REVEALED: Most powerful Arabs in culture and society

See photos of some of the world's most influential Arabs in culture and society
446 Fatima Mernissi.jpg
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446 Fatima Mernissi
\nCulture & Society
\nFatima Mernissi has published several books on the position of women in the rapidly changing Muslim communities in Morocco. Born in Fes in 1940, she published the result of her first fieldwork: ‘Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society’ in 1975.

\nSee the full list of the 500 most influential Arabs in the world here
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357 Buthaina Al Ansari
\nCulture & Society
\nA high-flying and inspiring business executive in Qatar, Buthaina Al Ansari received a Qatar Business Women Award for her Qatarisation work at Al Rayan Investment. She founded and manages Qatariat, a company that specialises in helping Qatari women advance into the workforce.
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348 Muna AbuSulayman
\nCommentator, former TV host
\nSaudi Arabia
\nCulture & Society
\nMuna AbuSulayman was the first Saudi woman to host a non-state television programme and one of the kingdom’s most prominent commentators on culture, society and gender. In 2004, she was named a Young Leader by the World Economic Forum. In addition, AbuSulayman went on to found several companies including; which aims to enhance female employment opportunities and Muna World.
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308 Zainab Salbi
\nAuthor, journalist, feminist
\nUS (Iraq)
\nCulture & Society
\nSalbi is the co-founder and president of Washington-based Women for Women International.
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302 Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
\nCordoba Initiative
\nUS (Kuwait)
\nCulture & Society
\nA backer of interfaith dialogue, Rauf has served as imam of one of the biggest mosques in New York.
290 Yusuf Al Qaradawi.jpg
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290 Yusuf Qaradawi
\nCulture & Society
\nHis TV programme — Sharia and Life — is broadcast on Al Jazeera and has an estimated audience of 40 million, and he is also the founder of the IslamOnline website.
\nIn 2008, Foreign Policy magazine rated Al Qaradawi at number eight in its list of the top 20 intellectuals worldwide. Al Qaradawi was imprisoned by King Farouk in 1949, and was jailed three times during Nasser’s rule. He returned to Egypt shortly after the revolution. Despite his popularity in some areas of the Arab world, Qaradawi’s views are considered controversial in the west.
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265 Mona Khazindar
\nSecretary General
\nInstitut du Monde Arabe
\nSaudi Arabia
\nCulture & Society
\nAs the first woman and first Saudi ever to be appointed director general of the Institut du Monde Arabe (IMA), Mona Khazindar is a prominent figure in Saudi Arabia’s art scene.
\nShe is also vice-president and founding member of the ‘Al-Mansouria Foundation for Culture and Creativity’, a non-profit cultural foundation that aims to promote Saudi and Arab contemporary art. With an impressive background in the industry, Khazindar has been with the IMA since 1986. Prior to her appointment with Khazindar, she was the curator of contemporary art and photography at the Institute, responsible for the IMA’s permanent art collection. Over the years, she has been the director of many exhibitions, and has contributed to numerous catalogues.
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213 James Zogby
\nArab American Institute
\nUS (Lebanon)
\nCulture & Society
\nZogby is the founder and president of the Arab American Institute (AAI), a Washington–based, not-for-profit organization that provides political and policy research on Arabs in America.
\nThe organisation, aims to empower Arabs in the American political system and increase the visibility of Arab-Americans. It also acts like a think tank, issuing policy initiatives and encouraging its members to contact members of Congress. Zogby is also managing director of Zogby Research Services, which specializes in research and communications and undertakes polling across the Arab World. Zogby is a lecturer on Middle East issues and a Visiting Professor of Social Research and Public Policy at New York University Abu Dhabi.
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212 Camilla Al Fayed
\nUK (Egypt)
\nCulture & Society
\nThe fourth of billionaire businessman Mohamed Al Fayed’s five children, Camilla Al Fayed helps run her father’s charities and is a trustee of the Al Fayed Foundation. She is particularly active in fundraising for children’s causes and is the Young Person Ambassador at The Evelina Children’s Hospital, children’s hospices CHASE and Shooting Star.
