Stranger than fiction: 15-year-old girl is youngest English-language Saudi author

Leena Althekair, second right, with her family at her book-signing event in Jeddah. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 09 September 2018
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Stranger than fiction: 15-year-old girl is youngest English-language Saudi author

  • Young author said she had her share of naysayers and detractors who told her she was not old enough to succeed
  • Althekair recently appeared at the Virgin Megastore in Jeddah to sign copies for excited readers

JEDDAH: At the age of just 15, a schoolgirl has become the youngest Saudi to publish an English-language novel. Leena Althekair started writing her book, “Foreshadow,” in the summer of 2017, when she was still only 14.

“I have always had this idea but it wasn’t clear,” she said. “But as I kept writing, it got easier and now it’s in the form of ‘Foreshadow.’”

The idea for the story originally emerged from a school writing assignment.

“I actually wrote an essay for school and when I re-read it I thought, ‘You know what? This is a pretty good novel idea’ — and then I spent whole summer writing it,” she said.

“For me, it was never about becoming well known, it was getting the message across that age doesn’t really matter; what matters is that you need to work hard. You are never too young or too old to be chasing your dreams.”

Althekair said she had her share of naysayers and detractors who told her she was not old enough to succeed.

“People would say to me, ‘You are still young — don’t do it now because you have so much ahead of you.’ But my mom and dad and my friends have been such a big support, cheering me on,” she said. “Sometimes I would just want to stop but my friends told me to go on. In the beginning it was hard, because people wouldn’t take me seriously. A lot of them didn’t say anything but they would give me strange looks. I focused on the people who supported me instead.”

It is well known that writer’s block is the worst enemy of an author. Most will face it at some time, and Leena was no exception.

“In the middle of the book I started panicking because I had only planned it that far,” she said. “There were times I deleted whole chapters right before sending it to the editor and wrote the whole thing again.”

After pushing through the tough times, the book was finally completed and published, and Althekair recently appeared at the Virgin Megastore in Jeddah to sign copies for excited readers. Her family were there, as always, showing support for their talented daughter.

The book features a suspenseful, well-written story that draws the reader in from page one. The plot revolves around the adventures of Meghan, who is about to start high school. Her older brother is a physics geek, and she is spending time with him in his lab when an accident changes her life.

As for Althekair’s own continuing adventure as an author, she said she has ideas for further novels, including a possible sequel for “Foreshadow.”


World Alliance of Religions for Peace elects KAICIID chief as honorary president

Updated 25 August 2019
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World Alliance of Religions for Peace elects KAICIID chief as honorary president

  • Secretary General Faisal bin Abdulrahman bin Muammar was elected in recognition of his efforts to spread the values of dialogue and tolerance
  • The Alliance consists of a World Council of Senior Religious Leaders from all regions of the world

RIYADH: The World Alliance of Religions for Peace announced on Saturday the election of secretary general of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) Faisal bin Abdulrahman bin Muammar as the honorary president of the Alliance.
The announcement was made at the 10th International Conference of the Religions for Peace General Assembly in Lindau, Germany, from 20-23 August 2019.
Alliance officials noted that the election of bin Muammar, along with the group of honorary presidents of the Alliance for the next five years, comes in recognition of his efforts, through the King Abdullah International Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue, to spread the values of dialogue and tolerance and to promote cooperation between religious figures and makers.
Bin Muammar expressed his thanks and appreciation for the trust of the Religions for Peace General Assembly.
He said: “I am proud to be elected as the honorary president among other honorary presidents, and joining an international multi-religious group of leaders committed to interfaith dialogue.”
He concluded his speech by expressing his sincere thanks and gratitude for the support of the founding countries of the Center, especially Saudi Arabia, the initiator of the initiative, Spain, Austria, the Vatican and the Board of Directors of Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus, and the advisory board of forty-six members of fifteen religions and beliefs, and employees of the Center in 30 countries around the world.
World Alliance of Religions for Peace, founded in 1970, is one of the most important international non-governmental organizations interested in world religious affairs.
It consists of a World Council of Senior Religious Leaders from all regions of the world; representing six regional interfaith bodies and more than 90 national bodies.