Major innovations don’t just happen in the West. The MENA region is home to some of the world’s greatest innovators who have made a difference in the world and continue to do so today. Here are 13 innovators who will make you want to get off your couch right now and do something:
1. Tony Fadell
Fadi Ghandour is the co-founder of Aramex, the Middle East’s first courier company, which began operations in Amman, Jordan back in 1982. It is the first Arab company to be listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Aramex has grown tremendously since with approximately 13,800 employees in 54 countries and a network consisting of 40 independent express companies.
3. Firouz Naderi
Born in Shiraz, Iran, Firouz Naderi currently serves as the director for the solar system exploration at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory . In the year 2000, he became head of JPL’s Mars Exploration Program, which he lead successfully for five years, overseeing the successful landing of the Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.
4. Hind Hobeika
As an avid swimmer, Lebanese Hind Hobeika launched Instabeat, a waterproof monitor for swimmers that tracks, stores, and displays instant feedback of your heart rate to optimize your performance. Hobeika was just a contestant on the Qatar-based Stars of Science who later won big at 2012 MIT Enterprise Forum and finally launched her startup. During the 2012 Olympics, her prodoct was tested by 15 olympic swimmers.
Born and raised in Aleppo, Syria, Ronaldo Mouchawar co-founded Souq.com, the first online marketplace for the Arab world back in 2005. Since its start, Souq.com has become the largest online retailer and marketplace in the region.
6. Nader Sabry
Hailing from Lebanon, Soulaiman Itani founded Atheer augmented reality wearable glasses which was out on the market head to head with Google glass. As opposed to Google, Itani’s glasses display augmented reality in three dimensions rather than two. His previous work includes designing cancer tests and treatments and creating models for robotics. Prior to that, he received his Masters of Science and PhD in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from MIT.
Egyptian scientist Rana El-Kaliouby is a major contributor to facial expression recognition research and technology development after founding MIT startup Affectiva to help computers read facial gestures more accurately. Affectiva currently has 2 million faces in its repository, the world’s largest facial emotion repository.
Hailing from Shiraz, Iran, Peyman moved to Germany at age 19 to study medicine. He holds 149 patents for a wide range of novel medical devices, his most widely known being LASIK eye surgery.
10. Bassam Jalgha
Born and raised in Beirut, Bassam Jalgha co-founded Band Industries and officially launched Roadie Tuner, an automatic tuner and string winder for guitarists.
12. Rachid Yazami
Originally from Morocco, Yazami is best known for his research on fluoride ion batteries and lithium ion batteries which ultimately lead to the discovery of the lithium-graphite anode, which is now used in commercial lithium ion batteries.
Hailing from Lebanon, Edyy Maroun and Elie Habib co-founded Anghami, the region’s first music streaming platform, providing the largest music library from major Arabic labels including Rotana and Platinum Records. Anghami is one of the largest digital music ventures to launch in the Middle East with the aim to reduce music piracy.