The Most Influential and Famous Arabs in 2020

The Most Influential and Famous Arabs in 2020

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 that is divided into different sections that include “Pioneers,” “Artists,” “Leaders,” “Icons” and “Titans”.  As a result, past lists have included kings of the Middle East (and queens as well, with Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan making the list in 2004) and famous Arab celebrities like Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek (of whom, while we are on the subject of queens, Iron Man actor Robert Downey, Jr., said in 2019 “Queen entrusted Rami Malek with representing their legacy, the story of their lives, and the memory of their friend and bandmate. Somewhere during said crucible, he earned it.”  With all of this in mind, here’s a list of 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, Egypt’s leading independent online newspaper whose office was stormed by security forces in November 2019 in another assault on freedom of the press in the country.  Attalah was also arrested and detained on 17 May 2020 because she attempted to interview Laila Soueif as she was protesting in front of Tora prison where her son, activist Alaa Abdelfattah, is being held. 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,’” 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 in January and 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 was shortlisted for the Best Documentary Feature award at the Academy Awards in America.

YOUSEF AL OTAIBAUnited Arab Emirates

Once called the “most powerful man in Washington” by the Huffington Post, since taking the position of the most powerful Arab country’s Ambassador to the US on July 28, 2008, the UAE’s Al Otaiba was often accused of 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 after he played a key role in the UAE’s formal recognition of Israel in August by presenting 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. After years of splurging on powerful friends it was just the kind of deal that the ambassador was in prime position to make.


A former Syrian government forensic photographer codenamed “Caesar” is another one of the most influential Arabs who made it to the TIME 100 list under the heading of “Leaders” making 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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