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Sun 18 Mar 2007 12:00 AM

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100 most powerful Arabs 2007

The world’s most influential Arabs.

It's that time of the year again - the publication of the most anticipated list in the Arab world, the Power List. Who's got it, who's lost it, and who wants it: our definitive guide to Arab power.

Our highest new entry is Al Jazeera boss Wadah Khanfar. Not only is Al Jazeera now the world's best-known Arab news brand, we also felt that Khanfar's daily decisions on what to broadcast now affect the opinions of hundreds of millions of people. Many of our experts felt that Khanfar deserves to be top of the list - he may well be next year. The second highest new entry is at No.4, the controversial filmmaker Hany Abu Assad, who we felt has taken the Arab movie industry by storm and crossed cultural boundaries with his work. Again, his work is influencing the opinions of millions around the world, hence his position. The highest "entertainer" on the list is Amr Diab, the Egyptian singer. Straight in at No.38, our panel of experts felt that Diab's every word and action now has the ability to influence his millions of fans - and his record sales are impressive too.

This year also sees a record 19 women on the list, a clear sign that female power is growing in the Arab world. Indeed it is Shamsa Noor Ali Rashid, boss of female investment fund Forsa that props up the list at No.100.

No doubt, as it happens every year, our phones will be ringing all week with readers complaining they are either not on the list, or that the positioning is ‘wrong'. This list is meant as a guide. We value all comments that are likely to come our way and will take them on board for next year's list.

Reporting team:

Anil Bhoyrul, James Bennett, Edward Poultney, Anees Dayoub, Bashar Bagh, Hassan Abdul Rahman, Tamara Walid, Andrew White, Melissa Hancock, Andrew Mernin, Edward Liamzon.

Power list - your say


HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Al Saud (1)

Chairman, Kingdom Holdings

Saudi Arabia

It has been another busy year for HRH Prince Alwaleed, and he has successfully maintained his position at the very top of this year's Power List.

In the last few months he has become particularly close to Microsoft chairman Bill Gates. After attending a dinner at Gates' Bellevue, Washington home, Alwaleed agreed to explore ways to assist Microsoft's expansion in Saudi Arabia. More immediately, Alwaleed, Gates and Isadore Sharp (chief executive of the Four Seasons hotel group) have teamed up to buy the Four Seasons group for US$3.37bn. Alwaleed has also joined forces with four other billionaires as part of a consortium bidding for Saudi Arabia's lucrative third mobile licence.

Alwaleed's business empire, through Kingdom Holdings, stretches across four continents. It has held stakes in the likes of Apple Computers, News Corporation, Fairmont Hotels and Saks Fifth Avenue. His shareholding in the world's biggest bank, Citigroup, is valued at nearly US$10bn.

He is also in line to snap up US$200m of apartments in London's West End, and through his business interests, he effectively employs over 30,000 people around the globe.

The Prince's influence stretches far beyond the business world - he has very close ties to many Western leaders, and is a prominent philanthropist.


Mohammed Ali Alabbar (6)

Chairman, Emaar Holdings

United Arab Emirates

Last year the Emaar boss was one of the fastest risers on our list, rocketing 44 places to No.6. This year he continues his ascent, tucking in just behind Prince Alwaleed. While Emaar continues to steer its way through choppy waters in the Dubai Financial Market, Alabbar has done a remarkable job extending its interests way outside the UAE, with major projects now underway in Syria, North Africa, Pakistan, and elsewhere in the GCC - including the US$30bn Economic City in Saudi Arabia.

The group's profits for 2006 were up a record 35% to US$1.735bn, and there are now rumours of even greater expansion plans, this time focusing on China and South East Asia. The iconic Burj Dubai project is also on track to become the world's tallest building, and Alabbar himself has a very strong personal interest in almost every project being undertaken.

Interviewed in Arabian Business, he spoke openly about the perception of ‘power', saying: "Is it really power or is it achievement? Of course I like to be recognised as a person who has achieved much and contributed to the development of his country. The sense of achievement is the most important thing. Everything else will follow. As you achieve things, people get to know you, the media come after you and you become a public figure. But where is the value in that? Isn't it about what you've actually done?"


Wadah Khanfar (New entry)

Director General, Al Jazeera Network


Just 38 years old, it has been a meteoric rise to the top for Khanfar, who now heads up the entire Al Jazeera network - including its live English and Arabic news channels, its sports channels, its website and a new documentary channel. Al Jazeera is now one of the most recognisable brands in the world, and in terms of influencing Arab opinion, there is no bigger medium than Al Jazeera. According to an Interbrand survey, Al Jazeera's brand in the news channel sector is bigger than that of CNN and the BBC. A sign of the network's influence was the revelation last year of President Bush's remarks about bombing its headquarters in Doha, so concerned was he that the channel was too influential in the Arab world.

Khanfar was managing director for two years before taking the top post in 2006, and is credited for much of the company's restructuring. After taking the job, he said: "Our statistics show that most Arabs look up to Al Jazeera as their most reliable source of news. The masses watch us; the rulers and the elite find us an important source of information; they're concerned about what we cover. Al Jazeera has changed the political landscape in the Middle East forever.

People now receive the opposition's discourse directly. Al Jazeera opened it up for intellectuals, thinkers and critics to speak their mind. It was the first democratic exercise in the region. The Arab world is changing. Reform, democracy and freedom of speech are issues integral to this period of transformation."


Hany Abu Assad (New entry)

Film Director


This year's second highest new entry on the Power List is the renowned Palestinian film director Hany Abu Assad. His influence comes by way of his film Paradise Now, which tells the story of two young Palestinians and their struggle against oppression. Last year the movie received a Golden Globe for ‘Best Foreign Language Film', and an Oscar nomination in the same category.

The controversial film has been broadcast to hundreds of millions around the world, and given Abu-Assad access not just to the masses, but to decision makers and world leaders. His much-anticipated next film, ‘LA Cairo', is eagerly awaited across the world.

Born in 1961, Abu Assad formed his own production company in 1990.


HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum (New entry)

Chairman, Emirates Airline

United Arab Emirates

Many experts believe that it was Sheikh Ahmed's decision to seek compensation from Airbus over the delayed A380s that forced the company to lay off 10,000 workers earlier this month - now that's what we call serious power.

In previous years we have excluded Sheikh Ahmed from the list as we do not include royalty, however our panel of judges felt that this year he fully deserved to be in the Power List purely on the back of his business achievements. And they have been huge: Emirates Airline is already the world's most profitable and is fast becoming the largest airline, with routes to every single continent - 70 destinations in total.

Emirates has been in profit for 18 consecutive years, last year achieving US$762m on a turnover of nearly US$7bn. Between 2005 and 2006, Emirates managed to fly nearly 15 million passengers - a figure that is only likely to rise.


Sultan Bin Sulayem (10)

Chairman, Dubai World

United Arab Emirates

Having managed to complete the near US$7bn takeover of P&O, Bin Sulayem has seen his influence on the shipping world grow enormously. The company's reach is now already wider than its key rivals based in Hong Kong and Singapore, and the official plan is to "grow and grow." That looks likely, with several big new acquisitions on the cards.

But it isn't just Dubai World that Bin Sulayem runs: he is also in charge of real estate giant Nakheel, the developer behind the remarkable World and Palm projects off the coast of Dubai. Nakheel has seen its international presence and branding rise significantly in the last year, helping send its boss up four places in this year's Power List.


Sulaiman Abdul Aziz Al Rajhi (25)


Saudi Arabia

Al Rajhi holds the largest individual stake in his family's Al Rajhi Bank, which has consistently reported the most profitable operations among all of Saudi Arabia's banking groups.

A co-founder of the bank, alongside older brother Saleh, he is currently the chairman of what is nationally recognised as the Tadawul's most venerable institution. One of four brothers, he plays the most active role in the banking empire. Al Rajhi also boasts the country's biggest poultry farm, a building materials business and real estate. Born in 1920, he received his Bachelor's degree from King Abdulaziz University. He lives in Saudi Arabia and has fathered at least 23 children.

The Al Rajhi family continue to be Al Rajhi Bank's majority shareholders, though Sulaiman and his brothers have diversified family investments into gypsum, agriculture, steel and other industrial sectors. The Al Rajhi family is considered, by most in Saudi Arabia, as the country's wealthiest non-royals, and among the world's leading philanthropists.


Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah (New entry)

President, Olympic Council of Asia


An impressive year that has seen him push Arab sports onto the world agenda. Apart from having a major say on what happens on the global arena, many see him as the man who could finally bring the Olympics to the Middle East in the next two decades.

He held various positions in the government, which made him polish his leadership skills that eventually took him to get elected as president of OPEC in 2004. The year before, he was the Minister of Energy in charge of the world's 20% oil reserves.

Known for his eloquence and in-depth knowledge of his country, he became popular in presenting his native Kuwait to the countries he visited, and this has made his influence grew and may someday fulfill his vision of the Middle East as the next home of the Olympics in the near future. Sheikh Ahmad is the head of the Kuwaiti National Security Council, a position he has held since July 2006.