\nShe is also the aide for deaf footballer Daniel Ailey. The 28-year-old, who grew up with her father owning the famous London department store Harrods, started her own fashion label aged 22 and now owns a controlling share in the luxury brand Issa - a favourite of Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, and her sister Pippa Middleton. The heiress has a three-year-old daughter Luna to six-month-old daughter Luna to Syrian-born property tycoon Mohamad Esreb.
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180 Lama Sulaiman
\nDeputy Chairwoman
\nJeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry
\nSaudi Arabia
\nCulture & Society
\nLama Sulaiman was elected deputy chairwoman of the Jeddah Chamber for Commerce & Industry in December 2009, becoming the first female to hold such a post in Saudi history.\nHer appointment was even more remarkable given that just a week before standing for election, the businesswoman was told she had beaten breast cancer. The mother of four is a keen supporter of more women holding prominent roles in the kingdom. Al Sulaiman studied biochemistry at King Abdulaziz University before embarking on her doctorate in nutrition from King’s College London. She is also a board member of the Jeddah-based Rolaco Trading & Contracting and a member of the Young Arab Leaders.
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164 Marwan Muasher
\nCarnegie Endowment and \nformer deputy prime minister
\nUSA (Jordan)
\nCulture & Society
\nMarwan Muasher is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, where he oversees the Endowment’s research in Washington and Beirut on the Middle East.
\nMuasher served as foreign minister (2002–2004) and deputy prime minister (2004–2005) of Jordan, the highest post reached by a Christian in the kingdom. His career spanned diplomacy, development, civil society, and communications. Muasher began his career as a journalist for the Jordan Times before going on to serve at the Ministry of Planning, then as press adviser at the prime minister’s office, and as director of the Jordan Information Bureau in Washington. In 1995, Muasher opened Jordan’s first embassy in Israel, and in 1996 he became minister of information and the government spokesperson. From 1997 to 2002, he served in Washington again as ambassador, negotiating the first free-trade agreement between the US and an Arab nation. He later returned to Jordan to serve as foreign minister and then deputy prime minister.
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154 Tawakkul Karman
\nNobel Peace Prize laureate
\nCulture & Society
\nIn 2011, Tawakkul Karman was undoubtedly the female face of the Arab Spring when it came to the shores of her home country Yemen. The youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize that year - aged just 32 - Karman has found herself touring the world, bringing Yemen’s plight before diplomats and fighting for women’s rights.
\nIn her own country, of course, she has been working hard to promote freedom of speech for years. In 2005, she set up the campaign group Women Journalists Without Chains. But Karman really hit the international headlines in 2011, when she led a series of protests calling for the departure of Yemeni president Saleh. Saleh has since quit his post after 33 years in power. In an interview with AFP last month, Karman warned that President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi was powerless when it came to the control of the army and was thus unable to implement his plans to reshape Yemen’s security forces.
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140. Raja Al Gurg
\nManaging Director
\nEasa Saleh Al Gurg Group
\nCulture & Society
\nRaja Easa Saleh Al Gurg wears many hats. Not only is she the managing director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, the firm of which her father is chairman, but she is also president of the Dubai Business Women’s Council. Al Gurg is also deputy chairperson of the board of directors at Dubai Healthcare City Authority, and a board member at both the Dubai Chamber of Commerce & Industry and the Dubai Women’s Council. She is also a member of the Dubai Economic Council.
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125. Wadah Khanfar
\nAl Sharq Forum
\nQatar (Palestine)
\nCulture & Society
\nHe is now the President of Al Sharq Forum, an independent network dedicated to developing long-term strategies for political development, social justice and economic prosperity of the people of the Middle East. He previously served as the director general of the Al Jazeera Network. He has been ranked by Foreign Policy magazine in 2011 as the first in The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers, and in Fast Company as the first in the 100 Most Creative People in Business (2011). During his tenure Al Jazeera went from a single channel to a media network with multiple properties including the Al Jazeera Arabic channel, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Documentary, Al Jazeera Sport, Al Jazeera’s news websites, and the Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Center.
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122. Mohammed ElBaradei
\nFormer director general
\nCulture & Society
\nHe was the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an intergovernmental organization under the auspices of the United Nations, from 1997 to 2009. He and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. ElBaradei was also an important figure in the 2011 Egyptian revolution which ousted the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
\nElBaradei is currently the leader of Egypt›s Constitution Party, which aims to group the liberal forces of the country, in order to protect and promote the principles and objectives of the 25 January 2011 Revolution according to liberal ideals. He is a prominent figure of the Egyptian opposition.
