The 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015
Welcome to CEO Middle East’s fifth annual list of the world’s most powerful Arab women — our yearly look at the most important female influencers across the Arab world.
1. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi
\nMinister International Cooperation and Development
\nThere won’t be many people who are surprised to see Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi retain top spot in this power list, such is her influence not only throughout the region, but across the world.
\nNumber one for the fifth year in a row, Sheikha Lubna has continued to boost the UAE’s role as a major donor and key player in global human development through her role as the Federal Government’s Minister of International Cooperation and Development.
\nCarrying out her responsibilities with her trademark energy and enthusiasm, Sheikha Lubna has ensured the UAE’s overseas aid donations have continued to increase. A recent report shows that aid of this type more than tripled to nearly $6 billion in 2013 - the year she took up her role, after a lengthy spell as Minister of Foreign Trade.\nDuring her time as Minister of Foreign Trade, and before that as Minister of Economy, from 2004-2008, the UAE enjoyed its most prosperous period and highest volumes of foreign trade.
\nAs well as her numerous ministerial responsibilities, Sheikha Lubna is also a board director at the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, a member of the governing board of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy - National University of Singapore, a board director at the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development, a member of the board of trustees of the Dubai School of Government, and co-founder and board member of the Friends of Cancer Patients.\nAlso a great champion for women in business, Sheikha Lubna is a regular advocate for womens rights, education, and empowerment.
\nEarlier this year, in her role as president of Zayed University, she helped forge ties between the university and Dubai Women Establishment, in a bid to unite their efforts in boost the participation of UAE women, and to help them reach their personal and professional goals.
\nLast month, she also spoke at the Government Summit, calling for improvements for women, and highlighting UAE grants to educate girls in other countries such as Pakistan and Yemen.
\nShe said: “When a society doesn’t focus on female education, you see after a while that it does not provide women with enough opportunities. In the UAE today, we’ve seen that education for women has been a priority since the inception of the state and women were able to access many sectors because of education.”
2. Amal Clooney
\nLawyer, activist & author
\nAmal Clooney – nee Alamuddin – shot into public prominence in 2014 when she married A-list Hollywood celebrity George Clooney.
\nBut the truth is that the new Mrs Clooney has been one of the most high-profile – and busy – lawyers and activists in recent years, fighting numerous human rights, international law and criminal law cases, with clients such as Julian Assange and Yulia Tymoshenko on her books.
\nEducated at Oxford University and the New York University School of Law, Clooney started her career at Sullivan & Cromwell before moving to the Office of the Prosecutor at the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
\nWorking on high-profile cases representing the state of Cambodia, the former Libyan intelligence chief, and others, she was later appointed to a number of UN commissions, including as advisor to Special Envoy Kofi Annan on Syrian, and as Counsel to the 2013 Drone Inquiry by UN human rights rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC.
\nClooney’s campaigning has seen her meet with William Hague during his tenure as British foreign secretary to discuss how to protect children in conflict zones from rape and sexual violence, and in October last year she became involved in the repatriation of the Elgin Marbles for the Greek government.
\nEarlier this year she began work on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and recent reports suggest she is set to represent 14 Irish men who claim they were tortured by the British Army.
3. Loujain Al Hathloul
\nWomen’s right’s activist
\nCulture & society
\nOccasionally a single incident can catapult a woman into the headlines, establishing her as a symbol for a particular cause.
\nLoujain Al Hathloul is one such woman, whose defiance of the Saudi Arabian driving ban for women led to her imprisonment, subsequent release, and a raising of the controversial topic at home in the GCC and around the rest of the world.
\nAl Hathloul was arrested along with Maysaa Al Amoudi and referred to a terrorism court in the Saudi capital of Riyadh last December. She was taken in by police when she attempted to drive from the UAE into Saudi Arabia, with Al Amoudi arrested when she went to the border to support her, according to reports.\nThe driver’s large social media following had been following her journey before the arrest, as Al Hathloul was tweeting regular updates as she got closer to the border.
\nHaving been arrested on 1 December, the women were freed this February, prompting Al Hathloul to tweet for the first time since her arrest. “Peace be upon you, good people,” she wrote.
4. (5) Lubna Olayan
\nOlayan Financing Company
\nBanking & finance
\nIt’s no surprise to see Lubna Olayan in the top five yet again, given her status as Saudi Arabia’s most prolific businesswoman.
\nOlayan is the CEO of Riyadh-based Olayan Financing Company, a group founded by her father in 1947 which has become one of the kingdom’s most successful conglomerates with operations across distribution, manufacturing, services and investments.\nSitting on the board of the group along with her brother Khaled and sisters Hayat and Hutham, it is thought that the private family has accumulated a fortune topping $10 billion.
\nWith operations and participation in more than 40 companies, OFC is also one of the leading investors in the Saudi and regional stock markets.
\nAs well as her work with OFC, Olayan is on the board of trustees of the Arab Thought Foundation - a think-tank focussing on issues within the Arab world - as well as a non-executive director to WPP, and on the advisory boards for Rolls-Royce and Ctigroup. She is a member of the International Business Council of the Word Economic Forum.
\nFurther positions include sitting on the board of directors of INSEAD, membership of of college and university boards, and seats on boards of philanthropic organisations such as Alfanar, and medical associations.
5. (3) Reem Al Hashimy
\nAfter having played an instrumental role in UAE’s successful Expo 2020 bid last year, Reem Al Hashimy’s workload has increased exponentially as she works towards the global event which will arrive in five years.
\nExpo 2020 is expected to provide 277,000 new job opportunities, and bring in almost $25 billion in added economic activities, and Al Hashimy is at the forefront of making that possibility a reality.
\nNot only is she responsible for laying the groundwork necessary to host 25 million visitors, but she is also an integral part of the team looking beyond 2020, ensuing Dubai makes the most of the event in subsequent years.
\nAnd that’s just one part of her responsibilities. As Minister of State for the UAE, Al Hashimy is a vital part of the federal government, as well as managing the International Affairs Unit of the Executive Office of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, and ruler of Dubai.
\nIn addition she chairs Dubai Cares, a charity aimed at improving children’s access to primary education in poorer parts of the world, as well as the Emirates Competitiveness Council, which works with public and private entities to endorse polices and undertake actions which will drive the UAE’s competitiveness agenda.\nAnd it doesn’t stop there. Al Hashimy is also the chair of the National Bureau of Statistics, and has travelled the world to improve relationships between the UAE and other countries.
6. Mariam Al Mansouri
\nWhen the UAE launched strikes against ISIL late last year, it was Major Mariam Al Mansouri who became the face of the UAE airforce.
\nThe 35-year-old F-16 pilot led the missions in Syria, generating media coverage across the globe as the UAE’s first female fighter pilot, with the vast majority praising her involvement as a huge step for women in the armed forces and a boost for gender equality in the Middle East. Now a symbol of defiance against extremism, and proactivity in the fight against ISIL, Al Mansouri graduated from the United Arab Emirates Air Force academy in 2007. She also received the Mohammed bin Rashid Pride of the Emirates medal for excellence in her field. Her involvement in the 2014 airstrikes were not met with universal positivity. Following the news coverage on American TV, Fox News Channel hosts Eric Bolling and Greg Gutfeld made sexist comments about Al Mansouri - an episode was widely criticised, and served to further enhance the pilot’s reputation.