Nasser Al Kharafi (2)

Chairman, MA Al Kharafi & Sons


Wherever you have eaten recently, the chances are Nasser Al Kharafi had something to do with it. His company Al Kharafi and Sons controls the exclusive Arab franchises for KFC, Wimpy, TGI Fridays, Cadbury's, Pizza Hut and Saint Cinnamon. In 1976 he also started Kuwaiti conglomerate the National Company for Mechanical and Electrical Works. He slips down one place in this year's list, purely because of the strength of some of this year's new entries.

The Al Kharafi group is now a major player in engineering, construction and maintenance, focusing on petroleum, water, chemicals and power. The company's contracts include a US$110m Beirut hotel, a US$200m golf and residential development in South Africa, and a US$400m sewage plant in Kuwait.

The family-owned, Disney-esque Port Galib resort on Egypt's Red Sea coast attracted 25 flights a week from Europe and 800 visiting yachts last year. He also owns a 16% stake in The National Bank of Kuwait, which is heavily involved in rebuilding Iraq.

Outside business, Al Kharafi is a figure of great influence. His brother is speaker in the Kuwaiti parliament, while his sister is the president of Kuwait University.


Naguib Sawiris (4)

Chairman, Orascom


There has been no stopping Naguib Sawiris continuing to expand his empire, with his latest interests spreading fast across Iraq. That said, he has been restructuring his investments as part of an expansion into even more markets.

Fresh from announcing his investment company's acquisition of Greek operator TIM Hellas, the Orascom Telecom chairman revealed that his company has bid for a stake in Brazilian phone company Brasil Telecom Participacoes, the third largest fixed-line operator in the country.

Telecom Italia, a major shareholder in Brasil Telecom, is assessing the bid though the amount bid is yet to be revealed. Brasil Telecom also offers wireless and internet broadband services. Last year Sawiris successfully acquired a controlling stake in Italian telecoms operator ‘Wind' for US$12bn, and earlier this month closed a multi-billion dollar deal to acquire Greek operator TIM Hellas - making Sawiris and his private investment company Weather Investments a force to be reckoned with on a global scale.


Antoine Choueiri (17)

President, Choueiri Group


With 36 years in the business, Choueiri represents several leading media groups, including Lebanon's LBC Sat, Al Jazeera, London-based daily Al Hayat, the UAE's Dubai Media Inc, and Lebanese titles An-Nahar and Al Safir.

The 67-year-old handles ad sales for the region's largest broadcasters, including LBC, MBC, and Dubai TV. The Choueiri Group's dominance of the TV market led to the formation of the GCC Association of Advertisers in 2005.

All of its members, including Emirates Airlines, Unilever, and McDonalds, spend in excess of US$100m a year on advertising in the Gulf. The Choueiri Group is thought to represent up to 20% of a US$2bn market.


Lubna Olayan (16)

Chief Executive, Olayan Financing Company

Saudi Arabia

Olayan's company now operates and actively participates in more than 40 companies, often in partnership with leading multinationals. OFC is also one of the largest investors in the Saudi equity market.

No wonder both Forbes and Time magazines have named Olayan as one of the world's most influential women in the past year. We have slightly downgraded her this year due to a small reduction in her workload, however she comes in at number 12.

At the Jeddah Economic Forum in 2004, Olayan gave a speech reminiscent of Martin Luther King's ‘I have a dream'. "My vision is of a country with a prosperous and diversified economy in which any Saudi citizen, irrespective of gender who is serious about finding employment, can find a job in the field for which he or she is best qualified, leading to a thriving middle class and in which all Saudi citizens, residents or visitors to the country feel safe and can live in an atmosphere where mutual respect and tolerance exist among all, regardless of their social class, religion or gender."


Abdalla Salem El Badri (New entry)

Secretary General, OPEC


With the price and supply of oil dominating the world agenda in 2007, there aren't many more influential posts than that of OPEC Secretary General. OPEC's member countries hold about two-thirds of the world's oil reserves, and in December last year, Libyan El Badri was voted to the post for a period of three years.

He is already chairman of the vast National Oil Corporation (NOC), and has served significant periods on the management teams of several major Arab oil companies.

In his role as boss of NOC he has been paramount in deciding whether to open up Libya to foreign investment, while now at OPEC he will play a key part in steering member countries towards pricing controls.

Little wonder, then, that most Western governments are already busy courting him in a desperate bid to keep prices low.


Esam Janahi (5)

Chief Executive, Gulf Finance House


From its inception, GFH has provided Islamic investment banking services with an emphasis on regional development, and capitalised on an increasing willingness among Islamic investors to back local and regional opportunities. Janahi has demonstrated extreme foresight in his choice of investments around the region, taking advantage of the many reforms initiated by GCC governments in the diversification and liberalisation of their economies. All of which means that Janahi is pulling the strings in many of the region's biggest projects.


HRH Prince Saud Bin Abdullah Bin Thonayan Al Saud (New Entry)

Chairman, SABIC

Saudi Arabia

Prince Saud Bin Abdullah Bin Thonayan Al Saud currently holds the position of chairman for the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu in addition to holding key board positions in Saudi Basic Industries (SABIC), Utility Water & Electricity Company in Jubail and Yanbu, Royal Family Board and also Prince Salman's Social Centre. Prince Saud graduated from the King Saud University in 1977 with a degree in civil engineering after which he started his career as an engineer at Riyadh Municipality in Saudi Arabia. He then took on the position of director general for Survey and Drawings and then for Operation and Maintenance. In 1989 he was assigned the position of under secretary for planning and programs at the Ministry of Municipality & Rural Affairs.

He is also a member of several committees formed by a Royal Decree to regulate the needs of Al-Jouf, Jizan, the Northern border and Hail areas in Saudi in addition to the villages and areas in the western coast and the needs of Yanbu Governorates.

In addition, Prince Saud is a member of a joint committee that supervises the coordination and follows work between the Ministry of Municipality and Rural Affairs, Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Agriculture and the Higher Committee for Childhood.

Al Saud is also a regular participant in a number of forums and scientific seminars throughout the kingdom and abroad, and has previously presented a number of research papers and work pages in economical, industrial and investment affairs.


Saleh Kamel (7)

Founder, MBC

Saudi Arabia

Kamel is the man behind the MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Centre) and ART (Arab Radio & Television) media empires. In 1993, ART began broadcasting five channels to Europe and the Middle East via Arab satellite, and now produces over 6000 live and recorded shows every year. In recent years it has picked up a number of lucrative shows including the rights in the Arab world to many live musical events.


Mohammed Al Shaya (11)

Chairman, AlShaya Group


The slight drop in ranking is no reflection on the progress made last year by Al Shaya - more the fact there are several new entries in the top 20. Last year he brought the H&M franchise to the Gulf with huge success, and was awarded Retailer of the Year at the prestigious Arabian Business Awards. The Alshaya Group has diverse holdings in a number of industries in the Middle East, including real estate, construction, hotels, multiple retailing, information technology and advertising. The hotel division owns the Sheraton Hotel in Kuwait and the Oberoi Hotel in Medina, Saudi Arabia. Its automotive division has the exclusive dealerships in Kuwait for Mazda and Peugeot cars, as well as for Michelin tyres and Mobil lubricants.

Al Shaya, who was appointed chief executive of the retail division in 1990, has overseen the expansion of the business' franchising operation to include over 550 stores, including the lucrative Starbucks brand, across the Middle East region.


Abdul Rahman Al Rashid (9)

Director, Al Arabiya

Saudi Arabia

Often labelled as ‘too pro-American' his influence is still huge in the Arab media world.

In 1997 he was editor of the Riyadh-based Al Jazeera newspaper. He later worked as correspondent and director of the Washington bureau. From 1987 to 1988 he was editor-in-chief of the London-based Al Majala magazine and from 1998 to 2003 was editor-in-chief of Asharq Al Awsat newspaper. Though he has now left the paper, Al Rashid's column still regularly appears. Al Rashid is currently the director general of the Dubai-based Al Arabiya satellite channel.


Bahaa Hariri (New Entry)

General Manager, Oger Group


While Saad Hariri has moved fully into politics, it is his brother Bahaa Hariri who now controls the family's impressive business empire, led by the Oger Construction Group. Oger has sales of over US$2bn a year and employs 35,000 staff. It was founded by Bahaa's father, the late Rafik Hariri. Bahaa himself has been extremely busy this year: as chairman of Horizon Development Holdings, he is behind a multi-billion dollar project to build a 13.5 million sq m city in Jordan, close to the port of Aqaba. Experts predict the new city will give Jordan - not to mention thousands of workers - a huge boost for several years to come. Work is expected to begin there soon.


Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair (15)

Chairman, Mashreqbank

United Arab Emirates

With assets of over US$8bn there is no doubting Al Ghurair's influence on the banking world - his bank has also moved into mortgage lending, helping finance the purchase of thousands of new homes in the Arab world. And Al Ghurair's influence looks like it will keep on rising, as he takes on competition from foreign banks.

Outside banking he has several interests including a controlling stake in the hugely successful Masafi drinks company.


