Fitness brand Tima empowers sporty Saudi women

Tima founder Fatima Batook.

Fatima Batook is living proof that a ground-breaking business can begin with a ‘random idea’.

Personal trainer Fatima, whose mother is from Tibet and father is from Saudi Arabia, is bringing her women’s sports apparel company Tima, to MEFIT 2015 fitness festival, taking place at Dubai Autodrome between November 5-7.

On November 6 at 10am, and November 7 at 11am, Tima’s brand ambassador, Jennifer Chalouhi, will offer free fitness classes to visitors.

Fatima, 31, will also be selling her fitness clothing range (priced between Dh150-Dh350), which came into existence just three years ago, when Fatima and a friend witnessed a ‘negative social media frenzy’ surrounding women and fitness in Saudi.

“[My friend] came to me and said, ‘Listen, the solution would be that you have t-shirts that have Tima on them, and take it all across Saudi, and tell them that yes, women do work out, and there are women trainers in Saudi,” she said.

“My sole mission is to reach out to women in Saudi, specifically. To reach out to them to move and exercise, because exercise isn’t part of their lifestyle at all, and obesity is higher in women than in men in Saudi because of the lifestyle and the constraints that we have. We can’t do anything outdoors because of the regulations of wearing the abaya, the cape and the veil and all that.”

And so, a company was born. By September of that year, Fatima had formed her company Tima, a short form of her first name. She ran it out of an office in Khobbar, a large city in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. She came from a corporate marketing and business background — her family owns a chewing gum manufacturer, among other businesses — and so fashion was a whole new ballgame to her. Until then, fitness was also just a hobby, though she’s a certified instructor and trainer across several different disciplines, including TRX, YogaFit, kickboxing and piloxing, a cross between pilates and boxing.

“I had to do my research. I didn’t know where to start. In the Middle East, we don’t have manufacturing for fitness apparel at all,” she said.

Fatima flew around the world in search of the perfect team and suppliers. She looked in China, Taiwan, Vietnam and Australia, but finally found a trainer in America, who was a recent Muslim convert, that led her to a Brazilian designer in Los Angeles, who ultimately introduced her to a Brazilian factory-owner, whose passion for supporting women lined up perfectly with Fatima’s.

“Tima is all about empowering women, and showing them that they can love themselves and find themselves and achieve everything they put their mind to, regardless of the constraints we face,” said Fatima.

“I fell in love with the owner of the factory. She had women who are from broken homes, or divorcees, or widows, and she taught them trades of stitching, seamstressing and styling. She gave them this job and they all work for her in her factory. I fell in love with that — she had a bigger purpose than just making clothes.”

The fabrics were more expensive than those she find elsewhere, but she said the difference was worth it for the quality.

“It’s just so soft, but at the same time so conforming. You have to try it to really understand. You don’t feel like something is suffocating you, or that it’s so hard to move in it because it’s so tight, but at the same time, it really holds everything in place,” she said.

It can also can expand to about 40 per cent. One of her brand ambassadors, Eva Dvorackova, was able to continue wearing her workout clothes even when pregnant with twins. Additionally, Fatima says, it requires no special treatment when it comes to washing and drying, and retains its signature bright colours ‘forever’.

Because the brand was created primarily for the Saudi market — it’s currently being sold out of SportsOne and Youth Sports Store — the vision for it didn’t include a more conservative ‘hijabi’ range.

“Saudi women, when they train, they’re always training in women-only facilities. So it doesn’t really make sense for them to be wearing something for hijabis — actually, they want to be free and wear something that they can’t wear anywhere else,” she said.

“But this is something that we’re looking at, because we’ve had so many requests from Kuwait, Bahrain and also here in the UAE, where local women do train outdoors and they would like to have those items,” she said.

Her range is currently available online through her website,, and through the occasional pop-up store in Dubai. She’s in talks to bring it into SportsOne stores in the UAE.

*Tickets to MEFIT2015 start at Dh495 per day, through

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