7. (9) Mona Al Munajjed
\nCulture & society
\nDr Mona Al Munajjed is an award-winning and prominent sociologist at the forefront of those influencing women’s affairs in Saudi Arabia.
\nShe is an advisor on social and gender issues and an author on social issues in the GCC countries. She holds a PhD in Sociology from George Washington University, Washington DC, and an MA in Sociology from New York University, New York. She is the author of the newly acclaimed book, Saudi Women: A Celebration of Success. Her publications include the books Women in Saudi Arabia Today, Significance of Arabic Names for Girls in the Arab World, and Saudi Women Speak.
\nShe is a regular contributor to newspapers and magazines in the Gulf region. She has spent fifteen years working with and advising various United Nations international agencies on programs and projects related to gender, women, and social development, including field missions in the Arab region. She received the United Nations 21 Commendation Award in recognition of her contribution to the project: “Activating the role of women welfare associations in Saudi Arabia”.
8. Salwa Idrissi Akhannouch
\nCEO and founder
\nAs the head of Akwa Group, a distributor of petroleum products, and the CEO of retail and luxury group Aksal, Akhannouch is one of Morocco’s wealthiest female entrepreneurs.
\nDespite being born into privilege, Akhannouch decided to take the harder route to wealth and success. No doubt benefitting from her grandfather’s tea empire and husband’s political standing, the high-flier has worked tirelessly to put – and keep – herself at the top of the luxury market in North Africa.
\nHer career started in 1993 when she launched a distribution company for floor laying materials, but things have changed a lot in the intervening years.
\nAmong other things, she holds exclusive rights in Morocco to distribute various fashion brands such as Zara, Banana Republic and Gap, and has built an impressive real estate portfolio, including 50 percent of Morocco Mall – Africa’s largest shopping centre, which attracts 15 million visitors each year.
9. (12) Amina Al Rustamani
\n“We are very aggressive in our plan,” said Amina Al Rustamani in an interview with Arabian Business last year.
\nThe CEO of TECOM Investments was talking about the Dubai Design District (d3), TECOM’s flagship project which could change the face of creativity in the region.
\nThe executive has won huge praise – and awards – for her leadership of the project which will boost Dubai’s economy through fashion, design, art, and other sectors. The $1 billion masterplan has been approved and construction is well under way, meaning the coming months and years will be as busy and exciting for Al Rustamani as ever.
\nStarting her career in 2001 as a project engineer in Dubai Media City, she has risen to become one of the Arab world’s most powerful and respected women, looking after upwards of 4,500 companies across a number of industries at TECOM Business Parks.
\nShe is also a board member of Dubai Media Incorporated (DMI), as well as Lamtara, Tunisie Telecom, and the Dubai Holding Audit Committee.\nAdd to this her role in developing innovative media initiatives, such as People Meter and the Digital Video Broadcasting project, and you have a good idea of why Al Rustamani is held is such high regard.
10. Zainab Mohammed
\nCEO – Property Management, Marketing & Communications Manager
\nAs CEO of property management, market and communication at property developer wasl, Mohammed has built a reputation as a driving force behind Dubai’s real estate sector.
\nMohammed plays a critical part in running the company that looks after the property portfolio owned by the government’s Dubai Real Estate Corporation (effectively the emirate’s biggest landlord). She and her team oversee several of wasl’s most important divisions.
\nShe also overlooks the wasl call centre, and wasl owners’ association management, and if that isn’t enough for one person, Mohammed also sits on the board of Dubai blue-chip developer Emaar.
\nHer position at wasl is a rarity for women in the region’s real estate industry - an industry which remains male-dominated, but is changing thanks to the likes of Mohammed.
\nShe said in recent interview: “This scenario represents a challenge for female professionals working within it. However, women have proven that they have what it takes to be leaders in all sectors… I believe that if a woman works hard and utilised every opportunity, she will get where she wants to be.”
11. (6) Nayla Hayek
\nThe latter of those two positions came to pass in 2013 after Swatch acquired the company in a deal thought to be worth up to $1 billion, and it’s certainly a job that keeps Hayek busy with plans to grow from 20 Harry Winston boutiques to 30 by the end of 2015.
\nHarry Wnston made headlines in 2014 when it bought the flawless blue diamond, the Winston B, in May 2014 for $23.8 million.
\nSwatch was co-founded by Hayek’s father, who died in 2010, leaving Hayek and her brother to oversee the company which employs almost 34,000 people in 50 countries. In 2014, net profits fell to $1.33bn, although the firm announced last month it would be introducing a smart watch.
\nThe executive’s passion for horses had led to her being an International Arabian horse judge, as well as owning more than 60 purebred Arabian horses. She splits her time between Biel, Switzerland, and Dubai.
12. (13) Dr Rana Dajani
\nSocial innovator Rana Dajani’s main job may be assistant professor and director of studies at the Hashemite University in Zarqa, but it is her bold literacy programme We Love Reading that really catches the attention.
\nThe founder and director of the initiative aims to create a library in every neighbourhood in her home country of Jordan, in order to foster a love of reading among Jordanian children. He work on this front began in 2006 at a community mosque where Dajani held weekly storytelling session with children aged four to 10. The programme has since trained almost 700 storytellers - all of them women - and has led to the creation of 300 libraries across the country, reaching out to more than 10,000 children.
\nThe model has spread to Lebanon, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and other countries further afield such as Mexico and Uganda, and it doesn’t look like stopping any time soon.
\nOn the science side, Dajani’s list of titles and roles makes for lengthy reading. Her research focuses on genome-wide association studies concerning diabetes and cancer in ethnic populations in Jordan, and she has a wide array of certifications to back up her stellar credentials.
\nShe is also a consultant to the Higher Council for Science and Technology in Jordan, and has written about science and women in the Arab world, as well as sitting on the UN Women Civil Society Advisory Group in Jordan.
\nAnd this is just the tip of the iceberg. Who knows what extra accolades Dajani will have accrued in a year’s time?
13. (2) Haifaa Al Mansour
\nArts and entertainment
\nLast summer, Haifaa Al Mansour was making headlines in the film industry again with her latest directorial plans - a period romantic drama based on the relationship between Mary and Percy Shelley.
\nA Storm in the Stars, which should start filming this year, would represent the follow-up to Al Mansour’s debut feature film - and cultural landmark - Wadjda. The festival smash from 2012 thrust the Saudi director into the limelight and brought into focus numerous societal talking points, prompting widespread acclaim for Al Mansour, as well as some criticism and even hate mail from some quarters.
\nWadjda tells the story of a rebellious young girl who dreams of owning a green bicycle, and Al Mansour was forced to direct parts of the film from a van with a walkie talkie, so not to be seen in public.
\nAlso a backer of the campaign to allow women to drive in her home country, she say she has received death threats for her views from local conservatives.\nIn an interview shortly after the release of Wadjda, Al Mansour made clear her reasons for becoming a film maker.
\n“I want to do stories about embracing life and hop and empowering girls, it’s very dear to me to make things like this,” she said.