Baker Bin Ladin (18)

Chairman, Bin Ladin Group

Saudi Arabia

Baker Bin Ladin's influence in the construction world is still huge. The Bin Ladin construction group is one of the kingdom's biggest firms with estimated assets of around US$6.5bn. The Bin Ladin construction group was founded by Mohammed Bin Ladin, Baker and Osama's father, in the Saudi Red Sea port city of Jeddah in the 1950s. The group grew into one of the major companies in the oil-rich kingdom when it was entrusted by the royal court with expanding Islamic holy sites in Mecca and Medina.

The Bin Ladin construction group also built several palaces in Riyadh and Jeddah for members of the Saudi Royal family, and carried out restoration work following an arson attack on Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque in 1969.


Nahed Taher (new entry)

Chief Executive, Gulf One Investment Bank

Saudi Arabia

Taher is the founder of Saudi Arabia's Gulf One Investment Bank, and the first woman in the Gulf to hold such a position in a bank. After being the senior economist (and the sole female working among 4000 male employees) at National Commercial Bank in Saudi Arabia for three years, Taher decided to go into investment banking, founding Gulf One in 2005.

Today, she is not only a prominent figure in the regional finance industry with a number of published papers on Saudi economics and trade, but has previously been acknowledged as one of the most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine.

Only four Arab women have been included in that list. The magazine also nicknamed her the ‘Desert Rose', after she launched a US$10bn private equity fund, claiming that the "Kingdom will at last flourish as a good place for western money". Taher strongly advocates Saudi economic liberalisation and reform.


Joseph Ghossoub (47)

Chief Executive, The Holding Group


You name it in media, and the chances are that Joseph Ghossoub probably has a hand in it somewhere. When Ghossoub speaks, the media world tends to listen. One of this year's biggest risers, his influence in the Arab media world just seems to keep on growing, with the Holding Group now in charge of Team/Y&R, Intermarkets Advertising, Asda'a PR, Mediaedge:cia and Wunderman. Ghossoub is also a prominent spokesperson for the region's burgeoning advertising industry.

He has served as vice-president of the International Advertising Association's UAE chapter, and was elected president in 1995. Ghossoub is now senior VP/president-elect of the IAA.

He played a major role in winning the bid to host the IAA's 40th annual World Congress in Dubai last year.


Ghassan Bin Jiddu (New entry)

Presenter, Al Jazeera Television


The growing influence of Al Jazeera - now better recognised as a news brand than CNN or the BBC - has seen Bin Jiddu's boss rise to No.3 on our list. Yet Bin Jiddu, seen as the most watched and most popular presenter on the Arabic news channel, hasn't done too badly himself, storming in at No.24 this year.

He now runs the channel's Beirut office, and aside from insightful interviews with decision makers, he has received much acclaim for the channel's coverage of the war in Lebanon last summer. He has been working for years on a documentary about Hezbollah, and last year attained an exclusive interview with the organisation's leader Hassan Nasrallah.


Khalid bin Mahfouz (New entry)


Saudi Arabia

Mahfouz inherited his father's stake in the company 21 years ago and went on to run Saudi Arabia's largest bank. Five years ago he sold his shares for nearly US$2bn, founding his own Jeddah-based global investment group with the cash. It has been a huge success and the group now has major stakes in several real estate projects around the globe.


Ali Ahmad Said (Adonis) (New entry)

Poet/Literary Critic


Ali Ahmad Said, also known by the pseudonym Adonis or Adunis, was born in 1930 in Al Qassabin in Northern Syria. He has written more than twenty books in his native Arabic. He has largely made his career in Lebanon and France although several of his poetry collections have been translated into English.

Said received a scholarship to study in Paris from 1960-1961. From 1970 to 1985 he was professor of Arabic literature at the University of Lebanon. In 1976, he became a visiting professor at the University of Damascus. In 1980, he emigrated to Paris to escape the Lebanese Civil War, where he was professor of Arabic at the Sorbonne in Paris from 1980-1981. He has also taught and lectured in a number of other Western universities. Said returned to Paris to live in 1985.

Said was considered to be a candidate for both the 2005 and 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. Both as a poet and a theorist on poetry, and as a thinker with a radical vision of Arab culture, Adonis has exercised a powerful influence both on his contemporaries and on younger generations of Arab poets. His name has become synonymous with the Hadatha (modernism) which his poetry embodies. Critical works such as Zaman al-shir (1972) are landmarks in the history of literary criticism in the Arab world.


HRH Sheikh Waleed Al Ibrahim (New entry)

Chairman, MBC

Saudi Arabia

It was back in 1991 that MBC was launched, becoming the first broadcaster to launch a free-to-air 24-hour network across the Arab world. MBC was the first-ever, independent Arabic satellite TV station and a market leader, delivering news and quality family entertainment programming to more than 130 million Arabic speaking people around the world. Sheikh Al Ibrahim continues to be at the forefront of the network's development.


Mohammed Al Fayed (20)

Chairman, Harrods Group


Still making the headlines in his fight with the British establishment, there has been talk of Al Fayed taking a back seat at Harrods next year and leaving the daily running of the group to his 21 year-old son Omar.

In the meantime, despite being 72 years old he still owns and runs the luxury store Harrods in London which employs 5000 people. The holding company has expanded into luxury real estate, corporate aviation and even banking. In the past year, profits have risen again at the store and his personal fortune risen to above the billion dollar mark.

It has also helped him to continue funding his beloved Fulham Football Club.


Youssef Chahine (19)



Chahine has made some of the most groundbreaking and challenging cinema to come out of the Arab world. In 1958, he was nominated best actor for his role as Kenaoui in the film Bab El Hadid at the Berlin Film Festival. Chahine himself plays the central character, Kenaoui, a simple-minded man whose frustrations lead to his tragic death. Egyptian audiences, used to simpler melodramas, were disturbed and rejected the film. It was not seen again for some 20 years.

In 1963, Chahine's three-hour epic Saladin was nominated for an Oscar. Parallels between the 12th century sultan and Egypt's President Nasser can be easily drawn. Saladin is shown as an educated and peaceful man even as he fights to liberate Jerusalem from its Christian crusader occupiers. In 1997, his film Destiny won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and his allegory condemning politically driven fanaticism won praise as the most courageous frontal attack on Islamic fundamentalism to come out of Arab cinema to date.

His most recent film Alexandria contemplates the director's ambivalence towards the United States, and shows that after more than five decades making movies, Chahine's work remains as influential, relevant and powerful as ever.


Turki Al Dakhil (New entry)


Saudi Arabia

Turki Al Dakhil is a well-known Saudi journalist who frequently hosts reformist Muslims on his popular interview program ‘Spotlights' on Al Arabiya News Channel - a 24-hour Arabic-language news channel launched on March 3, 2003, which broadcasts across five continents to millions of viewers. With a global network of correspondents and news bureaus in 40 major cities around the world, Al Arabiya has become a prime source of Arabic-language news throughout the world.

Dakhil has also written a book titled "Saudis in America" (sa'udiyyun fi amrika) which became a bestseller. In his book, Dakhil talks about his experience in America when he went there to study English, and also the effects of 9/11 on Saudi students there.


Mohammed Omran (New entry)

Chairman, Etisalat

United Arab Emirates

Etisalat boss Mohammed Omran faced competition for the first time in the UAE, when du was awarded the second telecoms licence. But that doesn't take away from the impact Omran has had in the country, having been the main provider of telecommunications since 1976.

The corporation is the largest contributor outside the oil sector to development programmes of the UAE Federal Government, and is an award-winning socially responsible corporation. Etisalat has also won accolades from across the region for its nationalisation programme.

There are over five million subscribers to its mobile, internet and cable television services.


Rima Hunaidi (22)



Rima Khalaf Hunaidi became Assistant Secretary-General and director, regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS), at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in September 2000. Under her leadership, the Regional Bureau issued the first Arab Human Development Report in July 2002, which challenged the Arab world to overcome three cardinal obstacles to human development posed by widening gaps in freedom, women's empowerment and knowledge across the region. Hunaidi continues her work analysing many of the regional developmental issues. She has also pioneered important regional initiatives on Arab education issues, knowledge acquisition and economic growth. Hunaidi has held several high-ranking governmental positions in Jordan, including Minister of Industry and Trade (1993-95), Minister of Planning (1995-98) and Deputy Prime Minister (1999-2000).


Adel Al Jubeir (13)


Saudi Arabia

Known as the "spin doctor", Al Jubeir is HRH King Abdullah's foreign policy advisor. He is at the forefront of relations between Saudi Arabia and the US, attempting to diffuse negative publicity and perception in the West in the aftermath of 9/11, and beyond.

Al Jubeir moved to the US in 1978, where he took his early education in northern Texas. He graduated from Georgetown University, and in 1987 was appointed special assistant to HRH Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the Saudi ambassador to Washington.


Sir Magdi Habib Yacoub (New entry)



Born in Aswan, Egypt in 1935, the eminent heart surgeon acts as a high-profile consultant and ambassador for the huge benefits of transplant surgery.

