It is true to say that 2018 has been a memorable year in the Middle East
region but, sadly, not always for the best of reasons. Of course, as in all years, there have been many joyous occurrences worthy of celebration but, with the various conflicts that continue to take their toll on human life in Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Syria,Yemen and elsewhere, there is something of a pervading sadness that the situation for the people of the Arab nation is not as good as it could, or should, be.
Here at The Middle East magazine, in researching for our annual 50 Most Influential Arabs report we have seen some memorable and, we believe, positive indicators of change.
Our Top Arabs report has long been a popular addition to the annual editorial calendar. In the early years we noticed that the majority of readers voted chiefly for the region’s most successful businessmen – age, wealth and social stature played an important part in the selection process.
While respect, experience and wealth remain popular influencers, over the years we have noticed how imagination, innovation, drive and generosity – both financial and of spirit – has come to play a vital part in our readers’ selection of their favourite notables. Achievement remains an important component but, increasingly frequently, the achievers are self-starters, entrepreneurs with a vision and the courage to pursue it; these are the individuals who are gaining prominence; the rising stars of our 2018 listing.
Ours is not a list determined by wealth but by drive, imagination, achievement, resilience and influence which, in the great scheme of things, amount to more than a bank balance. The wealth in a man’s pocket can be lost, stolen or squandered with ease, but honour, vision, integrity and compassion are attributes less easily misplaced.
Year on year we have seen more women appear on the list, in keeping with the general trend in the Arab states to fully utilise the previously underused skill set of 50% of the population and, also in keeping with the general Arab world trend, the average age of those appearing on our 2018 list has fallen by approximately 20 years during the last decade!
It has long been said that the real wealth of the Arab nation lies with its young people and we are seeing this to be the case. The innovative educational programmes put into place just a few short years ago have paid dividends, meaning that, as well as producing graduates with the more traditional qualifications in, for example, economics, law and medicine, the Arab world can more than hold its own with graduate skill sets embracing the emerging new technologies and industries that compliment our shifting world order.
Our thanks to our readers for their nominations but most especially to the 50 people who make up this diverse and thought provoking listing. You have been an inspiration to the rest of us, reminding us by your actions and your achievements that, as former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”.
London, December 2018.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (Saudi Arabia)
HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, although a member of the royal family of Saudi Arabia, has worked hard to achieve his billionaire businessmen status.
In 1979, the entrepreneurial Prince formed his own company, Kingdom Establishment for Commerce and Trade – the company that would, in 1996, become Kingdom Holding Company (KHC). Having completed his first major deal, Prince Alwaleed chose to invest the profits into Riyadh real estate – a shrewd decision that, in many ways, proved to be the foundation KHC’s success.
The central figure behind KHC, one of the world’s unrivalled international holding companies, Prince Alwaleed, twice named by Forbes Magazine as one of the world’s most intelligent and creative investors, sets the agenda for the company’s world operations. Under his guidance the company has cemented its position among the world’s foremost investors. Today, KHC has major investments in a diverse portfolio ranging from luxury hotels and real estate to media and publishing, entertainment, finance and investment services, social media and technology, consumer and retail, petrochemicals, education, private equities, health care, aviation and agriculture. The company, headquartered in Riyadh, is among the world’s largest investors, with regional and international holdings in key industries across the globe.
In addition to his many and varied business interests, Prince Alwaleed funds a series of charitable foundations aimed at affecting social change and providing relief and opportunities to those in need. Alwaleed Philanthropies supports and initiates projects around the world, regardless of gender, race or religion collaborating with a range of philanthropic, governmental and educational organisations to combat poverty, empower women and the youth, develop communities, provide disaster relief and create cultural understanding through education.
The Prince describes himself as being religiously conservative, but with a liberal outlook on the social and cultural aspects of contemporary Islam. For instance, Prince Alwaleed is a keen supporter of women’s rights, and is working towards improving female prospects across the Arab world through his foundations. He is committed to practising what he preaches by employing more women than men at KHC offices; indeed, one of the pilots of his personal private jet is a woman.
Mo Salah (Egypt)
Few people in the world today would fail to recognise Egyptian-born Mo Salah, the professional footballer and all round superstar, nice guy. Salah, who was born on 15 June 1992, started his professional career with hometown club El Mokawloon in 2010. He later joined British Premier League side Chelsea in 2014 for a transfer fee of £11 million, before going on to join Italian clubs Fiorentina and Roma. Following his consistent match winning performances in Rome, in 2017 Salah transferred back to a UK Premier League club, this time to Liverpool FC, for a record breaking fee of £36.9 million. Having made his debut with the senior Egyptian national team in 2011, Salah helped his homeland reach the final of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and, as top scorer, helped the team qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. In addition to his achievements in sport, Salah has been a generous benefactor to a number of charitable causes, donating money to help development programmes in Egypt and providing funds to buy hospital equipment, renovate schools and build an ambulance unit in his home village of Nagrig. Earlier this year, Salah donated $450,000 to help kickstart a project that will ensure the people of Nagrig and its environs have an abundant supply of clean water. Not only for his skill but also for his humanity and his kindness Salah has become a contemporary hero in the Arab world and far beyond.
Helal Al Marri (UAE)
Al Marri played a key role in helping Dubai win the prestigious Expo 2020 event, for which there was keen competition from countries around the world. As Director General of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) – the principal authority responsible for strengthening Dubai’s positioning as a leading global tourism destination — he is responsible for delivering Dubai’s Tourism Vision 2020, which includes at its core, the goal of attracting 20 million guests a year by 2020 — double the number of visitors that travelled to the emirate in 2012. He previously worked as a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Co, one of the world’s leading consulting firms. Al Marri holds an MBA degree from the London Business School and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. He currently also serves on the boards of several government and private sector entities, including the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, International Humanitarian City and Taleem Education, one of the largest education providers in the Middle East. Prior to his DTCM posting, he was CEO of the Dubai World Trade Centre, where he was instrumental in establishing Dubai as a global financial and commercial hub.