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119. IIham Al Madfai
\nArts & Entertainment
\nHe is an Iraqi guitarist, singer and composer. Al Madfai’s synthesis of Western guitar stylings with traditional Iraqi music has made him a popular performer in his native country and throughout the Middle East. His Western-inspired compositions led to a nickname; “The Baghdad Beatle”. Al Madfai began studying guitar at the age of twelve.
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113. Anissa Helou
\nLebanon (Syria)
\nCulture & Society
\nHelou started off with a career as Sotheby’s representative for the Middle East, followed by some time in Paris where she ran an antique shop and then took up an advisory role to members of the ruling family of Kuwait before embarking on a new course in her life in the 1990s involving cooking. The trilingual chef who recently founded Anissa’s School, has made numerous media appearances and written extensively on food with columns appearing in the Financial Times.
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108. Mona Al Munajjed
\nSaudi Arabia
\nCulture & Society
\nDr Mona Al Munajjed is not only Saudi Arabia’s foremost sociologist – she’s a high-profile women’s activist as well. She has spent fifteen years working and advising various UN international agencies, including the International Labour Office, the UN International Children’s Fund, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA). Some of Al Munajjed’s work for ESCWA involved helping local NGOs in Saudi Arabia, particularly by providing technical assistance and advisory services to women’s welfare associations in Jeddah, Riyadh, Al Qassim, Ha’il and other areas.
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93. Hamad Buamim
\nDirector general
\nDubai Chamber
\nCulture & Society
\nAs chief of the Dubai Chamber, representing the private sector’s interests in the emirate, Hamad Buamim is a busy man. He’s a regular traveller, marketing Dubai’s businesses to the world, and in turn trying to get international firms to set up shop in the emirate.
\nAnd he also acts as a go-between between the private sector and the government, offering the chamber’s advice on laws and regulations. If the World Bank is to be trusted, then Buamim is doing a pretty good job.
\nEvery year the agency publishes global rankings that rate each country in terms of their ease of doing business. The UAE ranked 40th in 2011, but shot up to 26th place last year. This year, Buamim was also elected vice chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce World Chambers Federation.
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58. Habib Al Mulla
\nHabib Al Mulla & Co
\nDr Habib Al Mulla is well-known as a straight talker. As perhaps the UAE’s foremost lawyer, he made his name by founding the financial free zones concept that led to the launch of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and the Dubai Financial Services Authority. More than most, he is qualified to discuss the emirate’s recent performance in a candid and honest light. “These signs of recovery do not mean that all is well, that no mistakes were made, and that that there aren’t areas in need of improvement,” Al Mulla told the Arabian Business Forum recently. He has held a series of key posts, including membership of the UAE’s Legislative and Economic Committees. He also sat as a member of the Federal National Council.
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57. Zaha Hadid
\nUK (Iraq)
\nCulture & Society
\nKnown as the ‘Starchitect’, Zaha Hadid’s designs immediately lend superstar quality to any building project. Last year, the Hadid-designed Aquatics Centre was rated by many as perhaps the most beautiful of all the buildings constructed to host London’s Olympic Games. The Iraq-born architect became the first woman to win the prestigious Pritzker Prize for Architecture in its 26-year history in 2004 and has won a string of other accolades since, including the Stirling prize for two years running and a prestigious architecture prize for the MAXXI National Museum of 21st Century Arts in Rome. Right now, Hadid’s work is receiving rave reviews in China, where her Wangjing SOHO office and retail complex is set to open next year.
\nHadid has designed a number of renowned buildings including Maggie’s Centre at the Victoria Hospital in Scotland and the Bridge Pavilion in Spain. In 2010, her London-based architectural firm was commissioned to design the new building for the Central Bank of Iraq, her first project in her native country. Hadid is yet to visit the site, but the plans are still in place.
