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Meet the Women of the Arabian Nights

  A Dancer, a Warrior, a Writer, the Young, and the Wise… Introducing the five women reclaiming their story in Hakawatis, a bold and passionate new play of hope, vulnerability, strength and love

2 minute read

Five women – Fatah the Young, Akila the Writer, Zuya the Warrior, Wadiha the Dancer, and Naha the Wise – await their marriage to a tyrant King.

Since his first wife was unfaithful to him, the King weds, beds, and beheads a new wife every day. His current wife, Scheherazade, hopes to prolong her life by telling him stories, but she will need help from the five brides-to-be. Locked in the palatial dungeon, these fearless women come together with storytelling as their powerful tool for vengeance – but will it be enough to save them?

Inspired by One Thousand and One Nights, Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights follows the five storytellers as they become Hakawati – not just for the king, but for each other. 

Meet the Women of the Arabian Nights

Hakawati /hakəˈwɑːti/. [Noun]: Storyteller. From the Arabic terms ‘hekaye’ meaning story and ‘haki’ meaning to talk.

Five women stare determindly and defiantly into the camera. They were brightly coloured tunics and scarves, each holding a unique item. From left to right: a torn orange, a chain of beads, a candle dripping ink, a rust orange scarf in the air, and a crushed pomegranate. Watch video

A Dancer, a Warrior, a Writer, the Young, and the Wise...

Houda Echouafni looks directly into the camera. She has long dark hair and is wearing an orange dress. She is throwing one sleeve of the dress above her head so that it drapes over her in midair.

Wadiha the Dancer

‘Her dancing will entrance him’

Witty, passionate, emotional, intelligent, contradictory… Wadiha the Dancer wears lots of masks.

Laura Hanna looks directly into the camera facing straight on. She wears her hair in plaits and a blue tunic underneath gold armour, which is bejewelled with rubies.

Zuya the Warrior

‘Before he can touch me I’ll pick up his sword and slice him into pieces!’

Fierce, strong, and full of honour. Zuya the Warrior will stand up and fight back.

Alaa Habib wears a gold dress and bronze necklaces and rings. She also wears a white headdress, which partly covers her dark hair. She digs her fingers into a pomegranate, looking directly into the camera.

Fatah the Young

‘I want to be as free as birds…’

Fatah the Young may be King Shahryār’s newest bride, but she is ready to lead the next generation.

Nadi Kemp-Sayfi looks directly into the camera. She is wearing a brown striped dress and a blue tunic over the top. Her dark hair is partly covered by an interwoven orange and turquoise headscarf. She holds a candle up near her shoulder, and ink is dripping down her fingers.

Akila the Writer

‘The candle of the storyteller. When you hold it you are the sun. We orbit around you’

Akila the Writer understands the power of storytelling – and she will use it to galvanise the other women to action.

Roann Hassani McCloskey wears a blue and white dotted overcoat and a red headscarf. She is peeling an orange and is looking into the camera from a side-facing position.

Naha the Wise

‘Then put your imagination into something useful…put it into a story’

Naha the Wise has lived many lives.


Hakawatis: Women of the Arabian Nights is a co-production with Tamasha and plays in our Sam Wanamaker Playhouse from 1 December 2022 – 14 January 2023 as part of our Winter 2022/23 season.