15. (11) Manahel Thabet
\nIf reports of Manahel Thabet’s IQ of 168 are accurate, she would be in the top 0.1 of people in the world – something that would come as little surprise given her incredible run of achievements.\nAt the age of 25 she earned her first PhD in financial engineering, magna cum laude, making her the youngest person to every attain the distinction. A PhD in quantum mechanics came later, as did numerous awards including a United National humanitarian award.
\nThe founder president of Smart Tips Consultants was named as Genius of the Year for Asia in 2013, and was chosen to be part of the World Genius Directory, an agency she now chairs.
\nThabet previously traded in the stock market, but withdrew her investments in 2007 after believing there would be a financial crisis. Indeed, Smart Tips was created to help those who had suffered from the crippling crisis.
\nAn active member of MENSA, Young Arab Leaders, and other groups and organisations, Synergy University also announced in 2014 that Thabet will be the Patron of the MBA Women’s Leadership Programme.
16. (19) Hayat Sindi
\nInvestor, scientist, entrepreneur
\nA constant trail-blazer, Hayat Sindi has long been hailed as one of the most innovative women in science across the Arab world.
\nBorn in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, her story is one of dogged perseverance and drive. As a young woman she convinced her family to allow her to travel alone to the UK in order to pursue higher education, despite not speaking any English.
\nMarked by a succession of accolades, Sindi’s career in diagnostics, biotechnology and inventing has been hailed not only in the Middle East but around the world. She became the first Saudi and female scientist to become a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for sciences, and was one of the first 30 women to be appointed to Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council – the formal advisory body to the King.
\nRecently awarded the Leadership in Civil Society prize by the Clinton Global Initiative, Sindi’s main focus is currently her fellowship programme, the i2 Institute, through which she aims to mentor and develop the next generation of inventors and entrepreneurs.
17. (14) Leila El Solh
\nAlwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation
\nCulture & society
\nThe youngest daughter of former Lebanese prime minster Riad Al Solh, Leila Al Solh served as Lebanon’s minister of industry, but is best know as vice president of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation.
\nAl Solh was the first woman to be appointed minister in Lebanon when she took the industry portfolio in 2004, a year after taking the role with the Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation.
\nHer work with the foundation has won widespread acclaim. In 2008 she was honoured with the Pontifical Medal by Pope Benedict XVI, the same year that she received the Gold Medal from HH Kerekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians, and an Honourary Trophy from the Arab League.
\nThe foundation was established to formalise the philanthropic undertakings of Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud.
20. (24) Hanan Al Kuwari
\nHamad Medical Corporation
\nAs the head of Qatar’s largest public healthcare provider, Hanan Al Kuwari has one of the most important jobs for maintaining and improving the wellbeing of the country’s residents.
\nThe managing director of Hamad Medical Corporation, Al Kuwari manages eight specialised hospitals around Qatar, as well as running the national ambulance service and home healthcare services.
\nIn February HMC opened its latest facility – the Enaya Specialised Care Centre, which will provide medical attention to long-term patients, and there are plans to add to the number of hospitals under HMC’s umbrella.
\nAs well as her work with HMC, Al Kuwari is also a member of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, and the chairperson of the Qatar Biobank Board.
\nIn a recent interview with Arabian Business, she explained her basic philosophy which has helped her to succeed: “I’m an optimist, I always believe we can achieve whatever we put our minds to.”
21. (8) Zaha Hadid
\nThe mega projects keep on coming for Zaha Hadid – playfully nicknamed both the Starchitect, and the Lady Gaga of architecture.
\nThe British Iraqi followed up 2014’s unveiling of Qatar’s first World Cup stadium with incredible designs for Beijing’s new airport terminal, scheduled to open in 2018, and the Bee’ah Headquarters in Sharjah, to name but two.
\nThe architect is enjoying a stellar period, with Zaha Hadid Holdings enjoying a $16 million hike in turnover from $56.8 million to almost $74 million for the year up to 30 April 2014.
\nNew revenue streams such as Central America have helped Hadid cement her position as one of the world’s leading architects. The Middle East is one of her most profitable regions, with work including the Riyadh Metro in Saudi Arabia, and the new Central Bank of Iraq, but as yet there are no plans to open a satellite office in the region.
23. (20) Fatima Al Jaber
\nGroup chief operating officer
\nAl Jaber Group
\nIn her role as chief operating officer, Fatima Al Jaber oversees more than 60,000 members of staff at the Al Jaber Group, as well as managing around $5 billion in assets.
\nSince taking the position in 2007, Al Jaber has taken charge of some of the UAE’s most iconic construction projects. The company was founded by her father more than 40 years ago, and Al Jaber herself has become one of the region’s most high-profile and respected businesswomen, as well as an advocate for women’s and young people’s rights.
\nShe holds the distinction of becoming the first Emirati woman to be elected to the board of directors at the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce in 2009, and help numerous positions in the Abu Dhabi municipal government.
24. Majida Ali Rashid
\nAssistant director general
\nDubai Land Department
\nThe importance and quality of Majida Ali Rashid’s work was recognised last year when she was presented with the prestigious Female CEO of the Year award at the CEO Middle East Awards.
\nAs assistant director general of Dubai Land Department, and head of the Investment Management and Promotion Centre – the department’s investment arm – Rashid has played an important role in developing Dubai’s real estate sector and standing as an investment destination.
\nDuring her tenure she has explored numerous opportunities for the promotion of Dubai, launching various schemes that have contributed to attracting global investment to Dubai’s real estate sector, while ensuring transparency in the market through a constant process of monitoring and policy.
26. (10) Samia Halaby
\nArts and entertainment
\nWith a career going back to the 1960s, Samia Halaby is one of the Arab world’s best known and most distinguished female artists.
\nHer recent retrospective, Samia Halaby: Five Decades of Painting and Inspiration, highlights the breadth and popularity of her work, showcasing the artist’s development over the years, as well as her recurring themes.
\nOne of these themes is her home country of Palestine, where she was born - in Jerusalem - in 1936. Fleeing with her family to Beirut in 1948, and later to the US in 1951, Halaby studied design at the University of Cincinnati and painting at Indiana University.
\nShe later taught at some of the world’s most prestigious art institutions, such as The Cooper Union, Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, and the University of Michigan. She was also the first female art professor to teach at the Yale School of Art.
\nDescribed as the ‘master of abstraction’, Halaby has explained that her approach is to look at the general rather than the specific, seeking patterns in her surroundings, and that she draws inspiration from “the advanced art of revolutionary periods from all over the world”.
27. (17) Maha Laziri
\nAs the founder of Teach4Morocco, Maha Laziri and her NGO’s small team have built schools in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, the village of Ait Hamza, and the Tassaout Valley.
\nCreated in 2011 and based in Meknes, Morocco, the company is made up of a team of young people concerned about the state of education in the country. With a mission to help make Morocco’s education better, Laziri and her team aim to provide all Moroccon people with access to quality education.
\nIn December last year, Laziri was appointed International Associate for the Middle East and Africa region by the Clinton Global Initiative.
28. (22) Somayya Jabarti
\nLast year, Somayya Jabarti became the first woman ever to take control of one of Saudi Arabia’s newspapers.
