Great Arab Minds

New prize recognises contributions in science, literature, technology, economics, medicine, and architecture.

The inaugural winners of the UAE’s Great Arab Minds award have been named at a ceremony hosted at Dubai’s Museum of the Future. The six awardees were: Hani Najm, a Saudi Arabian cardiac surgeon working at the Cleveland Clinic in the US; Lina Ghotmeh, renowned Lebanese architect; Mohamed El-Erian, esteemed Egyptian American economist; Niveen Khashab, chair of the chemistry department at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia; Fadel Adib, MIT associate professor from Lebanon; and Waciny Laredj, Algerian novelist and Arab literary giant.

Each will receive a prize of Dhs1m (US$ 270,0000) to support their work.

The Great Arab Minds award is part of the Dhs100m ($27m) Great Arab Minds initiative, which aims to foster and reward excellence in science, literature, engineering and technology, economics, medicine, and architecture.

Funded by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, a Great Arab Minds research centre will be established at Dubai’s Museum of the Future. It seeks to identify, foster, and reward Arab talent, encourage excellence and provide opportunities for thought leaders, scholars, and scientists to translate their ideas into real-life breakthroughs and solutions.

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Winners of the first Great Arab Minds award at Dubai's Museum of the Future. Photo: Supplied.

About the winners

Hani Najm, Medicine

Saudi cardiac surgeon and chair of paediatric and congenital heart surgery at Cleveland Clinic, Ohio, Dr Najm has developed innovations in paediatric heart surgery including a self-expanding heart valve and a "ventricular switch" technique to repairing complex congenital heart conditions in children. In addition, Najm played a crucial role in a rare life-saving surgery on a 26-week-old foetus with a heart tumour.

Fadel Adib, Engineering and Technology

Fadel Adib, an assistant professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was awarded for his significant contributions to wireless technology and sensing. Research by Adib, from Lebanon, has expanded the possibilities of wireless sensing technology, particularly in through-wall vision and sensing, enabling the detection of objects and vibrations behind walls and under rubble.

Mohamed El-Erian, Economics

Egyptian-American economist and president of Queens’ College, Cambridge University, El-Erian is known for providing deep insights into the global economy. His research, including the development of analytical tools, has improved economic forecasting accuracy. His six influential books have addressed key topics such as the post-global financial crisis and Covid-19 economic landscapes.

Niveen Khashab, Natural Science

The dean of physical sciences and engineering, and chair of the chemistry department at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Dr Khashab from Lebanon has blazed a trail for women scientists in the Arab region. She is recognised for advancing biomimetic supramolecular assemblies with versatile applications in biomedical and industrial domains that have contributed to sustainable agriculture.

Lina Ghotmeh, Architecture and Design

Celebrated Lebanese architect and architecture professor Ghotmeh is recognised for integrating architecture and nature and she selects durable materials for challenging conditions. She has overseen 65 global projects including the Stone Garden apartment  block, which survived the 2020 Beirut port explosion.

Waciny Laredj, Literature and Arts

An Algerian novelist and professor of Arabic literature at both the University of Algiers and the Sorbonne University in Paris, Laredj is an Arabic literary giant. He has authored more than 30 novels and books in both Arabic and French and is best known for introduces new forms of linguistic expression, which have broadened the scope of narratives and imaginative storytelling in Arabic literature.

The five-year initiative aims to revive the scientific and intellectual golden age of the Arab world, and counter so-called brain drain, where promising individuals leave their home countries due to economic challenges and conflict for more lucrative opportunities overseas.

Announcing the Great Arab Minds, Sheikh Mohammed said: “We recognise the importance of fostering opportunities for creative Arab talent and supporting them in utilising research, development, and technologies to shape a brighter future for humanity.” And he added: "The UAE will continue to serve as a hub for exceptional talents, including scientists, doctors, writers, thinkers, researchers, and innovators.”

Winner of the 2023 science prize, professor Khashab said: “This award brings hope, signalling a shift towards a brighter future for all Arab countries.”

Fellow awardee, Paris-based architect Ghotmeh, added: “Architecture is our language to express our culture, history, and aspirations… I see this award as a recognition of the pivotal role of our discipline in shaping the Arab world's identity.” -PA