Educated in Cairo, Yacoub taught at Chicago, and moved to Britain in 1962 where he became a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Harefield Hospital, and then director of medical research and education from 1992. He was appointed professor at the National Heart and Lung Institute in 1986, and was involved in the development of the techniques of heart and heart-lung transplants. In 1980 came his transplant operation on Derrick Morris, who until his death in July 2005 was Europe's longest-surviving heart transplant patient. Among celebrities whose lives Magdi Yacoub extended was the comedian, Eric Morecambe, and in 2002 he was selected to spearhead a government recruitment drive for overseas doctors. He was knighted in 1992 by HM Queen Elizabeth II.

Having retired from performing surgery at the age of 65, he briefly came out of retirement last year, to advise on a complicated procedure which required removing a transplant heart from a patient whose own heart had recovered.


Elie Khouri (49)



Khouri has made it his mission to lead developments in the media field.

After bringing together the media units of the three Omnicom networks to form the OMD business in 2002, he has led the media network to continued success throughout the Middle East, growing the business and overtaking established players in the process.

It achieved a major coup in 2004 by securing the Dubai Government's consolidated media business, one of the region's largest ever wins.


Rola Dashti (42)



She is now widely seen as one of the world's most influential Arab women. As president of the Kuwait Economic Society, last September she assured women across the country that together, they would "not allow any group to weaken us, belittle our capabilities and prevent us from our deserved political rights." A few months later, Kuwait named its first female cabinet minister. Dashti launched her crusade for suffrage in 1992 upon her return from the US, where she took her PhD.


Mai Yamani (34)


Saudi Arabia

The daughter of one of the most influential ministers of oil, Ahmed Zaki Yamani, Mai Yamani is a well-known academic, author and currently an analyst at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, also known as Chatham House. She is a specialist on social, political and human rights issues in Arab states, particularly the Gulf Cooperation Council states.

She also became the first Saudi woman to receive a PhD from Oxford University where she conducted the research for her book Cradle of Islam. She studied at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania and taught at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah and the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University.


Amr Diab (28)



Egyptian singer, Amr Diab, is a star of epic proportions in the Arab world. His prolific recording career took off in the mid-1980s and throughout the 1990s he set the standard for Arabic record sales. Diab's style of ‘Pan-Mediterranean' Arabic music, fusing touches of Flamenco and Rai, western pop with traditional Arabic rhythms earned him a huge international fan base and by 1992, he became the first Arabic artist to start making high-tech music videos. The following year, Diab launched a film career, starring in three features including Dhahk We La'ab (Laughter & Fun), with acclaimed actor Omar Sharif.


Iyad Duwaji (New entry)

Chief Executive, Shuaa Capital


Headquartered in the UAE, Shuaa Capital currently has total client assets under management of around US$2bn while its private equity arm, Shuaa Partners, manages US$300m in two funds that invest in the GCC and the Levant.

Last year the company posted nine-month profits of US$42.2m. The group recently agreed to increase its stake in Qatari bank, Amwal, acquired a 20% stake in Baer Capital Partners and also bought into Indian investment bank, Edelweiss Capital.

With offices in London and Dubai, Forsyth Partners has over US$1.8bn in a range of funds and managed accounts, and deals with around US$2bn worth of advisory contracts. Research by UK-based Brand Finance last month showed the investment bank was listed 12th on the list of most valuable UAE brands, with a brand value of almost US$120m.


Rashid Khalidi (26)



Khalidi is a prominent voice on Middle Eastern politics, offering penetrating, intelligent insight for numerous radio and television shows and writing articles for many leading UK and US newspapers.

A worldwide university personality, he is both revered and reviled for his heavy criticism of the state of Israeli and American policy.

From 1987 to 2003, he was Professor of Middle East History and Director of the Centre for International Studies at the University of Chicago. He has also taught at the Lebanese University and the American University of Beirut, and in Georgetown and Columbia universities.

He received a BA in History from Yale University in 1970 and a PhD in Modern History from Oxford University in 1974. Khalidi is the President of the American Committee of Jerusalem and the editor of the Journal of Palestine Studies. Currently Khalidi runs Columbia University's Middle East institute, but word has it that the doctor is in with a chance of an even more prestigious posting at Princeton.

His potential appointment to Princeton has sparked concerns among the university's alumni and Jewish students, who fear that the professor's pro-Palestinian views will divide the campus.


Osman Sultan (New entry)

Chief Executive Officer, du


Sultan was behind the launch of the highly successful MobiNil in Egypt in 1998, and this year was behind the launch of du, the UAE's second telecoms operator. With half a million subscribers in the bag and several new services and price deals being rolled out, Sultan's influence in the region is already huge - and growing fast.


Nader Fergany (New entry)



Fergany heads the team of scholars and researchers that has worked on the Arab Human Development Report (AHDR) series. The third report in that series, on freedom and governance, will not be published under the aegis of the United Nations Development Programme after attempts by the US and Egyptian governments to alter its contents.

The first two reports - on Creating Opportunities for Future Generations and Building a Knowledge Society - provided a major impetus for reform in Arab countries and were also frequently referred to by Western commentators as a sign the Arab world needed attention.

The third report is meant to be followed by fourth and final report on the empowerment of women in the Arab countries.


Amr Moussa (New entry)



Moussa is the current secretary general of the League of Arab States since his election to the position in May 2001. He is a former Egyptian foreign minister and diplomat.

He served as Cairo's ambassador to India in 1967 and as Egypt's ambassador to the United Nations in 1990. He was appointed foreign minister in the Ganzouri Cabinet in 1991 and remained in this position until 2001. In 2004 an online community gathered tens of thousands of signatures petitioning for Moussa to run in the 2005 elections, but there was no response. In a Doha Debate Forum televised by the BBC in 2006, Moussa was asked about his presidential hopes. Moussa merely replied that he hoped to continue the recent run of successes that have occurred under his leadership at the Arab League, until the end of his term.



Maksoud (New entry)



A Lebanese national, Dr. Maksoud was the chief representative of the League of Arab States in India from 1961-1966. From 1967-1979, he served as the senior editor of Al-Ahram and then chief editor of Annahar Weekly. Ambassador Maksoud was appointed as the League of Arab States' chief representative to the United States and the United Nations on September 1, 1979. On August 15, 1990, he submitted his resignation from the League in the aftermath of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

A lawyer, journalist and diplomat, Dr. Maksoud served as the Arab League Ambassador to India and South East Asia from 1961-1966. Dr. Maksoud is the author of several articles and books on the Middle East and the global South, among them: "The Meaning of Non-Alignment," "The Crisis of the Arab Left," "Reflections on Afro-Asianism," and "The Arab Image".


Saad Al Barrak (31)

Director General, MTC


Since his appointment as director general of Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC) in 2002, the company's customer base has increased from 600,000 to a conglomerate of 19 operations with over 13 million customers across the Middle East and Africa.

Dr. Al Barrak holds a BSc in Electrical Engineering, an MSc in Systems Engineering from Ohio University, and a PhD in Information Systems & Technology Management from the University of London. He is also an alumnus of Harvard University.


Kathem Al Saher (New entry)



46 year-old singer Kathem Al Saher was born in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, the son of a palace worker and has nine siblings. Little did he know he was to become one of the most successful Iraqi entertainers the now war-torn country has ever seen.

Al Saher has established himself as one of the biggest singers in the Arab world having sold over 30 million albums since the start of his career, influencing millions in the process. Ranging from romantic ballads to political work, from pop to classical Arab, Al Saher has covered a musical spectrum with the kind of success not seen since the heyday of Umm Kalthum. Not classically trained, Saher's interest in music instead came from listening to the radio. When he was 10 years old he sold his bicycle to buy a guitar and two years later, he began writing songs. He then switched to the more tradional oud and was accepted into the Baghdad Music Academy at the age of 21.

Although keen to make a break through into the music business with his songs and voice, he found himself rebuffed by all the producers he approached, who would only let him sing their own material. Instead, with a television director friend, he made a video of one of his songs, Ladghat El Hayya (The Snake Bite), which was slipped into a broadcast on Iraqi television in 1987, just after the Iran-Iraq war.

An allegory to his situation, it caused a major controversy and the powers that ran television offered him a choice - to change his lyrics or have it banned. He refused to change anything, but the ban only made it more popular. He began giving concerts all over the Gulf and recording for labels in Kuwait.

The Gulf War and its immediate aftermath kept him pinned in Iraq, but in 1993 he moved to Lebanon, working with the poet Nizar Qabbani, who wrote lyrics to his music, before settling permanently in Cairo. Al Saher continued to release albums and tour, having become the biggest name in Middle Eastern music, one whose ballads grew bigger and more romantic, but who would also write classically influenced works, even when they might conceivably hurt his popularity.

Wider fame and a growing international reputation came in 1998 and beyond and later won him a UNICEF award for his song ‘Tathakkar' which he performed in the US for Congress and the United Nations - one of the first real post-Gulf War cultural exchanges. The following year, he recorded a tribute to the Pope with the Italian Symphony Orchestra.

One of Al Saher's most recent works was a song entitled ‘The War is Over' (Entahat Al Harab) with former Phantom of the Opera star Sarah Brightman.


Mohammed Al Jaber (23)

Founder, MBI International

Saudi Arabia

Apart from running MBI International, which has business and leisure interests across the world, Al Jaber is a lead member of the Arab Business Council, a lobby made up of influential business figures that is pressurising all Arab governments to implement economic reform.


