Sahra is a teacher by profession and she is also the owner of Modest Pearls. She was born and raised in Cardiff, Wales. She studied Law at Cardiff University before deciding to move into teaching. She has been working as an Academic English teacher in Saudi Arabia for the past three years.
More recently, Sahra started her own abaya business. The brands’ ethos focuses on exclusive and luxury modest wear for the modern woman.
Name: Sahra Mohamed
Occupation/Role: English Teacher and owner of Modest Pearls
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
Growing up, I always wanted to be a lawyer. I studied Law at Cardiff University and then worked as a Paralegal in a commercial law firm for a few years. I then pursued the LPC (Legal Practice Course). I soon realized that Law was not for me. I’m a sociable and chatty person and one thing I really missed whilst working in the legal sector was human interaction. I hardly saw my clients and was tied to a desk, writing letters and emails all day. I always had teaching in the back of my mind as you get to interact with your students daily, there are many opportunities to work abroad and overall, it is a very rewarding job.
Who were your biggest role models growing up?
My biggest role models growing up were my mothers. My real mum passed away when I was a child (may Allah have mercy on her soul), and I was raised by my maternal aunt. In Islam, when a woman breastfeeds a child other than her own, she gains mother status and the child becomes siblings with her own children. She is one of the most generous, and caring people I know and has done so much for her entire family. She always encouraged me to be independent and to pursue my goals.
Also, my maternal uncle. He is a highly educated man, a community leader, activist and has sacrificed his life for his family and others.
What is one thing that you would like to tell your younger self?
I would tell myself to relax and to enjoy the journey, there’s no need to rush through life. You grow up thinking that you need to finish school, get a job, get married and have children in that exact order. But you soon realize that life won’t always go in that order and that there is no correct order. We plan and Allah plans and Allah is the best of planners.
Also, do what is right for you and not for other people. As long as it makes you happy and it is halal then do it.
What was a life-changing moment you experienced that shaped you into the woman that you are today?
A life-changing moment would be when I moved to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia by myself aged 24. It was the first time I lived away from home. I completed my first year successfully, made great friends, managed my own finances and apartment, did really well at work and experienced Umrah. I have now been working as a teacher in Saudi Arabia for the past 3 years and I love it.
What made you pursue your current career?
I recently started my own abaya business called Modest Pearls. You can find us on Instagram. We sell exclusive, luxury abayas sourced from Saudi Arabia. We offer worldwide shipping to select countries and we recently launched our Eid Collection.
I have always loved fashion and makeup ever since growing up. Apparently, I got this from my birth mother (may Allah have mercy on her soul). I have fond childhood memories of waking up extra early to get ready for high school and spending weeks planning my Eid outfits in advance. The abaya is the cultural clothing for women in Saudi Arabia. Since moving to Riyadh, I always find myself shopping in the souk for abayas and receiving compliments from friends and family. In many western countries, people still tend to go to women’s houses to buy abayas or even travel abroad. So, I definitely think there is a market for selling abayas online.
This venture combines my interests in fashion along with my passion for wanting to start my own business. I hope to turn it into a world-recognized modest wear brand along with the likes of Inayah and Veiled Collection.
What is a typical day like for you?
I normally wake up and check if I have received any emails from work. To start my day, I make myself a warm glass of turmeric, lemon and ginger tea. I then proceed to write in my five-minute journal and head to the gym for a few hours. I come home and shower, do my morning skincare routine and have breakfast. After that, I prepare my lessons for that day and teach my students. For the past two years, I have been teaching online due to the pandemic. I then make myself some lunch and respond to emails or messages from potential customers. At the moment, I am designing my next collection. When I finish that, I usually enjoy my daily FaceTime sessions with my mum and siblings. In the evening, I like to wind down by lighting candles and watching Netflix, whilst having my dinner. Before I head to bed, I do my nighttime skincare routine and read a good book before I fall asleep.
What has been the biggest obstacle in your professional life so far and how did you manage to overcome it?
I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I like to overwork myself. I think the older I get, the more I realize the importance of taking care of yourself first. I really like the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Make sure to have some time for yourself in the day whether it’s putting on a face mask, lighting your favourite candle, watching a show you enjoy, or catching up with a dear friend.
Another obstacle in my professional life was learning how to express my religious needs to my employers. I remember I did not attend a Christmas party at a previous job as alcohol was being served. As a result of this, I was then marked down in my appraisal. I have now learned to always mention my religious needs from the get-go. This includes not attending events where alcohol is served and giving me time to pray. Of course, I no longer have this problem working in Saudi Arabia. I think a good employer will respect you more when they realize you are a person of faith and that you have a moral compass.
Which Somali woman inspires you and why?
Firstly, my mum. A woman who puts her children, family, and God first before everything else. Also, Edna Adan, a woman of many firsts. A nurse-midwife, an activist, and the first female Foreign Minister of Somaliland. She also built a maternity hospital from scratch in Hargeisa whose mission entails helping to improve the health of the local people, in particular countering the high rate of maternal and infant mortality.
What advice would you give to a person pursuing your chosen career?
Do work experience! You won’t ever know if something is right for you until you try it. Also, speak to as many people as possible in your chosen field. We live in a time where you can speak to anyone through a click of a button so go for it. 9 times out of 10, they will respond to you.
I also think it’s very important to have a side hustle no matter how old you are. We live in a time where one salary is usually not enough. Furthermore, you will gain so many valuable skills such as time management, creativity, leadership, communication and adaptability.
How would you like people to remember you?
As a righteous Muslimah who was just, caring, charitable and loved by her family and friends.