World's 100 Most Powerful Arabs - Creatives

Welcome to the 2014 Arabian Business Power List, our guide to the planet’s 100 most influential Arabs
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Elie Saab
\nFashion Designer

\nToday, the 49-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.

\nToday, 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. Since 1999, Elie Saab has dressed Hollywood cinema, music, theatre and television A-list stars.

\nA 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.

\nRegional roots
\nDespite his much-travelled lifestyle, Beirut remains the main source of inspiration for Elie Saab.
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George Baylouni

\nThere are few more daring and creative artists around than Syrian born George Baylouni, who has made a career out of pushing the boundaries. With a huge interest in history, his style involves mixing historical art with contemporary work, using a large degree of finger painting. But what arguably marks him out from the crowd are his paintings that mix religions, with several pieces of work focusing on both Christianity and Islam in the same painting. Not surprisingly, his work has made exhibitions not just in Syria but right across the globe, particularly in Europe.

\nContemporary specialist
\nGeorge Baylouni’s work has been showcased prominently in the Middle East and Europe.
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Safwan Dahoul

\nBorn in Hama, Syria in 1961, Safwan Dahoul is among the highest grossing Middle Eastern artists to date with record-breaking auction sales and blockbuster shows that have made his paintings popular with regional and international collectors alike.

\nAfter graduating from the Faculty of Fines Arts in Damascus in 1983, Dahoul went on to receive a scholarship to study abroad from the Ministry of Higher Education in 1987. Choosing to travel to Belgium due to its rich artistic heritage, particularly its 16th century Flemish school of painting, Dahoul obtained a doctorate from the Higher Institute of Plastic Arts in Mons in 1997. Since then, he has participated in international art fairs and individual exhibitions throughout the Middle East, Europe and the US.

\n’Dream’ creator
\nSafwan Dahoul’s ‘Dream’ series has been rolled out over a period of three decades.
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Zaha Hadid
\nUK (Iraq)

\nNow 62, it’s been another busy year for the woman known as the ‘Starchitect’.

\nDame Zaha Hadid unveiled plans for Qatar’s first World Cup stadium, Al Wakrah — to admittedly mixed reviews — and also announced that she was planning her first building for Dubai, the Opus Tower in the city’s Business Bay. It’s also been a good year financially with profits at the Zaha Hadid Group doubling to $6.9m, pushed higher by markets outside Europe.

\nHadid is famous for consistently pushing the boundaries of modern architecture and urban design. The Iraqi-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.

\n‘The Starchitect’
\nZaha Hadid’s first Dubai design will be built in Business Bay.
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Samia Halaby

\nBorn in 1936, Samia Halaby is perhaps the Arab world’s most distinguished and longest serving female artist.

\nHalaby began her career in the 1960s, and her work is housed in private and public collections all around the world. She has been based in New York since the 1970s, and the American city and her home country of Palestine both figure strongly in her work.

\nBorn in Jerusalem, Halaby was forced to leave her home town in 1948 during the Nakba. She moved to the US with her family, and studied design at the University of Cincinnati and painting at Indiana University.

\nShe would go on to teach 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, in 1972.

\nPioneer of the arts
\nSamia Halaby has been the subject of portraits and films made by other artists.
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Mustafa Ali

\nMustafa Ali, Syria’s foremost sculptor was born in Latakia in 1956. Known for elegant, monumental sculptures that pierce the consciousness and underscore the fragility of mankind, he has been widely collected in the Arab world for nearly three decades.

\nHe has exhibited extensively on the international art circuit since 1979 and has participated in a number of high-profile events such as Latakia Sculpture Biennial (where he was awarded the Golden Prize) (1997), the Biennial of Alexandria, Egypt (1994), the Sharjah Biennial (1995), and the International Symposium for Sculptors in Valencia, Spain (2001).

\nGlobally recognised
\nMustafa Ali has exhibited his works all over the world.
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Haifa Al Mansour
\nFilm Director
\nSaudi Arabia

\nHaifa Al Mansour has done more than most to give the planet a glimpse into the conservative world of Saudi Arabia.

\nLast year, her film Wadjda was the first Saudi movie to be entered into the Oscars, as Best Foreign Language Film. Although Wadjda did not win, the film won numerous awards, including three prizes at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.

