OUR 50 TOP ARABS
The research for our annual 50 Top Arabs Report is always an interesting time for us at The Middle East magazine. This year has been particularly memorable since all the voting has been conducted online. Our decision to go digital in 2015 was not met with universal approval and I confess to my own myriad concerns about the future of an online magazine, as opposed to our long established printed publication.
However, the immediacy of an online edition has, I confess, won me over. Now, instead of having to wait for up to a month to air an article or an opinion, we can reach our readers within minutes.
I was particularly impressed when, earlier this month, a single online exclusive story, re-posted to our facebook page, reached more than 83,000 people worldwide in just a few days. These are audience numbers that, as a monthly print magazine, we could only have dreamed of reaching in such a short space of time.
Today, without the hassles of printing or the vagaries of global distribution we are able to bring you the results of Our TOP 50 Arabs right here, right now.
We have seen many favourites re-emerge in the 2016 listing but also a significant number of new entries. A selected panel of readers were able to give us some interesting feedback on why they made the choices they did. Our most voted for contender, HRH Prince Alwaleed Alsaud, is clearly admired for his business acumen but also for his philanthropy and genuine concern for those less privileged than himself. He was cited as an “international entrepreneurial genius” but also – by the same reader – as an “admirable Muslim” who has not “lost sight of the charitable teachings of his Islamic faith.”
We have seen a plethora of exciting new entrepreneurs mentioned for the first time in our listing and increasing numbers from particular geographical locations. For example, it is clear that UAE nationals feature more prominently in the 2016 listing than in previous years but there are also impressive and increasing numbers of nationals from Egypt and other North African states.
Somewhat surprisingly the overall numbers of Saudi Arabian and Qatari nationals to gain a place on our annual listing is down on recent years.
As always, we are fascinated to hear your opinions and these will form an important part of our post-survey exclusive articles. Over the coming weeks we will be looking at just what the UAE is doing to get the balance right and where other nations may be getting it wrong. In a completely separate article, we will examine which states are forging ahead with their gender equality programmes to ensure that women play an essential part in moving society and the economies of their countries forward.
Please contact me, editor-in -chief Pat Lancaster, at email@example.com with your thoughts.I very much look forward to hearing from you.
HRH Prince Alwaleed Alsaud remains the 21st century’s most instantly recognisable Arab. His activities in a wide range of global business enterprises make world news headlines on a regular basis. However, in addition to his commercial interests, spread across a plethora of international organisations, from hotels to social media, Prince Alwaleed has a reputation for being a keen advocate for social reform in Saudi Arabia. He is an outspoken supporter of gender equality and has said categorically that the Saudi Arabia will not fully realise its potential unless and until it recognises the value of the female half of its society. HRH Prince Alwaleed is also well known as a generous philanthropist. Last winter he masterminded the Tweet for Heat campaign which resulted in online charitable donations bringing comfort to dispossessed Syrian refugees, in the form of blankets and warm clothing. He is deeply committed to bringing together people of all races and religions in an attempt to develop and deepen a climate of understanding and peace in which all sections of the global community might better understand each other and, consequently, flourish.
Rashad Bin Muhammad Al Zubair (Oman)
Rashad Bin Muhammad Al Zubair is the Deputy Chairman and Group President of the Zubair Corporation but this art-loving businessman also holds the office of Chairman of Oman Arab Bank SAOC, the main subsidiary of Ominvest. The latter establishment is actively involved in financing Oman’s ongoing mega-construction programme, the Duqm free zone expansion project. Al Zubair is a Director of Dana Gas PJSC and also served as a Director of the Muscat Capital Market Authority for more than six years until he stepped down in 2008. Since 1984, he has been advisor to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said for Economic Planning Affairs, Omanization and SME’s. Between 1997 and 2001, he was President of Sultan Qaboos University. Al Zubair also serves as Deputy Chairman of Barr Al Jissah Holiday Resorts and is the founder of the unique Bait Al Zubair Museum in the old town of Muscat, which preserves and exhibits ethnographic material relating to Oman past and present. Inaugurated in 1998, the internationally acclaimed museum is dedicated to the memory of his grandfather, Sheikh Ali bin Juma.
