Saudis and the City

New feminist TV show “Sponsored Women” features independent women characters


A new Saudi television drama, called Mubta’ethat or Sponsored Women, gained popularity after its Ramadan release in June, gaining widespread praise for its feminist views. The show features four strong female characters, drawing comparison to Sex and the City. Though the four women, Salma, Raghad, Sara, and Alia couldn’t be more different from each other, they all have U.S. visas and Saudi government sponsored scholarships to study in the United States — hence they are “sponsored women.” The show’s first season was released on YouTube from June 17 through the close of Ramadan last week, one episode each night for 30 episodes total. The young women are shown traveling to Philadelphia, and assimilating to Western culture while maintaining their Eastern values. They are shown taking English classes, moving into apartments, learning how to drive, and even falling in love. The show also tackles “the veil,” with one character wearing a hijab, one in a Niqab, and the other two going veil-less. Sponsored Women was filmed in Bahrain by Oscar-nominated Saudi Haifaa Al Mansour and was written by her sister Noura Al Mansour. One of the show’s stars, actress Noor Al Badr, who is a real life doctor, even smokes on the show, a social taboo she wanted to break. Al Badr says, “Just because we can’t drive doesn’t mean we can’t fly and reach for the stars. Hope the show will continue next Ramadan.”

Read the full story at TIME.

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