Fairuz (36)



It's no exaggeration to say that millions worldwide idolise this singing legend. She is revered in the region and is routinely received by kings, presidents, and other illustrious dignitaries. Unlike any other artist, Fairuz holds the key to almost every city where she has performed, given to her as a symbolic gesture of appreciation. Though she never sang in the holy city, the key to Jerusalem, presented to her during a private visit with her father, is among her most prized possessions.

Born and educated in Beirut, Fairuz began her musical career as a chorus member at the Lebanese radio station. In the late 1950s, her talent as a singer became fully acknowledged and her status grew dramatically.


Nawal El Saadawi (New entry)

Writer, Activist and Physician


Nawal El Saadawi (born October 27, 1931) is one of the most famous Arabic feminist writers, activists and physicians. She has written numerous novels and short stories on the subject of the plight of women in Abrahamic religions and has been translated into over 20 languages.

Saadawi studied medicine at the Cairo University, graduating in 1955. She eventually became the director of public health and met her third husband, Sherif Hetata, while working at the Ministry of Health.

Saadawi was dismissed from her position at the Ministry of Health as a consequence of her political activities and the publication of her first work of non-fiction in 1972.

Similar pressures cost her a later position as chief editor of a health journal and as assistant general secretary in the Medical Association in Egypt.

From 1973 to 1976 she worked on researching women and neurosis in the Ain Shams University's Faculty of Medicine and from 1979 to 1980 she was the United Nations Advisor for the Women's Programme in Africa and Middle East.

In 1991, when her life was threatened by Islamists, Saadawi moved from Egypt to North Carolina and taught in Duke and Washington State Universities.


Salah Salem Bin Omeir Al Shamsi (New entry)

Chairman, Al Qudra Holding

United Arab Emirates

Al Shamsi is one of the most respected businessmen in the region and is currently engaged in directing a wide range of companies as well as representing governmental entities and supporting social and sports clubs. Abu Dhabi-based Al Qudra is a private holding investment company and the first company in the region to dedicate more than 50% of its shares to Emirati women as a response to the directive of Her Highness Sheikha Fatima.

The company has capitalised on the industrial boom in the UAE capital and promoted the growth of the city by generating a large group of specialised subsidiaries operating in various sectors all under the Al Qudra Holding umbrella.


Jihad Al Khazen (37)



The highly respected writer began his career in journalism with the Reuters news agency in 1963 - and then went on to become the editor-in-chief of the Lebanese English-language Daily Star newspaper in 1968. He was appointed editor-in-chief of the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al Awsat in 1978, which he left in 1986. He joined the pan Arab London-based daily Al Hayat as editor in chief from 1988 to 1998.

After leaving Al Hayat, he became the first editor-in-chief of ‘Newsroom Ink', a joint venture between Al Hayat newspaper and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC).


Fouad Ajami (24)

Author and Professor


Fouad Ajami became well known after he penned The Arab Predicament, in which he probed the discontent that spread with the failure of the nationalist project following Arab independence and the defeat of the Arabs by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.

His book was a harsh indictment of the post-colonial Arab condition. He is a former research fellow at The Lehrman Institute; a contributing editor for US News & World Report and member of the editorial board of foreign affairs; a consultant to CBS News; author of The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation's Odyssey (1998); Beirut: City of Regrets (1988); The Vanished Imam: Musa Al Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon (1986); and a frequent contributor on Middle Eastern issues and contemporary international history to The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic as well as other journals and periodicals.

Ajami sits on the editorial board of Middle East Quarterly, a publication of the Middle East Forum think tank. He has been an adviser to US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.



Wehbe (New entry)



Having had a hugely successful career as a model, featuring on the cover of over 100 magazines, Whebe switched to singing with even greater success - her albums have sold millions in the Arab world, and her influence just keeps growing. Last year she became the first artist in the Arab world to introduce international hip-hop superstar 50 Cent when she performed as an opening act for his first concert in Beirut.

She remains popular among Lebanon's youth and makes countless television appearances. In July 2005, Wehbe, along with 14 other celebrities from the Arab world, began airing the live pan-Arab reality show series ‘The Valley'.

The show aired for three months. It was critically acclaimed and won over many of her harsh critics.


Zaha Hadid (New entry)



Zaha Hadid is an Iraqi architect of British citizenship who has gained a worldwide reputation for her unconventional and experimental designs. Her work tries out new spatial concepts emphasising existing urban landscapes aiming to achieve a visual aesthetic that encompasses all fields of design. Her designs range from urban scale to products, interiors and furniture. She is perhaps best known for her seminal built works and becoming the first woman to win the Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2004.

Hadid was born in Iraq in 1950 and studied architecture at the Architectural Association (AA) in London from 1972 and was awarded the Diploma Prize in 1977. Shortly afterwards, she became a partner of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), taught at the AA with OMA collaborators Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis, and later led her own studio at the AA until 1987. Some of her projects include a fire station for the Vitra Furniture Company in Weil am Rhein in Germany; LFone/Landesgartenschau, an exhibition building to mark the 1999 garden festival in that same city; a car park and Terminus Hoenheim North, a "park and ride" and tramway on the outskirts of Strasbourg, France; and a ski jump situated on the Bergisel Mountain overlooking Innsbruck, Austria.


Marcel Khalifa (New entry)



A composer, singer and flute player, Khalifa is considered a Palestinian among the Palestinians, a Southerner among the South Lebanese and most commonly an Arab musician. From 1970 to 1975 he taught at the conservatory in Beirut. In 1976, he created Al Mayadeen Ensemble and became famous all over the world for songs like Ummi (My Mother), Rita w'al-Bundaqiya (Rita and the Rifle) and Jawaz al-Safr (Passport), based on Mahmoud Darwish's poetry.

In 1999 he was granted the Palestine Award for Music. In turn, he contributed the financial portion of the award to the National Conservatory of Music at Birzeit University in Palestine. In 2005, Khalifa was named a UNESCO Artist for peace.


Ahmed Hassan Zewail (New entry)

Egyptian American Chemist


Born in 1946 in Damanhur, Egypt, Zewail is an Egyptian American chemist, and the winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his pioneering work on femtochemistry. The study of chemical reactions across femtoseconds, using a rapid ultrafast laser technique.

This key work has enabled scientists to analyse transition states in selected chemical reactions, as the technique allows the description of reactions on very short time scales.

He received his first degree from the University of Alexandria, before moving from Egypt to the United States to complete his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania.

After post doctorate work at the University of California, Berkeley, he was awarded a faculty appointment at Caltech in 1976, where he has remained ever since.

He became a naturalised citizen of the United States in 1982, and in 1990, he was made the first Linus Pauling Chair in Chemical Physics.

In 1999, Zewail became the third ethnic Egyptian to receive the Nobel Prize, following in the footsteps of Egyptians Anwar Sadat and Naguib Mahfouz.

Other international awards include the Wolf Prize in Chemistry (1993) and the Robert A. Welch Award (1997).

In 1999, he received Egypt's highest state honour, the Grand Collar of the Nile. Cambridge University awarded him an Honorary Doctorate in Science in 2006.


Adel Emam (New entry)



Adel Emam is one of the most popular film and stage actors of the Arab World. Born in 1940, the Egyptian movie star is mainly known as a comedian but has accumulated a number of serious works throughout his long career in cinema and film.

Emam's university education however was not cinema-related. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Agriculture from Cairo University. After his graduation he appeared in over 100 movies and 10 plays. He has gained both critical and popular praise for his various roles. His roles portrayed a wide range of humour including slapstick, farce, and double entendre.

In 2000, the UN made Emam a ‘Goodwill Ambassador' for the UNHCR and since then he has strived for the cause of refugees. In 2005, he had his hit movie, Sifaara fil'Aimara (Embassy in the Building), playing a Cairene everyman inconvenienced when the Embassy of Israel moves into his apartment building. In 2006, he starred alongside many other stars in The ‘Yacoubian Building', a film reputed to be the highest-budgeted in Egyptian cinema history and adapted from the novel of the same name.


Munib Masri (50)



Munib Masri is the patriarch of the most influential Palestinian family. The 69-year-old tycoon, who hails from the West Bank town of Nablus and was once touted to be the first Palestinian prime minister, is a graduate of the University of Texas in Austin in the US.

His wealth is rooted in the oil and gas business, but much of his investments fall under the Edgo Group, his holding company based in London which operates in contracting, industrial development, trading, distribution and representation, project development, operation and maintenance.


Mahmoud Darwish (48)



Darwish's family fled Israeli occupation in 1948 when he was seven years old. A central image in his early poetry was the resistant hero, who never gives up the struggle for freedom. However, his later work expressed an increasing sense of powerlessness. His poetry is simple in terms of style and vocabulary, but uses everyday words for strong and effective expressions and intense feelings. Darwish joined the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and became a trusted aide of Yasser Arafat and was appointed to the PLO executive committee in 1987, but resigned in 1993 in opposition to the Oslo Agreement. After living all over the world, Darwish returned to Palestine in 1996 and settled in Ramallah on the West Bank. He has received the International Lotus Prize for Poetry and is currently the editor-in-chief and founder of the literary review Al Karmel.