Khaldoon Mubarak (UAE)
Khaldoon Mubarak is Chairman of the UK Premiership football club Manchester City. He is also CEO of Mubadala, the company established by the Government of Abu Dhabi to work as principal agent in the diversification of that emirate’s economy. Through Mubadala, Mubarak has overseen many of the oil-rich emirate’s strategic investments and key development projects. He is also aide and advisor to the Crown Prince of the UAE, HH Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Educated in the US and a graduate of Tufts University, Al Mubarak sits on a number of boards, including First Gulf Bank, Ferrari and the Abu Dhabi Executive Council. He is Chairman of the Executive Affairs committee and of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC). Mubarak’s other responsibilities include his position as Chairman of Imperial College London’s Diabetes Centre and his role as ambassador for the Global eHealth Foundation (GeHF), which was created to become a catalyst for transforming healthcare from its current position as a developed world privilege to becoming a human right globally. As chairman of the Abu Dhabi Motor Sport Management Company, Mubarak was a key figure in negotiating for the Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi and was influential in getting the FIFA Club World Cup to be held there. A member of the Board of Trustees for New York University, Mubarak began overseeing the development of a NYU campus in Abu Dhabi in 2013.
Issad Rebrab (Algeria)
Issad Rebrab is a self-made entrepreneur who began his career as a teacher of business and accounting. Born in 1944, today Rebrab heads up Algeria’s biggest conglomerate, an entity involved in steel, automobile importing, agricultural foodstuffs and an oil refinery (Cevital). In 1998, Rebrab launched the project to create an industrial/energy complex, Cap 2015, east of Algiers, together with a small town of 250,000 inhabitants, with the ambition of generating 100,000 direct jobs and a further million indirect jobs. Rebrab also runs the newspaper Liberté and is president of Hyundai Motors Algérie, which he manages with his son Omar. Expanding his media empire, in April 2016, he acquired the El Khabar media group for $45 million. The company is the publisher of El Khabar newspaper, one of Algeria’s highest circulation publications (over 300,000 copies daily). The company also owns a television channel, a printing press and a distribution firm.
Lubna Suliman Olayan (Saudi Arabia)
The Chief Executive Officer of the Olayan Financing Company (OFC), Olayan is considered an important spokesperson for women’s rights in the Middle East, who tends to lead by quiet example. Although already well known in Saudi Arabia, Olayan came to international prominence when she became the first woman to publicly address a mixed gender audience at the Jeddah Economic Conference of 2004. Since that time she has continually reinforced her credentials as an accomplished businesswoman. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of Cornell University and also of the Board of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). Olayan also sits on the board of trustees of the Arab Thought Foundation and is a board member of Al Fanar, which supports a variety of grassroots organizations in the Arab world. She has been a consistent champion of women’s employment rights; in 2001, she was the only woman employed by the Olayan Financing Company (OFC); today there are more than 400 women employed across 28 companies, with an active female recruitment plan in place.
Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi (Sharjah)
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 good Arabic children’s books. Eight years later, Kalimat has published over 100 titles and won many awards at regional and international book fairs.
Sheikha Bodour currently heads up the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) and is the leading light of the “Knowledge without Borders” organizing committee, an initiative launched by the Ruler of Sharjah with the aim of establishing a library in every house in the Emirate. Sheikha Bodour has enthusiastically championed the rights of woman in Sharjah; since 2002 she has held the post of Vice President of the Sharjah Ladies Club, an entity of the Government of Sharjah, which works to promotes the position of women.
Elie Saab (Lebanon)
Born in 1964 and often referred to simply as ‘ES’, Saab is a fashion designer who has achieved worldwide recognition. Launching his Beirut-based fashion label at the age of 18, he became an overnight success on becoming the first Lebanese designer to dress an Oscar academy winner. His creation was worn by Halle Berry in 2002. Saab repeated this coup dressing Emily Blunt and Jessica Biel at the 2012 Golden Globes and Sandra Bullock at the Oscars in 2013. At the Oscar ceremony in Hollywood in 2014, Angelina Jolie was resplendent in ES couture. His perfume brand, Le Parfum, launched in 2011, has since become an international bestseller.
In 2014, he launched an e-magazine,The Light of Now, focusing on fashion, art and perfume.
Adel Ali (UAE)
Founder of Air Arabia, Adel Ali is widely credited for his efforts to make air travel accessible to everyone. He launched the Middle East and North Africa’s first low-fares airline, Air Arabia, which began operations in October 2003. Ali previously served as Vice President of Commercial and Customer Services for Gulf Air and has also held senior management positions with British Airways. Considered something of an aviation pioneer, Ali is keen for Arab countries to open up more secondary airports in and around their most populous cities, to aid the free flow of low-cost airline passengers and freight. He has received several awards for his contribution to the industry and become something of a regional hero of the people in the process. In addition to being the Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia, Ali is also Chairman of Sharjah Information Systems Associates, Alpha Sharjah catering, Alpha Aviation Academy and Cozmo Travel. A board member of Sharjah Aviation Services, he also sits on the board of Air Arabia (Maroc), based in Casablanca’s Mohamed V International Airport and Air Arabia (Egypt), based in Alexandria’s Burj Al Arab International Airport.
