with her own show, based off the blogs she’d been writing. She called it Noon Al Niswa

Let’s talk about Noon Al Niswa. So firstly, what does it mean? I don’t, I don’t know what it means. 

HATOON: In the Arabic language, actually, we address male and female differently. And for the female, we usually use the letter noon which is equivalent to the letter and “n” English to address female. So, for the male if I’m, if I’m addressing the group of males I say انتم but for when I’m addressing a group of female I say انتن. So this is the ن at the end of انتن this is called Noon Al Niswa. And, I was on one hand completely against giving this name to the show, and I’ll tell you why. I have always had this negative feelings about any female shows. Usually when you say that this is a female show people would think about baby care, we’ll call, we’ll think about fashion, makeup, cooking and all of these things. And, I don’t say that there is anything wrong about cooking, about makeup, about parenting, about any of these things. But my show is not about these things. So why would I give it a name that would give the wrong impression or give the wrong identity? Then, Mr. Qaswara Al-Khateeb — and he is the one who encouraged me to do Noon Al Niswa — 

HEBAH: That’s the CEO of UTURN, one of the largest media companies in Saudi making original content for Youtube. 

HATOON: He is my mentor. And he told me we are giving it an identity. I wanted to bring real content. I wanted to have to bring in the female perspective of social issues and that’s it. So I went to Qaswara Al Khateeb. It was winter 2011 and we were having the Christmas break. He was interested. Then I told him, I have scripts ready. He told me, “Okay, with the with the normal camera, do a, do an episode and sent us the footage we will, we will edit them.” And, I had a very basic movie camera. So Qaswara said, “okay Hatoon, just the place the camera over a tripod and do the recording.” And then he hang, hang up the phone. And I was like what is tripod? I didn’t know what tripod means. So, I just googled tripod. I thought that it’s a very advanced piece of camera… it ended up to be a stand for the camera. So, I went and I bought this tripod this very state of the art piece of equipment which was called tripod. I placed the tripod and I placed my camera over the tripod and I set the, I set the camera in my children’s, of my children’s room and I started recording. And, during that time I didn’t know that there is something called editing that exist. So if I made a mistake I would repeat everything all over again. So, I think the four minutes took me maybe an hour and a half to do. Yeah, an hour and a half because I would stop and do it all over again and stop, and do it all over again, and stop and do it all over again. 

HEBAH: The pilot she shot was based on a script she’d written about الكولنة

HATOON: I invented this Cawlana. And Cawlana which comes from the word cool in English that everyone wanted to be cool. 

[CLIP FROM SHOW] 

HATOON: When I first got married and then i was raising children, everyone wanted to place their children in expensive schools, even though they don’t have the money. Everyone wanted to drive very expensive cars, even though that they don’t have the money. I mean, no one was happy with their social status. Everyone wanted to climb one step over their social status.  

[CLIP FROM SHOW] 

Most of my blog posts from the early days were about the Cawlana revolution [laughs]. If I might call it the Cawlana revolution. So I did a small pilot. And then I sent the footage to UTURN and… they hated it. [laughs] Yes, they hated it at the beginning. And the thing is because Qaswara, during that time, he was the investor, he was not managing, and because he was the investor, so the guys at UTURN, they did not want to upset him. So they took the footage and they did some editing to it, but they hated it. But, they cannot say no to Qaswara, so they were postponing, and postponing, and they were telling me, “tomorrow, no, after tomorrow.” And then they told me, “Okay, the first recording…  although it was okay, but, you know, you needed to do another recording with better cameras.” So, I booked someone with better cameras, and I did another recording and I sent it back to them. They hated it again, but they were never clear in saying, “we hate you, Hatoon.” They kept on telling me, “Okay tomorrow, okay after tomorrow. Okay, no no. Okay…” For about maybe six or seven months? I didn’t know what they were thinking. Qaswara loved what I did and UTURN, they are being very vague. They were being very vague… and then I took the recording, the first episode, I sent it to my sisters and to my cousins, I told them, look this is a project that we are — that we want to do. Just watch it. It’s a, it’s a private link at YouTube. Don’t share it with anyone because, inshallah, one day we are going to do it professionally. So, I posted it on my cousin’s group and then my cousin — she didn’t see that I told them not to post it with, not to share it with anyone — she shared it with her friends and then her friends shared with their friends and then I started seeing it being shared on Twitter. Then, suddenly it was everywhere. It was everywhere. we had half million hits in five days. The episode went viral and suddenly everyone was calling me. I started having calls from agents and I didn’t know how to do it. I’m a housewife minding my own business doing a PhD, why are you calling me? I don’t know what to do! I’m lost. Please. I didn’t know what to do. UTURN, even though they were really hating it, after that episode went viral, then they called me again and they told me, “Okay, we hated you at the beginning but now this is working. It has lots of potential. Then let’s do it.”

