Parween Habib Mohamed
“Leader in the Gulf Cultural Dialogues”


I was not born in a garden of words…I haven’t opened my eyes on library with   books and volumes that easily catch the eyes and educate them. Our humble house had only two books. The first one was the Holey Quran and the second was a prayer book titled Dhiya-Ul Salaheen.

Both my parents were uneducated, and all what they had in life were big dreams for their children. My mother was the strongest one to face challenges by her consistent keenness on following up our education and motivating us to work hard, excel and distinguish in many cases. She seriously followed up even if she appeared hard on us, as I once believed.

My childhood was not concerned with the downfalls of misery.  The only concern that confused my childhood was that of excellence.

I was born and lived in Mukharqah district of Manama.

The first painting in my life was that of women with   black robes (Abaya), sadness was the first space and the first color. They were the first thing I saw, women   in black wavering on a coffin kohl and tears, was the death desert and a woman except a body covered in the morning dress.

I was brought up in a conservative family with special sectarian rituals.

I completed the reading of the Holy Quran when I was nine years of age.

At school my Arabic language teacher discovered my talents in writing and expression. When my mother knew about it, she started to buy most of the international children books for me from the Family Bookshop that we used to visit once a week. Those books with which my   constituted my first reading family. In Manama the first thing learnt how to listen to those who differ with me the story will follow. The story of a rebellious girl, but I like to describe her as the girl who exercised her right and her talent, but through seizing with difficulty, all that protects her, and a suffering that was not difficult in all its aspects nor was it easy at all.

When I was thirteen I stood on the stage for the first during a school theatre festival, this was a coincidence. All I remember today was that we were invited as distinguished students being the first ones in the school, together in the music hall to undergo languages tests by theatre directors appointed by the Ministry of Education. I had no idea about the reason for that meeting and I didn’t know that I even had the acting talent. However, I was motivated to take up that experience.   I was good at reading poetry at school through the school radio. 

A member of that committee said, “your pronunciation   is wonderful and your voice is beautiful”. Yes I used to stand for long hours in front of the mirror and read lines of poetry, to the extent that my mother used to enter the room and say, “You mad girl. This poetry will drive you crazy”. The first play I took part in was (Day Light) which was based on the story titled (Snow White) the famous international story. I did not have the main character simply because my skin was not white; indeed I was not a pretty girl. Therefore I was given the role of the minister (saffron), which was a secondary role for a man instigate the queen against snow white. Just after the show, the big surprise was that my role was admired and praised by theatre critiques and honoring committees and I was honored at the end of the school theatre festival. This role opened the door to me for starring for three consecutive years. I win four gold medals for the role of the (Queen) in the play called  “Zubaidah and the Yellow Star” and the role of “Truth” in the play  (A Glass House) and another award for my role (Rosa) with the graduates of the Theatre Arts Institute in the show (Welcome my Dears: Ghodo’s Wait). That show took me out of Isolation in my childhood when my only concern was to excel at school and turned me into an active girl participating in various school events and attracting attention.

I was then selected to play in the radio station and the theatre experts in Bahrain called me (The Young Theatre Lover) and presented me with the best international plays through translations of a number of the works of Shakespeare, Epson and others.

My family, and my conservative and religious environment and the difficult Gulf society at that time did not accept a woman to act and there was no respect for her talents. My family was not happy with my small successes in the world of acting. On the other hand, my love for theatre and radio had an adverse affect on my secondary education. My rank as the first student at Manama Girls Secondary School retreated to the eleventh, something which extremely angered my mother and she decided to prevent me from any school activity.

In Bahrain and especially in the mid-eighties, being a women actress was a social adventure and was not free from confrontations with the family in which I tried to protect and faster my talent, and preserve it, after having discovered it as a privilege from God.

In this respect, I will tell you this interesting story. One of the directors called me in 1987 (my last year of secondary education). At that period, I was supposed to get high marks to get qualified for medicine study, which had always been my mother’s ambition, whom I later disappointed.

As for the theatre, I was given three roles, one about an old woman who attracted children by lying, the second was a struggling mother who works as a farmer, and the last one was a girl named Nawarah who was loved by Abu Zaid Al- Holali in the Folklore. The show was a graduation project for the director Anwar Ahmed who later became one of the most famous Bahrain actors.

I accepted the roles although I had sworn to my family not to play again. I had to go to rehearsals without the knowledge of my family. I used to wear my abaya, carry my bag which contained my theatre costumes for rehearsals, go to my friend’s house put the costumes on and then go to rehearsals or board Al Ahli Club bus which took me from my area to the Club everyday from three to seven for three months. But a TV advertisement for the show gave away my lie, and angered my mother and she adamantly refused my participation in the show. I took the script and naively went to the theatre to apologize and decline, but the director interfered and struggled to convince my mother and agreed reluctantly.

The show was a success and it stayed for a full month between the theatre and children’s schools, and two months for the public. I remember that my young brother was accompanying me to protect me. He was a guardian appointed by the family.

I loved acting and the stage. Theatre experts and critiques in Bahrain saw on exceptional talent for a rising star in the sky of Bahrain, but my family objected strongly, so I had to stop playing.