Wafic Said (43)



A close associate of the Saudi Arabian royal family, he was linked with the US$10bn Al Yamamah arms deal between the Saudi government and British Aerospace in the late 1980s.

Although Said says he received no commission for allegedly "fixing" the deal - he admits his other businesses benefited as a result of his connections with the then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and her friends. Said is still hugely influential on the world political stage.

Over the years, Said has given millions to charity, including a foundation set up to help disadvantaged children, and funding for the Royal Shakespeare Company, of which he is a governor. But his biggest single act of generosity was in 1996 when he donated US$40m to establish Said Business School at the University of Oxford.


Nemir Kirdar (41)

Chief Executive, Investcorp


President and Chief Executive of Bahrain-based investment group, Investcorp, Kirdar is an Iraq-born financier who resides in London in the UK.

The powerful tycoon has the undivided attention of the wealthiest and most powerful businessmen, merchants and politicians in the Arab world.

Kirdar was born in Kirkuk, Iraq, to a family prominent in the politics of the late Ottoman Empire and interwar Iraq. After a bloody military coup deposed the monarchy in 1958, he went to the United States to study, returning to Iraq in 1960.

Later the same decade, after the Baathist coup, which eventually produced the regime of Saddam Hussein, Kirdar left the country once again.


Zahi Wehbi (New entry)

TV Presenter and Broadcaster


Zahi followed his dreams and is one of the leading names in television in the Arab world today. Wehbi had a difficult upbringing surrounded by death and destruction during the civil war in Lebanon, but managed to overcome some tough early times to become a leading figure in broadcasting.

However, these experiences shaped him with a rich personality and he drew on them in a positive way, culminating in his television stardom. His main show airs on Future TV.


Mishal Kanoo (14)

Deputy Chairman, Kanoo Group


Kanoo recently found new fame for his much acclaimed Dubai art gallery - the Meem gallery which opened in January this year. He is the operational brain behind the Kanoo Group, one of the region's most respected family businesses. While he no doubt played a part in successfully acquiring new shipping and insurance business for the company last year, Kanoo's varied talents cannot be underestimated.

Away from his day job, Kanoo's personal columns on his website ( have become some of the most widely-read in the Middle East, with Mishal's views on Palestine and economic reform becoming well known. He is also a regular columnist for Arabian Business magazine.


Faisal Al Qaseem (33)

TV presenter


As the presenter of Al Itijah Al Muakess (Opposite Direction), Al Qaseem is arguably the most controversial media figure in the Arab world. The show, on the Doha-based Al Jazeera channel, draws tens of millions of Arab viewers.

The hour long Opposite Direction is unafraid to tackle the taboo subjects of the day - such as the US-led invasion of Iraq, and the Arab world's perceived reluctance to apologise to the Iraqi people for its silence during the years they spent under Saddam Hussein's jackboot.

The show normally has two guests who argue profusely, very often shouting at one another and at times even storming off the set.


Mohammed Al Amoudi (29)

Business Tycoon

Ethiopia/Saudi Arabia

The Ethio-Saudi tycoon presides over an ever-expanding empire. Originally from Ethiopia, Al Amoudi was raised in Saudi Arabia, and made his fortune in construction and real estate before branching out to buy oil refineries in Sweden and Morocco. He is said to be the largest foreign investor in both Sweden and his native Ethiopia, where some of his ventures include the previously state-owned goldmine, Lege Dembi, and hotels such as the Addis Ababa Sheraton Hotel. Al Amoudi holds an honorary doctorate in Philosophy from Addis Ababa University.


Hosam Sokkari (39)



Sokkari is the first Arab to head the BBC Arabic service - the oldest and largest of the BBC's international language services. After graduating from university in Cairo with a degree in pharmacology, Sokkari decided on a career in journalism, working first as a cartoonist in Egypt, Germany and Finland. Sokkari worked as a TV presenter for both Al Jazeera and the BBC, which eventually led him to take the reins of the BBC's internet experiment:


Mohammed El Baradei (30)



As director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohammed El Baradei should have his hands full over the coming weeks and months. Convenient, then, that he and the IAEA jointly received the Nobel peace prize - an award he described as a "shot in the arm" - in October 2005, for his work on behalf of the IAEA under the auspices of the United Nations.

The prize came just months after the United States pressed for ElBaradei's removal from the helm after he refused to endorse U.S. claims that Iraq had restarted its nuclear weapons programme, and was seen by Washington as being lenient to the Iranian nuclear programme.


Nancy Ajram (New entry)



A legend in the Arab world - in 2003, her third album, ‘Ya Salam' (‘How Fantastic') included the song ‘Akhasmak Ah' (‘I'll taunt you'), which became an enormous hit, as did its provocative music video. Two other singles from the album were shot as music videos: ‘Ya Salam' had Ajram playing a 1930's style cabaret performer, while ‘Yay (Sehr Oyoono)' (Oh the Magic of his Eyes) became a mini-drama with Ajram discovering romance as a demure Beirut hairdresser.

Her success as a performer has led to a series of high-profile advertising deals, most notably with drinks brand Coca-Cola, and luxury jewellery retailers Damas.


Elias Zerhouni (New entry)

Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH)


Zerhouni is the 15th director of the National Institute of Health (NIH), the primary US government agency responsible for biomedical research. He was appointed by George W. Bush in May 2002. His successes at the NIH have included the establishment of a research program into the problem of widespread obesity, and supporting the reduction of healthcare disparities.

Prior to joining the NIH, Dr. Zerhouni served as executive vice-dean of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, chair of the Russell H. Morgan department of radiology and radiological science, Martin Donner professor of radiology, and professor of biomedical engineering. Before that, he was vice-dean for research at Johns Hopkins.

A resident of Baltimore, Maryland, Dr Zerhouni is actually North African, having been born in Nedroma, a small mountain village on the western border of Algeria.

Dr Zerhouni received the honorary title Doctor Emeritus from the University of Algiers in 2005.


Helal Al Marri (New Entry)

Director General, DWTC

United Arab Emirates

Helal Saeed Khalfan Al Marri is the director general of Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC). Prior to being appointed to the position, Al Marri worked as a strategy consultant with Mckinsey & Company, one of the world's leading consulting firms.

Before that he worked with KPMG in London, in the areas of assurance and transaction services. 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.


Sameer Al Ansari (New entry)

Executive Chairman, Dubai International Capital (DIC)


A first appearance for Al Ansari after a very busy year. His DIC - part of Dubai Holding - failed to get its hands on Liverpool Football Club but is one of the most hungry investment houses in the reigon. DIC has previously taken stakes in DaimlerChrysler, Travelodge and the Tussauds Group - and is now reported to be in talks to buy the Rivoli Group.

Ansari is eyeing up several big new deals as part of a rapid expansion programme.


Shafik Gabr (New entry)

Chairman, Arab Business Council


With a BA in Management and Economics from the American University in Cairo and, a Masters degree in Economics from the University of London, Gabr is well-read. And as chairman of the Arab Business Council (ABC), Gabr has been prominent in pushing forward the Arab business agenda across the region. Lately he has been involved in promoting Arab business successes in the West.

An initiative of the World Economic Forum, the ABC is composed of 80 top Arab business leaders who are committed to the mission of "enhancing the competitiveness of the Arab world."Gabr is also both chairman and CEO of Artoc Group for Investment & Development in Egypt.


Adnan Al Musallam (New entry)

Chairman/MD, Investment Dar


You may only just have heard of Adnan Al Musallam, but he is behind the investment wheel of one of the most important deals that will affect chief executives worldwide - the US$925m purchase of luxury British carmaker Aston Martin with Investment Dar gaining a huge 50% share of James Bond's favourite car manufacturer.

Alongside former Benetton and BAR racing boss David Richards and Mustafa Al Saleh, managing director and CEO of Adeem Investment of Kuwait, Al Musallam was instrumental in securing the successful deal which leaves car giant Ford retaining a minor US$77m stake.

Alongside Investment Dar's 50% share, Adeem and other Kuwaiti consortiums will possess 28.5% with US and British investors, while car giant Ford will still hold a less significant 9% of Aston shares.

Musallam is a major player behind the Arab world's growing reputation as one of the most powerful investment forces on the planet.


Adel Ali (New entry)

Founder and CEO, Air Arabia


Ali is the founder and CEO of Air Arabia, the Middle East's first low-cost carrier, based in Sharjah in the UAE. He previously served as Vice-President of Commercial and Customer Service for Gulf Air, where he played a central role in the airline's recovery. He also held senior management positions with British airways, including GM Middle East and Africa.

In addition, Ali served as a director and senior board member for a number of companies in the Middle East and Europe. He has been recognised within the industry as a Middle East airline expert and has received awards for his contribution to air transport and tourism in the Middle East and Africa.

His current concern, Air Arabia, is due to go public today (Sunday March 18), and list its shares on the Dubai Financial Market (DFM) - the largest offering in UAE history. The total size of the offering is US$690m, representing 55% of the company's share capital.

