Dr. Salwa Al Hazzaa – Saudi’s Daughter who Admires Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram: Saudi Arabia has always been known as the most conservative nation for women – a nation where woman’s freedom seemed to be a myth. It was for the same reason that it created rave headlines across the world when the nation passed a law allowing their women to drive in 2017. A remarkable history was made even before that – when Dr. Salwa Al Hazzaa was declared the first woman to be included in the Saudi Parliament (Shura Council). Heading the Ophthalmology Department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital at Saudi Arabia, Al Hazzaa is the proud daughter of Saudi – a woman who has excelled in her educational, professional and personal life.

She recently visited Kerala, accompanying a family member for Ayurvedic treatment. “India has been the destination for health treatment since the 1960s. But recently Kerala is becoming a priority to many Saudi citizens seeking health management, especially for rejuvenation and herbal treatment. There is an increase in demand for a healthy lifestyle among the citizens of Saudi and here, Kerala offers it all – be it Ayurveda or Yoga, under one roof,” says Al Hazzaa.

She also notes that Keralites are the most compassionate and honest group of people she has dealt with among the various foreign nationalities employed in Saudi Arabia. “I have met efficient Malayali administrators in business and health sectors. In addition, their spiritual well-being makes them faithful to their work,” she adds.

“One of the most outstanding features I noted in Kerala was the religious harmony prevailing here – people pray in church, mosque, or temple – irrespective of the religious group they belong to. I found that as the most beautiful way of honouring all religions and respecting all faiths,” she said. The cultural similarities between Saudi and Kerala lie in the strong belief in religion.

Al Hazzaa had her initial schooling in Tuscon, Arizona and later moved to Saudi Arabia to study medicine in King Saud University. Post marriage, she moved back to Washington in the US and pursued her studies in John Hopkins University from where she did her residency. She has several publications to her credit, including an encyclopaedia on Saudi genetic diseases and has also done research on rescuing eye sights of premature babies. She was also the personal ophthalmologist to the late King Fahad.

As a revolutionary figure herself in the Arab World, Al Hazzaa feels very optimistic about the 2030 vision and the bold changes announced by Mohammed bin Salman – the newly appointed Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

“I believe this is much needed especially in these hard times where oil prices have plunged. These changes will help diversify our economy and decrease reliance on oil. Sixty per cent of our population is under the age of 30; therefore these bold drives will increase employment, diversify our economy and ensure a stable economy,” adds Al Hazzaa.