Middle East & North Africa

Eman Hylooz

Being an avid reader herself, Eman Hylooz, 31, deplored the absence of an online database of Arabic books. She has a background in computer science and had been working in software development prior to launching the first version of Abjjad in 2012.

Mouna Abbassy

Originally from Morocco, Mouna Abbassy moved to Dubai 10 years ago to start a career as a marketing professional for multinational cosmetic brands. Rediscovering the age-old Moroccan beauty rituals, she decided in 2013 to launch her own brand Izil Beauty – meaning “pure” in Moroccan Berber.

Sarah Hawilo

With a bachelor and a master’s degree in business, Sarah Hawilo, 30, had been working as a research consultant in a multinational firm for 5 years when she decided to move into the technology sector. She co-founded serVme, a mobile application and analytics software, to help restaurateurs adequately meet their clients’ expectations.

H.E. Mona Al Marri

In 2003, Her Highness Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairperson of Dubai Women's Establishment and President of Dubai Ladies Club, entrusted Al Marri with overseeing the establishment of the first women's club in Dubai. As the Vice President of Dubai Ladies Club, Al Marri exceeded expectations and successfully achieved all the outlined goals and objectives. After the success of the Dubai Ladies Club, Al Marri worked under the supervision of Sheikha Manal on the initiation and development of the Dubai Women Establishment (DWE).

Rama Kayyali

Rama Kayyali Jardaneh and her business partner, Lamia Tabaa, came up with the idea for their company 10 years ago, when Rama had just had her first son. ‘We began to talk about the lack of engaging Arabic language audiovisual content for children. All the video and television programs for young children were produced in the West or Japan and never localised, even when dubbed into Arabic.’

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.’

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