The Most Influential Arabs in 2020 – People That Marked History

Gary Greer 4/14/2021
Arab Culture

Every year since 1999, Time magazine has announced its TIME 100, a list of the 100 most influential people in the world. 2020 is no different. As in years past, Arabs prominently appear next to their colleagues from all over the world on the list. This list contains different sections that include “Pioneers,” “Artists,” “Leaders,” “Icons” and “Titans”. As a result, past lists had kings of the Middle East. Queens as well, with Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan showcased in 2004. The list includes famous Arab celebrities like Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek who played in the movie “Queen”. So, here’s a list of influential Arabs and Arab achievements that made it to the 2020 Time 100:


Lina Attalah is an Egyptian journalist and Editor-in-Chief of Mada Masr. Mada Masr is Egypt’s leading independent online newspaper. Security forces stormed the office in November 2019 in another assault on freedom of the press. This caused the arrest of Attalah on 17 May 2020 for the attempt to interview Laila Soueif. Laila was protesting in front of Tora prison. As a result of her dedication to honest journalism in spite of intense adversity and her commitment to, in the words of Filipina journalist Maria Ressa, “constantly (making) the choice to do stories (Mada Masr) knows will bring ‘good trouble’”. So, Attalah was voted for this year’s TIME 100.


Award-winning Syrian film director Waad Al-Kateab was another influential Arab that made it to the TIME 100. Her film, For Sama, focuses on Al-Kateab starting from her daily life in Aleppo at the beginning of the Syrian uprising to the brutal siege of the city by regime forces and their allies. For Sama became the most nominated documentary in the history of the British Academy Film Awards. Also, it was nominated for Outstanding British Film, Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Documentary. Additionally, in December 2019, it made it on the shortlist for the Best Documentary Feature award at the Academy Awards in America.

YOUSEF AL OTAIBA – United Arab Emirates

He was once called the “most powerful man in Washington” by the Huffington Post. Since the position of Ambassador to the US on July 28, 2008, people blamed Al Otaiba for glad-handing too much. However, it seems all the schmoozing he has done for the past 12 years has finally paid off. These days he has become the public face of a reshaped Middle East. This is after he played a key role in the UAE’s formal recognition of Israel. In August he presented a deal to Benjamin Netanyahu in an Israeli newspaper that the Israeli Prime Minister could hardly refuse: abandon plans to annex Palestinian land in exchange for diplomatic ties. It was just the kind of deal that the ambassador was in prime position to make.

Caesar – Syria

A former Syrian government forensic photographer codenamed “Caesar” is another one of the most influential Arabs. He made it to the list under the heading of “Leaders”. It made him one of the most powerful Arab leaders in 2020. Caesar bravely smuggled over 50,000 photo showing President Bashar Al-Assad’s war crimes.

As you can see some of the most influential people in the world today speak the Arabic language and you can too!

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