Nadia Bakhurji
Nadia Bakhurji Source: Nadia Bakhurji

After completing her bachelor’s degree from King Faisal University's College of Architecture and Planning in the 1980s, Nadia Bakhurji figured out that companies in the country weren’t ready to take on women in the workforce yet. 

Driven by an urge to work, she started her own business in 1989 by establishing an architectural and interior design consultancy called Riwaq of the Kingdom (ROK).

Early successes

Initially, Bakhurji got work through her father’s business contacts, with one of her first major clients being American telecommunications giant AT&T.

Then in 1996, she formed a partnership with Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, which extended ROK’s prospects considerably. Together, they served hospitality, medical, educational, and corporate sectors. 

NBA is launched

In 2007, she was one of the first women in the kingdom to be granted an architectural consultant license. Soon after, she launched her own company, Nadia Bakhurji Architectural and Interior Design Consultants (NBA), through which she made some of her most famous work.

Bakhurji started to work on major projects and formed international joint ventures with globally renowned companies like HKS from the United States, Expanish from Spain, and Vahanen from Finland.

Through NBA, Bakhurji targets a niche market – the female clientele who want a womanly touch to their interiors and overall architecture.

The activist

Throughout her career, Bakhurji has campaigned for the advancement of women in engineering, education, and business. She received widespread recognition for becoming the first Saudi woman to attempt to run for the municipal elections in 2005.

This move gained her importance in higher decision making and policy drafting for women in the society. Later that year, she became the first woman to earn a seat on the Board of the Saudi Council of Engineers (SCE). 

She was also the founding board member of the Arab Women’s International Forum and is currently a board member of the Arab Women Engineers Committee. 

Bakhurji even briefly served as the Secretary-General for Prince Al Waleed’s foundation in 2012.

Bakhurji today

She serves as the president of NBA and Riwaq, and has won numerous awards for her works in architecture, design, and even for her activism. 

Bakhurji was a Chevening Fellow at University College of London and awarded the Arab Women’s Excellence Award for Excellence in Architecture and serving the engineering sector in 2012.

Two years later, she won the International QS100 Gold Quality Crown Award for achieving a high standard of client satisfaction and quality services.

Today, her best-known work is in the form of palaces in Riyadh and major community development projects. She continues to work for major brands and has recently designed retail outlets and office spaces for Nissan and SABB.

This profile is part of StepFeed's Featured Arabs series, featuring Arabs you should know about. Read previous profiles here.