HEBAH: That’s amazing, mashallah. How did that feel? Five days later, when you started to see it everywhere? What, what was going through your mind?

HATOON: You know, when I look back to… to those days I just think about — I didn’t celebrate. I did… I was — I didn’t understand. I didn’t know that, that was great. [laughs] Really, I was very busy with my life. I was very busy with my PhD and I was not here. I was not in Saudi Arabia. So, actually, I was not walking in the streets having people recognizing me. And this — no, no, no, no. It was different. So, I was just watching what it what was happening in social media  I suddenly had 10,000 followers on Twitter so I jumped up from 1,000 followers to 10,000 followers in few days. So yeah, I was realizing the real difference. But I, when I go back if I knew that how great that was I would have celebrated more. 

HEBAH: Did you — did you speak with anybody about it, as this was happening? Who did you tell about what was, what you were starting? 

HATOON: Well from the very first begin — from the very beginning — of course, I told my husband during the time, my ex-husband and I told my mom, and I told my dad, I was clear about everything. It was not like I want to go against anyone. I’m not that kind of person. I’m not the kind of person who would fight with family. No, I don’t like fighting with families and I don’t know if, if it’s… if we can go back to to my upbringing? My father has always been a very conservative man. So for me, for me to go to a university in Jeddah it was revolutionary during that time. I really wanted it. So, I did not start by yelling and by saying I will go! It’s my future you are be — you are just preventing me from achieving my dream! Because I know that my dad, he didn’t want us to go to, to commute, because he was worried and he said that it’s hard and maybe it will be dangerous and all of these things. So what I did is that I secured all of his fears. I told him I’ll be commuting in a bus with girls. And if anything happened I have my auntie’s home — it’s just next to the university — so if anything happened to the university, at the university, they can just call her and I can just go to her. And I gave him all the reasons to trust me so I did it softly, softly, softly, softly… and then he said yes at the end. I did the same when I wanted to do my YouTube show. I just attended to their worries. I did not say that, no, you… when you, if you said no, that means you are preventing me. No, no, no, no. I just — because they’re family. They are, they are my mom, my dad, my husband during that time and family is very, very, very important. And nothing is worth losing your family. And losing your family support. You will need your family’s support. And when I say family I mean the very immediate family: Moms, dads, brothers and sisters husband… anyone else is not important. As long as your mom and dad are with you, then you are okay. You don’t need to please everyone. 

HEBAH: Hatoon told me that as Noon Al Niswa started to become a reality, she drafted a vision and mission statement for her show. 

At what point did you sit down and write down, here the principles that are going to guide me? And why, why did you do that? 

HATOON: Well, in fact from the very, very beginning, I did this document which contained the vision and mission of Noon Al Niswa. And, for me, I really wanted to talk about social issues that are pressing, that are annoying me. But where… where to begin? So, I needed to have a place to begin. So, this document was leading me. I want to do this and I will achieve this by doing this. So this, this is my vision and this is my, my mission so I will achieve my mission by by aspiring or by looking always up to my vision. 

It lives at my google document [laughs] and I always go back to it. And, it’s actually it’s in my mind. It is my compass. Because, I always remind myself that I am a content oriented person, that I don’t live without content. I do not exist in social media without content.  And, the thing with the current social media influencers is I always ask, what will people remember them with? With the makeup tutorial that they did? Sorry, I’m not undermining anyone, wallahi al azeem. But, it really hurts me that even people without any content, they are being crazily famous without — and if it was harmless, we would say it’s okay. This life is really huge and it can accommodate all of us. But when you, when you have this influencer market promoting this crazy consumption trend. Everyone wants to own stuff. It’s like, you are worth what you wear, you are you worth what you possess. This is really harmful. 