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. He also co-founded a web development company and three restaurants. Nabulsi has consulted for numerous start-ups and non-profit organizations. He trains and lectures around the world on topics including wellbeing, happiness and leadership. In 2011 he founded the Nebny Foundation, which has impacted upon the lives of more than 150,000 people and was chosen by the World Bank from more than 40,000 non-governmental organizations in the Middle East to become its 2013 donor recipient. The Egyptian government has adopted Nebny’s programme to combat illiteracy, which involves giving primary school students two hours of lessons a day and a daily meal for three months.
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Issa Al Jaber (Saudi Arabia)
As head of MBI international, his business influence includes tourism – with JJW Hotels and resorts in Europe and Egypt – foodstuff, with the AJWA group (one of the largest Middle Eastern food companies), as well as the oil industry with Continentoil.
In 2005, Sheikh Mohammed was appointed UNESCO Special Envoy for Education, Tolerance and Cultures. Sheikh Mohammed has funded scholarship programmes through his MBI Al Jaber Foundation and is the founder of the London Middle East Institute at the city’s highly respected School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). In May 2016, the foundation made a significant donation to the Bloomsbury Research Institute, a partnership between UCL and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, creating a centre of excellence for research in public and global health.
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 fine honed his journalistic credentials from the ground up, working in various war zones including Iraq and Afghanistan. Khanfar 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. He is co-founder and President of the Al Sharq Forum, an independent network dedicated to developing long-term strategies for political development, social justice and economic prosperity for the people of the Middle East. He is Chairman of the Common Action Forum (CAF), an international non-profit foundation established in Madrid, (Spain) in 2015. CAF works as a global network and a think-tank bringing together prominent and emerging experts from diverse backgrounds including academia, politics, media, civil society and culture.
Hanan Al Shaykh (Lebanon)
Born in Beirut in 1945, this author rose from humble beginnings to become one of the Arab world’s best-loved writers both at home and abroad. By the age of 16, she had already published essays in the newspaper Al-Nahar, before going on to study at the American College for Girls in Cairo. Her book Women of Sand and Myrrh was chosen as one of the 50 Best Books of 1992 by Publishers Weekly (USA). Her novels, which are intelligent, witty and often regarded as controversial in the more conservative Arab states, which have – on occasion – seen fit to ban them, are all written in Arabic and, so far, been translated into nine other languages. Her latest novel, The Virgins of Londonistan, was published at the end of 2014. In the same year, she also published her “retold” version of the stories of “One thousand and One Nights” in English.
Mohammed Al Barwani (Oman)
Al Barwani started up MB Holding as an oilfield services firm in 1982. It is now a multinational corporation with 5,000 employees globally and activities in numerous sectors, including oil and gas production and exploration, yacht building, mining and hospitality.
Company assets include three hotels, including the Louis-Vuitton operated hotel in the Omani capital of Muscat, The Chedi. Barwani has recently acquired a majority share in Proteksan Turquoise shipyard in Istanbul, Turkey, and has plans for a bond to fund future purchases.
Noura Al Kaabi (UAE)
As CEO of the Media Zone Authority-Abu Dhabi and its commercial arm, twofour54, the charismatic Noura Al Kaabi has been instrumental in developing the UAE’s media. She is widely credited as being the woman who brought Star Wars to the UAE, since scenes of the imaginary planet Jakku, featured in the 2015 blockbuster movie, were filmed in Abu Dhabi. The authority now has more than 240 media organizations on its campus and has launched the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, and the Abu Dhabi Media Summit.
Al Kaabi is also involved in government policy as a member of the Federal National Council, where she has paid particular attention to promoting measures to protect the rights of children. She sits on the board of Abu Dhabi Media, the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, Image Nation and the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. Al Kaabi is also a member of the Advisory Board for the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and a member of the Scientific Committee of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.
Fawzi Ahmed Kanoo (Bahrain)
Fawzi Ahmed Kanoo is Deputy Chairman of the Gulf-based shipping, industrial, financial and travel conglomerate founded in Bahrain in 1890 by his forefather, Yusuf Bin Ahmed Kanoo. He is the fifth generation of the Kanoo family to serve in the company and currently holds additional positions as Executive Director of the Bahrain Ship Repair & Engineering Company, as well as directorships of Aluminium Bahrain and of the Gulf Hotels Group, based in Bahrain. He has been an Independent & Non-Executive Director of National Bank of Bahrain BSC since 2010.
