Top Ten Saudis I Want to Meet

Five days before Fouad al-Farhan was detained, he posted a list of ten least favourite Saudis that he does not wish to meet. At the end of that post, he wrote: “Coming soon: top ten Saudis that I love and wish to meet.” As a tribute to Fouad, I decided to give it a shot.

I thought it would be a piece of cake; and oh boy I was wrong! I was unpleasantly surprised that I could easily come up with 3, 4 or 5 lists like Fouad’s, but I could not find 10 Saudis that I really would like to meet. It did not help that I’ve already met some people who would otherwise have been on my list.

After borrowing the brains of few friends and several attempts to write and rewrite this list, I present you with my list of the ten Saudi personalities that I would like to meet in person:

1. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz
Although I’m pretty sure that his majesty’s schedule for the coming four years is totally full, I would really like if I get a chance to meet him, and if I ever get this chance, it would be one of the rare occasions where I’m looking forward to meet someone in order to talk to him more than listening.

2. Abdul-Rahman Al Lahim
A fellow blogger once called the human rights lawyer an “angel,” and I think that her description is not far from truth. Despite all the hardships that he has had to go through, including jail and travel ban not to mention being severely attacked by some ignorant idiots, he stood firm to defend the defenseless.

3. Khalid Al Dakhil
I’ve been a fan for the sociopolitics professor for a long time. When he was having a chat with Washington Post readers I was lucky to get to ask him a question, and I even have had a chance to talk with him on the phone last year, but I’m still waiting for the right time to have the pleasure of meeting him in person.

4. Sheikh Hasan Al Saffar
After spending some time as a dissent in exile in the 80’s, he returned home in the early 90’s and emerged as one of the most prominent Shia leaders in the country. Today, he represents one of the few voices here calling publicly for tolerance, moderation and a greater role for civil society.

5. Ghazi Al Gosaibi
You can say whatever you want about his performance in his different ministerial positions, but my admiration of Al Gosaibi has more to do with his writings as a novelist and a poet than his work for the government.

6. Maram Meccawy
Our newspapers are filled with aging editors and writers, the kind of people Fouad used to call “dinosaurs.” This is not the case with this young columnist and, I’m glad to say, fellow blogger who represents a breath of fresh air and gives the rest of us hope that the future of this nation may not be completely dark after all.

7. Buthaina Al Nassr
After being the first Saudi female news anchor to welcome viewers on Al Ekhbariya, she left the deteriorating channel and now works with Al Hurra. We spoke on the phone a couple of times and because she know that I’m constantly consuming junk food in Riyadh she was nice enough to invite me to try her cooking; something I’m looking forward to as she is also known for being a good cook :-)

8. Samia Al Amoudi
A brave, courageous woman who fought breast cancer and then made it her mission to raise awareness about this disease that kills hundreds of women in a society where talking about such issue is usually surrounded with shame.

9. Ebtihal Mubarak
The Arab News reporter has been described by CNN as “fearless” and her work on many stories during the past few years is simply groundbreaking. Ebtihal comes from a conservative background but that did not stop her from becoming one of the leading female journalists in Saudi Arabia.

10. Abdullah Al Hamed, Matruk Al Faleh and Ali Al Dumaini
The three reformists who were jailed for demanding a constitutional monarchy and later pardoned by King Abdullah soon after he ascended the throne are some of the most courageous political activists in the country. Al Hamed, and his brother Eisa, are now jailed in the aftermath of the women’s demonstrations in Qassim last summer, while Al Faleh and Al Domaini continue their efforts to promote human rights in the country.

Honorable Mentions: Turky Al Hamad, Badria Al Bisher, Wajiha Al Huwaider, Dima Al Azem, Othman Al Omair, Sami Al Jaber and Hatoon Al Fassi.

How about you people? Who’s on your list?