Raja Aderdor works for Qatar Reads and is pursuing a master’s degree in Women, Society and Development at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU). As part of the GOALS program, Raja tells the story of growing up in Morocco and Qatar, her aim to make an impact in women’s development and leadership, and being part of the ‘women’s sports revolution’ in Qatar.
*All photos featured in this article were taken by Raja Aderdor
As humans, our world revolves around stories. Stories drive human behavior and connection. When we share our stories, others share theirs.
My name is Raja Aderdor; I am a Moroccan woman and a traveler. I have always been passionate about storytelling, sports, and women’s rights.
I was born in a small Moroccan town called Rissani, located in the province of Errachidia and near Morocco’s largest sand desert. Rissani represents my heritage, with mosques, palaces, and early Moroccan architecture.
I have many vivid memories from the two years I lived in Rissani, especially the Souq market, which would come alive with people. My father took me to school on his bicycle every morning, and I would watch the traders walk to the Souq with their products, ready for the day. Rissani is a town where everybody knows each other.
Rissani is my heritage, but my journey took me to many places, cultures, and experiences. By the age of 4, I had lived in Morocco, Kenya, and Niger, where my father managed NGO projects.
This meant that ‘home’ as a concept has always been confusing to me. However, I loved that time of my life; it allowed me to understand how diverse the world is from a young age. Even within the one continent of Africa, the cultures were so different.
When I moved to Doha in 2004, the population was small, life was simple, there were no skyscrapers, and Qatar was a quiet country. The country (and climate) felt similar to Rissani, where all the people knew each other.
Back then, everyone lived in “Albeet alshaa’bi” – traditional homes. Old houses were known to be spacious, with large areas in the neighborhoods to play football in the street or hide and seek. We would receive and send food to our neighbors every other day. It was also a tight-knit community, again, just like Rissani.
I will always love how the city of Doha grew with me, and I grew up with it.
The Asian Games in 2006 marked a significant revolution in sports in Qatar. Across society, more sports opportunities opened up at this time. It was also when I joined Aspire Academy as part of the multi-sports development program.
Joining Aspire Academy was one of the best things I have done in my life. I truly enjoyed getting to know like-minded people who I used to play with. It created a sense of community, especially since I joined during my first few years of being in Qatar. I am still friends with people I used to play with as a child. I also appreciate how it was an experience that helped me gain confidence and experiment with different sports.
I love sports. When I was four years old, I practiced taekwondo and karate! Aged nine, I moved towards team sports through football and basketball. One thing my parents wanted to instill in me and my brother since we were young is to be active and love sports. This made me appreciate all sports and feel obligated to exercise as an adult.
I was honored to be invited to join Al-Sadd SC, one of the top football teams in Qatar. However, my heart was with basketball, and I joined Qatar University’s official basketball team. Even today, I am still training and playing twice a week with the Qatar Foundation’s advanced basketball team.
The Aspire Academy has led me to continue keeping basketball and running as a core part of my active life. I am proud to be part of the sports revolution in Qatar. In 2010 I was 13 years old and very young to understand what it meant for Qatar to be hosting the World Cup; only when I saw how big the tournament was in South Africa that I understood the magnitude of this event. What began with the Asian Games had led to the world’s biggest sporting event.
I remember sitting in the living room with my family when the FIFA World Cup bid result was announced. We were thrilled and excited; we knew this would be a milestone moment for the country.
There were celebrations on the Corniche with hundreds of cars and flags celebrating the win. The first thing that crossed my mind as a 13-year-old was where I would be in 2022. I had no idea that I would be lucky enough to witness the growth of Qatar and Doha and to even be working and planning children’s events that would happen during the World Cup. I feel like this is something my younger self would be very proud of.
I have noticed a significant change for women in the sports sector, and women have begun entering leadership positions in sports media and management. It has been a fascinating cultural shift. It is a cultural shift that transcends sport.
The growth of Doha has been simultaneous with my growth. My goal in life is to demonstrate resilience, leadership, and authenticity and to create an impact for women. These are values that represent my story and my heritage. They are values I pursue in my life, education, and career.
I highly prioritize authenticity. To be connected with my principles, I must be authentic to myself. Irrespective of societal pressure, being honest with myself and others and owning up to mistakes.
These values guide my passion for storytelling as an independent photographer and filmmaker. Storytelling is woven through my education; I studied English Literature and Journalism at Qatar University, and I am now pursuing my master’s degree in Women, Society and Development at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU).
I have had to show courage to study and pursue what I believe in. I am finalizing my thesis project, which combines a focus on women in rural areas of Morocco and their use of social media. This combines all my interest areas into one path – storytelling, social media, and women’s development.
I enjoy the blessings of social media every day and the many opportunities it creates in my life, but does it help other women the same way? I am fascinated by how women use these social media platforms and how they communicate with their family members and friends and share videos and photos.
Storytelling is also my profession. I work for Qatar Reads, where we choose impactful books for children to be distributed monthly, write short stories and comics, and plan fun events.
Qatar Reads has been a massive part of my life since 2020, as both a job and a source of achievement and impact. Seeing how the books we distribute reach more and more children every month and how it encourages them to read makes me very happy.
After only one year since Qatar Reads children’s program launched, I received an email from the mother of one of the subscribed young girls. The email was a thank you letter stating that as a girl of 10 years old, she became the youngest published author in Qatar for a new children’s book under one of the leading publishing houses in Qatar. Our books not only encouraged her to read but also write for other children.
Since women make up half of society and instill values in their children and families, it is essential to have women who can be leaders and impact the community in various ways, which will contribute to improving women’s situation in the future.
With my photos, I attempted to document the football culture in Qatar, women’s participation in sports, as well as important moments from the Moroccan football fanbase in Qatar.
The first GCC Women’s Football Cup featured women from different countries. The players were all excited to have an opportunity to travel and participate in an international tournament. There are now more events and tournaments dedicated to women in sports. In the future I am excited to see more women included in sports and more tournaments taking place.
There is a common stereotype that women from Qatar and the Middle East do not take part in sports and do not have the space to participate in society. I believe that the World Cup is defying this stereotype. We can see that there are women who are leading media teams, operations, and are part of making this big event happen.
About the storyteller – Raja Aderdor
Raja Aderdor works for Qatar Reads and is pursuing a master’s degree in Women, Society and Development at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU). As part of the GOALS program, Raja tells the story of growing up in Morocco and Qatar, her aim to make an impact in women’s development and leadership, and being part of the women’s sports revolution in Qatar.