Complex Made Simple

10 first Arab women breaking the glass ceiling in male dominated fields

More than 10,000 tweets from Saudi women emerged to object rumors and unofficial news that a Saudi royal decree might be issued making it mandatory for them to serve in the military.

The rationale is that this would allow the country to better tackle challenges that face Saudi and the region.

While Saudi women are now allowed to drive cars, trucks and motorcycles, serving in the armed forces might still be a stretch, but not for the UAE who already have a female fighter jet pilot in their midst.

In fact, Arab women have broken the glass ceiling in many men dominated fields and AMEinfo brings some of them to you here.

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Aircraft captains

Captain Nevin Darwish, Egyptian, is the first Arab female to fly the Airbus 380. She followed on the heels of the first licensed Arab and African woman to fly a plane, and youngest woman to fly, Egypt’s Lotfia El Nadi who at age 26, in 1933, flew a plane from Cairo to Alexandria.

Hanadi Al Hindi was the first Saudi woman to gain a commercial pilot’s license back in 2005, and took to the skies carrying Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal around the world aboard his private jet.

Jet fighter 

Major Mariam Al Mansouri is the first female fighter pilot in the UAE, having joined the UAE air-force in 2007 after the Air Force academy allowed women to join.

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Weightlifting olympian

Sara Ahmed became the first Arab Muslim woman in August 2016 to win an Olympic weightlifting medal for Egypt.

Diver physician biologist

Mariam fardous became the first Saudi Physician and philanthropist to dive in the North Pole. She picked up scuba diving in Jeddah as a way to help people and plants by taking to the deep in remote places and exploring medicinal cures.

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University pioneer

Fatima Al Fihri only pioneered the first university ever! She did so starting University of Al Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco, in 859, the first degree-awarding educational institution in the world, according to UNESCO and Guinness World Records.It is the oldest still existing and in operation higher institute for education.


Mariam Al-Ijliya of Aleppo, Syria created an ancient astronomical computer, and since then that discovery in 10th BC, people added  “Al-Astrolabiya” (Or astro labs) to her middle name.

Her astro labs were used to determine the position of the sun and planets and were in turn used in the fields of astronomy, astrology, and horoscopes, according to the website “Wise Muslim Women”.


Marwa el-Slehdar, 24, is a graduate of the 73rd class of the Arab Academy of Science, Technology and Maritime Transport (AAST) in the coastal city Alexandria, and is regarded as the first Egyptian woman to study marine navigation at AAST. She became Egypt’s First Female Shipmaster to participate in New Suez Canal celebrations coming on deck of ‘Aida 4’ as a second naval officer.

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Truck driver

Lina Ibrahim is a young woman in Gaza City who decided in 2010 that she could earn a living driving trucks as she finished her university degree, and became the first Arab women to do so.


Mona Markabani, a 24-year-old Michigan resident, of Lebanese descent, was the city’s second female and first Arab-American firefighter to join Lincoln Park Fire Department.

Army General

Fatima Zohra Ardjoune, director general of the Ain Naâdja military hospital, was promoted to general, the first woman in the Arab world to reach this rank. Three years later, Fatima Boudouani became the second woman to be promoted to the rank of general in the Algerian People’s National Army (PNA).