Yousef Abdullah Al Benyan (Saudi Arabia)
Yousef Abdullah Al Banyan is chief executive officer of the Riyadh based Saudi basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) — the world’s third-largest diversified petrochemicals company and the largest public company in the Middle East, employing a staff of over 40,000 employees worldwide. Al Benyan has served as general manager of SABIC Asia, where he made significant contributions to growth in the Asian market, especially in China, as general manager of SABIC Americas, head of Human Resources and head of SABIC’s chemicals business. He is currently also chairman of the Gulf Petrochemicals and Chemicals Association (GPCA), chairman of the boards of Yanbu National Petrochemical Co. (Yansab); the Saudi Arabian Fertilizer Co. (SAFCO); the Saudi Iron and Steel Co. (HADEED) and the Petrochemical Manufacturers Committee. Al Benyan is a member of the International Business Council of the World Economic Forum, a member of the King Saud University Advisory Board, a board member of the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology and an Executive Committee member of the Riyadh Economic Forum at the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce. Al Benyan has worked hard to advance the fortunes of SABIC and in mid -2018 he was able to reveal that the Corporation’s net profit gains in the second quarter of 2018 had increased by an impressive 81 per cent over the same period the previous year.
Zainab Salbi (Iraq)
Zainab Salbi is a best-selling author and TV host. Born in 1969, she has dedicated her career aims to serving the cause of women and marginalised voices. She founded the Women for Women International, a humanitarian organisation in 1993 to help support female survivors of war. The organisation partnered with Kate Spade New York, an American fashion company, in establishing a programme to help Afghan women fleeing conflict, by giving them financial independence through work. More recently she launched her own talk show dedicated to addressing and inspiring women in the Arab world and has since gone on to become editor at large of Women in the World, in association with The New York Times. Her books include Between Two Worlds, Escape from Tyranny and Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam.
DJ Khaled (Palestine)
DJ Khaled is a powerhouse of the music world, with 9 million Instagram followers, 3.4 million Facebook fans, and nearly 4 million followers on Twitter. During 2017, the rap artist, record producer and social media star, born in 1975, announced his 10th studio album, Grateful, which includes the single Shining featuring Beyoncé and Jay Z. The title of his previous album, Major Key, has since entered the cultural phrasebook, with millions of people around the world parroting his use of the term to describe advice, actions, or items that represent a ‘major key’ to success. Inspired by his own home and lifestyle, he designed a new luxury furniture line, We the Best Home, which launched in August 2018. DJ Khaled has also been cast to provide a voice in the animated film Spies in Disguise, due for release in 2019.
Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi (UAE)
A member of the UAE emirate of Sharjah’s ruling family, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, founded Kalimat Publishing in 2007, to help develop and nurture publishing in the UAE and to fill a gap in the market for first rate children’s books in Arabic. Eleven years later, Kalimat has published over 130 titles and won many awards at regional and international book fairs. Born in 1978, Sheikha Bodour heads up the organising committee of Knowledge without Borders, an initiative launched by the Ruler of Sharjah with the express aim of establishing a library in every house in the emirate. Sheikha Bodour’s interests are diverse. She has championed the rights of woman in Sharjah, where she has held the position of Vice President of the Sharjah Ladies Club since 2002. She is President of the Sharjah Baby Friendly Campaign and at the same time heads up the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq). She is also a recognised and respected player in Sharjah’s drive to be seen as the cultural emirate of the UAE. In August 2018, she was elected vice president of the International Publishers Association (IPA) becoming the first Arab woman to hold one of that association’s top leadership positions.
Othman Benjelloun (Morocco)
At 85, Benjelloun remains a major player in the financial world. He is ranked second in Morocco’s rich list. As CEO and president of BMCE Bank, Benjelloun oversaw the launch of a new Islamic lender in December 2017. Bank Al Tamweel Wa Inma Bank was formed in partnership with Bahrain’s Al Baraka Banking Group, and began operations in Casablanca. It plans to have established 37 branches by 2022 in various cities, proving the octogenarian Benjelloun retains significant influence and ambition in North Africa’s financial sector.
Anas Bukhash (UAE)
Born in 1981, Anas Bukhash is one of the UAE’s leading Emirati entrepreneurs, “I enjoy starting up projects that I’m both passionate about and very good at”, Anas has said.
Starting off as the Managing Partner of Ahdaaf Sports Club, Anas was instrumental in expanding the project from two football fields in 2009 to 27 fields by 2016. He is also the Managing Partner of Bukhash Brothers, a boutique agency, launched in 2014, that utilises its extensive reach with celebrities and social media influencers. Mixing business with his passion for sport, Anas was the football expert for Abu Dhabi Sports Channel for seasons 2011-12 and 2012-13 and has served as the UAE Sports Specialist on Dubai One’s World of Sports. He has also achieved impressive success as a motivational speaker who aims to inspire the youth of the UAE not only in matters of sport but also in reaching personal and social goals. The success of Bukhash’s social media accounts is testament to his popularity; his Instagram account alone boasts close to 60,000 followers. Anas is a board member of the Dubai Sports Council as well as being involved in several philanthropic causes.
Raha Moharrak (Saudi Arabia)
Raha Moharrak received international acclaim in 2013, when she became the first ever Saudi Arabian woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest. Born in 1986, Moharrak was joined by 34 other mountaineers and 29 guides in her quest. Her four-member expedition team, Arabs with Altitude, included Qatar’s Mohammed Al Thani, Masoud Mohammed from Iran and Palestinian Raed Zidan. The four worked together to scale the peak of Mount Everest in a bid to raise one million dollars for educating people in Nepal. In 2017, Moharrak completed another climbing feat – the Seven Summits – that involves ascending the highest mountain in each of the seven continents. Moharrak is a passionate advocate for women’s rights and has included in her future goals, plans to write a book about her experiences.
Ronaldo Mouchawar (Syria/UAE)
Born and raised in Aleppo, Syria, Ronaldo Mouchawar is the co-founder and CEO of the Arab world’s largest online shopping site, Souq.com, often referred to as the Amazon of the MENA region. Souq.com serves more than 40 cities in the Arab world receiving over 42 million visits per month. Mouchawar has become a respected voice on entrepreneurship and start-ups. He is one of the pioneers of e-commerce in the region who now also dedicates time to mentoring promising young talent. Mouchawar established the uniquely named White Friday sales events to coincide with the Black Friday celebrated cut price sales in the US, explaining that a “black” Friday event did not make cultural sense in the Arab world, since Friday is the traditional day of prayer.