Mohammed Alabbar (UAE)
The intelligent 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 (scheduled to open in August 2016). 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 bin Rashid Al Maktoum. In 2014, under Alabbar’s leadership, Emaar listed its shopping malls and retail business, the Emaar Malls Group, on the Dubai Financial Market with one of the largest IPOs in the region.
Omar Samra (Egypt)
Omar Samra, who was born 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, 2015, Samra made it to the North Pole to become the first Egyptian and one of only 40 people to accomplish the “Explorer’s Grand Slam” challenge, which include 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 leveraged his experiences by developing Wild Guanabana, a company which specialises in designing and creating ethical adventure travel experiences in the wild for companies in 15 countries across six continents. AlthoughEgypt does not have a space agency, Samra entered and won a competition organized 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. Should he achieve this ambition Samra will be the first human being in history to have completed the Explorers Grand Slam and travelled in Outer Space! He is also involved in charitable works, namely supporting the Ahl Masr Burns Hospital.
Dr. Sultan Ahmed 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. In 2012 he was the winner of the prestigious UN Champions of the Earth award in recognition of his efforts in this area. Dr. Al Jaber is a board member of the Young Arab Leaders Organization 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 realize 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 since his 2015 appointment as Chairman of the National Media Council, plays an important role in steering direction at the Abu Dhabi-based NMC.
Othman Benjelloun (Morocco)
The Chairman and CEO of BMCE Bank successfully pioneered the transformation of the organisation, which was privatized in 1995, from a public company to a universal private banking group. His holding company FinanceCom owns a majority stake in the insurance company RMA Watanya and a minority stake in Meditel, Morocco’s second-largest telecommunications company. He is an Honorary Fellow of King’s College, London, President of the Maghreb Bankers’ Association and has been Chairman of Morocco’s Bankers’ Association since 1995. He is also a keen supporter of South-South cooperation and a member of the World Union of Arab Bankers.
Mohammed Al Shaibani (UAE)
Mohammed Al Shaibani is director general of the Ruler’s Court, the prime government body of the UAE and also holds positions as CEO and Executive Director of the Investment Corporation of Dubai (ICD), the holding company that manages the government’s investment portfolio. Since 1998, he has been President at the Dubai Office, a private management office for the royal family of Dubai and, for the past six years, he has been a board member of Dubai World. In 2013, Al Shaibani was named Deputy Chairman of the Higher Preparatory Committee of the World Expo 2020, which is scheduled to be held in Dubai. Shaibani is also vice chairman of The Supreme Fiscal Committee of Dubai and serves on a number of Boards, including Dubai Aerospace Enterprise (DAE) Limited, The Knowledge Fund, the International Humanitarian City (IHC) and as the Chairman of Dubai Islamic Bank. He is widely regarded as one of the region’s most influential ‘behind-the-scenes’ personalities.
Sheikha Hanadi bint Nasser bin Khalid Al Thani (Qatar)
Named “Woman CEO of the Year” in 2006 for developing Qatar’s economic and social presence in the Arab world, she is founder and Chairperson of Amwal, the first company to receive a licence for investment banking in Qatar; deputy CEO of the Nasser Bin Khaled Al Thani & Sons Group and also CEO of Al Wa’ab City Real Estate development project. Sheikha Hanadi, who began her career as a lecturing assistant in the Economics Department of Qatar University won the accolade ‘Businesswoman of the Year’ at the Arabian Business Achievement Awards Qatar 2010 and was also voted among the world’s top 20 female banking and finance role models. Actively involved in community initiatives, she serves as a trustee on the board of the Arab Women’s International Forum. She is closely involved with INJAZ, which over the past 15 years, has established itself as a leading solution provider linking the public, private, and civil society sectors to bridge the skills gap between the educational system and the changing needs of the labor market. Sheikha Hanadi is currentlyChairperson of INJAZ Qatar and a board member of INJAZ Al Arab, the regional arm of Junior Achievement Worldwide. She is a member of the ME Board of Planet Finance, a member of the advisory board of The Legatum Centre for Development and Entrepreneurship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the Pearl Initiative Board of Governors.
