AlRawabi School for Girls season two will break new ground, director Tima Shomali says

The Netflix show has been praised for its honest portrayal of contemporary issues

AlRawabi School for Girls caters to young women, who are an often-overlooked demographic in Arab entertainment. Photo: Netflix
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Plenty of surprises are in store for the second season of AlRawabi School for Girls, director Tima Shomali tells The National. While the first season of the hit show, which was released on Netflix in August 2021, was hailed for going where few Arab dramas had gone before, the second, Shomali says, will go farther.

“Season two you are going to see some surprises,” she says. “We have some interesting aspects we’re exploring in the next season and there are new grounds that we’re breaking."

Created by Shomali and Shirin Kamal, the series is set in a fictional girls' school in the Arab world and caters to young women who are an often-overlooked demographic in Arab entertainment.

Tima Shomali is also part of Netflix’s Because She Created campaign. Photo: Netflix

Shomali has long sought to highlight female-centric stories in her works. She took part in Netflix’s 2017 Ramadan She Rules campaign, along with 30 other female content creators and social media influencers, as it celebrated strong women — both on and off the screen.

It marked her first project with the streaming giant and paved way to AlRawabi School For Girls. More recently, she has taken part in Netflix’s Because She Created campaign, appearing at the Red Sea International Film Festival to support the initiative.

“What I’ve always tried to do with my work is be an advocate for women, to write stories from a new perspective that we haven’t seen,” she said.

AlRawabi School for Girls has been, so far, one of Shomali’s most concentrated efforts within that mission. The show’s honest portrayal of contemporary issues — from bullying to social alienation — made it a riveting watch irrespective of gender or age.

While tracing the highs and lows of adolescence, the series doesn’t linger on the perspective of one character for too long, instead offering a kaleidoscopic vision of the experiences unfolding at the upscale school.

AlRawabi gave people some hope that they can speak up,” she says. “Even though it’s a girl’s story, it also helped a lot of boys open up. Boys reached out to me, saying the show helped them open up about their own experiences in their schools. They even shared online stories that they were ashamed of.”

In May, Netflix released a teaser letter for the second season of the show. It was issued by the AlRawabi School for Girls Administration to its student body ahead of the school year.

“We look forward to welcoming you back to AlRawabi School for Girls,” the letter read. “When we return, we promise a fresh and exciting perspective, and urge you to bring renewed energy to the year ahead.” A video was also posted showing aerial shots of a yellow school bus heading towards campus, which ends with the vehicle driving through the gates.

While many may be eagerly waiting to find out what happens to Noaf, Rania, Layan, Mariam, Ruqayya and Dina, not to mention the faculty of the school, fans will be excited to note that the coming season may not be the last.

The series is set in a fictional girls' school in the Arab world. Photo: Netflix

“As an original idea, the show has the potential to go on for several seasons,” Shomali says. “Of course, you never know whether it’s going to happen or not, but you plan for it. Whatever you plan is also going to change because that’s how writing happens. You start with an idea, a treatment and then when you start digging into the characters, they start leading you, telling you what’s right.

“It was the same with season two,” she says. “We had this idea, and the idea grows and takes you on a different path. You never know what happens in the writing room. This is art. There’s no limit where your imagination can go.”

However, as excited as Shomali is for the next leg of the story, she says she has also been working on other projects that slightly veer from her traditional subject matter.

“I’m working on other projects where I have strong male characters,” she says. “[It is] a different perspective to a male character. It’s very rare to see a strong man vulnerable. We see vulnerable men but not so a strong man with a vulnerable side. I’d love to tap on that at some point in my work.”

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Updated: December 17, 2022, 10:38 AM