\nThe editor-in-chief of the Saudi Gazette replaced replaced Khaled Almaeena in February 2014, and the appointment was noted as a milestone in a country where women’s rights are sometimes limited.
\nSpeaking at the time, Jabarti said: “There’s a crack that has been made in the glass ceiling. And I’m hoping it will be made into a door. Being the first Saudi woman [editor-in-chief] is going to double the responsibility… One’s actions will reflect upon my fellow Saudi women.”
29. (25) Raja Al Gurg
\nEasa Saleh Al Gurg Group
\nThere is no escaping Raja Al Gurg’s high standing within the region’s business landscape.
\nNot only does she excel as managing director of the Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, but the high-profile business woman sits as a board member of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and INdustry, president of the Dubai Business Women’s Council, and board member of the Dubai Women Association.
\nAnd it doesn’t stop there. Her other positions include member of the Dubai Government’s Economic Council, Federation of the UAE Chambers of Commerce and Industry Business Women’s Committee, Arab International Women’s Forum, and the National Advisory Council for Zayed University’s College of Business Sciences.
\nShe is also deputy chairperson of the Dubai Medical Authoriy and chairperson of the Board of Directors of Al Jalila Foundation.
30. (18) Hamdiyah Al Jaff
\nTrade Bank of Iraq
\nBanking & finance
\nAs the chairman of the Trade Bank of Iraq, Hamdiyah Al Jaff run’s Iraq’s biggest financial institution.
\nThe Trade Bank of Iraq was set up by the US after the invasion of the country in 2003 and has become enormously influential due to the fact it is owned by the government and provides most of the letters of credit for government purchases.
\nAs the bank was established specifically to assist with the reconstruction of Iraq, Al Jaff has a huge say on how the country’s various new projects and infrastructure will be financed.
31. (21) Shaikha Al Bahar
\nDeputy group CEO
\nNational Bank of Kuwait
\nBanking & finance
\nA year into her tenure as deputy group CEO of National Bank of Kuwait, things appear to be going well for Shaikha Al Bahar.
\nPreviously CEO of the National Bank of Kuwait’s home operations, her promotion was a huge vote of confidence and came as part of the lender’s reshuffle following the the departure of long-term group CEO Ibrahim Dabdoub.
\nAlso on the board of the International Bank of Qatar, a director of Mobile Telecommunications Company KSC, vice chairman of Watani Investment Company KSCC, and vice chair of Watani Investment Company KSC, Al Bahar is an important figure in Kuwait’s business landscape.
35. (65) Joelle Mardinian
\nArts and entertainment
\nRenowned television personality Joelle Mardinian has had another great year, signing an agreement to expand her business - Maison De Joelle - into Morocco.
\nThe move represents the first time the prominent make-up artist and beauty expert has taken her company outside the Gulf, though her reputation has already gone beyond borders. Her weekly MBC reality show, Joelle, has made her a familiar face across the region, focusing on the beauty transformation of individual women. Mardinian is also the official regional creative director for world famous cosmetics brand Max Factor, for which she created a summer 2014 look.
36. (38) Noura Al Kaabi
\nWith the UAE continuing to push to become a world leader in innovation, Noura Al Kaabi’s stock continues to rise.\nThe head of Abu Dhabi’s media free zone - twofour54 - has had another impressive year. In August 2014 the CEO was awarded an honorary degree by the Protocol School of Washington at a ceremony in Washington DC, after which she delivered a keynote address on Women in Leadership Roles to an audience of more than 250 protocol and diplomatic professionals.
\nAs a member of the Federal National Council she has brought a media and technology slant to proceedings, calling once for regulations to ensure photos of abused children do not appear publicly, and another time encouraging governmental bodies to make better use of social media.
\nThe role of twofour54 in the global film market is also increasing, with the new Star Wars and Fast and Furious movies being shot in Abu Dhabi, and the free zone continues to create innovative content, promote digital media, and foster local talent.
37. (44) Samia Al Amoudi
\nSince diagnosing herself with breast cancer in 2006, Al Amoudi has been a tireless campainger in bringing the issue to greater prominence.
\nThe obstetrician, gynaecologist and assistant professor at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah dedicated has herself to raising awareness of breast cancer, largely though a regular column in Al Madinah newspaper.
\nBy talking about her own experiences, Al Amoudi hopes to encourage other women to check themselves regularly for cancer and build more open dialogue.
\nThe author of 13 books announced in January this year that she has suffered a recurrence of the disease, having been in remission for eight years. She said that she wanted the anouncement to be a “message of love” to other women in the hope they will get examined early.
39. (45) Grace Najjar
\nAlignment Management Solutions
\nConsulting and coaching
\nWith a wide-ranging portfolio of projects across MENA and Europe, Grace Najjar has cemented her reputation as one of the region’s leading management consultants.
\nThe founder of Alignment Management Solutions is familiar to many executives as an international expert at providing valuable and effective consultation, and her work with the Project Management Institute - for which she acts as a local, regional, and international ambassador - only goes to enhance her already high standing.
\nBut that’s not all. Najjar has also been an academic assessor for the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture since 2004, and any spare time she has is spent lecturing at universities in France and Lebanon.
42. (72) Zainab Salbi
\nCulture and society
\nAmong her many titles, Zainab Salbi can be called an author, women’s rights activist, humanitarian, social entrepreneur and media commentator.
\nThe founder and former CEO of US-based Women for Women International has dedicated her life to serving female survivors of war. During her leadership, from 1993 to 2011, the organization helped more than 370,00 women in eight conflict areas rebuild their lives by giving them access to social opportunities. It is claimed that Women for Women has distributed more than $103 million in direct aid and micro credit loans, and has impacted more than 1.7 million people.
\nSalbi is the author of three books, including best-seller Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadown of Saddam. In 2010 President Clinton nominated Salbi as one of the 21st century heroes as featured in Harpers Bazaar, while numerous other highly respected publications have listed her in lists of influential people.
44. (61) Muna Abu Sulayman
\nCulture and society
\nThe job titles, achievements and projects keep stacking up for Muna AbuSulayman.
\nThe influential and popular media personality wears many hats and has excelled in many fields. Not only has she launched three companies, in fashion, media and CSR, she has also led campaigns to help Syrian refugees, worked in refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, and sat on a steering group for the UN World Humanitarian Summit in MENA.
\nA highly regarded humanitarian and philanthropist, AbuSulayman is a familiar face on television, as well as at conferences and summits around the world. Over the years she has spoken and written about society, women’s rights, community building, the media, and building bridges between the East and West, as well as other topics.
\nShe has also dedicated time to translating scientific journals into Arabic for college students, is a Global Ambassador for Silatech, and was the founding Secretary General of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation.
\nHer various awards, roles and positions are testament to her continued work in numerous areas.
45. (53) Abeer Abu Ghaith
\nKnown as Palestine’s first female high-tech entrepreneur, Abeer Abu Ghaith is well known as the founder of StayLinked, which she launched in 2013.
\nThe company is an interface between Palestinian freelancers and businesses from all over the world that need to outsource certain services, and has given Abu Ghaith a platform from which to promote the role of women in the workplace.
