Middle East & North Africa

May Habib

When May Habib moved to the UAE in 2009, two things particularly caught her attention: the number of educated unemployed youngsters she encountered and the lack of quality Arabic content available, especially online. ‘It struck me that we could use technology to employ smart people to write for companies that demand it.’

Mariam Hazem

‘Approximately one million plastic bags are handed out every minute around the world, but here in Egypt only a fraction of people recycle them,’ says Mariam Hazem, 23, the co-founder of Reform Studio, set up to create high-design objects out of low-grade plastic bags. Mariam wanted to find an immediate way to put the ubiquitous bags found by roadsides and in landfill to good use. ‘Recycling consumes energy and resources,’ she notes, ‘but this can be avoided by directly upcycling the bags in new products we design.’

Sima Najjar

How to teach people to do things in a language that is not their own? As a user of the countless Internet ‘how-to’ videos, the majority of which are in English, Sima Najjar decided to provide the answer – in more ways than one. She created Ekeif.com, a video-content website for short, quality presentations in Arabic, keif meaning ‘how’.

Noura Sa'ad

Originally from Jordan, Noura Saad moved over seven times in the 10 years leading up to the launch of her company, Tadreesna. ‘I couldn’t have stable employment because my husband was always moving from one job to another.’ Noura, who holds a degree in chemistry, decided to create her own job by offering private tutoring at home. ‘But I did not know how to expand the business.’ After reading an article about the online sector, she decided ‘the trigger was to use the Internet.’ Her research of the sector revealed that no online learning services existed in Arabic for the Middle East.

Mirna Hamady

Arabic script often conjures up ornamental visions of artwork, calligraphy and ancient scrolls. For 25-year-old Mirna Hamady, who trained as a graphic designer, her native script is an inspiration to create contemporary 3D volumes. ‘I want to make it a functional item in the home.’

Neveen El Tahri

As a daughter of a diplomat and a youngster, Neveen lived and was educated in a number of countries; Panama, Finland, Lebanon and the United Kingdom. After graduating in 1980 from Cairo University Faculty of Economics & Political Science, she joined the Chase National Bank of Egypt (later Commercial International Bank "CIB") to work as a corporate banker, ultimately heading the Petroleum, Tourism and Electronic corporate banking divisions.

Rania Seddik

Rania Seddik, 30, is on a mission to salvage Egypt’s treasures; while that might conjure up images of tombs full of gold and preciously wrapped mummies, Rania has something quite different in mind. ‘I don’t want Egypt’s traditional crafts to only be found in museums! We need to protect and transmit our skills, before it’s too late.’ Rania’s fears are not entirely unfounded. The souks of Cairo and Luxor are overflowing with precious boxes, copper coffee pots and shawls, but beware: many may well be made in China!

Nermin Sa'd

Nermin Sa'd’s life turned around when her husband took a job in Saudi Arabia. This qualified engineer found herself in a country with strict social customs, where women and men are not allowed to mix in the workplace. ‘The engineering field in Saudi is 100% male! So I could either sit at home or change my career.’ She tried teaching, but it was not her domain. ‘I’m hard-wired to be an engineer,’ she says, ‘it’s what I trained for!’

Iba Masood

Graduates in the United Arab Emirates trying to unlock the door to employment are in luck: Iba Masood has devised a web-based careers portal tailored specifically to their needs. What makes it special? ‘We exclusively post internships and vacancies for students and fresh graduates with zero to two years of experience,’ says Iba, 22, a very recent graduate herself. ‘It saves wasting time applying for “graduate” jobs that actually want people with four or five years of experience.’

Meisa Batayneh

Meisa Batayneh is the founder and principal architect at maisam architects and engineers.

She is experienced in multiple facets of design including architecture, planning, urban design, place branding and a pioneer of Green Buildings in the region.

Meisa’s work has won multiple global awards: the Architzer A+ Popular Choice Award 2015 and LEAF Award 2014 for A Gateway to Petra, Arabian Property Awards 2010 to 2013.

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