Dr Mohammad Nasser Al Ahbabi (UAE)
Al Ahbabi is the head of the UAE’s space exploration, technology and research efforts with responsibility for coordinating public and private sector initiatives in the field and the creation of the Middle East’s first dedicated space research centre. Spearheading the UAE’s Hope Mission to Mars, scheduled for 2021, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the UAE, Al Ahbabi previously served in a number of different roles at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre. The Space agency recently unveiled the Mars 2117 project, which aims to build the first human settlement on Mars within 100 years.
Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa (Bahrain)
One of the first women to practice law in Bahrain, and only the third woman to head the UN General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa is an advocate for international women’s rights and has held senior positions with many leading legal global organisations. She is currently Chairperson of the ICC Bahrain National Committee, a member of the Dubai International Arbitrator committee and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees at the Bahrain Chamber for Dispute Resolution. Sheikha Haya was a member of the Board of Directors of the American Arbitration Association (AAA) between 2009 and 2017. In her role as Principal Attorney and legal advisor at Haya Rashed Al Khalifa Attorney at Law & Legal Consultants, she acts as legal advisor to the Royal Court of Bahrain. Sheikha Haya is also an alternative member of the Kingdom of Bahrain at the ICC’s International Court of Arbitration, Board Member of the ICC Bahrain, and Chairperson of the Lawyers Committee, ICC Bahrain. She has served as Ambassador to France, Belgium, Switzerland and Spain, and was the permanent delegate of the Kingdom of Bahrain to UNESCO for four years.
Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak (UAE)
Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak – wife of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the United Arab Emirates – is a pioneering force on behalf of women’s rights and empowerment. By encouraging women to pursue education and to participate in local, civic and national affairs, Sheikha Fatima has attempted to ensure equal opportunity for the women of the UAE.Her inspirational values of conservation, collaboration, sustainability and empowerment have emerged as valuable signposts toward a progressive future for all Emiratis. She is President of the Motherhood and Childhood Supreme Council and has chaired a number of organisations such as the Arab Women’s Organisation and the Regional Coordination Committee for Women’s Work in the GCC. For her ongoing efforts, Sheikha Fatima has been the recipient of over 500 awards and honours, 30 of them bestowed by the U.N., yet this highly regarded and greatly respected figure has always shunned the limelight and is rarely seen in public. Her recent ground breaking initiative, to seek protective measures from paedophiles seeking to sexually abuse children via the world wide web, has gained support and praise politicians, legislators and the most senior churchmen of the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths.
Omar Samra (Egypt)
Omar Samra, born in London of Egyptian parents in 1978, is an adventurer, mountaineer, entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and potential future astronaut. He was the first Egyptian and the youngest Arab to climb Mount Everest and in 2014, he became the first Egyptian to ski to the Geographic South Pole. The following year, Samra added to his impressive list of achievements when he put on his skis again and made it to the North Pole to become the first Egyptian and one of only 40 people to have accomplished the “Explorer’s Grand Slam” challenge, which includes climbing the highest mountain on every continent, the Seven Summits, and skiing to both the South and North Poles.After graduating with a degree in economics from the American University in Cairo and obtaining an MBA from the London Business School in entrepreneurship, Samra took the decision to leave the world of high finance and turn his attention to developing Wild Guanabana, a company specialising in designing and creating ethical adventure travel experiences in the wild for companies in 15 countries, across six continents. Samra entered and won a competition organised by XCOR Space Expeditions (A Virgin Galactic enterprise under the patronage of Sir Richard Branson), and in doing so, is in prime position to become Egypt’s first ever astronaut. His most recent challenge was rowing the Atlantic Ocean. Samra is also involved in charitable ventures, including undertaking work to help support the New Cairo-based Ahl Masr Burns Hospital, the first non-profit specialist burns medical complex and research centre in the MENA region.
Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi (UAE)
Until November 2018 holding the portfolio of UAE’s Minister for Tolerance, Sheikha Lubna was the first woman ever to hold a ministerial post in the United Arab Emirates, when she became Minister for Foreign Trade in November 2004. She has since held several Cabinet briefs, including Minister of International Development and Minister for Economy and Planning. The indefatigable Sheikha Lubna was promoted to her current position as Minister of Development and International Cooperation in November 2018.In 2000, Sheikha Lubna founded Tejari, the Middle East’s first business-to-business online marketplace, which now has franchises across the region. Sheikha Lubna, whose ready wit and down-to-earth approach makes her a popular figure both at home and abroad, sits on the board of directors at the Dubai Chamber for Commerce and Industry, and is also on the board of the National US Arab Chamber of Commerce. In March 2014, she was appointed President of Zayed University in Abu Dhabi. She also serves on The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and The Emirates Foundation for Youth Development.
Rania Al Mashat (Egypt)
Mashat received her PhD at the age of 20 and became the youngest intern at the IMF three years later. She subsequently went on to be the youngest sub-governor in the history of The Central Bank of Egypt before returning to the IMF in August 2016 at a management-level job. She has also garnered international recognition; in 2015, Mashat was chosen among the top 50 Most Influential Women in the Egyptian Economy. She was earlier named among the 2014 Young Global Leaders (YGL) by the World Economic Forum and selected as being among the Most Powerful Women in the Egyptian Banking Sector in the same year. Mashat became Egypt’s minister of Tourism in January 2018.
Mohammed Alabbar (UAE)
The charismatic and articulate chairman of Emaar Properties, one of the world’s largest real estate companies and a key player in the development of Dubai’s real estate sector, Alabbar runs more than 60 companies under the Emaar umbrella. He is responsible for three of Dubai’s iconic landmarks: the Dubai Mall, the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Opera House. He also serves as Director General of Dubai’s Department of Economic Development and is a senior aide to Dubai’s Ruler, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bins Rashid Al Maktoum. In 2014, under Alabbar’s leadership, Emaar listed its shopping malls and retail business, Emaar Malls Group, on the Dubai Financial Market with one of the largest IPOs in the region. In 2018, Emaar pitched Dubai Square, a mall twice the size of Dubai Mall, as the world’s first digitally enabled shopping mall. The complex will have its own ‘Dubai OS’ operating system embedded into its Wi-Fi to support retailers’ online operations. Alabbar’s $1bn e-commerce venture Noon.com is a key part of the plans, with retailers able to list their products on its website.