\nIn an interview last year, she said: “Palestinian women fact a lot of challenges. We have plenty of qualified women in my area who have no access to jobs. As a woman, I can help and change the world in my own way, even if the society wants to confine us in the kitchen and in the house.”
46. (43) Rasha Al Roumi
\nAppointed in December 2013, the chairwoman of Kuwait Airways, Rasha Al Roumi, has had a busy year and a half.
\nImmediately implementing a tough strategy to turn the long-suffering carrier around, she ordered 25 new aircraft, announced 1,000 possible job cuts, and began to study new networks.
\nThe plans may be bold in some areas and unpopular in others, but Al Roumi has stated that these decisions needed to be taken quickly and decisively in order to keep the company in the air.
\nIn a recent interview with Arabian Business she said: “We are rebuilding the company from zero and… we want to start the company in good shape. I can’t do it like this, I need the right team.”
\nWhatever commentators may think of the job losses, Al Roumi has been praised for her updating of the ailing airline, instilling confidence in the company within the aviation industry.
48. (41) Maryam Matar
\nUAE Genetic Diseases Association
\nMaryam Matar is chairwoman of the UAE Genetic Diseases Association and one of the most influential women in science today.
\nShe is also Deputy Chairperson of Dubai Cares, a board member of the Marriage Fund, Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation, Dubai Women Establishment, Damas International Limited and the Canadian University of Dubai.
\nHer notable achievements include launching initiatives including UAE Free of Thalassemia 2012, and the UAE Down’s Syndrome Association.
50. Raha Moharrak\nMountaineer
\nUAE (Saudi Arabia)
\nWhen Raha Moharrak reached the summit of Everest, not only did she become the first Saudi woman to make it to the top of the world’s highest mountain, but, at 25 years old, she became the youngest Arab to ever do so.
\nNow, two years on from the feat, she remains the poster-girl for mountaineering in the Arab world, speaking regularly about her achievement, and bidding to inspire others to take on big challenges.
\nA graphic designer and art director by profession, Moharrak has also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Vinson, Mount Elbrus, and various other notable peaks, but it is her conquering of Everest for which she is best known. She was joined by 34 other mountaineers and 29 guides in reaching the summit on 18 May, 2013. Her four-member expedition team was called Arabs with Altitude, a group which aimed to raise $1 million to help educate people in Nepal.
51 (27). Maha Al Ghunaim
\nGlobal Investment House
\nBanking and finance
\nMaha Al Ghunaim was one of five friends who founded Global Investment House in 1998.
\nThe company is now one of the region’s biggest investment firms, and when she took it public on the London Stock Exchange in 2008 it became the first Kuwaiti company to list on the exchange. GIH was forced to delist due to the credit crunch, but its refinancing model became a model for other companies to follow. In February this year the GIH inaugurated its new premises in Dubai International Financial Centre, prompting Al Ghunaim to say: “Global DIFC marks a milestone in the future of Global as it strengthens our presence in one of the major capital markets in the region.”
52. Habiba Al Safar
\nAssistant professor of Biomedical Engineering
\nDr Habiba Al Safar’s work in identifying genetic and environmental risk factors associated with diabetes lander her a 2014 L’Oreal-UNESCO Fellowship Award for Women in Science in November last year.
\nAccording to Khalifa University, where Al Safar works as assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering, her area of interest is in constructing the genomic structures of individuals of Arab descent to identify genomic segments that are predisposed to disease.
\nHer research is the first genome-wide association study of the UAE Bedouin population.
53 (48). Salma Hareb
\nJebel Ali Free Zone Authority
\nWith more than 7,000 companies under Jafza’s umbrella, Salma Hareb is overseeing one of the most important groups for Dubai’s economy.
\nThe free zone contributes 21 percent of Dubai’s GDP on a year-to-year basis, accounts for more than 50 percent of the emirate’s total sports, and sustains the employment of more than 1380,000 people. Former lab technologist Hareb started out as a planner for Jafza, but quickly moved up the ranks and in 2005 was appointed the CEO of the free zone and its parent company, Economic Zones World. In the process she became the first woman in the Middle East to lead a free zone. At the end of 2014, Hareb collected on behalf of JafZa the Sheikh Khalifa Excellence Award - Diamond Category, in recognition of the free zone’s consistent growth, innovation, CSR initiatives and increased communication with customers and employees.
54 (62). Joumana Haddad
\nCulture & society
\nPoet, translator, journalist and women’s rights activist Joumana Haddad continues to be a mouthpiece for females across the Middle East.
\nHer views on equality have resulted in death threats in her native Lebanon, but her seemingly non-stop output remains unwavering.
\nIn a recent interview she stated that she doesn’t believe in female solidarity, calling it an outdated stereotype and instead calling for solidarity between people, not sexes.
\nHer most famous book, I Killed Sheherazade, was published in 2010 and was hailed by Nobel Prize for Literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, who said that the tome “destroys our prejudices”.
55 (90). Dalia Mogahed
\nPresident and CEO
\nCulture & society
\nThe President and CEO of Mogahed Consulting now focuses her time on executive coaching and consulting, specialising in Muslim societies and the Middle East.
\nBut Dalia Mogahed is perhaps still best known as the former executive director of the Gallup Centre for Muslim Studies, and her role as advisor to US President Barack Obama. Working in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships, Mogahed made headlines as the first veiled woman to be appointed to a position in the White House. Mogahed Consulting focuses on offering leaders in corporations, multinationals and governments evidence-based solutions and advice to help achieve their goals, rather than relying on intuition or conventional wisdom.
56 (55). Thoraya Obaid
\nFormer executive director
\nUN Population Fund
\nCulture & society
\nAfter serving 10 years as executive director of the United National Population Fund, and an under-secretary general of the United Nations, Thoraya Obaid is one of the most prominent women from Saudi Arabia.
\nLeaving the UNPF to become the chair of WLP’s board of directors, Obaid has also been a valued member of Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council. She is also renowned for her work with governments to establish programmes to empower women, and throughout her career she has emphasised the importance of development that emerges from the context of each society, considering the cultural values and religious beliefs that shape people and their actions.
57 (30). Randa Ayoubi
\nRubicon Group Holding
\nHit kids’ film Postman Pat: The Movie emphasised the strides Rubicon Group Holding has taken under the leadership of Randa Ayoubi.
\nJordanian animator Ayoubi, the CEO of RGH, and executive producer of the film, has also tied up a deal with former Beatles star Sir Paul McCartney to bring his children’s book to life - testament to the hard work she has put into the company she founded in 1994 and ran for a decade on an initial investment of $140,000.
\nNow the company is working on a $1.5 billion theme park in Aqaba, and continues to produce its successful series Ben & Izzy - a cartoon aimed at promoting cross cultural understanding between the Middle East and the West.
58 (57). Mona Al Marri
\nDubai Media Office
\nAt the end of 2014, the Arab Union of Electronic Media named Mona Al Marri the most influential Arab media personality, solidifying her position as an important cog in the emirate’s machinery.
\nThe director general of Dubai government’s media office was appointed to her role in 2012, having already established herself as a PR guru and media whizz. As well as shaping Dubai’s image to both the media at home and abroad, Al Marri is also vice president of the Dubai Ladies Club, and a board member of Young Arab Leaders. She has continually used her position, speaking engagements and appearances at conferences to change people’s minds about UAE women.
