Arab Stars On The Global Stage

Arab stars on the global stage

Entertainment has historically transcended boundaries, connecting people who share a common love for an art or song. Similarly, Arab celebrities have united the Arab diaspora that is spread across the globe today. Many homegrown Arab stars have made a mark internationally while there is a crop of second-generation and first-generation immigrant Arabs who have earned global recognition as entertainers.

Today Arab stars’ concerts are a full house while their films have opened to much acclaim. There have been many Hollywood productions starring Arab actors in key roles. Keeping the popularity of these Arab artists and stars in mind, Forbes Middle East has compiled two lists namely Arab Celebrities on the Global Stage and Celebrities With Arab Roots. The former includes Arab artists who have found success outside of the region and have got loyal followings among Americans and Europeans of Arab origin. The list classifies celebrities into five categories such as singers, actors, directors, fashion designers and footballers.

Celebrities with Arab Roots lists celebrities who are of Arab origin and have earned many accolades for their work. The list includes Arab celebrities who were raised outside the Arab world.

To rank celebrities in the two lists, Forbes Middle East team tracked the Arab celebrities’ activities since 2016. The two lists feature celebrities from different backgrounds, so each category was treated as per its criteria.

• Songs on Billboard’s international chart
• Major international awards.
• Prestigious foreign venues where artist has performed.
• Number of concerts abroad.
• Current endorsements by multinationals and profiles in the international publications.
• Duos with non-Arab artists.

Major movie awards, including the Academy Awards, Cannes Film Festival and BAFTA.

Fashion Designers:
• Number of eponymous stores
• Number of global retailers that carry their design
• Participation in major international fashion shows
• Membership in the French Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.

• Role in major foreign motion pictures or TV series
• Success of movies or TV series based on box office grosses and major awards.

• Appearances with non-Arab clubs
• Awards received in non-Arab leagues
• The club’s strength
• Endorsements from international brands.