Leila Sansour (Palestine)
Leila Sansour is an acclaimed filmmaker with an unconventional portfolio. She is the founder and spokesperson of Open Bethlehem, an organisation that works to bring international commitment to the resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian question, using Bethlehem as a gateway. Sansour holds a masters degree in philosophy and is a well known speaker on Middle Eastern issues. She began her career in television working as a producer and commissioning editor for MBC before moving to produce 15 episodes of Al Jazeera’s leading documentary series Encounter in Exile.
She is widely acclaimed for her feature‐length documentary, Jeremy Hardy versus the Israeli army 2003, a tragi-comic film shot with the celebrated British comedian Jeremy Hardy. The film received exceptional reviews in the international media and later toured the US, as part of Amnesty International’s Roaming Film Festival.
Sansour’s film Open Bethlehem was released at Christmas 2014. The film was shot over five years in Bethlehem, during the building of the Israeli wall, resulting in the gathering together of one of the largest visual archives of the city both past and present. Plans are currently being discussed to turn the collection into a permanent museum. First screened in the UK, Sansour has since taken Open Bethlehem on tour elsewhere, including to America and Canada. The Open Bethlehem campaign works to develop a network of passionate ambassadors for the ancient city through the Bethlehem Passport Programme.
Noura Al Kaabi (UAE)
Al Kaabi was appointed UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development in October 2017. She previously held the position of Minister of State for Federal National Council Affairs (February 2016 to October 2017). As a member of the Federal National Council, Al Kaabi paid particular attention to promoting measures to protect the rights of children. Before taking up her ministerial career, as CEO of the Media Zone Authority-Abu Dhabi and its commercial arm, twofour54, the charismatic Al Kaabi was instrumental in developing the UAE’s media industry. She is widely credited as being the woman who brought Star Wars to the UAE; scenes of the imaginary planet Jakku that featured in the 2015 blockbuster movie, were filmed in Abu Dhabi. The Media Zone Authority now has more than 240 media organisations on its campus and has launched the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, and the Abu Dhabi Media Summit. Al Kaabi sits on the board of Abu Dhabi Media, the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, Image Nation and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. She is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and a member of the Scientific Committee of the prestigious Sheikh Zayed Book Award.
El Seed (Tunisia)
El Seed, a street artist born in 1981 in France to Tunisian parents, is celebrated for his combination of fine Arabic calligraphy and graffiti techniques, which he uses to create large-scale works. His most famous mural is located on the Jara Mosque in the Tunisan town of Gabes. It is 47 meters tall, 10 meters wide, and copies a verse from the Quran encouraging people to celebrate their differences, respect each other and unite. His work also adorned a wall on the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, motorway underpasses in Qatar, walls in New York, Melbourne, Jeddah and London. El Seed took his name from a character in the French play, El Cid. The name is based on the Arabic term, AL Sayed , which means “the man. He cites the 2011 Tunisian revolution as a major factor in the opening of political space to alternate forms of expression. “The revolution pushed people to be more creative where before they were scared to express themselves. Now they have more freedom. El Seed created his first large-scale mural one year after the beginning of the Tunisian revolution, in the city of Kairouan. The work was a calligraphic representation of passage from a Tunisian poem by Abu al Qasim al Husayfi, dedicated to those struggling against tyranny and injustice.
Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui (UAE)
Shamma bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui currently serves as Minister of State for Youth Affairs in the UAE. Appointed at the age of 22, in February 2016, she became the youngest government minister in the world. Before that Al Muzrui worked in private equity at Abu Dhabi Investment Company, a sovereign wealth fund. She was a public policy analyst at the UAE Mission to the United Nations, a Ministry Policy Analyst with the Prime Minister’s Office, a Research Analyst at the UAE Embassy in DC and an Education Policy Researcher at Tamkeen (UAE Strategic Affairs Authority). She obtained her Masters of Public Policy with Distinction from the University of Oxford in 2015. Al Muzrui was the UAE’s first Rhodes Scholar and ranked within the top section of her class. It is not only her achievements to date, impressive though they are, that make Al Muzui an inspiration to young Arabs but her youth and the promise of where her future – and by definition theirs – might eventually lead.
Lubna Suliman Olayan (Saudi Arabia)
The Chief Executive Officer of the Olayan Financing Company (OFC), she is considered an important spokesperson for women’s rights in the Middle East, who generally leads by quiet example. Although Olayan first came to international prominence when she became the first woman to publicly speak to a mixed gender audience at the Jeddah Economic Conference of 2004, she has proved herself an astute and accomplished businesswoman many times over since then. She is a Member of Board of Trustees of Cornell University and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Olayan sits on the board of trustees of the Arab Thought Foundation and is also a board member of Al Fanar, which supports grassroots organisations in the Arab world. She joined the International Advisory Boards of Rolls-Royce and Citigroup and served on the Board of Chelsfield plc, the UK property developer, from 1996 to 2004. She has keenly championed women’s employment rights. In 2001, she was the only woman employed at the Olayan Financing Company (OFC); today there are more than 500 women across the 28 companies, with an active female recruitment plan in place. Listed as the 86th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes, she is set to make history in Saudi Arabia by becoming the first Saudi woman to chair a new bank in the kingdom, which will be formed out of a merger between the Saudi British Bank (SABB) and Alawwal Bank.
Mohammed Ateeq Al Falahi (UAE)
Mohammed Ateeq Al Falahi is Secretary General of the UAE Red Crescent Society. The Emirate’s position as a global leader in charitable aid and initiatives is a long established one that has increased in recent years. Under Al Falahi’s leadership, the society has worked in countries including Yemen, Palestine, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Greece, India, Somalia, the Philippines, and elsewhere. Through the work of Al Falahi and his team the society has had a positive impact on the lives of countless numbers of people by bringing them aid and relief in various forms, as well as organising awareness programmes, providing education, training and a variety of sponsorship programmes for orphans as well as victims of conflict and oppression.
Laila Hzaineh (Jordan/ Palestine)
At just 20 years of age, Jordanian vlogger (video blogger) Laila Hzaineh has become the face of feminism among young Arabs thanks to her uncompromising online videos responding to sexism and oppression. First going viral in late 2016 when she offered a passionate and intelligent rebuttal of one man’s suggestion that women bring sexual harassment on themselves by the clothes they wear, Hzaineh has since developed a strong following as she seeks to confront and challenge some of the misogynistic norms too frequently present in regional society.