59 (82). Sarah Shuhail
\nEwa’a Centre for Women and Children
\nCulture & society
\nAs the founder of Ewa’a, Sarah Shuhail has helped save hundreds of women and girls from sex trafficking and prostitution.
\nSince opening the shelter in 2008, her work has raised awareness of the crime of forced prostitution and has helped numerous victims return to a normal life. The first centre opened in Abu Dhabi in 2009, later adding locations in Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, as well as a space for men in Abu Dhabi. Victims are either rescued or have escaped from brothels and are given psychological and medical care and legal support, while their rehabilitation also includes activities such as handicrafts, swimming or drawing. In May last year an art exhibition at The Space in Abu Dhabi showcased work from women who had been through Ewa’a’s doors, helping to raise funds and awareness.
60 (100). Soraya Salti
\nRegional director MENA
\nInjaz Al Arab
\nCulture & society
\nWith youth unemployment still one of the main areas of concern in the Middle East, Soraya Salti’s work is as important as ever.
\nThrough Injaz Al Arab, Salti works to train Middle Eastern youth to become entrepreneurs and take their futures into their own hands, bringing entrepreneurial skills to students in high school. Partnerships with industry leaders such as Boeing, Marriott, and Aramex have led to initiatives such as the recent Expand Your Horizon programme, which brings together global entities from growth industries to showcase employment and internship opportunities in the region. Salti has previously been recognised with a Skoll Foundation Award, and won the 2006 Schwab Social Entrepreneur of the Year award for Jordan.
61 (26). Nawal Al Saadawi
\nActivist, feminist, doctor
\nCulture & society
\nThe term ‘irrepressible’ doesn’t begin to describe Nawal El Saadawi, the feminist, writer, activist, physician and psychiatrist who has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights for decades.
\nThe founder and president of the Arab Women’s Solidarity Association, and the co-founder of the Arab Association for Human Rights, El Saadawi has been awarded numerous times, and held various position within Egypt - both governmental and non-governmental. He activism has sometimes come at a cost, however. She was dismissed from her position at the Ministry of Health soon after publishing a book attacking female circumcision, and was jailed by former president Anwar Al Sadat in 1981 after helping to publish a feminist magazine.
62 (81). Amira Yahyaoui
\nCulture & society
\nIn the past year peace activist and proponent of free speech, Amira Yahyaoui, has been recognised for her continual efforts by winning the conflict prevention prize by the Foundation Chirac.
\nYahyaoui’s life story to date is one filled with sadness, but hope. Aged just 16 she was tailed by Tunisia’s secret police and beaten as a result of her activism. In 2005, her cousin Zouhair Yahyaoui died after being persecuted and tortured by the government for his objections to censorship in Tunisia. And after fleeing to France she was rendered stateless for several years until the fall of President Ben Ali, whereupon she gained a passport and returned to Tunisia. There she founded Al Bawsala, an NGO that monitors the country’s legislature and promotes free expression and the protection of human rights.
63 (51). Nashwa Al Ruwaini
\nWhen her talk show, Nashwa, launched in 2006, Nashwa Al Ruwaini became a household name across the Middle East.
\nKnown as the ‘Oprah of the Arab world’, Al Ruwaini has gone from strength to strength, though it hasn’t always been an easy ride. Born in Cairo, she started her career on Qatari radio before becoming the youngest Arab woman on TV, working for Qatar TV. Moving to London, and then to Cairo, Al Ruwaini found her way to the UAE where she established her own production company, Pyramedia, in 1998. Pyramedia is now one of the largest production companies in the region. Recently, Hollywood Reporter magazine named her as one of the 25 most powerful women in global TV.
64 (39). Ayah Bdeir
\nStill best known for her snap-together circuit board business littleBits, Ayah Bdeir is continually lauded as one of the most creative young minds to pay attention to.
\nHaving developed the first littleBits prototype in 2008, the business was launched in 2011, aiming to “put the power of electronics in the hands of everyone, and to break down complex technologies so that anyone can build, prototype and invent”. A TED fellow, and founder of Karaj - Beirut’s first non-profit lab for experimental arts, architecture and technology - Bdeir has also been a mentor on Stars of Science - the Middle East’s first reality show focusing on innovation.
65 (4). Tawakul Karman
\nNobel Peace Prize Laureate
\nCulture & society
\nKnown within Yemen as the Iron Woman, and Mother of the Revolution, Tawakul Karman is a journalist, politician, and senior member of the Al-Islah political party, as well as a noted human rights activist.
\nIn 2011 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first Yemeni, first Arab woman, and second Muslim woman to win a Nobel Prize. In 2005 Karman set up Women Journalists Without Chains, and started holding protests in the Yemeni capital two years later. Her name became well-known in 2011 when she led a series of protests calling for the departure of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Most recently, in January this year, she spoke out on what she believes is a collaboration between now former president Saleh and the Houthi rebels to undo the 2011 revolution by ending the transition process.
66 (49). Nadine Labaki
\nArts and entertainment
\nOne of the most successful female film directors and actresses from the Arab world, Nadine Labaki continues to make and star in top feature films.
\nAfter 2013 smash hit Rock The Casbah, Labaki had a busy 2014, appearing in three films - Mea Culpa, Rio, I Love You, and La Rancon de la Gloire. Perhaps still best known for her directorial debut, Caramel, which she also starred in, Labaki is a known name within the global film industry, having been listed on Variety’s annual run-down of ten directors to watch.
68 (33). Nahed Taher
\nGulf One\nInvestment Bank
\nBanking & finance
\nThe Saudi-born CEO holds the accolade of being the first woman in the Gulf to head up an investment bank.
\nAs the leader of Gulf One Investment Bank, which she co-founded in 2005 after a tenure as a senior economist at Saudi Arabia’s NCB, Taher was the first of a growing number of women to break the glass ceiling. She turned down a high-powered job with the International Monetary Fund before taking the job with NCB, saying at the time that she wanted to “do something for my own country”. Having excelled in a male-dominated field, Taher is also a strong advocate for a greater role for women in the kingdom.
69 (68). Mona Eltahawy
\nJournalist and activist
\nSince coming to prominence in 2011, when she was assaulted in Egypt’s Interior Ministry after being arrested during a protest in Tahrir Square, Eltahawy’s has been a familiar voice in the campaign for women’s rights.
\nA regular in some of the world’s best-read newspapers and websites, Eltahawy has been heralded by many as displaying courage in the face of adversity by offering an uncompromising stance against patriarchal behaviours, governments and societies. Her first book - Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution - is expected to be published in April, and is based on a controversial article she wrote about misogyny in 2012, entitled Why Do They Hate Us.
70 (40). Hala Gorani
\nProminent US-based journalist Hala Gorani in known for her hard-hitting news reports from the region, which have covered major events including the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war and the Arab Spring.
\nThe French-raised Syrian-American is an anchor and correspondent for CNN, known for The World Right Now with Hala Gorani, among other shows, and has been honoured for her work with numerous awards. Recently she covered the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo Paris shootings. Among her high-profile interviews have been Jimmy Carter, Tony Blair, Nouri Al Maliki and the Dalai Lama.