Air Arabia operates scheduled services throughout the Middle East and to the Indian subcontinent, using Sharjah International Airport as its main base.

It was established on February 3, 2003 and started operations on October 29, 2003. It was formed by Emiri decree issued by Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohamed Al Qassimi. It is owned by Sharjah Civil Aviation Department (50%), Sharjah Airport International Free Trade Zone Authority (SAIF Zone) (10%), and other founders include Sharjah-based and Bahrain-based strategic investors (40%).


Ibrahim Dabdoub (40)

CEO, National Bank of Kuwait


The tycoon has been CEO of the National Bank of Kuwait (NBK), the fourth largest in the Arab World, since 1983. The bank is the largest in Kuwait and the highest-rated by Moody's, Standard and Poor's and Fitch Ratings in the Middle East and emerging markets. The bank announced a record net profit of US$704m for 2005, up 37% from the previous year.

Dabdoub is also 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, Jordan; Board of Trustees of Kuwait Maastricht Business School, as well as executive committee member of the Arab Business Council at the World Economic Forum, Geneva. He served previously on numerous other boards, including the Institute of International Finance, Washington DC.


Abdallah Jum'ah (38)

President and CEO, Saudi Aramco

Saudi Arabia

As head of Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil company by production, Abdallah Jum'ah manages a quarter of the world's reserves. The government-owned firm has a monopoly on the oil supplies of the oil-rich country and with crude prices likely to stay sky high, Jum'ah is playing an increasingly prominent role on the world stage.

He joined Saudi Aramco in 1968, becoming head of the company in late 1995. Saudi Aramco has operations that span the globe reaching into every area of oil industry and achieved revenues of US$3bn last year. It is the largest oil company in the world. A dark cloud on the horizon however, continues to be the escalation in attacks on Westerners that could lead to an exodus of expatriate oil workers, threatening the oil industry of the whole kingdom.


Sulaiman Al Fahim (New entry)

Chief Executive, Hydra Properties

United Arab Emirates

A great year for the property developer who took last year's Cityscape exhibition by storm - Hydra has a range of innovative new projects on the cards which are likely to reshape the skyline across many parts of the Arab world.


Pierre Al Daher (New entry)

Chairman, LBC


A big year for Al Daher, especially in relation to the war in Lebanon. The Lebanese Broadcasting Company (LBC) is now an accomplished broadcaster and Al Daher is very much in charge of its every move.


Ahmed Al Bloushi (New entry)

Chairman, Emirates Media

United Arab Emirates

A hugely influential year for Emirates Media, which has now firmly established itself as a major player in the industry - with Al Boushi calling the shots.


Zena Malek (45)



With her innovative designs that have taken the region by storm, Zena Malek has become one of the most influential architects in the Arab world.

Now based in the UAE, she is the brains behind the revolutionary Sakani software, a totally new architectural style of design which enables different configurations of houses, buildings, restaurants and facilities to be built through mass-production methods.

This means an entire housing development can be designed with each unit receiving an individual configuration.

The software has been a huge hit in the Middle East with the Bahraini Investment Bank and Bahrain government both implementing it, while several Dubai government officials are considering using Sakani.


Adel Abdellatif, (New entry)

Middle East

Development Director, United Nations


Abdellatif holds a considerable amount of power within the corridors of the United Nations (UN), serving as director of the Program on Governance in the Arab region for the UN's United Nations Development Program (UNDP).


Fadi Ghandour (New entry)

Chief Executive, Aramex


A good year for the Aramex boss has seen him help move millions of parcels across the region, break into Iraq and celebrate the company's quarter century in business.

According to Ghandour, Aramex - the largest Arab courier company by market value - will record double digit growth in the first quarter of 2007 after completing the integration of an Irish freight firm it acquired last year. In 2006, the Dubai-listed group posted a US$26m profit while revenues rose by 59% to US$370m.

The Jordan-based company, which spent US$40m on acquisitions last year, made a net profit of US$6.63m in the first quarter of last year, up 38.9% on the previous year.


Maha Al-Ghunaim, (New Entry)

Managing Director, Global Investment House


Following the resignation this month of chairman Anwar Abdullah Al-Nouri, Maha Al-Ghunaim is now chairman and managing director of the company she started almost single-handedly back in 1998.

Today Global Investment House manages over 30 funds some of which have exceeded market indices and include several equity funds and real estate funds such as Global GCC Real Estate Fund, Global Asia Real Estate Fund, and Global US Real Estate Fund. Al-Ghunaim was recently named in the Forbes magazine's ‘100 Most Powerful Women in the World' and also ranked second in Forbes Arabia's ‘Top 50 Arabian Women' list.


Farouk El Baz, (New Entry)

Former NASA Scientist


Born on the banks of the river Nile, El Baz played a major role in NASA's Apollo space program between 1967 and 1972, working as a supervisor of lunar science planning.

Such was his outstanding ability as a teacher, one command pilot while orbiting the moon for the first time, said: "After the King's (El Baz's nickname at the time) training I feel like I've been here before". The Egyptian's story was the subject of Emmy award-winning TV series ‘From Earth to the Moon' while the popular TV programme ‘Star Trek' once featured a shuttle craft named ‘El-Baz' in his honour. Today El Baz is a world renowned scientist and is research professor and director of the centre for remote sensing at Boston University.


Marwan Kassab Bashi (New Entry)



As one of today's most successful Arab artists, Germany-based Syrian Marwan Kassab Bashi has been painting for over 50 years since he left Syria in 1957 after studying Arab Literature at Damascus University. His work has been awarded by a number of leading bodies in the art world for its ability to bridge civilizations.


Dr Boutros Boutros Ghali (New entry)



The former UN secretary general continues to play a prominet role on the world stage. He had served as Egypt's minister of state for foreign affairs from 1977 until early 1991. He then became deputy minister for foreign affairs for several months before moving to the UN. As Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, he played a major part in the peace agreements between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin.


Abdulatif Al-Hamad (New Entry)

Director General, Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development


The Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD) is a Kuwait-based, pan-Arab development finance institute. All members of the League of Arab States are members of the fund. As of 2003, it held around US$7.3bn in assets. AFESD was established by the agreement of the Economic and Social Council of the League of Arab States. Its first meeting was held in 1972.

Examples of programs Al-Hamad has chaired include ‘The Middle East and North Africa's employment challenge in the 21st Century' and ‘The Role of the Arab National and Regional Development Institutions in World Development - the Prospects for Cooperation with International Institutions and Organisations' (both held in September 2003). Al-Hamad also serves on the International Advisory Council of the American University of Beirut. Furthermore, he is the former minister of finance and minister of planning in Kuwait. Previously, he was a director of several international, regional and national institutions, and served on committees of the United Nations, the World Bank Group, and several universities.


Afnan Al-Zayani (New Entry)

President, Al Zayani Commercial Services


Al-Zayani attended The American University of Beirut from 1973 to 1975 where she majored in Food Technology and attended the Nutrition School of Agriculture. Al-Zayani then went on to complete a Bachelor of Science in Food Technology at the School of Agriculture, Texas Technical University in the USA, from 1976 to 1977.

Since 1999, she has been President and Proprietor of Al Zayani Commercial Services W.L.L. Established in 1980, Al Zayani Commercial Services covers the telecoms, IT, agriculture and food sectors by having a network of business associates and joint ventures all over the world. The company's customer base covers ministries, banks, major companies, multi national organizations, institutes, as well as the business sector in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Al Zayani was the President of the Bahrain Businesswomen Society (established in May of 2000) from 2002-2004 and she was Board Member of Bahrain Businesswomen Society from 2004-2006. The Bahrain Businesswomen Society has been recognised around the world; they are a member in the Businesswomen's League and of the Businesswomen's Council, which is a part of the Arab League.

She is also a member of the International Businesswomen's Forum based in London and the Business Committee of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Al Zayani has won a number of awards including the Honours Award from the Ministry of Education (1977), the National Achievement Award (1992) and the Best Business Professional in the Middle East Award three years ago in 2004.


Sheikha Hanadi Bint Nasser Bin Khaled Al Thani (New Entry)

Managing Director, Amwal


Starting her career as a lecturing assistant in the economics of Qatar university, Sheikha Hanadi is at the helm of Qatar's leading investment banking, asset management and financial planning company. In 1998, she founded Qatar Ladies Investment Company (the now rebranded Amwal), the first investment company to receive a licence from the Qatar Central Bank to conduct investment banking, asset management and financial planning in Qatar.

Sheikha Hanadi is also CEO of the Al Waab City Real Estate development project; a development on an area of more than 1.2 million sq m's that integrates a variety of housing types, small and large scale retail, offices, health facilities, a culture center and a world class hotel.

She is also deputy CEO of Nasser Bin Khaled Al Thani & Sons Group, a privately-owned Qatari general trading and contracting company. The company was established in 1956 and today employs 1300 people.

A fervent supporter of community activities, she serves as a trustee on the board of the Arab Women's International Forum and the College of Business and Economics at Qatar University.