Mohammed bin Mahfood Al Ardhi (Oman/Bahrain)
Mohammed Bin Mahfoodh Al Ardhi is the Executive Chairman of the global investment group, Investcorp, where he has been a director on the Board since 2008. Al Ardhi joined the Royal Air Force (RAFO) of Oman in 1978, and retired as Air Vice Marshall. In 2000, he was awarded the “Order of Oman” by Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said. Investcorp today specialises in offering multi-product alternative investments on a global scale. Its lines of business include Corporate Investment (investments in unquoted corporate entities), Alternative Investment Solutions (previously known as Hedge Funds), Real Estate and Credit Management. Al Ardi has said he aims to more than double investments to $50bn by 2022, looking especially towards Saudi Arabia and businesses associated with the country’s leading oil giant, Aramco. A planned $750m healthcare fund and growing global footprint add to Al Ardhi’s reputation, already made strong by his doubling of Investcorp’s AUM since taking his role in 2015 – rising from $10.8bn to $21.3bn by June last year. He is also the author of three books: Arabs Down Under, Pearls from Arabia and Arabs Unseen.
Dr.Sultan Al Jaber (UAE)
Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber is CEO of the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, mandated by the UAE government to undertake and drive the Masdar Initiative – Abu Dhabi’s vision of investment in the future of energy and environmental sustainability. Al Jaber holds a BSc in Chemical Engineering from the University of Southern California, a PhD in business and economics from Coventry University in the UK and an MBA from California State University at Los Angeles. In 2012 he was the winner of the prestigious UN Champions of the Earth award in recognition of his efforts in this area. Al Jaber is a board member of the Young Arab Leaders Organisation and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Ports Company (ADPC), the Abu Dhabi Media Investment Corp. and Sky News Arabia. He is Vice Chairman of the UAE Federal Health Authority and serves on the boards of the Advanced Technology Investment Company (ATIC), ALDAR Properties and Zones Corp. He also holds the position of managing director of the board of the recently formed Emirates Diplomatic Academy (EDA), which aims to help realise the UAE’s foreign policy aspirations by preparing a cadre of highly qualified diplomats. In 2016, he was appointed Director General of the Abu Dhabi National Oil company (Adnoc) and is also Chairman of the Board of the National Media Council.
Maher Zain (Lebanon)
Maher Zain, whose family left Lebanon to make their home in Sweden when he was just eight years old, entered the music industry as a producer working alongside Grammy award-winning music executive RedOne, famous for his work with the likes of Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Lopez. In 2009 he returned to his Islamic roots and focused on writing and singing his own contemporary R&B music with a strong Muslim influence. His first album, Thank You Allah, was released in 2009 by Awakening Records to become the highest-selling album of 2010 in Malaysia. The album went multi-platinum in Malaysia and Indonesia, where Zain has had his biggest successes. Since releasing his first album, the R&B singer has established himself as a highly successful recording artist, amassing a vast international fan base and in excess of 23.5 million Facebook followers. Zain sings mainly in English but has released some of his most popular songs in languages including French, Arabic, Turkish, Malay and Indonesian. He has travelled the world giving concerts, including events in South Africa, and Egypt in 2018.
He is a keen supporter of UNHCR’s work and last year visited several of the organisation’s Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon, where he performed concerts.
Iqbal Al Asaad (Palestine)
Dr Al Assad showed herself to be capable of great things when, at only 12 years of age, she graduated from High School in Lebanon. Just eight years later, in 2013, at the age of 20, she became the youngest recorded Arab doctor. The child prodigy, who says she began learning as a toddler while listening to her father, a Palestinian refugee, tutor her older brothers, was struck at an early age by the poverty she witnessed around her. Stories of sick children in the local Palestinian refugee camps unable to get the medical care they needed, inspired her to become a paediatrician. Her dream caught the attention of Lebanon’s education minister, who secured Assad a medical scholarship. Sponsored by the Qatar Foundation Al Assad joined Weill Cornell Medical College in Doha and is currently fine honing her skills at the US-based Cleveland Clinic Children’s Paediatric Residency Programme. However, in a cruel irony, Asaad’s dream to return to Lebanon and help the Palestinian refugees who inspired her career may be thwarted since Palestinians are currently prevented from practising as doctors in Lebanon.
Sultan Soud Al Qassemi (UAE)
Non-resident fellow at the Dubai School of Government, Al Qassemi’s writing is published regularly by the UAE’s The National newspaper. His work also appears in international media such as The Guardian, The Independent and on CNN. He has developed an influential social media network and is an active tweeter. Since 2008, he has held the position of Chairman of Young Arab Leaders’ UAE chapter and is also Chairman of Barjeel Securities in Dubai. In February 2014 Sultan Al Qassemi joined the Global Commission on Internet Governance and later that year became an MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow. He is also the founder of the Sharjah based Barjeel Art Foundation which houses his extensive collection of modern and contemporary Arab art and is an influential figure in Sharjah’s burgeoning art and culture scene. Al Qassemi has embarked on a new chapter as a Greenberg World Fellow at Yale University, an enrichment programme for artists looking to experiment and further their craft.
Linah Attalah (Egypt)
Linah Attalah’s credentials as an independent journalist are well established. When the Egypt Independent was shut down in April 2013 by its publishers, a group of its former journalists got together under the leadership of the then editor, Lina Attalah, to establish a new online bilingual newspaper, Mada Masr. At the age of 31, Attalah is the chief editor of Mada Masr, her seventh news venture; many of the previous ones closed because of the attitude of successive governments’ towards independent-minded journalists. With over 38,000 followers on Twitter, Atallah is regarded as a respected voice in Egyptian media, having covered all notable events in the country’s recent history. Atallah has written for numerous publications including Reuters, Al Masry Al Youm and Cairo Times, and has also worked as a radio producer and campaign coordinator for the BBC World Service trust.
Ali Mostafa (UAE)
Now aged 37, the British Emirati filmmaker came into the international spotlight in 2009 as the director and producer of the film City of Life based in Dubai, which he says he made to show both the positive and negative sides of the Emirate. Mostafa also directed several short movies including Under the Sun, which was screened at a number of global film festivals. He also owns a production company, AFM Films. In 2018, he made The Worthy, a dystopian plot set in a water-scarce future. It is one of the few Arab films to be released on Netflix. He is also involved in fashion and has partnered with Tumi for a luggage collection.