\nWadjda tells the story of a rebellious girl who dreams of owning a green bicycle. Al Mansour was forced to direct her first film from a van with a walkie-talkie in some areas where she could not be seen in public. Despite the fact that she was regularly heckled during filming, she felt the responsibility to tell a story often ignored by the world’s media. “I tried to be very close to my roots and show things that were very intimate about Saudi women away from what we see in the news,” she said.

\nShowing the way
\nAl Mansour is Saudi Arabia’s first female film director.
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Alex Saber
\nVivaKi MENA
\nUAE (Lebanon)

\nIt was 22 years ago that Alex Saber first joined the media department of Leo Burnett Dubai at the tender age of 23. Fast-forward three years later and Saber, who holds an MBA from the University of Iowa, had launched the P&G AOR operation in Dubai, a key project covering the entire Middle Eastern region. He then relocated to Saudi Arabia in 1997 to set up his most important venture yet, Starcom Saudi.

\nIn 2001, Dubai came calling once again, and Saber returned to the city to launch MediaVest Dubai. In his role as managing director for the company, Saber expanded MediaVest to other markets in the Middle East all the while assuming the position of the region’s group buying Director for Starcom MediaVest Group.

\nThe year 2005 marked Saber’s appointment as chief operations officer VivaKi for the MENA region, after which he continued to head all media buying responsibilities for the group. Under Saber’s leadership, the VivaKi MENA business steadily grew by over 50 percent in the past five years. Peer recognition quickly followed, and by January 2011, Saber was promoted to the VivaKi Chairman role in the MENA region.

\nAdvertising expert
\nAlex Saber has rapidly made his mark on the region’s media scene.
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Sami Mufleh
\nCEO, Hills Advertising
\nUAE (Jordan)

\nWWhen it comes to outdoor advertising, there are few bigger names than Sami Mufleh, with his company pretty much taking over the market. He has been at the forefront of the industry for over a decade, but this promises to be his best year yet. He has struck a huge deal to take over the outdoor advertising in Dubai’s The Beach development – on top of the many locations he already has in the emirate. Mufleh has also shown great resilience, emerging intact and stronger than ever after the recession.
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Yasser Hamoud

\nBorn in 1963, Hamoud has become one of the most sought after artists in the Arab world. He graduated from Damascus University in 1987 and since then has never looked back. He organised and participated in several exhibitions in Damascus in 1992, and even designed and executed the panoramic mural of Damascus Northern Entrance. His work has been highly commended by critics and exhibited beyond Syria in Jordan, Qatar and even Europe – including France and Italy.

\nArt expert
\nYasser Hamoud was born in Tartous, Syria, in 1963.
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Dani Richa
\nImpact BBDO
\nUAE (Lebanon)

\nDani Richa, 48, is chairman and CEO of Impact BBDO MENA & Pakistan Group, (Impact BBDO group includes: Impact Proximity, Impact Porter Novelli and OMD-MD). Formerly serving as the president and regional chief creative officer, he has spent more than 25 years within the group, transforming the agency into a strong market leader with 1,000-plus staff and an extensive regional reach from Algeria to Pakistan.

\nDani started his career in 1986 at Leo Burnett Lebanon after graduating from Académie Charpentier in Paris. He then moved to Impact BBDO in both Cyprus and Dubai until 1993 when he joined Publicis Graphics Group as regional creative director. In 1995 he returned to Impact BBDO in Lebanon as partner and group ECD. Under his leadership, Impact BBDO has created its own brand of advertising, differentiating itself as an ad agency.
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Raja Makhlouf
\nFashion Designer

\nRaja Makhlouf is one of Arab cinema’s rising costume designers. Syrian Makhlouf won the award for best costume design for the film A-Bwab al-Gheim (Doors of Clouds) at February’s Adoania Awards - Syria’s answer to the Oscars.

\nAt a time when female costume designers are in huge demand in Western cinema - with many winning Oscars in the last ten years - their counterparts in the Arab world have rarely taken the spotlight. But Makhlouf’s celebrity connections and emphasis on glamour over glitz make her the perfect choice to hold the mantel. Perhaps through her designs, as Arab cinema spreads West, women in the Arab world will be viewed differently in other regions.

\nAward winner
\nMakhlouf is one of Syria’s top designers.