Munib Al Masri (Palestine)
Geologist Masri hails from the West Bank town of Nablus. Masri, who was once a close confidant of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, made his fortune in oil and gas, working in leading positions for companies operating in the Gulf States and North Africa. As the Oslo peace process initiative gained ground, Masri helped set up the Palestine Development and Investment Company Ltd. (PADICO), the largest private investor by initial investment in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which he continues to chair. The holding group controls over 30 companies across various industries. Much of Masri’s time has been dedicated to reconciling the Palestinian Hamas movement with President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group, in addition to trying to foster dialogue among Israelis and Palestinians who aspire to live in peace, within the context of a two-state solution. Al Masri, sometimes known as the Duke of Nablus, is one of the co-founders of Breaking the Impasse, a group of Palestinian and Israeli business leaders working – through business enterprises – towards a better cooperation for peace. Al Masri also serves as CEO of the Edgo Group, a multinational energy corporation.
Mohamed Alshaya (Kuwait)
As Chairman of the retail division of the Alshaya Group, since 1993, Alshaya is one of the most successful retailers in the Middle East. His first experience in retail was a three-month work experience programme for the UK-based retailer Mothercare, stacking shelves and advising mothers on which prams to buy. When he joined the Alshaya Group in the 1980s he became involved in the franchise part of the retail division of the firm before taking over as CEO in 1990.
The Alshaya Group has diverse holdings including real estate, construction, hotels, multiple retailing, IT and advertising. He is also a member of the Arab Thought Foundation, a non-profit organization tasked to advance Arab cultural solidarity, and promote Arab world progress, with a focus on furthering the region’s openness to world cultures. The Foundation seeks to bring about initiatives, programs and development forums, and build partnerships within the Arab culture to advance diligence and creativity values in it.
Nawal El Saadawi (Egypt)
No list of influential Arabs could ever be complete without this grande dame of Arab literature and progressive thinking. Born in 1931 she is a novelist, a playwright, a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, a non-fiction writer and a lifelong political activist. Dr El Saadawi is a keen supporter of regional and global initiatives to stamp out the abhorrent practice of female genital mutilation, which is still popular in some developing world societies. Her novels and books on women and society are written in Arabic and have been translated into as many as 30 languages. An outspoken critic of the Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak, Dr Saadawi actively participated in the Arab Spring uprisings in and around Tahrir Square and has vowed never to give up the struggle for truth and democracy, although she accepts she may not be around to witness it in her homeland.
Mohamed Latif Jameel (Saudi Arabia)
Mohamed Abdul Latif Jameel is active in real estate, financing, advertising, media and the retailing of electronics and household appliances. He is a keen yachtsman and a generous art philanthropist who has funded galleries around the world, including one showcasing more than 10,000 Islamic artifacts at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, where he also promotes modern Arab art with the bi-annual Jameel prize, through his organization Art Jameel. In 2015, the Prince of Wales presented Jameel with an Honorary Knighthood in the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, on behalf of Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his activities to support the arts in the UK. Art Jameel is also the founding partner of a number of initiatives such as Edge of Arabia, The Crossway Foundation, Jeddah Art Week and The Archive. He is keenly involved in fighting poverty around the world, having created the “Poverty Action Lab” (J-PAL), in Cambridge Massachusetts in 2003. Though J-PAL was founded as a research centre, its activities have expanded to encompass three areas: impact evaluations, policy outreach, and capacity building.
Nancy Ajram (Lebanon)
Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram began performing as a child and released her first studio album when she was just 15. Her breakthrough came when she collaborated with the producer Jiji Lamara for the first time to release smash hit Akhasmak Ah on her third studio album Ya Salam in 2002. The song became known in part because of its glamorous promotional video, and Ajram has since become known for her high budget music videos, filming several per album. In 2004 she released her second international bestselling album Ah W Noss, which cemented her status as an Arab pop icon. In 2009 she was even described by Oprah Winfrey as ‘the Britney Spears of the Middle East’. Successive albums have included Ya Tabtab…Wa Dallaa (2006), Shakhbat Shakhabit (2007) and Betfakkar Fi Eih?! (2008). The latter won Ajram her first World Music Award for the World’s Best-Selling Middle Eastern Artist. She has since gathered up a string of other awards, including the Murex d’Or Award. Now aged 31 and with two daughters with a dentist husband, Ajram is the first and only female sponsor and spokesperson of the Coca-Cola company in the Middle East and Arab world. Her official Facebook page is reportedly the most heavily subscribed female Arabic artist page on the social media network.