Rana Dajani (Jordan)
Rana Dajani is an associate professor of biology and biotechnology at the Hashemite University of Jordan. She is an authority on the genetics of the Circassia and Chechen populations in Jordan. Her research focuses on genome-wide association studies concerning diabetes, cancer and stem cells. She advocated the establishment of the law for stem cell research and therapy in her homeland. Dajani founded and directed the We Love Reading programme that promotes child literacy across 30 countries and, closer to home, aims to create a library in every neighbourhood in Jordan.We Love Reading has mentored and trained 730 women in the techniques of storytelling and in 2017, won the Unesco King Sejong Literacy Prize. In 2018, Dajani became a fellow at Radcliffe University as part of the Harvard University programme. She is writing a book that documents—from the perspective of a female, Muslim, Arab scientist who has worked in various cultures—the challenges that women face in academia and how that varies across various cultures, religions, and disciplines.
Hashim Shawa (Palestine)
Hashim Shawa took over the reins of the family bank in Gaza in 2007, at the age of 31, when political circumstances had brought the Gazan economy – and the bank – to its knees. Eleven years on, the Bank of Palestine, is the second-largest private sector employer in Palestine, with 1,300 employees across 54 branches, under Shawa’s leadership. Shawa established his banking career with global leaders Citibank and HSBC, working in various European countries. Before his return to Palestine, he was director of HSBC Switzerland’s Middle East and North Africa business, with responsibility for developing the company’s private banking business in the Gulf and establishing HSBC’s onshore presence in Kuwait. He also serves as chairman, or sits on the board of, several other financial firms and is a member of the Emerging Markets Advisory Council at the International Institute of Finance in Washington DC. Shawa has championed many philanthropic causes and the bank allocates 6% of its annual profits for development and community projects in Palestinian society.
Jawad Nabulsi (Egypt)
Jawad Nabulsi is an experienced entrepreneur in both the business and social sectors. He founded a management-consulting firm focused on lean manufacturing and Six Sigma implementation in food-production factories in the Middle East. Nabulsi also co-founded a web development company and three restaurants. He has acted as consultant on a variety of start-ups and non-profit organisations. Nabulsi is committed to spreading the word and regularly trains and lectures around the world on topics including wellbeing, happiness and leadership. Some years ago, he founded the Nebny Foundation, which has impacted upon the lives of more than 150,000 people and was subsequently chosen by the World Bank, from more than 40,000 non-governmental organisations in the Middle East, to become a donor recipient. The Egyptian government has adopted Nebny’s programme to combat illiteracy, which involves giving primary school students two hours of lessons and a good meal for three months.
Annamarie Jacir (Palestine)
Although all the razzamatazz surrounding the screening of her latest film Wajib at international festivals in 2018 might lead the uninitiated to believe she is a newcomer, Palestinian director Annemarie Jacir has written, directed and produced more than sixteen films during a distinguished career. Her short film Like Twenty Impossibles (2003) was the first Arabic short film in history in the official selection of the Cannes Film Festival, and was also nominated for an Academy Award. Her second film Salt of this Sea (2008) received 14 international prizes. It was the first film directed by a Palestinian woman and became the Palestinian entry for the Oscar for ‘Best Non-English Film’. Wajib (2017) is Jacir’s third feature film; to date it has won more than 20 awards at international film festivals from Cannes to Sydney, Australia. Jacir is a gifted storyteller, an award winning screenwriter and a poet, as well as chief curator and founder of the ground breaking Dreams of a Nation Palestinian cinema project, dedicated to the promotion of Palestinian cinema. She has organised and curated the largest traveling film festival in Palestine, which included the screening of archival Palestinian films from Revolution Cinema, screening for the first time on Palestinian soil and taught courses at Columbia, Bethlehem and Birzeit universities, as well as in refugee camps in Palestine and Lebanon. In addition to directing award winning films, Jacir works as a freelance editor and cinematographer as well as film curator. She is a board member of Alwan for the Arts, a cultural organisation devoted to North African and Middle Eastern art and a founding member of the Palestinian Filmmakers’ Collective, based in Palestine.
Badr Jafar (UAE)
Jafar is probably best known as the President of Crescent Petroleum and CEO of Sharjah-based Crescent Enterprises. His other ventures include the Pearl Initiative, a not-for-profit organisation, founded with the United Nations Office for Partnerships in 2010, to improve corporate transparency across the Gulf. He is a staunch advocate of the concept of entrepreneurship and a member of numerous bodies to support SMEs, including the Global Board of Education for Employment and the Synergos Arab World Social Innovators group. Jafar attended Eton College in the UK and later Cambridge University. He chairs the Alumni Advisory Council of the Cambridge University Judge Business School in the UK, where he gained his MST. The School is a provider of management education and is consistently ranked as one of the world’s top business schools. In May 2018, Jafar joined the Giving Pledge initiated by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet. In October 2018, the start-ups incubator CE-Creates, initiated via Crescent Enterprises, launched a high-tech line of clothing, called Shamal, that uses sensors to monitor the health of blue-collar workers. The Shamal line is just one of the 14 concepts currently being progressed through CE-Creates.
The Arab poet, translator, editor, and theorist Ali Ahmad Said Esber was the eldest of six children born in 1930 to a family of farmers in the Syrian village of Al Qassabin. At 14, he recited a poem to the country’s president during his visit to a neighbouring town, after which the president offered to grant the boy’s request to attend school. With presidential support, the poet enrolled in a French-run high school and then Damascus University, where he earned a BA in philosophy. In his late teens, Esber began writing under the name Adonis. He was always outspoken on issues he believed were unjust and was eventually jailed for his beliefs. After a year in prison as a result of his political activity, Adonis moved to Beirut, where he found a rich community of expatriate writers and artists. There he cofounded and edited two progressive literary journals, Sh’ir and Mawaqif, and earned a PhD at St. Joseph University. Breaking with the tradition of formal structure in Arabic poetry, Adonis experiments with free verse, variable meters, and prose poetry as he engages themes of exile and transformation, in a voice at once playful and prophetic. He explained: “I wanted to draw on Arab tradition and mythology without being tied to it,” adding, “I wanted to break the linearity of poetic text — to mess with it, if you will ,to modernise it.”He is the author of numerous collections of poetry; his work won him the first ever International Nâzim Hikmet Poetry Award, the Norwegian Academy for Literature and Freedom of Expression’s Bjørnson Prize, the Highest Award of the International Poem Biennial in Brussels, and the Syria-Lebanon Best Poet Award. In 1983 he was elected into the Stéphané Mallarmé Academy.
