Tag Archives: Prominent Saudis

Prominent Saudis: Majed Abdulla

Majed Abdulla is a retired soccer player. Besides the fact that he is black, before researching him, I didn’t know what he looks like but his name is familiar to any and every Saudi ear. There’s even a funny Arabic rhyme that many people use to retort to a swear; when you say wAllah (I swear by God’s name) the other person replies you’ll be kissed by Majed Abdulla.

 Majed Abdulla was born in Jeddah to a middle class family. A few years later, his family moved to Riyadh so that his father could coach beginner and young soccer players at the second largest soccer club in Saudi Arabia, Al Nasr. Of course the close proximity to soccer eventually rubbed off and Majed Abdulla was inducted to the Al Nasr soccer team on 9/September/1975.

I’m not a sports fan and it’s almost a foreign language to me but if you want to know more about his career check out this Wikipedia page on him.

Majed Abdulla retired in April 1998 and despite his great achievements he was not celebrated in any way. Many of his fans felt disgruntled and it is rumored that this disregard was on purpose because he had a conflict with a very powerful Saudi. This powerful Saudi has recently moved out of the picture and in turn Majed was given the farewell he deserved ten years after his retirement. On the 20th of May of this year, a match was organized between Real Madrid and Majed’s old club, Al Nasr. The latter astoundingly won 4-1. The stadium was packed full and 30,000 fans had to be turned away.

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Prominent Saudis: Dr. Salwa Al Hazza

Salwa AL Hazza is a rare breed of Saudi women. She has managed to gain and keep the respect of the male half of our society without strictly observing the hijab. This is due to three reasons; first that she has excelled in her medical field of ophthalmology, she got married and stayed married and finally has close ties with the royals.

Dr. Al Hazza was educated in the United States at a young age but she did her bachelors here in Riyadh at King Saud University. She, accompanied by her husband, got her residency at John Hopkins. She became the late King Fahad’s personal ophthalmologist. She is the first Saudi woman to head a medical department; the ophthalmology department at King Faisal Specialist Hospital in Riyadh.  Dr. Al Hazza has numerous publications including an encyclopedia on Saudi genetic diseases and groundbreaking research in rescuing the eyesight of premature babies.

According to her interviews, Dr. Al Hazza’s views on the current situation for women are that we should be patient and try to change things only after accepting and understanding them. She believes in quiet change from within. In the Al Riyadh Newspaper Interview she told a story about how when she came back with her family from the USA after her father had finished his Masters degree and she overheard one of her father’s friends saying what a shame that she and her four sisters weren’t sons because with their obvious genius and language abilities they would have grown to be great men in society.

Every time Saudi Arabia is criticized for its policies and laws regarding women, the government trots out Dr. Al Hazza to prove them wrong. Yes, she’s Saudi and yes she is a sign that things are going in the right direction but she by no means represents the average woman. Through luck she was married to an understanding man that let her be the great role model she is today. I wonder how many other potential Salwas are buried under our traditions.


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Prominent Saudis: Mohammed Abdu

Mohammed Abdu is the Saudi version of Paul McCartney. He’s the most polished and veteran singer in the Arabian Gulf. He’s also well-known all across the Middle East. In fact, his first hit in 1968 was popular not only in Saudi Arabia but also Lebanon and Egypt. Currently, he is dubbed the Arab Artist. His concerts are always sold out well in advance and all the great poets want to bestow their poems to him to sing as lyrics. There’s even a special black edition of the IPod with all his albums, old and new, already downloaded on it. It has Mohammed Abdu’s name in calligraphy on it. 

What also made Abdu such a hit is his clean reputation for being a family man. Since his early years, he has invited people to call him abu Nora (father of Nora, his firstborn). His house and its adjacent mosque are a famous landmark in Jeddah. Anyone can see and meet him just by attending prayer at his mosque.  

Abdu was born in one of the greenest areas of Saudi Arabia in the South East, in Jizan. His family was very poor and their income was supplemented by the government. He obtained a scholarship to study seamanship in Italy, but sometime during his study he took a detour and stumbled on his musical talents.

