The negative light under which expats are put under by the news industry has many of us thinking of them as an economic burden.
However, what we fail to see is that many expats in the Arab region have actually helped - with their skills, experiences, and dedication - make the Middle East a better place.
The following list combines 10 of the most acclaimed expats who have, and are still, contributing and devoting their lives to the progress of the region in all types of industries.
10. Laura of Arabia - Saudi Arabia
Laura is a Finnish expat residing in Saudi Arabia with a medical profession degree.
She is currently the author of blueabaya.com, an award-winning website that seeks to promote the beauty of Saudi Arabia.
The content on the website is Laura’s work, including the photos which have been featured in publications such as National Geographic among many others.
The website has received several awards including Best Saudi Arabia Expat Blog 2012, and Best Asian & Middle Eastern Weblog 2013 at the Bloggies.
It was also a finalist at the Saudi Excellence in Tourism Awards in 2013 and 2014 for the category Best Website Promoting Tourism.
9. Noah Raford - UAE
Focused on providing tools and guidance on how to prepare for the future, Noah Raford is a futurist in every sense of the word.
He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Futurescaper.com, a scenario planning start-up based in London and Dubai.
He is also the Chief Operating Officer (COO) who assisted in establishing the UAE’s first national foresight unit as well as the Dubai Future Foundation and the Museum of the Future.
Raford attended school and worked in the U.S. before deciding to relocate to the UAE.
Outside of work, he has a passion for music and remains a semi-retired techno DJ.
8. Dr. Bavaguthu Raghuram Shetty - UAE
Dr. B R Shetty is a Dubai-based Indian billionaire with a few achievements under his name.
He is the Founder and Non-Executive Chairman of NMC Healthcare, the Founder, CEO, and MD of Neopharma, and also the Chairman of BRS Ventures and UAE Exchange.
But he is not all about work. Dr. B R Shetty has a love for art and history.
Back in April, he announced that he will be producing an Indian film to retell the story of the Kurukṣetra War.
It will revolve around the fates of the Kaurava and the Pāṇḍava princes. The film’s production cost will be at about $150 million, which will make it the most expensive Indian film ever produced - set to be released in 2020.
For his work and contributions to the community, Dr. B R Shetty has been the recipient of numerous awards, some of which include the highest civilian distinction in the Emirate, the Top Indian Leaders in the UAE from Forbes Middle East, and Healthcare Business Leader of the Year from Gulf Business Industry Awards.
Dr. Shetty is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Economic Department, Government of Dubai, as well as the Pharmaceutical Committee of Dubai.
7. Frankie Walters - Lebanon
Part of Virgin Radio’s morning crew, Frankie Walters is one of Lebanon’s most loved radio personalities. Mornings wouldn’t be the same without her lighthearted humor and dynamic personality.
Walters isn’t only about radio, she uses her fame to spread awareness about environmental, human, and animal rights.
Her social media pages are filled with articles, videos, and commentaries to enlighten her followers on such issues both within Lebanon and the world.
She demonstrates how we can all do our part to make a difference, whether by raising awareness or by being directly involved in local initiatives.
Never underestimate the power of social media. Her blog posts are a great addition to any concerned citizen’s homefeed.
Walters' father is British and her mother is Lebanese. She grew to love Lebanon and even learn how to speak and write Arabic. Due to Lebanon's citizenship law though, Walters doesn't hold the Lebanese passport.
"My mother is Lebanese, and unfortunately she does not have the right to pass on the nationality. But it's in my blood!
I did fight for it big time when they tried to get the Lebanese diaspora to get the passports but the only info [you] could fill in was about your dad, your jido (grandfather), and your great grandfather. No information slots about your mother were available! But hey! Nafsiteh Lubnaniyeh!" Walters told StepFeed.
6. Wonho Chung - UAE
Laughter is the essence of life and Wonho Chung is sure to make you laugh.
As a proud Arab, his angle puts a spin on the cultural barriers and misunderstandings not just from within the Middle East but in the world as well.
His stand up comedy is not only hilarious but totally relatable. His unique Asian-Arab perspective brings awareness to discrimination, which can sometimes go unnoticed in the Middle East.
Chung is also a singer, actor, and interviewer.
His Asian heritage created a bridge between the Arab world and many Asian countries, especially when he hosted the television program “Wonho Around The World” - where he took his audience on tour in countries such as Korea, Vietnam, Tokyo, and Hong Kong.