All-Time Great**FairouzSingerLebanonNow in her 80s, Fairouz (real name Nohad Haddad) began her singing career in a chorus at Lebanon's public radio station. She shot to fame in 1952 with her first album Itab. Her melodies combined Arab and European instruments while her voice transcended boundaries to gather fans from Lebanon and from across the world, according to Virginia Danielson, an expert on Middle Eastern music at NYU Abu Dhabi. Fairouz has sold more than 80 million records worldwide and performed on grand stages, including Royal Albert Hall in London, Carnegie Hall in New York and John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
1Karim Kharbouch aka French MontanaSingerMoroccoAged 33, Kharbouch is a Moroccan-American hip-hop artist known by his stage name French Montana. Born in 1984, French Montana kick-started his career in 2002 as a battle rapper. He got his break in 2012, with his album Choppa Choppa Down. Kharbouch’s debut studio album was Excuse My French recorded in 2013. In 2017, his second studio album Jungle Rules ranked at number three on Billboard 200. The rapper was nominated for a Grammy award in the best rap performance category in 2017.
2Tamer HosnySingerEgyptThe first Arab star to get his hand and foot imprint at Hollywood’s iconic Chinese Theater, Hosny has performed in more than 15 concerts outside the Arab World since 2016. He has collaborated with many global artists including Shaggy, Snoop Dogg, Akon and has recently released a duet with Jason Derulo for the Coca-Cola 2018 World Cup Song. He is also a member of the jury in “The Voice Kids” program in the Middle East since 2016.
3ElissaSingerLebanonFondly referred to as the Queen of Romance by her fans, three of Elissa’s songs have appeared on Billboard. The Lebanese singer, who started her career in 1992, has sold over 30 million albums. Elissa has performed in live concerts across the world and have collaborated with international singers including Cheb Mami, Chris De Burgh, Christina Aguilera, and Gérard Ferrer.
4DouziSingerMoroccoThe Moroccan pop singer is one of the newest icons in the Arab World. Douzi’s single song “Lmouja” (“The wave”) had more than 31 million views on his YouTube channel while he was one of the artists chosen by Coca-Cola to record its official FIFA World Cup 2018 anthem with Jason Derulo. In April 2018, Douzi signed a contract with Mazzika, one of the largest production companies in the Arab world. His brother and manager, Kader Douzi, a former “RAI” singer, composer and songwriter is a key figure in Douzi’s musical career.
5Ragheb AlamaSingerLebanonPopular for his live concerts in Europe and the U.S., Alama has conducted more than 14 concerts outside the Arab world since 2016. He has had international collaborations with Shakira and Askin Nur Yengi. He began his career in the 1980 as a contestant on the talent show Studio El Fan. The Lebanese star is watchmaker Hublot’s first Middle East brand ambassador and has his own perfumes line “Le Grand Amour” and “Notes D’Amour”.
6Carole SamahaSingerLebanonThe Lebanese singer has released six albums and has also collaborated with international artists such as Alessandro Safina and Mario Reyes. She has received many international awards including World Music Award for Best Performer in the Middle East (2014) and Daf Bama Music Awards for Best Middle Eastern Female Act and Best performer in the Middle East in Hamburg 2016. Recently, she was chosen by FIFA to perform the song of ‘Women’s World Cup Under 17-Jordan 2016’. Before starting her pop music career, Samaha was a classical actress and has worked extensively with the super actors Mansour Rahbani and Marwan Rahbani.
7Kadim ElsaherSingerIraqOften referred to as "Caesar of the Arabic Song", Al Sahir has performed at some of the most prestigious venues around the world such as the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Royal Albert Hall in London, and Circus Maximus in Rome, and has sold over 100 million albums during his 30-year career. The Iraqi mega star has conducted over 30 concerts in the U.S. and Europe and is considered one of the most active Arab artists abroad since 2016. He is the brand ambassador of the telecommunications company Asiacell in Iraq and he is a coach in the Arabic version of international TV hit show The Voice Kids since 2016.
8Nancy AjramSingerLebanonNancy Ajram's album N8 first appeared on the Billboard in 2014, and she was the first and only female sponsor and spokesperson of Coca-Cola in the Middle East and the Arab world. The Lebanese singer had endorsed many international brands including Persil and Glade. She is a member of the jury in The Voice Kids program in the Middle East since 2016 and has won multiple international awards. Ajram released her first album at the age of 15 in 1998 and has since released eight more studio albums, out of which two were aimed at children.
9Amr DiabSingerEgyptThe Egyptian popstar, popularly known as 'El Hadaba', holds the Guinness World Record of the artist having the Most World Music Awards for Best Selling Middle Eastern Artist. He is the only Middle Eastern artist to have received seven World Music Awards so far. Considered the godfather of Mediterranean music, he has had five songs on the Billboard. Diab was the first Middle Eastern artist to receive the golden button from YouTube celebrating one million subscribers on his channel. Although Diab has a global fan base, his concerts have been largely in the U.A.E. and Egypt over the last three years. Recently he performed at Nautilius Space in Russia and is slated to perform in Greece in July 2018.