HEBAH: What is the vision for Noon el Neswa? What’s the mission?

HATOON: So, actually, my vision was — is — to have a Youtube show that speaks for the for the ordinary woman, the woman that you see everyday in the streets and you’ll meet at the supermarket. To bring the conservative woman — the normal woman — into the comedy scene. And, the mission — this will be achieved by discussing certain different social issues within the boundaries of this society, and when I say the boundaries of the society I refer to my own boundaries. Lots of people think that I am being restricted by the society, by the politics. Actually, I am a very conservative person and I have lots of lots and lots of red lines and those red lines are imposed by me, to me. So, I steer clear from profanity. I steer clear from explicit sexual content. I steer clear from political issues — not out of fear, it’s just,  it’s not me. I will not go there just to make people laugh. It’s the easiest way, you know? Profanity and sexual orientation content they are the easy way for any comedian. For me, I like insightful comedy — and this is harder, actually, to have something that people can relate to. It is very — it is very challenging and I like this challenge

[AD BREAK]

HEBAH: Noon Al Niswa, which has been running for the past seven years, brings in several hundred thousand to a few million views per video on Youtube. In 2014, Hatoon was also named one of the BBC’s 100 women. Most recently, she writes and presents a special weekly segment on MBC’s كلام نواعم. But all this was not without its challenges. Let’s go back to the early days of Noon Al Niswa, after she had released that first episode that went viral. 

HATOON: And the challenge came that after this episode, we released another episode. And then we released it and it went to the wrong hands and then I started receiving abuse. And when I say abuse, yeah abuse. You know I, Alhamdullilah, Alhamdullilah, I am very comfortable with the way I look. If I’m not comfortable with the way I look, I would not dare going out with my real self. And then… people started commenting on the way I look. And I… I did not see this coming. I expected people to say that I’m not funny. I expected people to say how dare if you are a woman to do this.. But I was not expecting people to question my femininity, by saying you are too ugly to be a woman. No, that was too much for me. For God’s sake, no, no, no, no, no, no. I did not sign up for this. No. [laughs] That was too much and I received all the synonyms of fat. “Ya dba, ya matina. You are so fat to be a human you are…  how dare you go out looking this way. People… people like you should hide, should be embarrassed.” And also there was a comment — I always refer back to this comment — it was like, “look people — like, I was wearing a beige color in that episode — people like you should not be wearing beige. They should be wearing gray because this is the proper color for elephants.” Oh God. God you’re so creative. I want to bring you to my show [laughs]. You are so creative but, you are abusing your creative mind. 

So I… that episode came like a shock to me. You know… No, that was too much. That was too much. That was too much. I was so vulnerable during that time and I actually thought about stopping — stop doing this. Because, I told myself I’m an honorable person. I have an honorable family I… why would I subject my family to this? Because my family will be reading those comments.

Why would I let them see this? Alhamdullilah, I am having a good life. I don’t need this financially. I don’t need the fame. I wanted to do something that I really love. I was not looking for the fame, if the fame came out of this fine. If it didn’t, I will not do something that would really affect my pride, because that was so bad. And, I was thinking about quitting and then I had a very long phone call with Qasawara Al Khatib. And he told me, “look, Hatoon, I told you, I told you those trolls would come. If they didn’t see you at the first viral episode, they will see you, they will come back to you and I told you. And… okay, the… the second episode was not as good as the first one, that’s fine. We’ll make other great episodes.” He was speaking so easily. It was like, and I was like, you are not the one who was called doba, you are not the one who… and he was like, “okay! if you don’t want to do it, don’t. But, I see lots of potential in this. So, I had about three months to think about it and then I went back to Saudi Arabia and I started professionally with UTURN. I swallowed my pride. I started developing a very thick skin and then khalas, you want to call me fat, yes, I am fat. Next.

HEBAH: How did you handle that criticism though? I understand it took three months, I mean, what would you advise to another girl? Is that just time? Is it, you just surround yourself with people who love you? Do you bake a lot? How do you handle it? 