Adonis has taught at the Sorbonne, Damascus University, and the Lebanese University. He currently lives in Paris.
Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Rabeeah (Saudi Arabia)
This Mecca-born former surgeon first shot to fame after his intricate operations on conjoined twins. Today, he is recognised as one of the world’s leading paediatric surgeons in this specialism. Al Rabeeah began his medical studies at Riyadh’s King Saud University, taking up a post in Canada in the 1980s. He was Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Health from 2009 – 2014, during which time he is credited with making some innovative changes that brought about important and much needed reform in improving the kingdom’s healthcare system. Al Rabeeah currently serves as the Supervisor General of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre in Riyadh and holds the position of Advisor to the Royal Court.
Faisa Bougessa (UAE)
Born and raised in France to Algerian parents, Faiza Bouguessa was introduced to the world of fashion at an early age. Her first encounter with garment making took place during her young years during time spent with her seamstress grandmother, who taught her the basics of knitting and sewing. What started as a hobby turned into a passion that led her to take numerous internships in tailor shops while studying English literature at university. Through these internships, Bougessa learned the basics of pattern making and developed an understanding for fabric characteristics and design. After moving to the UAE, Bouguessa launched her own label in 21014 in Dubai. She initially attracted attention for her long robes and elegant minimalist geometric kaftans a trend she dubbed the global abbeys. Soon her clean straight lines began to generate a buzz well beyond the Middle East. After a write up in Vogue India and seeing her designs paraded down the catwalk at Milan Fashion week in 2015, the cherry on the cake of Bouguessa’s career cake came when singer Beyoncé donned a geometric, belted abbaya created by the brands and wore it in a photo shoot posted on her website. Two years later, when the songstress donned a green velvet Bouguessa robe in an Instagram photoshoot, the snaps generated millions of likes and the garment sold out almost immediately. Bouguessa has since successfully integrated the abbaya and other local garments to the region, such as the Algerian Haik, into the global sartorial vocabulary. The pieces serve both as a link between modest and main street fashion and as a reminder of the creative potential of the Middle East region.
Muzaffar Al Nawab (Iraq)
Often referred to as the revolutionary poet, the work of Iraq’s Al Nawab is witnessing a strong resurgence among his countrymen in 2018. Al Nawab was born in Baghdad, in 1934 into an aristocratic Shi’ite family with an appreciation of art, poetry and music. He showed a talent for poetry from an early age. After studying at the University of Baghdad, Al Nawab became a teacher, but his career was derailed when was expelled from his homeland for political reasons in 1955. He was accused of using his work to incite public emotions against repressive regimes, political corruption and injustice and it cost him dearly. After the Iraqi revolution, which overthrew the monarchy in1958, he returned home only to flee once more in 1963. An Iraqi court handed down a death sentence against him for one of his poems, later commuted to life imprisonment. He escaped prison by digging a tunnel and fled to the marshlands, where he joined a communist faction that sought to overthrow the government. Known for his powerful revolutionary poems and scathing invectives against Arab dictators, Al Nawab has lived in exile in many countries, including Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Eritrea, where he lived with the Eritrean rebels, before returning to Iraq in 2011
Radwa Rostom (Egypt)
A civil engineer and the founder of Hand Over, an award-winning social enterprise that utilises sustainable construction techniques to build houses and structures for underprivileged communities. With her enthusiasm for the environment, her passion for sustainability, and a profound knowledge of engineering, Rostom’s ingenuity has paid off by providing new environmentally friendly living spaces in the overcrowded Egyptian capital city. Rostom works as a training & CSR specialist at the Solar Energy Company. After receiving extensive training, attending numerous workshops and coaching sessions, the idea was sufficiently developed to be launched as a project under the name Hand Over. The idea is that one day residents will be able to own their own homes, through a “mortgage” arrangement, offering flexible payment arrangements. Hand Over hopes that one day, its achievements in Cairo, will be expanded to cover other areas of need in cities around the country.
Adnane Remmal (Morocco)
Remmal was awarded the European Patent’s Organisation (EPO) Popular Prize 2017 for his work to identify links between bacteria resistant antibiotics and essential oils. The award marked a first ever EPO win for Morocco. Today, research based on Remmal’s early findings continues in laboratories around the world. During his employment at the Université Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah in Fez, Remmal identified what he believed to be one of the biggest threats to modern medicine: the increasing number of bacteria that have developed a resistance to antibiotics. A possible answer, he reasoned, might come via the local plant life that has long supported regional traditions of distilling flowers and other plants to make flavourings and teas. He subsequently founded a start-up company to bring his pharmaceutical and veterinary medicine applications to market. The company has since filed several patents to protect the concept of boosting anti-infectious agents and attracted the attention of the leading pharmaceutical laboratory in Morocco and West Africa, which has made technical and financial investments to bring “boosted antibiotics” to market.
Linda Sarsour (Palestine/US)
The eldest of seven children of Palestinian immigrants, Linda Sarsour was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1980. She is a US-based political activist and former executive director of the Arab American Association of New York. Sarsour has prominently advocated on behalf of American Muslims and other civil rights groups. In 2017, the day after Donald Trump was elected to power, she was instrumental in organising the Women’s March, the largest single demonstration in the history of the United States, which aimed to draw attention to the way Trump had frequently maligned Muslims, immigrants and the Black community, in the months and years that preceded his election to the presidency. Sarsour has worked with many left-wing associations including Jewish Voices for Peace. Although political activism has won her praise from some liberals and progressives, approval has been far from universal. The Anti-Defamation League and others have criticised her remarks on the Arab-Israeli conflict and her outspoken condemnation of the Israel government. Undeterred, Sansour, who was listed in Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” last year, has confirmed that she will be organising the 2019 Women’s March on Washington in January 2019.