She was named Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2005 and voted as personality of the year by Arrayah, Qatar's leading newspaper, for her vision and contribution to the economy. Sheikha Hanadi was also named Woman CEO of the Year by the Middle East CEO Awards Institute in 2006, for her significant contribution in developing Qatar's economic and social presence in the Arab world. Leveraging on her experience, she conducted and published several research papers on macro-economic issues in the GCC.

Sheikha Hanadi holds a Masters degree in economics from the University of London, and a Bachelor degree from Qatar University.


Marwan Boodai (New Entry)

Chairman and CEO, Jazeera Airways


Marwan Boodai is one of Kuwait's most powerful business leaders. He is both chairman and CEO of Jazeera Airways, the Middle East's first private sector airline, that ended Kuwait's 50-year dependence on a single national airline.

The low-cost private airline began operations in October 2005 and flew 100,000 travellers in a record time of four months. On celebrating its first anniversary, Jazeera Airways announced that more than 500,000 passengers had already flown with the carrier. Today it operates services to 19 cities across the Middle East and India.

Aside from successfully launching Jazeera Airways, he is also CEO of the Boodai Corporation, a Kuwait-based business of semi-autonomous companies offering complementary products and services engaged the construction, engineering, shipping, logistical services, energy, consumer durables, media, broadcasting and publishing industries.

Set up in the mid-1950s to supply equipment and tools to the nascent oil exploration industry, today, it now has a work force of around 3500 people. Aside from its very strong presence in the Middle East, the Boodai Corporation has always had an international perspective - it has offices in Europe and Japan - and a long, outstanding history of involvement in joint ventures and multinational links.


Maha Abu Shusheh (New Entry)

Co-manager, Abu-Shusheh Contracting Company


Born in 1962 in Ramallah (Palestine) Abu Shusheh attended Ber Zeit University from which she graduated with a BA in Economics. She began her professional career as a co-manager of Abu-Shusheh Contracting Co., a road construction contractor, and became the manager in 1988. She developed the family business by establishing the sole agency of Peugeot Automobiles in Palestine.

Abu Shusheh is currently involved in many businesses and cultural organisations. She is the president of the board of directors of Riwaq (the Palestinian association for the preservation of architectural heritage) and the chairwoman of the Palestinian Shippers Council which represents Palestinian importers and exporters. She is also a member of PALTrade, Khalil Al-Sakakini Cultural Centre, a board member of the Palestinian Business Women Forum and a member of the board of trustees in Jerusalem University and the Palestinian National Conservatory of Music. Ms. Abu Shusheh was named as one of Forbes Arabia's top 50 influential Arab businesswomen - the only Palestinian woman to make the list.


Hussain Sajwani (New Entry)

Chairman, Damac Holding

United Arab Emirates

Hussain Sajwani is both the Founder and CEO of Damac Properties, the Middle East's largest private-sector luxury property developer. In just over two decades, Damac has grown from a local catering company to a global conglomerate with operations in over 16 countries.

Today, the Damac Group ranks among the largest business groups in the UAE: a name to reckon with in real estate, hospitality, industrial projects, investments, logistics and commercial trading. It is also the name behind some of the most distinguished residential and commercial projects in Dubai.

With its headquarters in Dubai, Damac has offices in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Iran and the UK. The group also has operations in numerous countries including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Syria, Azarbaijan, Turkmenistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Algeria.Damac Properties opened its first office in Egypt last month following the announcement in early December of the US$16.3bn Gamsha Bay project near Hurghada on the Red Sea coast.


Ramia Farrage

Anchor/News Editor, Emirates News


In the past year Ramia Farrage has secured exclusive interviews with some of the world's most influential decision makers. Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf hosted her in Islamabad for an exclusive 90 minute live interview broadcasting from his ultra high-security palace on CNBC. Musharraf invited 150 of his friends and colleagues to be audience members during the hour and a half long discussion.

Musharraf revealed his discomfort with America's opposition to the Indo-Pak-Iran oil pipeline and was adamant that Al Qaeda no longer had a significant presence in Pakistan.

Farrage also interviewed Mohammed Khatami, President of Iran, 1997-2005. Khatami admitted that the US encouraged Iran to launch a nuclear programme during the time of the US backed Shah and supplied Iran with material to build its nuclear reactor.

He also revealed he didn't believe the US would strike Iran's nuclear facilities because in his words, "America learned from its illegal invasion of Iraq that when it attacks a country unjustifiably, it spends billions of taxpayer's dollars and in return all it sees is the corpses of American youth."

Farrage also interviewed German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder where he claimed current Chancellor Angela Merkel is more successful as the leader of Germany because she's benefiting from the reforms he implemented during his terms. After five years as the Anchor and Producer of Business Arabia which aired internationally on CNBC World in the US, Canada and South America, CNBC Europe, CNBC Asia and CNBC Pakistan, Farrage has moved to Dubai One TV where she is the anchor and English news editor of Emirates News.


Amr Al Dabbagh (New Entry)

Chairman, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA)

Saudi Arabia

Prior to his role at SAGIA, Al Dabbagh was given the position, for two consecutive four-year terms, of a member of the Regional Council in Makkah region of Saudi Arabia.

Al Dabbagh was born in 1966 and served as the President and CEO of the Dabbagh Group from 1991 to 2004. Throughout that period the Dabbagh Group's recognition grew higher as it emerged into a portfolio-driven enterprise undergoing phenomenal growth in each of its five core areas of operation: Telecommunication, media and technology, energy, food, real estate development and financial services.


Ahmed Sheikh (New Entry)

Editor in Chief, Al Jazeera


Born in 1967 in Nablus on the West Bank in Palestine, Sheikh left Palestine for Jordan in 1968 to complete his studies. He currently holds the position of editor-in-chief in the Qatar-based Al Jazeera news channel. Al Jazeera is a television network that was originally launched as an Arabic news and current affairs satellite TV channel but has since expanded into a network of several specialised TV channels.


Ahlam Mosteghanemi (New Entry)



Algerian writer Ahlam Mostaghanemi was born in 1953 and is the daughter of Algerian revolutionary Mohammed Cherif. She is the first Algerian female writer whose works have been translated into English. These translations include Memory in the Flesh and Chaos of the Senses, two parts of a trilogy.

Her writings mainly portray the Algerian struggle for postcolonial development and security. Her prose is known for its sweeping and inspiring depiction of the Algerian plight while still preserving the characteristics of old Algeria. Her novel ‘Memory in the Flesh' was published simultaneously in Algeria and Lebanon in 1993 but became widely popular across the Arab world in 1998 when it won the Naguib Mahfouz Prize for literature selling 50,000 copies. Mostaghanemi currently resides in Beirut in Lebanon.


Elissa (New Entry)

Pop Singer


Lebanese pop singer, Alissar Khoury, currently known as Elissa, was born in Deir el Ahmar in Lebanon in 1972. She started her career as a singer in the early 1990s after participating in LBC's ‘Studio el Fan' talent show in which she was awarded the silver medal.

After a long period of avoiding the spotlight, she made a huge comeback with her Spanish-Arabic hit single ‘Baddi Doub' in 1998. After this, her career only went uphill as her albums' total sales reached up to 18 million.

Elissa has won two World Music Awards for best selling artist in the Middle East in 2005 and 2006.


Akbar Al Baker (New Entry)

CEO, Qatar Airways


Akbar Al Baker was appointed as chief executive officer of Qatar Airways late in 1996. The following year, Qatar Airways has since then steadily expanded its route network and managed to fly to 60 destinations by the end of 2005. In the last six years, Al Baker has transformed Qatar Airways into a profitable group of companies that comprise of Qatar Airways Holidays, Qatar Aviation Services, Qatar Aircraft Catering Company, Doha International Airport, United Media International, Qatar Distribution Company and Qatar Duty Free Company. Al Baker is the CEO of these seven subsidiaries.

Furthermore, Al Baker is playing an influential role in the development of Doha's new international airport, which will position Doha as a major regional aviation hub well into the future. Al Baker sits on the Government committee that is planning the new US$2.5bn airport, the first phase which will open in 2008. he is also a successful private businessman. Many aviation experts predict that Al Baker will rise high up our Power List in the next 12 months - watch out for a top 50 appearance next year!


Ziad Rahbani

Musician, Poet and Playwright


Born in 1956, Ziad Rahbani is a Lebanese composer and a writer for radio shows, theatre and newspapers.

The son of the famous Lebanese singer Fairouz and composer Assi Rahbani, he succeeded in conveying the cosmopolitan and pluralistic culture of his native city, Beirut.

Many of his musicals satirised the political situation in Lebanon both during and after the civil war; others addressed more philosophical as well as political questions. He played the main role in all of his plays.

In October 2006, Ziad started writing a regular column in a local newspaper called ‘Al-Akhbar' in which he tackles recent political in a deep and satirical way.


Shamsa Noor Ali Rashid (New Entry)

CEO, Forsa

United Arab Emirates

Shamsa Noor Ali Rashid is the CEO of Forsa, a US$272m fund dedicated to women investors and entrepreneurs, established earlier this year in Dubai. Rashid has over 25 years of experience in the US and UK where she worked at Procter & Gamble after which she went to establish and then sell an IT company in Silicon Valley. She has obtained her MBA degree from the University of Chicago and was one of the first Emirati women to study abroad.

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