However my radio participations were an important stage. They molded me in the radio with the Iraqi director Falah Hashin who gave me a chance to work in the program titled (Your Safety). The first salary I received was KD 140- which I gave to my father to help with the family expenses. In those days we were suffering harsh financial conditions, because of which my father had to work as a driver. This helped me some how to continue working in the radio station.

I entered television as an actress in an educational program titled (Education). Through various participations I gained diversified experience between radio and television. I graduated and was granted a scholarship to study medicine in Cairo, but some harsh social circumstances prevented my travel and my dream to study in Cairo with my classmates did not come true, so I studied Arabic Literature in the University of Bahrain at the time we were facing harsh family conditions. My father was infected by diabetes, which exhausted him, and the burdens of life defeated him. His family who consisted of my mother, three sons and two daughters had many requirements and priorities for an honorable life.

This situation forced me to carry the burden of the family and undertake its responsibilities. My brothers and sisters were young and I was the oldest among them. I became responsible for all of them, paying the house rent, electricity bills, education expenses and we did not have a house so we moved six times, all rented houses, and as we left each house, I left an intimate part of my memories.

I studied literature and gained in depth knowledge of comparative literature. My name was on the list of top students for five years. I gave way to my literacy inclinations in this specialization all through it wasn’t to my mother liking. The University of Bahrain was a real test place for me to open my knowledge awareness. I graduated and taught for five and half year at girl’s secondary school and research assistant at the university, in addition to my part- time work with Bahrain television. 

I was selected as the best newsreader when I was only eighteen and studying at the task of present the first Ramadan Program (Songs & Films). That was my real entry into the world of visual media. I conducted with other programs via satellites. I then crowned my programs with the cultural program (Illuminations) and then the (Fragments of Creativities) in 1990. This was the year when my experience took a leap forward and I reaped the fruits of the sufferings of the years (1994-1997). In  1994 I traveled to Cairo to complete my higher studies for my masters degree at my own expense, while I was also teaching and my financial circumstances did not allow that, so I sold my car which I had purchased by monthly installments. I went to Cairo and stayed for one full year as required by the university. During that period I was not receiving any salary at Ain Shams University. I returned a year later and completed my thesis between Cairo and Bahrain. I had to travel every three months after filing a TV program and recording late night shows, I used to work days and nights to be able to afford the costs of my brothers who were studying and follow my continues responsibility towards my family as my brothers were growing and responsibilities were on the increase.

In 1999 I prepared and presented a program on the great poet Nezar Qabani whom I had loved ever since I was an adolescent. My dream came true when I met him in 1993 when I travelled to see him through the university. At the time I was preparing a thesis about his poetry. The title of that program was (A poet at the heart of his age).

The program won the golden award in Cairo Media Festival. My other program (Talents & Hobbies) also won the silver award. Here came the opportunity to work in Dubai.
The manager of Dubai TV offered me a job for one year in Dubai City.

I was very hesitant, and my family objected to a certain extent. But I decided to travel. That one year became ten years and more and I am settled there now.

Dubai provided me with important opportunities, my little dreams came true and I met the creators. When I was a student I used to read for the Syrian novelist (Henna Meniah) who was known as the sea writer i.e. the Hemingway of the Arabs. I enjoyed his novels (A sun in a cloudy day), (remains in ages) and (the Lagoon). Dubai TV allowed me to enter the house of this writer. I had coffee with him. I established friendships with most of the writers and artists of the Arab world. My archive today contains the most important creative experiences. I hosted hundreds of them in recorded dialogues and films, more than 400 personalities in various fields of creativity.

My program (we meet Parween Habeeb) is today one the most important cultural shows in the Arab World, with a high percentage of viewership, despite the serious nature of the program and the weak response at the beginning to this type of programs which are classified as programs for the elite and away from leisure and entertainment required by the agenda by those running satellite channels.

In 2004 I received my PhD in literary critique from the Arab League, but I rarely lecture at the universities. My TV hobby is my profession that I practice today and work in with passion. My qualification was just to gain more science and knowledge.

My concern has always been to draw image of the serious broadcaster who has a cultural scheme of a serious and respectful nature. The image loved by my family, after it had objected to it or it was fought by some in my Gulf society.

Bahrain is my home and birthplace, and where my first beginnings took place. But Dubai is the place of my successes; I mean the place of my soul. Today and in the midst of childhood places, the memory of adolescence and the beginnings of discovering myself in Bahrain... to Dubai the station for learning, working on myself, working hard and becoming a professional in my work. I live between two cities and belong to passion in all the work I do.

Parween Habeeb is a girl from a humble Bahraini district, who went to the cosmopolitan city of Dubai. The city that does not stop gave me some beautiful opportunities. It is the journey of a woman who drew personal features with hard work, without relying on the family wealth, the name of a tribe or social intermediaries.

My father died in Bahrain after being blind for six years, I didn’t bid farewell to him nor did I kiss him the last kiss because I was on the air at the time interviewing the Yemeni Minister of Culture. I was unable to travel to Bahrain. I didn’t get married, and   have no children, but I felt motherhood with my brothers and sister. Studying and work took my time, but that was not the reason. I was selective in society ruled by difficult social circumstances.

I have always bet on the feelings of my heart and the spiritual chemistry ... I am still waiting.

I have already written four books about criticism and poetry (Expression techniques in the poetry of Nezar Qbani), (your scared manhood-my paper childhood), (I gave my back to the mirror), and (Dantilla is less than the desert).