5. Bernardino León - UAE
As the recipient of over 20 international awards for his work in diplomacy and over 25 years of experience in the international arena - mainly in the Middle East - in 2015, León was appointed as the first Director General of the Emirates Diplomatic Academy (EDA).
Prior to his current role, León held many high-level diplomatic positions. As the United Nations Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL,) one can fairly say that he played an instrumental role in Middle East diplomacy.
He was the personal adviser to the EU Special Representative for the Middle East Peace Process.
Perhaps one of the highlights of his career was when he served as the European Union Special Representative (EUSR) for the Southern Mediterranean, where he focused on the EU’s role in supporting countries within the Southern Mediterranean that were undergoing democratic transitions.
One of his tasks focused on contributing to the EU’s response in terms of assisting in strengthening institution building, which is perhaps one of the most crucial elements required for stability when a state undergoes a transition to democracy.
León now contributes his plethora of experience to the students of the EDA, where some of the future diplomats of the world study.
4. Tom Fletcher - UAE, formerly Lebanon
Author of the HarperCollins book, Naked Diplomacy: Power and Statecraft in The Digital Age, as well as being the former British Ambassador to Lebanon (2011-2015,) Fletcher has built a life focused on diplomacy, both professionally and academically.
As a previous ambassador, he employed a sense of humor to engage with his followers, especially the millennial generation. In that respect, he understands the importance and role of social media in connecting people.
Fletcher has a deep sense of care for Lebanon and its people. He sees the nation’s struggle but also understands its beauty.
Upon completing his four-year term as Lebanon’s British Ambassador, Tom wrote what can be described as a satirical, truth gripping memo of Lebanon’s reality, in all its glory and all its agony.
In his piece “So... Yalla, Bye,” he urges the Lebanese to remember their dreams and hopes and to stand for a country united. Like many other Lebanese, Fletcher dreams of a “Beirutopia.” For him, Lebanon represents the hope for a better future.
Fletcher is currently an Advisor to the Global Business Coalition for Education and Emirates Diplomatic Academy, as well as a visiting professor of International Relations at New York University.
3. Max Stanton - UAE
A social media influencer and a guru when it comes to promoting brands, Max Stanton was born to an American father and a British mother, but spent most of his childhood in Yemen.
He has embraced the Arabic language and culture and is now seeking to promote understanding between the East and West.
His influence earned him the name “Max of Arabia.”
At 27, he attended the American University in Sharjah and eventually decided to make the UAE his permanent home. But loving the land is not where it ends, Stanton has decided to build bridges via social media between locals and foreigners to get them to be “more interested in each other”.
He believes Western media focuses too much on the geopolitical side of the Middle East and often portrays Arabs in an incorrect manner. To him, there are many beautiful things about the culture and heritage that should be known to the world, and he aims to share that.
Max is not a just a social media influencer, but also a humble humanitarian.
He has been involved in many local initiatives with children, orphans, and disadvantaged families in the region, taking the time to directly be involved.
2. John Jenkins - IISS, Bahrain
With 35 years of experience in the British Diplomatic Service, Sir John Jenkins is now the Executive Director of The International Institute for Strategic Studies - Middle East, in Bahrain.
Under the Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO,) Mr. Jenkins served in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, and eventually as the Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Mr. Jenkins has also been the UK ambassador to Syria (2006-07,) Iraq (2009-2011,) Libya (2011,) and Saudi Arabia (2012).
In 2011, Mr. Jenkins was the UK Special Representative to the National Transitional Council of Libya between May to October.
The Council was key in Libya’s transition after its civil war in 2011 and played the role of a temporary government, representing the people of Libya while the country transitioned into a constitutional democracy.
Mr. Jenkins brings with him an awareness of the importance of understanding a nation’s history and culture and not just a top-down policy approach.
“The memory of what we are, what we were, how we came to exist in a particular historical moment and how others have joined us there is the key to our future. And reaching a common understanding of the desired direction of travel depends on an honest endeavour to explore what that collective and individual memory means." -Jenkins
1. Andrea DiCenzo - Iraq
As a young American photojournalist based in Iraq since 2015, Andrea DiCenzo has been capturing moments of humanity in wars; the good, the bad, and the heartwarming.
DiCenzo brings to the world true images that wouldn't have been seen without her lens.
She remains one of the very few women practicing the male-dominated job of war photojournalism.
DiCenzo's work is not limited to Iraq. She has been to many conflict zones where she has provided photos for The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, European Press Agency, and many other media outlets that rely on her talent.