For the exception of a few videos that surfaced in the late 70s and early 80s of Abdu drunk playing his Ouad (Eastern guitar) at private functions, there have been no scandals of womanizing or such. There have been rumors though of him becoming a devout Muslim and quitting music every time he takes a break in between albums. And a tape of allegedly him reading the Quran aloud and crying was making the rounds. However this rumor dies as soon as his latest album hits the music stores and it is resurrected again if he spends a year without production. My take on this is that to the muttawas, Abdu would be a prime recruit since so many people look up to him. That’s why these rumors keep surfacing in hopes that they would magically come true.

Unfortunately Abdu is currently experiencing problems on the home-front. He has divorced his first wife, Nora’s mother. It is speculated that this is because he wanted to wed a second wife and his first refused to go along with it. As you can see, just like all celebrities, there are a lot of speculations and gossip surrounding them. Mohammed Abdu is the sort who denies and does not allow comment about his personal life.

You can listen and download his music for free here at this link.

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Prominent Saudis: Dr. Ghazi Al Qosaibi


The most prominent of prominent not royal Saudis is Ghazi Al Qosaibi. This is a name that every Saudi knows, young and old. He initially became popular for the reforms he implemented as minister of health, that and his Arabic novels compounded to make him one of the shiniest stars in the Saudi sky.
The first phases of his education were in neighboring Arab countries, Bahrain and Egypt. He then went on to a masters in the US and a PhD from the University of London. He then came back to Riyadh in 1971 to work as an academic at King Saud University. However, that did not last that long because he later sat at many important desks in Saudi; Director General of Saudi Railways Organization, Minister of Industry and Electricity, Minister of Health, Saudi ambassador in Bahrain then UK, Minister of Water, and now Minister of Labour.
Before he was assigned that last position, he was immensely popular all across Saudi but since becoming Minister of Labour, he has had to delve into areas that he had not touched before. As minister he is trying to tackle issues such as women unemployment rates, creating new sectors for Saudi women, reducing the number of low-skilled expatriate workers and training Saudis to take over their jobs. All of the above are held dearly to the hearts of our conservative majority.
It seems like they think anyone holding a Saudi passport is too good for blue-collar jobs. And they all live in a fairyland where every Saudi woman has a chivalrous man supporting her. And that’s why now his popularity has seen a dive.
To give you a sense of what he’s up against read these two articles:

Too Many Guardians Hindering Society’s Progress: Al-Gosaibi
Raid Qusti, Arab News

RIYADH, 28 April 2008 – Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi yesterday criticized people who reject the idea of Arab and Saudi women working as maids in Saudi households.
“We are a society which is full of guardians,” Al-Gosaibi told reporters while answering a question about a proposal to have Egyptian housemaids in Saudi homes, as suggested by the Egyptian minister of labor.
“The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that all of you are guardians and that every guardian is responsible for his family. He did not say all of you are guardians for entire society,” said Al-Gosaibi.

Al-Gosaibi Seeks People’s Support for Job Policies
Arab News

BURAIDAH, 24 April 2008 – Labor Minister Ghazi Al-Gosaibi yesterday called for sustained support from society to help his ministry successfully implement new employment policies.
Addressing the participants in the second day of the seventh national dialogue forum that began in Buraidah on Tuesday, Al-Gosaibi said no Islamic religious strictures prevent women from working.
“After detailed studies and discussions, the religious scholars, intellectuals and the Supreme Economic Council have agreed on the religious regulations on the employment of women,” the minister said.

 Another thing that has to be mentioned when it come to Dr. Ghazi Al Qosaibi, is his great contributions to Arabic literature. His most noteworthy is The Apartment of Freedom which is about a group of Saudi college students in Egypt. It is so popular that it was made into a TV series. And his latest novel, The Genie, which was published in 2006 is also a good read.

One more thing is he was one of the first people to back Raja Al Sanea, author of Girls of Riyadh.


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