Helal Al Marri (UAE)
Al Marri played a key role in helping Dubai win Expo 2020. He previously worked as a strategy consultant with McKinsey & Co, one of the world’s leading consulting firms. He 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 serves on the boards of various government, and UAE –based, private sector entities, including the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment, International Humanitarian City and Taleem Education, among others. He is Director General of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) – the principal authority responsible for strengthening Dubai’s positioning as a world-leading tourism destination. Prior to his DTCM job, he was CEO of the Dubai World Trade Centre, where he was instrumental in establishing Dubai as the thriving global financial and commercial hub it is today.
Reem Khouri (Jordan)
Until December 2013, Reem Khouri had a high-profile job at Aramex, before she left to start up her own company, Kaamen.
Kaamen — the Arabic word for untapped potential — is a social enterprise that designs and implements shared interests-based investments and programmes for corporations and then measures their impact on the company’s bottom line and growth. Khouri currently oversees operations in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Palestine and has plans to move into Asia and, potentially, the United States. She supports accelerators Gaza Sky Geeks and Fast Forward in Palestine, as well as the MIT Arab business plan competition, the NYU Abu Dhabi hackathon for social good and she is also a mentor with Oasis 500.Khouri serves on the board of directors of Ruwwad for Development, a regional not for profit private sector-led community empowerment organization that operates in Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Egypt. She is also serving on several boards such as the Ruwwad Micro Venture Fund and the National Micro-finance Bank of Jordan and Nakhweh. She recently joined the board of advisors of the Demeter Network, an entrepreneurs support network operating within growth markets.
Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi (UAE)
Currently Minister for Tolerance, Sheikha Lubna was the first woman to hold a ministerial post in the UAE, when she was appointed Minister for Foreign Trade in November 2004. Sheikha Lubna has since held several Cabinet briefs, including Minister of International Development and Minister for Economy and Planning. In 2000, she founded Tejari, the Middle East’s first business-to-business online marketplace, which now has franchises across the Middle East. Sheikha Lubna 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.
Ibrahim Dabdoub (Kuwait)
Chairman of the Arab Business Council of the World Economic Forum (WEF), Dabdoub has been at the helm of the National Bank of Kuwait as its CEO since 1983. Dabdoub first joined NBK in 1961 where his career progressed from Head of Credit to Deputy Chief Executive Officer in 1969, to CEO in 1983 and to Group CEO in 2008. Before embarking on his banking career Dabdoub studied in Bethlehem, Turkey, and at Stanford University, California. He has been a keen proponent of rich Arab countries donating funds and expertise to an Arab Marshall Plan to help provide jobs and opportunities for young people from the poorer Arab states. In late 2013 he retired from NBK. His diversified activities include being a board member of the Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University, Washington DC; the International Advisory Board Council on Foreign Relations; the Arab Thought Forum in Jordan and the Board of Trustees of Kuwait Maastricht Business School.
Still known as the Arabs’ ambassador and the ‘Jewel of Lebanon’, Fairouz is considered one of the greats of the Middle East music scene. Born Nouhad Haddad in November 1935, she received her education in Beirut and started her musical career as a chorus singer on Lebanese radio. In the 1950s, her career took off after she teamed up with the Rahbani Brothers, Assi and Mansour, who worked at the same radio station as musicians. Today, she is revered across the Middle East region and beyond. Although she has never sung in Jerusalem, the key to the holy city, presented to her by the Jerusalem Cultural Committee more than 40 years ago, remains among her most prized possessions. She released her last album ‘Eh Fih Amal’ in 2010, but treated her fans to a special New Year video message on Facebook to herald 2016.
Amr Al Dabbagh (Saudi Arabia)
After gaining a BA degree in Business Administration from King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Dabbagh gained experience in banking and finance at Merrill Lynch in New York, Coutts of London and Banque Worms in Paris. As Governor of SAGIA, Saudi Arabia’s General Investment Authority, he has led the groups’ expansion into a number of areas, including housing, real estate and telecommunications. Dabbagh notably founded the Jeddah Economic Forum in 1999 and has since helped put into practice his vision for the future of his Saudi homeland. A generous philanthropist he is on record as saying: “Along with financial success comes social obligation . . . By making better lives for today’s children, we ensure a brighter future for all tomorrow.” As steward of the family heritage, Dabbagh leads the “Club 32″ initiative, created to empower the 32 members of the Al Dabbagh family’s third generation, including his own five children, to become global leaders. The aim is to endow Club 32 members with the skills and traits needed to become responsible stakeholders and responsible global citizens.
