The 15 Most Inspiring Women In The Middle East

Fearless, fierce and fabulous, these ladies are all the motivation you need
The 15 Most Inspiring Women In The Middle East
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Daring to dream, achieve and strive for what has never done before, these ladies (in no particular order) are exemplary, showing an entire generation of women that nothing is impossible.

1. Queen Rania Al-Abdullah - Queen Consort of Jordan

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A celebrated educationist, Queen Rania is passionate about empowering the next generation. In 2008, the Queen launched 'Madrasati' - my school - that aims to refurbish 500 of Jordan's schools over a five-year period. As a recognition of her commitment to youth development, Queen Rania was appointed the chair of the United Nation's Girl's Education Initiative (UNGEI) in 2009. She has also created counselling centres for child abuse and founded the Arab Sustainability Leadership Group to create a more sustainable future for the Arab World.

2. Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al Qasimi - The First Woman To Hold A Ministerial Position In The UAE

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The first ever female minister in the UAE, Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna has held numerous posts within the government: Minister of State for Tolerance, Minister of State for International Cooperation, and Minister of Economic and Planning of the United Arab Emirates. She was also ranked the 36th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes magazine. 

3. Her Excellency Reem Ebrahim Al-Hashimi - UAE Minister Of State Of International Cooperation And Managing Director For The Dubai Expo 2020

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The brilliant Harvard-educated Minister wears many hats. Not only does she play a pivotal role in Expo 2020, Her Excellency chairs Dubai Cares, the Emirates Business Council and the National Bureau of Statistics. Additionally, she manages the International Affairs office of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and the Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of the Emirate of Dubai, and is responsible for relations with India, Pakistan, the Sub-Saharan African countries and the small island developing states.

4. Huda Kattan - Founder of HudaBeauty and the World's Most Powerful Beauty Influencer

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From a career in finance to ruling the beauty world, Huda Kattan's dizzying rise to the top is the stuff dreams are made of. After starting out as a make-up artist to now owning one of the most celebrated beauty brands globally, Huda also champions other talented make-up artists and is considered the most influential voice in beauty with a whopping 24 million followers on Instagram alone. 

5. Nancy Ajram - Iconic Recording Artist

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The best-selling Middle Eastern female singer of the decade (2000 to 2009), Nancy Ajram has sold over 30 million records in her career. Nancy has also been named one of the most powerful Arabs by Arabian Business and Newsweek, released over 11 million albums and has been a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF since 2009.

6. Joumana Haddad – Author, Journalist and Women's Rights Activist 

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Named one of the 100 Most Influential Women in the Arab World by Arabian Business, the Lebanese powerhouse is an award-winning poet, bestselling author and actress. She also presided over the Arabian Booker Prize (Arab Literary Prize) from 2007 to 2011 and founded the quarterly Arabic language publication, Jasad magazine.

7. Dr. Hayat Sindi - Scientist And First Female Saudi Assembly Member

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Apart from being the first Saudi Arabian woman to get accepted by Cambridge University for a PhD in Biotechnology, Dr. Hayat is also amongst the first women to be a part of the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia, has made major contributions to the medical field and has been ranked the 19th most influential Arab in the world by Arabian Business. The path-breaking academic is also a visiting scholar at Harvard University and was named a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 2012.

8. Haifaa al-Mansour – First Female Saudi Filmmaker

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Considered one of the region's most controversial and accomplished filmmakers, Haifaa is the eighth (of 12 children) of poet Abdul Rahman Mansour. She created history with her ground-breaking documentary Women Without Shadows, which relates the hidden lives of women in the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. It was showcased at 17 international festivals and won the Golden Dagger for Best Documentary at the Muscat Film Festival. Haifaa has also been selected to be on the jury at the Cannes Film Festival (for the Un Certain Regard section) and directed the movie Mary Shelley about the early life of Mary Shelley.

9. Nayla Al Khaja – The UAE's First Film Producer and Director

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Nayla Al Khaja has received numerous awards for directing off-the-table films and became the first woman to have founded her own production company in UAE, D-Seven Motion Pictures. Her film Arabana, about child abuse, was released at DIFF in 2007 to great acclaim. She was named the Best Emirati Filmmaker that year as well. The pilot of her first feature film, Animal, won the Jury's Prize for Best Short Fiction at the Italian Movie Award in Pompeii.

10. Joelle Mardinian – Television Personality and Beauty Magnate 

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From make-up artist to the purveyor of a global beauty empire, Joelle Mardinian's rise to the top is as inspirational as it gets. Her makeover show on MBC, the Joelle Show, made her realise the enormous potential of the beauty industry in the region. She now owns beauty clinics (Clinica Joelle), beauty centers (Maison de Joelle) and a line of beauty products under the umbrella 'Joelle Paris', and has a whopping 7 million followers in Instagram.

11. Fatima Al Jaber - The COO of Al Jaber Group

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Fatima Al Jaber is the COO of U.A.E.'s construction company Al Jaber Group and the first Emirati woman to be a part of the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce. Forbes magazine also ranked her in world's Top 100 Most Powerful Women.

12. Najwa Karam –  Multi-platinum Recording Artist 

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With over 60 million albums sold worldwide, 52-year-old Lebanese musical legend Najwa Karam's soaring vocals have captured the hearts of a generation. Also a judge for five seasons of Arab’s Got Talent, Najwa was named number 5 on 2017's Forbe's list of the Top 100 Arab Celebrities, and has a social media following of almost 28 million.

13. Zahra Lari - The First Emirati Hijabi Figure Skater To Compete Internationally

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Zahra Lari has opened a door to countless Arab women who dream of excelling in unconventional careers. The talented athlete is the first hijabi pro figure skater from the UAE representing the country internationally. She was recently featured in the Nike pro-hijab campaign and is an inspiration to a generation of aspiring Arab athletes.

14. Ingie Chalhoub - Fashion Magnate

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Style ambassador, business powerhouse and fashion icon, Inge has firmly established The Etoile Group as the leading lifestyle fashion purveyor in the region. After opening the first ever Chanel boutique in the Middle East in 1983, she went on to launch numerous other fashion houses in the region, including TOD's, Hogan, Valentino and John Galliano, amongst others. Ingie also sits on the board of Dubai International Fashion Week and has been ranked 85th in Arabian Business' list of the 100 Most Powerful Arab Women.

15. Renuka Jagtiani - Chairwoman and CEO of The Landmark Group

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The strategy brains behind the US$5 billion Landmark Group, Renuka Jagtiani has taken the retail giant from strength to strength. Under hers and husband Mickey Jagtiani's leadership, The Landmark Group has expanded to 2,400 outlets spanning over 27 million square feet. Renuka has been the force behind the creation of high street brand Splash, the Landmark Group's e-commerce website and its expansion into new countries and territories. If Mickey birthed the Landmark Group, then it is Renuka, with her tireless brilliance, who has shaped it into the retail powerhouse it is today.