Forbes Middle East
Forbes Middle East


From Car-racing To Skating, These Arab Female Sportswomen Are Breaking The Barriers

Nermeen Abbas
From Car-racing To Skating, These Arab Female Sportswomen Are Breaking The BarriersZahra Lari - source: Gettyimages

Arab female athletes are continuously breaking the glass ceiling, as many of them record unprecedented achievements in significantly male-dominated sports such as weightlifting, car racing, football, skating along with many other fields.

Forbes Middle East has analyzed some of these female athletes' achievements within various sports across the region. Here are 13 achievers who have left their marks on the global stage.


Sarah Essam

Nationality: Egyptian

Sport: Football

Egyptian striker, Sarah Essam, was awarded the sought-after ‘Golden Boot’ following her commendable performance in the UK Women’s Premier League by the end of the 2018/19 football season earlier this year.

Essam made history as the first Arab woman to play professional football in England when she transferred from Wadi Degla and signed with Stoke City in 2017. She started her football career in 2015, joining Egypt’s Wadi Degla, and later qualified for the under-17 girls’ team.


Lamya Matoub

Nationality: Algerian

Sport: Karate

Matoub was recognized after winning a bronze medal in the women's under-68 kilograms kumite division at the 2018 World Karate Championships in Madrid, becoming the first Algerian female to win a bronze in a world competition.

Earlier this year, Footballer Riyad Mahrez and karate's Lamya Matoub won the men's and women's prizes respectively at the Algerian Olympic Committee's Sports Awards.


Raneem El Welily

Nationality: Egyptian

Sport: Squash

Alexandria-born Raneem El Welily has emerged as one of the most skillful players on the PSA Women’s World Tour since she turned professional in 2002.

Raneem lifted the World Junior Championship twice, in 2005 and 2007, but had to wait until 2009 to lift her first senior tour title when she triumphed at the Heliopolis Open in Egypt.

In September 2019, El Welily topped PSA Women’s World Rankings for 10th successive month.


Nour El Sherbini


Sport: Squash

Born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, El Sherbini started playing squash when she was just six-years-old. At 13, she became the youngest world champion in the history of the sport when she won the women’s title at the World Junior Squash Championships (U-19).

The current world champion won both the British Open and World Series Finals in the summer of 2018, beating El Welily in both deciders. However, her 31-month run as World No.1 came to an end in December, as her compatriot took the top spot in the rankings.


Ons Jabeur

Nationality: Tunisian

Sport: Tennis

The 25-year-old Tunisian is the only player from the continent in the women’s draw and only the second Arabic woman ever to crack the top 100 in the WTA rankings, according to Reuters.

Jabeur reached a career-high single-ranking of 51 during this month, climbing up from the 62nd rank as of 2018 end, and is currently 1 match-win away from becoming the first Arab woman to break the top-50. Ons started playing tennis at age 3. Her best tennis memory is winning Roland Garros juniors in 2011.


Ghofrane Belkhir

Nationality: Tunisian

Sport: weightlifting

Tunisian female weightlifter Ghofrane Belkhir won Tunisia’s first gold medal at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. She also topped the 2018 African Junior Championships in the category of 63 kilograms.

Born in 2001, Ghofrane ranked second in the XVIII Mediterranean Games held in Spain in 2018 with a total of 209 Kg in the 63 category.


Amna Al Qubaisi

Nationality: Emirati

Sport: Racing driver

Amna began her karting career in 2014 at the age of 14. The 19-year-old first Emirati female racing driver became the first Arab woman to test drive for a Formula E team when she piloted an Envision Virgin Racing car on the Ad Diriyah track in Saudi Arabia in 2018.

Amna currently races in the Italian Formula 4 Championship for Prema Powerteam.


Hedaya Malak

Nationality: Egyptian

Sport: taekwondo

Hedaya brought home Egypt’s first Olympic medal won by a female taekwondo competitor in Rio 2016. She also won a bronze medal at the 2018 Mediterranean Games in Spain.

The Taekwondo athlete won the bronze medal of World Taekwondo Grand Prix, held in Rome in June 2019.


Fatima Zahra Abou Fares

Nationality: Moroccan

Sport: taekwondo

Moroccan taekwondo player Fatima Zahra Abou Fares won Morocco’s first gold medal at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires 2018.

Earlier this year, Abou Fares was awarded by at the 10th edition of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Creative Sports Awards.


Juliana Al Sadeq

Nationality: Jordanian

Sport: taekwondo

Juliana Al Sadeq has won gold for Jordan at the Asian Games following a superb performance in the Taekwondo -67kg competition in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Al Sadeq became the first female from Jordan to bag a medal at a World Grand Prix event.


Zahra Lari

Nationality: Emirati

Sport: Skating

Lari made history when she became the UAE's first female figure-skater and the world's first figure skater to compete wearing a hijab.

Zahra was first Emirati figure skater to participate in the winter qualifications and she also led her country to become the first Arab state to join the International Skating Union.


Bushra Shuaibi

Nationality: Jordanian

Sport: Chess

Bushra Al Shuaibi has made history by becoming the first Jordanian to win gold at a Chess Olympiad that was held in Georgia last October.

Bushra started playing chess at the age of six, and joined the national team when she was 12-year-old.


Farida Osman

Nationality: Egyptian

Sport: Swimming

Farida Osman is an American-born competitive swimmer who has represented Egypt in international championships. She became the first Egyptian swimmer to win a medal at the world championships when she claimed bronze in the 50m butterfly at the 2017 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. She also bagged the bronze medal in the women’s 50m butterfly final at the 2019 World Swimming Championships in South Korea in July 2019.

Osman was named Best African Female Athlete of 2017 by the Association of National Olympic Committees. She was also awarded the Mohamed Bin Rashed Al Maktoum Creative Sport Award for Distinguished Athlete Achievement in Sport in 2017.


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