Khalaf Al Habtoor (UAE )
Chairman of Al Habtoor Group and Dubai National Insurance & Reinsurance Company, he is also a member of the Dubai Economic Council, formed in March 2003. Habtoor was given honorary membership of the Arab American Medical Association in recognition of his contribution to the establishment of the Arab Cultural Awards by the AAMA in February 2008. The General Council Secretariat recognized him as GCC Economic Pioneer for the year 2008 at the headquarters of Arab League States. Speaking at a meeting in July 2015, Habtoor assured young Emiratis that there were still many opportunities available to them and he urged the first generation of Dubai traders to share their experiences and knowledge with the upcoming generation of would be entrepreneurs. Habtoor was awarded the prestigious Shaikh Isa Bin Ali Al-Khalifa Award for Volunteer Work in recognition of his philanthropic works, in September 2015.
Omar K Alghanim (Kuwait)
Harvard-educated Alghanim has led family business Alghanim Industries since 2006 having previously worked as an analyst at Morgan Stanley and deputy chairman of Asiya Investment. The family business is one of the largest privately owned companies in the Gulf region with over 30 subsidiaries in 40 countries. Last year, it bought the franchise rights to fast food chain Wendy’s in the Middle East and North Africa. Alghanim is also chairman of Gulf Bank and the youth-focused non-profit INJAZ Kuwait.
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 to house his extensive collection of modern and contemporary Arab art.
Nabila Ramdani (ALGERIA)
A British-based, French born freelance journalist of Algerian descent who specialises in Anglo-French issues, Islamic affairs, and the Arab World, Ramdani has become one of the most trusted Arab journalists working with contemporary western media. She is objective and incisive but always with the human touch.
With an MPhil in International History from the London School of Economics (LSE), and an MPhil in British and American History and Literature from Paris 7 University, Ramdani began her career in journalism covering the 2007 French presidential elections for a number of UK newspapers, and as a commentator for the BBC. She writes regular columns for a range of quality British, French and Middle Eastern publications and appears as a commentator for the BBC, Al Jazeera, Sky, CNN, CBS, Russia Today and other international broadcast media channels and radio stations.
In February 2011 Ramdani filed exclusive reports from inside Gaddafi’s Libya. In July 2011 she exposed secret meetings between former British prime minister Tony Blair and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. Months later, in February 2012 she uncovered compelling evidence of Syria’s ruling regime targeting journalists.
In January 2012, when questioned on the BBC programme Newsnight, Ramdani said the British government had “completely ignored the United Nations’ resolution 1973″ which “resulted in Libyans dying on a daily basis. In January 2015, following the Charlie Hebdo shooting in France, Ramdani spoke out on BBC’s Dateline London “What has happened is devastating. It’s an evil massacre. There are no ifs or buts.”
Sulaiman Al Rhajhi (Saudi Arabia)
Is the Chairman of the largest Islamic bank, Al Radjhi in Saudi Arabia, established by royal decree in 1988. The bank includes retail, corporate and investment banking. Rhajhi is also a philanthropist founding the SAAR Foundation, a flagship corporation representing charities, think tanks and business entities. He has financial interests in the Al Rajhi Bank, the Yanbu Cement Company and the National Agricultural Development Company (Nadec). Another key business interest is the Al Watania Poultry, a chicken farming company, based on organic principles, a first for Saudi Arabia. Rhajhi also established the Suleiman Al Rahji museum to preserve a variety of heritage pieces. The artefacts tell the evolution of currency in the Kingdom through bank notes and coins down through the years and also includes examples of some currencies and coins in circulation among visiting Haj pilgrims.
Majid Jafar (Sharjah)
The brains behind the Arab Stabilization Plan, which hopes to tackle youth unemployment in the Arab world. Majid Jafar is also the CEO of Crescent Petroleum, the Middle East’s oldest private oil & gas company, and Vice-Chairman of the Crescent Group of companies, which includes interests in port management, logistics, contracting, private equity and real estate. He is Managing Director of the Board of Dana Gas (PJSC), the first regional, private sector integrated natural gas company in the Middle East, in which Crescent is the largest shareholder. Regarded by some as a visionary, in March 2015, Jafar urged the region’s oil producers to take advantage of the lower oil prices, with the aim of reforming the sector and enhancing future competitiveness. In 2014, Jafar was named co-Chair of the ‘Business Backs Education campaign’, launched by former U.S. President Bill Clinton with the GEMS Foundation at the annual Global Education and Skills Forum to encourage greater commitments by the private sector to education worldwide.
Sheikha Mayassa Bint Al Thani (Qatar)
Born in 1983 Sheikha Mayassa is the sister of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim. She is the Chairwoman of Qatar Museums and, as such, responsible for cultivating significant cultural events in the region. According to well-placed sources, her acquisition budget on behalf of Qatar Museums is an estimated $1 billion a year.