72 (64). Nancy Ajram
\nArts and entertainment
\nOne of the most recognisable names and faces in the Middle East, Nancy Ajram is one of Arabic music’s biggest stars.
\nThe Lebanese singer boasts more than five million Twitter followers, built on the back of eight hit albums - the most recent of which, Nancy 8, was released during 2014. A regular award winner and live performer, Ajram has put her fame to good use, participating in numerous charity events and concerts. In 2009 UNICEF chose Ajram as the first female regional ambassador for MENA. Her appeal and recognition is not confined to the Arab world, however. Oprah Winfrey branded her one of the most influential personalities in the Middle East.
74. Amal Al Qubaisi
\nCulture & society
\nIn 2014 Dr Amal Al Qubaisi became the first woman to be appointed to the Abu Dhabi Educational Council, taking up the role of general manager.
\nAn architect by profession, Al Qubaisi was also the first woman to be elected to the Federal National Council, and was the first woman to chair one of its meetings. In her role with ADEC, Al Qubaisi has made a bold statement of intent, saying she will personally visit schools and speak to teachers, school leaders and pupils about their concerns. Previously, she had worked tirelessly to convince the United National Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to document and preserve more than 350 historical sites in the UAE, including Al Jahili and Al Hosn forts.
75 (69). Ingie Chalhoub
\nPresident and managing director
\nSince establishing the Etoile Group in 1983, Ingie Chalhoub has been an integral figure in the UAE’s luxury retail sector.
\nThe president and managing director of the group has brought more than 200 international ultra-luxury brands to the region, including Chanel, Valentino, Ralph Lauren, Tod’s, John Galliano and Hogan. Operating more than 60 high-end fashion boutiques across six countries, she employs 400 people and has launched her own fashion line - Ingie Paris.
77. Elissa Freiha
\nFounder and director
\nOne half of the founding partners of WOMENA, Elissa Freiha is changing the face of investment in the MENA region.
\nThe Emirati of Lebanese and American descent launched the women-only investment platform with her partner Chantalle Dumonceaux, in 2013 to provide Gulf-based high-net-worth women a supportive, professional network and dependable guidance to invest in new companies. Having previously worked in publishing, food and beverage, and entertainment, Freiha oversees the marketing, business development, sales, events, and member satisfaction elements of the business. WOMENA hosts monthly meetings with its members, who are introduced to pre-screened entrepreneurs, offering both sides the opportunity to form a strong investment partnership.
78 (52). Badreya Al Bishr
\nControversy and Badreya Al Bishr have never been far away from one another. The author, journalist and TV host has never shied away from tackling major issues and taboo topics.
\nWriting in her daily column for Al Hayat, and hosting her own talk show on MBC, Al Bishr takes on numerous themes affecting Arab women today, as well as religion and extremism. The multi-award-winning Saudi writer is a PhD graduate from the American University of Beirut, and an alumnus of the US State Department International Visitor programme. She also lectures at King Saud University’s Department of Social Studies.
79 (74). Hind Seddiqi
\nAhmed Siddiqi and Sons
\nOne of the most powerful women in the jewellery industry, Hind Seddiqi is also a role model for Emirati women, having broken with tradition in her family’s business.
\nShe became the first female family member to join the corporate office of Ahmed Siddiqi & Sons, the luxury watch company which came into being in the 1940s. There were no family favours, however, as Seddiqi started out as an intern with the company, rising step by step to the role of VP. Overseeing all marketing and promotional actives for the chain, she has helped enhance the company’s already high reputation, putting into practice a comprehensive plan to guide the business and its retailing of more than 90 percent of the world’s best known luxury watch brands.
80 (37). Hanan Solayman
\nFreelance journalist Hanan Solayman has steadily been bringing media to Egypt’s masses through her Mandara Media Foundation.
\nThe foundation, which aims to create news websites and media platforms in underserved communities in rural Egypt, was launched in 2012. Its first project was to train 90 journalists in Upper Egypt, allowing them to contribute to a local portal covering all 11 districts in the southern part of the country. A regular writer for publications across the region, Solayman plans to develop Mandara, aiming to build a “leading model of independent and non-profit local journalism… to engage citizens outside the capital in society”.
81 (42). Fatema Mernissi
\nCulture & society
\nSince 1975 Fatema Mernissi has been on the forefront of the critical dialogue about the position of women, and civil society.
\nA seasoned author of numerous books, Mernissi has written about women within the rapidly changing Muslim communities in Morocco, among other topics, and has directed sociological research for UNESCO, ILO and the UN Population Fund. Born in Fes in 1940, Mernissi is currently a lecturer at the Mohammed V University of Rabat, and continues to be an ardent campaigner for women’s rights. Her publication Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society, it still regarded a vital text on the subject.
82 (32). Manal Al Sharif
\nCulture & society
\nWhen Manal Al Sharif got behind the wheel of a car in her home country of Saudi Arabia in 2011, she almost immediately became a focal point for women’s rights in the Kingdom.
\nArrested as a result of her actions, which were part of a campaign to call for women’s rights to drive, Al Sharif was been applauded across the globe, and has since brought international attention to a number of women’s rights issues including the murder of five-year-old Lama Al Ghamdi by her father in 2013, and the plight of female domestic workers held in Saudi prisons.
\nDubbed Saudi Arabia’s Rosa Parks, Al Sharif was honoured last year at a Women In The World luncheon in California, where she told an audience “To me, if you see something wrong, you have to speak up… If we keep quiet, nothing will change.”
83 (70). Nisreen Shocair
\nVirgin Megastore Middle East
\nAs president of Virgin Megastore Middle East, Nisreen Shocair has overseen an impressive transformation of the brand.
\nDeveloping the traditional CD and DVD store into a wide-ranging music, video and multimedia entertainment destination, Shocair has changed the company’s target demographic and increased the number of items on offer, so much so that the Megastores are almost unrecognisable from a few years ago. Expansion throughout the region has enhanced the company’s standing, as has its new concept stores which offer a more lifestyle-angled shopping experience. Growing up in Nigeria, Shocair worked at Blockbuster and Sony before making her way to Virgin, and is also active in the development of start-ups.
86 (58). Fairouz
\nArts and entertainment
\nPerhaps still the most iconic Middle Eastern female singer, Fairouz has been one of the region’s best known and popular singer for decades.
\nStarting her musical career in the 1950s, the ‘Jewel of Lebanon’ enjoyed a meteoric rise to the top, singing about her home country’s beauty, and calling for peace and freedom.
\nOften received by royalty and presidents, one of Fairouz’s most prized posessions in the key to Jerusalem, though she has never performed in the Holy City.
87 (80). Nayla Al Khaja
\nArts and entertainment
\nConstantly in demand, and constantly working, the UAE’s first ever female film director has been as busy as ever.
\nNot only does she have five short films under her belt, and not only has she launched her own production company, D-SEVEN, Nayla Al Khaja is also part of the Reel Dubai filmmaking competition, helping six shortlisted contestants turn their cinematic dreams into reality. A graduate from Dubai Women’s College, and Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, Al Khaja’s films touch on taboo topics, such as arranged marriages, child abuse, and secret dating in the UAE. Having to fight the wishes of her parents, who did not want her to become a filmmaker, Al Khaja is now an award-winner several times over, including the Emirates Woman Award, which she collected a decade ago.
