1. Reem Asaad, women rights advocate

Origin: Saudi Arabia Residence: Saudi Arabia In 2008, Asaad launched a campaign to boycott lingerie shops that only employed men. This move gained international recognition and was followed by a local decree which instantly created 44,000 jobs for women. Alongside promoting female employment in Saudi Arabia, Asaad continues to work on a road map for long-awaited labour reforms in the Kingdom.

2. Sarah Attar & Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, Olympic athletes

Origin: Saudi Arabia Residence: Saudi Arabia Though they didn’t win any medals, Attar and Shahrkhani were two of the most talked about athletes at the London 2012 Summer Games as they became the first female athletes from Saudi Arabia to take part. Attar ran in the 800 metre race while Shahrkhani competed in the judo. They marked a new world-first for the Olympics and for women’s rights in the Kingdom.

3. Manal Al Sharif, Saudi activist

Origin: Saudi Arabia Residence: Saudi Arabia The driving force behind the campaign to abolish the driving ban on women in Saudi, Al Sharif gained international recognition after she posted a Youtube video of herself flouting the ban. Despite being arrested by Saudi authorities, she has been relentless in her efforts and was named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People in 2012.

5. Elie Saab, fashion designer

Residence: Lebanon/Paris Origin: Lebanon A name synonymous with haute couture in the Middle East, Saab’s fame grew to international proportions when he dressed stars like Scarlett Johansson, Halle Berry, Taylor Swift and Charlize Theron. 2012 was peppered with his store’s expansion into new markets like the Americas, Europe and Asia.

6. Hassan Abdullah Al Thawadi, secretary general, Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee

Residence: Qatar Origin: Qatar Tackling everything from corruption allegations to an intensive bidding process to alcohol consumption concerns, Al Thawadi has rightly become the kingpin of the largest sporting event the Middle East has seen. As the event hurls into an estimated cost of around £138 billion, it will rightly keep on capturing global attention.

7. Tawakul Karman, Nobel Peace Prize winner and political activist

Origin: Yemen Residence: Yemen Although Karman has dropped in ranking from last year, she still remains one of the Arab Spring’s most recognisable faces, lauded with championing the Augean Stables of Yemini politics. The youngest Nobel Peace Laureate to date, and the first Arab woman and Yemeni to do so, it’s no wonder that Karman has been nicknamed the “Iron Woman”.

9. Zuhair Murad, fashion designer

Origin: Lebanon Residence: Lebanon A renowned name in the world of fashion, Zuhair Murad’s creation was recently paraded by Kristen Stewart at the latest Twilight saga movie première. The Lebanese designer has dressed numerous celebrities and his collection is available through 80 multi-brand outlets and stores across the world. In addition to haute couture, Murad’s line includes menswear and accessories.

10. Amr Diab, singer

Origin: Egypt Residence: Egypt Considered by many fans as a “living legend,” the Egyptian singer reportedly pocketed a cool $170,000 for performing on New Years’ Eve 2012 in Dubai. Diab, who gained popularity for creating a blend of Western and Egyptian rhythms, has his own radio station– Diab FM, and has also acted in a few movies.

4. Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser, chairwoman, Qatar Foundation

Origin: Qatar Residence: Qatar Qatar’s pre-eminent social reformer, Sheikha Moza has played a major role in spearheading various national and international development projects. She was a driving force behind Education City and Al Jazeera Children’s Channel, and was also named as one of Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women at number 74.

8. Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel, Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation vice-chairperson

Origin: Saudi Arabia Residence: Saudi Arabia Princess Ameerah has gained global recognition in recent years as a prominent spokesperson for reforms in Saudi Arabia. The vice-chairperson of the Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation, she is the wife of Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. The foundation supports programmes for poverty alleviation, disaster relief, women’s empowerment and interfaith dialogue across the world.

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