Sheikha Al Mayassa is said to have used some of her generous budget to acquire what was – at the time – the most expensive painting in the world, Paul Gauguin’s ‘When will you marry?’ in 2015 for $300 million, as well as other works by Cézanne, Bacon and other, significant, more contemporary artists. She has staged major exhibitions in Qatar with some of the leading lights of the international art world and continues to oversee a number of museums including Doha’s stunning Museum of Islamic Art, designed by Pei. She is also Chairwoman of the Doha Film Institute, empowering people though film and new media, educational workshops and grassroots festivals. In addition to her work on cultural initiatives, Sheikha Al Mayassa is the chairperson for Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), a philanthropic non-governmental organization aiming to improve the quality of primary and secondary education in Asia.
Férid Boughedir (Tunisia)
Férid Boughedir was born in 1944 in Tunis. He is a writer and director, known for Halfaouine: Boy of the Terraces (1990), A Summer in La Goulette (1996) and Parfum de printemps (2016).
He was a jury member at the Cannes Film Festival in 1991 and also at the Berlin International Film Festival of 1997. Boughedir was recently instrumental in organizing the 2nd Tunisian Film festival in Cannes. Through his films, he aims to promote a positive image of his homeland to the world.
Dr Amina Al Rustamani (UAE)
Dr Amina Al Rustamani holds the position of CEO of TECOM Business Parks, the umbrella organization for nine of Dubai’s free zones. Al Rustamani joined TECOM in 2001 as a project engineer for Samacom, before taking control of Dubai Media City, Dubai Studio City and International Media Production Zone. Al Rustamani has also played a significant role in establishing the Dubai International Film Festival. She helped championed Dubai’s successful Expo 2020 bid and is responsible for developing the Dubai Design District (D3). Alongside this urban development scheme, Rustamani has founded the Dubai Design and Fashion Council with the aim of providing a unified platform for fashion in Dubai. The council is a State-funded body organising fashion events in the city, which has plans to set up a design school with students from around the world. It will specialise in developing and promoting contemporary Islamic design. Through D3 and its partners, Rustamani aims to nurture the Middle East’s fashion designers of the future.
Akbar Al Baker (Qatar)
Akbar Al Baker has been instrumental in shaping the development of national carrier Qatar Airways into one of the fastest growing and most highly acclaimed airlines in the world. Born in Doha, he is a graduate of economics and commerce and worked at various levels in the Civil Aviation Directorate before becoming Qatar Airways’ CEO in 1997. Al Baker has spearheaded the growth of Qatar Airways, which operated only four aircraft in a regional capacity prior to his appointment. Qatar Airways currently flies more than 180 aircraft (up from 120 in 2014) to over 150 destinations (up from 125 in 2014) across six continents. He is also member of the Executive Committee of the Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO), a member of the board of governors of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and is a non-executive director of Heathrow Airport Holdings. In June 2015, Al Baker was awarded the prestigious Légion d’Honneur – the French medal of honour, by the President of France, François Hollande, for his leadership in the aviation industry and for spearheading the drive to promote Qatar Airways.
Mariam Abultewi (Palestine)
Mariam Abultewi, a 25-year old Gazan entrepreneur has created a version of Uber, known as Wasselni, which works offline, in an area where telecommunications are frequently greatly restricted, without 3G coverage. Funding for the idea was not initially forthcoming but with the help of Gaza Sky Geeks, the first start-up accelerator in the Gaza Strip, Abdultewi landed a substantial investment from Palinno, a Palestinian operation that works in both Gaza and the West Bank, that helped get her project off the ground. Wasselni was one of the first start-up investments in Gaza and now has more than 2,000 subscribers and about 70 vetted drivers.
Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem (UAE)
Under his leadership, DP World, the third largest ports company in the world, currently operates almost 70 terminals across six continents, including new developments in Africa, India, South America, Europe and the Middle East. Born in 1955 in Dubai, Bin Sulayem’s first job after graduating from college in the late 1970s was as a customs inspector at Dubai’s then sleepy local port. Since then he has made ports and free trade zones his speciality subject. Since the 1980s, Bin Sulayem has been one of the most prominent businessmen in Dubai, He was the first Chairman of the Dubai government’s tax free Jebel Ali Free Zone, when it was founded in 1985. In addition to chairing Dubai World he helped found Nakheel, one of the UAE’s largest property developers and Istithsmar, a major investment holding company. Both companies are Dubai World subsidiaries. Bin Sulayem was educated i