Alaa Bahri

Licensed Ocularist

When I was young, I did not know exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up.

Eventually, I decided I wanted to be an ocularist, someone who makes and fits artificial eyes. This was a big challenge. There are no schools that teach this skill; usually it is passed down from one generation to the next, so you have to be a member of a family that is already in the business. 

Alaa Bahri Faces of Saudi by Arab News
Alaa Bahri Faces of Saudi by Arab News
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The other challenge I faced was convincing my family to allow me to study this unusual subject.

I persisted, however, and contacted a family of ocularists in Barcelona, Spain, who agreed to teach me their techniques for making artificial eyes. My education did not end there, I found the American Society of Ocularists and a certified ocularist with whom I could train, while also attending courses and classes.

I went to Houston, Texas, and trained with Soper Brothers, which is well-known name in the field. However, I struggled to obtain a visa after 9/11 and so I could not work full time as an apprentice or study full time at college.

Nevertheless, I was more determined than ever to learn about making artificial eyes and went to Paris to learn new methods from the company Dencott. Then I returned to Saudi Arabia to open my own practice. It was not easy to get a license because it was a new field in the Kingdom.

After four years I managed to open the first licensed ocularist in Saudi Arabia. My dad helped me a lot with the business and my mom was there for me when I had to go to a meeting and needed her to look after my twins, Cayan and Maleeka.

My family supported me all the way and encouraged me to succeed in something that I love to do.

It is not easy to work and raise kids, but I will always encourage them to choose a career that they love and to be creative. I try to explain to my kids sometimes how important my job is and what it means to my patients. I am putting smiles on faces and changing lives.

I am now a member of the American Society of Ocularists and working to become the first board-certified ocularist in the Middle East but still have a few years to go before I earn that. 

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