10Rachid TahaSingerAlgeriaThe Algerian rapper is most known for the folklore Ray song Ya Rayah, and Abdelkader with Cheb Khaled and Faudel. The three Algerian stars performed one of their most famous concerts in France in 1998. The songs were later released through a hit album titled 1, 2, 3 Soleils. Taha mostly tours in France and has conducted six concerts in 2018. There are two upcoming concerts in his schedule this year, with one of them being in the Opera de Lyon France.
11Najwa KaramSingerLebanonKaram started her career in 1989 with the release of her album “Ya Habayeb”, the first in a series of 22 albums. Since 2016, the Lebanese singer has performed in over 16 concerts outside the Arab World in the U.S, Canada, Australia, France, Sweden and many other countries. Karam is also a judge on the well-known television show Arabs Got Talent. The Arab singer also produced the Middle East’s very first 3D music video for her song MaFi Noum in collaboration with Sony Entertainment and Rotana. Karam is one of Rotana’s highest-paid artists.
12Mohamed AssafSingerPalestineThe Palestinian singer, best known for winning the Arab Idol title in 2013, has a string of awards to his credit including the Big Apple Music Awards for the Best New Artist of the Middle East. Last year, the artist completed four tours—all for charity—in seven cities in the U.S. including Washington, California, San Diego and New York. He also performed five concerts across all major cities in Canada to raise funds for the children of Gaza. Assaf collaborated with the well-known singer Massari to produce the song “Roll with it” in 2018, while he had another collaboration with the French Algerian Faudel (Rani) in 2017.
1Nadine LabakiDirectorLebanonLabaki is one of the most famous filmmakers in the Arab World. Her movie Capharnaüm, written and directed by her, won the Jury prize at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, one of the highest honors bestowed at the prestigious French film festival. Labaki has presented two previous films in Cannes. In 2005, she wrote Caramel, her first feature film. It was first presented at Directors' Fortnight in 2007 and in 2011 she returned to Cannes with Et maintenant on va où? (Where Do We Go Now?), a bold and universal parable on tolerance. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Certain Regard category in 2011. It won many awards in festivals like Cannes, San Sebastian Film Festival, and Stockholm Film Festival. Labaki is an actress, screenwriter and director and she has made a number of adverts and music videos for singers, including for superstar Nancy Ajram.
2Ziad DoueiriDirectorLebanonDoueiri's latest film The Insult became the first Lebanese film to be nominated for the Oscars, shortly after being selected for the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival 2017. He has also won the François Chalais Award at Cannes Film Festival for his movie West Beirut in 1998. Born in 1963, Doueiri is a cinematographer, film director and writer. He directed and wrote four movies including The Insult (2017), The Attack (2012), Lila Says (2004), and, West Beirut (1998), in addition to directing many TV series such as Baron Noir. Doueiri first gained notice for his work under Quentin Tarantino as camera assistant for movies including Jackie Brown, From Dusk Till Dawn, Pulp Fiction, and Reservoir Dogs.
3Abu Bakr ShawkyDirectorEgyptThe film Youmeddine became an entry ticket for its script writer and director Abu Bakr Shawky and his wife Dina Emam—the producer—to Cannes' Festival. The film, which traces the life of a man cured of leprosy and of an orphan he has taken under his wings, received a 10-minute standing ovation following its screening at the festival. It also got a Francois Chalais Award from Cannes, and was nominated for the prestigious Palme d'Or. Shawky's other short films such as The Colony, Things I Heard On Wednesdays and Martyr Friday have screened at festivals around the world. He founded his production company Desert Highway Pictures in 2014 along with his wife Emam.
4Naji Abu NowarDirectorJordanAbu Nowar is well known for his movie Theeb, which received an Oscar nomination for Foreign Language Film in 2016, marking the first Academy Award nomination for Jordan. Theeb was Naji's first feature and has earned him many accolades. The Jordanian director grabbed a British Academy Film Award (BAFTA) with Rupert Lloyd for Theeb. He also won the Venice Horizons Award from Venice Film Festival along with several awards from Middle Eastern festivals such as Cairo International Film Festival and Abu Dhabi Film Festival 2014.
5Basil KhalilDirectorPalestineA director and writer, Khalil's short film Ave Maria was a Palme d'Or and Oscar nominee for Best Live Action Short Film in 2016. Khalil was born and raised in Nazareth to a Palestinian father and an English-Irish mother. His first film job was as 2nd Assistant Director of the movie Divine Intervention. He studied MA in Screen Project Development at Screen Academy Scotland and moved on to London to work in television productions. Khalil is currently developing his debut feature comedy screenplay.
6Feras Fayyad & Kareem AbeedDirectorSyriaFayyad and Abeed received an Oscar nomination earlier this year for their documentary feature Last Men in Aleppo, which narrates the story of White Helmets—a group that performs civil defense work across Syrian cities besieged with civil war. The film is written and directed by Fayyad and produced by Abeed. From then, the two Syrian filmmakers have received many awards and nominations in 2017 and 2018, including the Asia Pacific Screen Award's Best Documentary Feature Film that was shared by Kareem Abeed, Søren Steen Jespersen and Stefan Kloos.