Amr Diab (Egypt)
The Middle East region has produced many fine singers but Egyptian singer/songwriter, author and actor Amr Diab has earned a special place in the hearts of many Arabs around the world. Born in Port Said in 1961, Diab is widely acknowledged as the father of a genre widely known as “Mediterranean Music”, a blend of western and Egyptian rhythms that has found favour with followers in both East and West. His career got off to an early start when, at the age of six, he sang the Egyptian national anthem in the presence of the then president, Gamel Abdel Nasser, at a National Day celebration in Port Said. For his efforts,the young Diab was presented with a guitar by the governor of Port Said and his journey on the path to stardom had begun. Much encouraged by his musical and artistic family, Diab went on to study Arabic music at the Cairo Academy of Arts in the early 1980s, producing his first album, Ya Tareeq, in 1983. Over three decades he has produced numerous hit singles and albums that have found fame internationally, winning much coveted awards from the music industry along the way. He turned to film in 1989, appearing first as himself in El Arafeet, which also starred Madiha Kamel. Although his films have been well received by enthusiastic audiences, Diab has chosen to concentrate on his musical career, although his songs continue to crop up in films and television series around the world.
Somayya Jabart (Saudi Arabia)
Jabarti was the first woman to be appointed as the editor-in-chief of a newspaper in Saudi Arabia when, in 2014, she became editor of the Saudi Gazette, first published in 1978. Her career has included working as a journalist at Arab News and participation in various media focused training programmes and workshops, including the 2008 MENA Media Emerging Leaders Fellowship and the London Middle East Institute & the Commonwealth Journalists Association reporting course. Commenting on her promotion to editor of the Saudi Gazette, Jabarti observed: “A crack has been made in the glass ceiling and I am hoping it will be widened into a door.” However, many doubt that any real progress has been made during her tenure as editor. An eloquent speaker, Jabart has long spoken of the need for reform and greater transparency in the local and global media. She is seemingly a committed to a media policy that embraces forward thinking, diversity and open mindedness. However, in these all too frequently troubled times in the media industry, adhering to worthy guidelines is more easily said than done.
Dr. Sahar Nasr (Egypt)
Dr Nasr was reappointed Egyptian Minister of Investment and International Cooperation in June 2018, after a Cabinet shake up in the Egyptian parliament. She is a Professor of Economics at the American University in Cairo at several other domestic and international universities. She has published over 60 research papers, technical reports and books, merging her technical and practical expertise in the fields of international finance, economic development, private sector and SME development, as well as in the areas of financial reform, the labour market, womens’ empowerment, and economic legislation. Dr. Nasr is strongly committed to investing in human capital to take Egypt and its economic reforms forward. She has diligently focused on strengthening Egypt’s ties with existing international partners, as well as exploring new opportunities for cooperation. This has involved consolidating Egyptian-Gulf relationships, expanding and deepening ties with African states, and exploring new relationships with Asian partners. She is the National Coordinator of the National Committee for the Follow-Up on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and also serves as Governor of Egypt to several institutions such as The World Bank, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Dr Nasr has extensive experience in negotiating and securing international grants and loans, especially within her role as Lead Economist at the World Bank. She has managed funds exceeding $ 4.3 billion that were injected into the Egyptian economy in the areas of economic reform, economic policy development, small and medium enterprise (SME) development and social housing and is ideally placed to oversee further progress in a similar direction.
Wadah Khanfar (Palestine)
Born in Jenin in 1969, Khanfar studied engineering at the University of Jordan in Amman and went on to complete postgraduate studies in philosophy, African studies and international politics. He is the co-founder and president of the Al Sharq Forum, an independent pro-democracy, non-partisan think tank, headquartered in Istanbul, that focuses on issues in the wider Middle East. Khanfar fine honed his journalistic credentials from the ground up, working in various war zones including Iraq and Afghanistan. He became Managing Director of the Al Jazeera Television Channel in 2003, and held the position of Director General of the Al Jazeera Network from 2006 to 2011.
Amal Clooney (Lebanon/UK)
For many years, Amal Clooney (nee Alamuddin) operated as a successful lawyer, defending high-profile clients in legal cases from around the world but it was the announcement of her engagement to Hollywood actor George Clooney in April 2014, that really brought her to international attention. However, with degrees from Oxford University and New York University’s School of Law, Amal Clooney has repeatedly shown herself to be so much more than Hollywood eye candy. She has established her credentials on some of the most contentious human rights cases in recent years, including that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Al Jazeera journalist Mohamed Fahmy. Earlier this year, she spoke out publicly against the Canadian government, accusing it of failing to do more to assist its citizen, Fahmy, who was on bail awaiting retrial after more than a year behind bars in Egypt on terrorism-related charges.
She has also served on the International Court of Justice, worked in the Office of the Prosecutor at the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon, advised UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan on Syria, represented Ukraine’s former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko and is an advisor to Bahrain’s King Hamad Bin Issa Al Khalifa, among other high profile clients.
Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani (Qatar)
To be taken seriously in the art world, Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, born in Doha in 1983, had to earn her stripes, when she was first appointed CEO of Qatar Museums in 2006. What preceeded her at every conference, consultation and meeting back then was the universal awareness that she was the privileged daughter of the then Emir Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and Sheikha Mosa bint Nasser. The notoriously snooty art world was quite prepared to believe that 23-year-old Mayassa came to the international scene from her tiny – but immensely wealthy – desert sheikdom with little to substantiate her presence other than bags stuffed with money. Sheikha Mayassa proved them wrong. She may have been young but she was also educated, dedicated and an astute and a sophisticated connoisseur. Under her guidance, Qatar has gained an enviable position in the world of art and culture, with museums and collections to challenge any in the world. True, the Sheikha spends a lot of money, with an annual acquisitions budget once thought to be $1 billion. But in focussing her buying power on western modern and contemporary art, including works by Damien Hirst, Richard Serra, Jeff Koons, and Andy Warhol, Mayassa outfoxed many of the international “experts” who thought she would seek chiefly to enrich her homeland’s Islamic collection and were already hiking up the prices of such artefacts before her private jet took off from Doha International. However, although, Qatar’s Islamic collection – and its Islamic museum – is unquestionably magnificent, Sheikha Mayassa felt that that, in addition to appreciating the wealth of their heritage, it was important for aspiring young Qatari artists to see what is happening on the cutting edge of the art world. “My father [the former Emir of Qatar] often says, in order to have peace, we need to first respect each others’ cultures,” the Sheika once told the New York Times. Sheikha Al-Mayassa has a degree in political science and literature from Duke University in the US. While at Duke, she was Vice President of the International Association, Vice President of Hiwar (an organisation to promote political dialogue) and a delegate to the 2001–2002 del United Nations. She has also studied at University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne and the Institut d’Etudes Politique de Paris (better known as Sciences Po).