HATOON: [laughs] I bake and eat. Well, well, in fact, it took time because it’s not easy. And then, I told myself, look Hatoon, if you want to go there, expose yourself to the world, you will not expect that only good people will watch you. Bad people they do exist and you cannot control this. The thing that you can control is how you are going to deal with this.  

And, the personal bad comments — something that criticize your voice, something that criticize your look, something that criticize the way you speak — you need to ignore them completely, block those people and get them out of your life. Anyway, even if you were not able to, to get them away for your life, don’t let them affect you. Learn how to do this. Learn. It, it will not just come. You need to learn. If you need to get coached, go and get a coach. If you need to read lots of books, then do. If you need to go to retreats every now and then to cleanse yourself from all the bad things, and be ready to embrace other things, then do it. But, you need to master all of this, if you will expose yourself to the public. 

So Hatoon’s media career took off: Noon Al Niswa was growing, with each video bringing in upwards of a million views on Youtube. She landed a TV series on MBC during Ramadan. She was writing for other shows. And, in the middle of her success, in 2014, she and her husband got divorced. She’s raising her two boys on her own.   

HEBAH: What has it been like, being a single mom in Saudi?

HATOON: I’ll tell you something. Alhamdullilah, because I am financially independent, things were lots and lots and lots easier for me. I know that this is not the case for lots of women. Lots of women, when they get divorced, they are forced into going and living with their families and lots of the families, they would feel pressured, that they need to get control of their daughter after she is divorced. It’s just out of social norms. I was able to get an independent living space. I am able to provide for myself and for my boys. So this is a blessing. So, I always tell women try to be financially independent. Be happily married, be happily married forever, and aim for it to be forever inshallah. But, also try to be financially independent. That’s it. 

HEBAH: Can I ask what happened?

HATOON: It was back in 2014, when I was actually doing my PHD. Well… it’s… nothing happened. Actually, I knew that this was going to happen from the very beginning and I kept on postponing it. I don’t know why I kept postponing it all of the time, but actually I have to say these things. Although we both knew that this was going to happen eventually, but I have to say this. My husband, he never, ever, ever stood on my way. Actually he — I did, I achieved everything when I was married. When I… I had, I started my career and I prospered in my career when I was married. And I did my master’s degree when I was married. And I started my PhD when I was, when I was married. And I started Noon Al Niswa when I was married. And, although that it happened eventually, but everyone, everyone, everyone, when, when they know that, that I am divorced they would say, “of course! Because, the man, men, they could not stand that you are successful.” Wallahi al azeem, that was not the reason. But, he was supportive all the time.

HEBAH: What do your parents think of Noon Al Niswa now? Do they watch?

HATOON: My father, no. My mom, she, she does. And she, she always comments on me speaking too fast. Actually, if my father would say that I’m the strong independent woman, my mom would say that I am the crazy Hatoon. [laughs] For her, I am always the crazy one.

HEBAH: For more of Hatoon, be sure to follow her on social media @hatoonkadi. That’s H-A-T-O-O-N-K-A-D-I. She’s also releasing a book — an autobiography — soon, so be on the lookout for that when she makes an announcement on her social channels. 

DANA: This episode was produced by Hebah Fisher and myself, Dana Ballout, with editorial support by Linah Mohammad and Alex Atack. Sound design by Mohamad Khreizat, and fact checking by Zeina Dowidar. Our original sting was composed by Ramzi Bashour, and Al Empire is produced by the Kerning Cultures Network. A huge thank you, of course, to Hatoon, for giving us her time for this interview. All of our guests are extremely busy people, so it means a lot to us that they trusted us with their time. Thank you so much, Hatoon. 

This is our final episode of Season 1 of Al Empire. But we are thinking about a Season 2. So, if you have ideas for people you’d like to hear on the show, people you’d like us to interview — shoot us a message on our Kerning Cultures social media platforms, on our Twitter, Instagram or Facebook. Shoot us a direct message. Or, email us on info@kerningcultures.com 

Lastly, if you are liking Al Empire, please subscribe to the show. Also leave a rating and review on whatever podcast app you’re listening to us from. It really, really helps boost our rankings, so that other listeners can find out about the show. Thank you for everyone who has followed us on this exciting new journey. We love this show, and we loved making it so we really hope you enjoyed listening to it. Thank you so much for listening and have a great day. 

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