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47. Nabeel Rajab
\nHuman rights activist
\nCulture & Society
\nNabeel Rajab remains a controversial figure in Bahrain, where he is president of the country’s Centre for Human Rights. He started his human rights activities in the 1990s, and has campaigned on behalf of migrant workers in the Gulf countries. Rajab has been arrested several times during the recent unrest, and was recently handed a three-year jail sentence for “involvement in illegal practices and inciting gatherings and calling for unauthorized marches via social networking sites.” \n
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39. Mohammed Al Marri
\nDirector general
\nDubai Naturalisation and Residency Department
\nCulture & Society
\nA former policeman with 26 years on the force under his belt, Al Marri has been at the forefront at massive change at the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD), where a switch to online services, plus a new training complex, have seen a huge improvement in service.
\nWhile many might see the DNRD role as a behind-the-scenes position, Al Marri’s role is actually vital in streamlining the vast numbers of visitors to Dubai, and ensuring that the flow of tourist dollars remains high. In a government reshuffle ordered by Deputy Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the start of 2010, Al Marri saw his responsibilities increased. Already head of Dubai’s Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) since 2007, he was appointed head of the commission for social development, one of five new committees that will assist Dubai’s decision-making.
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37. Leila El Solh
\nVice chairwoman
\nAlwaleed Bin Talal Foundation
\nCulture & Society
\nThe youngest daughter of the late former Lebanse prime minister, Riad El Solh, Leila El Solh was the first woman in her country’s history to hold a cabinet position when she took on the Minister of Industry brief in 2004.
\nToday, she is best known for her work with the Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation in Lebanon. Chaired by HRH Prince Alwaleed, the foundation has managed to reach many areas in Lebanon to provide funds for development projects and alleviate poverty. Under El Solh’s stewardship, the foundation has become a pillar of support for education, health and social organisations throughout the country. In 2008, she was awarded the Pontifical Medal by Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of the efforts made by the foundation to encourage religious tolerance.
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19. Elie Saab
\nFashion designer
\nCulture & Society
\n“I am not only a fashion designer, I have the vision of an entrepreneur, a businessman,” Elie Saab told Arabian Business recently.
\nHe couldn’t be more right. Today, the 47-year-old runs a truly global empire, with boutiques in Beirut, Paris, London, Dubai, Hong Kong and Mexico City. The collections are sold in 50 countries and 70 points of sale worldwide. The Elie Saab story is as original as many of his designs. Born in Beirut to a wood merchant and housewife, his interest in dress making started when he was just nine years old. In 1982, at the age of 18, he opened his first couture atelier in Beirut with fifteen staff on the payroll. Today, with the expansion and growth of the brand, more than 200 employees are part of ELIE SAAB Group. The brand’s global breakthrough started in 1997 with an invitation to take part in the Camera Nazionale della Moda as the only non Italian designer.
\nSince 1999, Elie Saab has dressed Hollywood cinema, music, theatre and television A-list stars. A philanthropist, he participated in many charity events: Paris tout P’tits, les Sapins des Créateurs, les Frimousses des Créateurs, Sidaction, Red Cross fund-raisers, but also the Mosaic Foundation in Washington, the fight against breast cancer in London, the fight against children’s cancer in Beirut. In 2003, he received the title of “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Cèdre” presented to him by the President of the Lebanese Republic.
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14. Dahi Khalfan Tamim
\nDubai Police
\nCulture & Society
\nLieutenant General Dahi Khalfan Tamim has had a remarkable career in public service.
\nIn 1970 he graduated from the Royal Police Academy in Jordan, after which he specialised in criminal investigations. After working his way up the chain of command, in 1979 he was appointed Deputy Chief of Police in Dubai, before taking the top job in 1980. Over the past 31 years, he has totally transformed the police force, its role and its reputation internationally and locally.
\nHe has published eight major reports on policing, and credited with a number of the police force’s key achievements in the last three decades. These include launching the Dubai Police Academy; establishing the Dubai Forensic Laboratory and the use of DNA in investigations; forming the land, marine and air rescue teams and establishing a special rehabilitation centre for drug addicts.
\nTamim is also largely credited with driving the force towards using modern technology – it was the first government department to use emails, and later became the first fully operational e-government department.
\nA major figure on the emirate’s political scene, Tamim’s forthright views are respected by both expatriates and locals. In addition, he is also highly regarded for his social welfare work, which has included the establishment of an orphanage in Dubai, and the launch of the Khalfan School for teaching the Holy Quran.