88 (29). Yousra
\nArts and entertainment
\nThe irrepressible entertainment superstar continues to be a well listened-to cultural spokeswoman, have acquired ‘icon’ status long ago.
\nThe Egyptian actress and singer, whose career goes back to the 1970s, has turned her talents to a variety of genres, including comedy, drama, and political satire. In 2006 she played a supporting role in The Yacoubian Building, which is believed to have had the highest budget of any Egyptian production to date. Yousra’s singing career came later, with her first album being released in 2002. More recently, she participated in the Ramadan series Saraya Abdein in 2014. The entertainer has also worked as a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, for which she is believed to have received more than 50 awards.
89 (75). Ahlam Mosteghanemi
\nArts and entertainment
\nPerhaps the most successful female writer in the Arab World, Mosteghanemi in a multi-award-winner whose poetry and fiction focuses on some of the more controversial topics for the region.
\nHer novels were brought out of Arabia when her best-known work - a trilogy including Memory in the Flesh, Chaos of the Senses, and Black Suits You So Well - was published in English. Writing about love, sexuality, women’s rights, corruption, politics and colonisation, Mosteghanemi’s books have sometimes caused controversy, but her huge following on social media, and constant recognition from the literary community confirm that her words have won more admirers than critics. Born in Tunis, but very much Algerian, Mosteghanemi studied at the Sorbonne in Paris before moving to Beirut.
90. Hayv Kahraman
\nArts and entertainment
\nLiving and working in the US, Hayv Kahraman’s artwork reflects issues of gender, honour killings and war in her home country of Iraq.
\nBorn in Baghdad in 1981, the artist has painted, drawn and sculpted from a young age. She began oil painting at the age of 12 after moving from Iraq to Sweden, and later staged a number of successful exhibitions there.
\nDeveloping a style with references to Japanese and Arabic calligraphy, art nouveau, Persian miniature, and Greek iconography, Kahraman now lives and works in San Francisco, and has had numerous solo and group exhibitions around the world over the past 12 years.
\nIn November 2014 she was recognised by the Global Thinkers Forum for Excellence in Cultural Creativity.
91 (73). Ismahane Elouafi
\nInternational Centre for Biosaline Agriculture
\nDr Elouafi took up the position of ICBA Director General in 2012, and has more than 15 years experience in agricultural research.
\nICBA (International Centre of Biosaline Agriculture) aims to help poor farmers in placers where water is scarce, making it a vital lifeline for those working in various parts of the Arab world. The centre also aims to develop new technologies to allow saltwater to be used to irrigate agriculture. Previously a member of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Elouafi has received many international award - not least the National Reward Medal from His Majesty Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco.
92 (54). Muna Harib
\nCulture & society
\nHelping others is second nature for Muna Harib Al Muhairi, an Emirati woman who has founded a string of charitable organisations.
\nAfter launching Seeds of Change - a group to promote random acts of kindness - and Buskha - an organisation which supports low-income Emiratis in rural parts of the country, Harib founded the Breathing Numbers project. Devised after visiting refugee camps in Jordan in the aftermath of the Syrian civil war, Breathing Numbers originally aimed to document the plight of hundreds of thousands of people trapped on the Jordanian border. The project has since developed to become even more humanitarian, supplying material assistance as well as an emotional boost to the refugee communities.
93 (84). Ahlam
\nArts and entertainment
\nThe Emirati singing star is as popular as ever, largely thanks to her judging role on talent show Arab Idol - popularity that is backed up by 4.46 million followers on Twitter.
\nThe musician, who has 10 albums under her belt since launching her career in 1994, was born in Abu Dhabi to Bahraini and Emirati parents, and actually lived the early part of her life in Bahrain before returning to the UAE to finish her education.
\nAhlam Ali Al Shamsi - to give her her full name - recently switched record labels, signing with new label Platinum Records earlier this year. Platinum Records is owned by Saudi artist Rashid Al Majid, in partnership with television channel MBC, which screens Arab Idol. She had previously been with Rotana Production Company.
94 (67). Sara Akbar
\nSome call her The Firefighting Lady, others The Iron Lady of the Middle East. Either way, Sara Akbar’s three decades in the oil and gas industry have brought her huge respect.
\nThe CEO and co-founder of Kuwait Energy has long been hailed as one of the most highly regarded spokespeople in the industry, having started her career with the Kuwait Oil Company from 1981 to 1999, and KUFPEC from 1999 to 2005, before launching Kuwait Energy. The moniker ‘firefighter’ stems from the important role she played in Kuwait’s oil production recovery efforts following the 1990 Iraq invasion. As a result of her work she was given the Global 500 Award from the UN Environmental Programme.
96 (95). Mona Ataya
\nA leading light of the online retail scene, Mona Ataya and her company Mumzworld are going from strength to strength.
\nLaunched in 2011, Mumzworld is well on track to fulfil Ataya’s ambition to “make Mumzworld the undisputed leader in mother and baby shopping”. Not only is the company offering more than 200,000 registered users a vast choice of products, but Ataya has also offered female-only rounds of investing – giving women the opportunity to be part of a business they can believe in.
98 (63). Reine Abbas
\nCo-founder and managing partner
\nOnly two years ago Reine Abbas was name as one of the five most powerful women in the gaming industry, and it’s easy to see why.
\nAbbas launched game development company Wixel Studios in 2007, alongside her husband and business partner. Focusing largely on games with a political bent, Wixel’s products have been downloaded regularly across the world. Popular titles include Survival Race, and Little Heroes, Big Deeds - an edutainment game aimed at children. As managing partner and lead artist, Abbas has her hands full, but still finds time to be an active educator in gaming, programming, and design.
99 (71). Buthaina Al Ansari
\nCulture & society
\nA tireless promotor of women in her home country of Qatar, Buthaina Al Ansari is at the forefront of positive change in the Kingdom.
\n\nHaving developed a stellar reputation as HR director at telco Ooredoo, Al Ansari is the founder of Qatariat - a company that specialises in helping Qatari women advance in the workforce.
\nQatariat has three main focuses: Qatariat Training and Development, Qatariat Magazine, and the Qatariat Development Consultancy. The executive has also been an ambassador of Women Leading Change Qatar, and a speaker at numerous events, where she regularly highlights her belief that women need to brand themselves and establish their own identity.
100 (76). Hind Hobeika
\nFounder of Instabeat
\nIt is testament to her success that Hind Hobeika is now a regular participant at summits and conferences across MENA.
\nRecently, the Lebanese tech entrepreneur took part in the first ever Women in the World Summit, Middle East, and is due to be one of the highlights at the forthcoming STEP Conference in Dubai.
\nHobeika founded her sports technology start-up, Instabeat, in 2011, and hasn’t looked back since. The performance tracker for swimmers that tracks heart rates, calories burned and lap times, is worn on a pair of swimming goggles and has been supported by investors and the community alike, with the company comfortably surpassing its crowd-funding target, as well as winning seed investment from Berytech. The first batch of Instabeats are scheduled to be sent to customers in the coming months.