1Elie SaabFashion DesignerLebanonSaab's designs have been patronized by celebs such as Halle Berry, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Sonam Kapoor and Katy Perry among many others. In 1982, Saab opened his first boutique in Beirut at the age of 18. He shot to fame after Hollywood star Halle Berry wore one of his designs at the Oscars in 2002. The Lebanese designer is a regular in international fashion shows and has 11 boutiques spread across Europe, North America and in the Middle East and at many others points of sales.
2Reem AcraFashion DesignerLebanonThe Lebanese international designer launched her eponymous line Reem Acra New York in 1997 and has participated in 80 to 100 international fashion shows so far. Her collections are carried by 150 global stores including some of the world's most exclusive retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus. Acra is a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), and has dressed celebrities such as Angelina Jolie, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna and Kate Hudson. Recently, Acra appeared as the lead judge on the hit Middle Eastern reality TV show, Fashion Star Arabia.
3Zuhair MuradFashion DesignerLebanonMurad opened his first atelier in Beirut in 1997 and is a regular participant in Paris Fashion Weeks. He has participated in more than 35 international fashion shows so far and his brand is presented it over 120 points of sales spread all over the globe, including prestigious stores like Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Sacks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, VAKKO and many others. Murad's designs have been worn by celebs such as Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Lopez, Jessica Chastain, Beyonce, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hally Berry, Helen Mirren and Celine Dion among many others.
4Rabih KayrouzFashion DesignerLebanonFounder of the renowned fashion house Maison Rabih Kayrouz, the Lebanese designer has participated in Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week and in 18 international fashion shows so far. He presents four collections a year, with his ready-to-wear collections sold in Beirut and Paris. Additionally, more than 50 multi-brand stores around the world carry his designs. Kayrouz studied at the French Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and Maison Rabih Kayrouz is a member of the Fédération de la Haute Couture et de la Mode. In 2013, Kayrouz was nominated as Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. Celebrities such as Catherine Deneuve, Inès de la Fressange, Isabelle Huppert, Pink and many others have worn his designs.
5Georges HobeikaFashion DesignerLebanonHobeika is a Lebanese fashion designer of Haute Couture and ready-to-wear clothing. He officially opened his atelier in Lebanon in 1995, and became one of the best red-carpet couturiers in the world after international celebrities such as Adriana Lima, Heidi Klum, Fan Bing Bing, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Lopez chose his designs. He has been presenting his collections in Paris Fashion Week twice a year since 2000 and has participated in 35 fashion shows so far. His collections are sold in his boutiques in Lebanon and Paris and among other points of sales around the world like Harvey Nichols, Bloomingdales, and Rubaiyat. As of January 2017, Maison Georges Hobeika was named an elected Guest Member of La Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture.
6Tony WardFashion DesignerLebanonThe Lebanese designer grew his family's couture house into an international brand by presenting his First Collection under the Tony Ward label in 1997. Ward has participated in more than 50 international fashion shows and has presented during Paris Fashion Week too. The designer's brand is now distributed in more than 40 high-end boutiques and multi-brand stores worldwide such as Harvey Nichols, Bosco Di Ciliegi, and Esti's, Kleinfeld. He has dressed celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Whitney Houston, Felicity Huffman, Rita Ora, Alessandra Ambrosio, Annette Bening, Pink, Cindy Crawford, and Zoe Saldana.
7Georges ChakraFashion DesignerLebanonGeorges Chakra is a Beirut-based Lebanese haute couture fashion designer and he has participated in more than 39 international fashion shows mainly at Paris Fashion Week. In 2006, his collection appeared in Meryl Streep starrer The Devil Wears Prada. Chakra started off with a small studio in his living room, sketching, and sewing the garments himself. In the fall of 2002, Chakra expanded his workshop to Paris for the Haute Couture Fashion Week, debuting his first collection on the French runway. Many celebrities and public figures including Beyonce, Blake Lively, Jennifer Lopez, Katy Perry, and Arab celebrities such as Queen Rania of Jordan, Ahlam Al Shamsi, and Majida Al Roumi have worn his creations.
1Sofia BoutellaActressAlgeriaAn Algerian dancer, model and actress, Boutella has starred as Gazelle in Kingsman: The Secret Service, an alien warrior named Jaylah in Star Trek Beyond and the main antagonist, Princess Ahmanet, in Universal's Dark Universe film The Mummy. Boutella was born to jazz musician Safy Boutella in the Bab El Oued district of Algiers and moved to France at the age of 10.
2Amr WakedActorEgyptThe Egyptian actor made his first Hollywood appearance in Stephen Gaghan's Syriana in 2005, alongside stars George Clooney and Matt Damon. He later starred in another TV series called House of Saddam as the late dictator's son in law in 2008. He also co-starred in the British film Salmon Fishing in The Yemen and the Italian drama film The Father and The Foreigner in 2011. Waked rose to fame globally after playing a French detective in Scarlett Johansson starrer Lucy that went on to net $463.4 million, according to Box Office Mojo. He also did a secondary role in the science fiction movie Geostorm in 2017. The 46-year-old actor turned a producer after he co-established Zad Communication & Production LLC in 2005, which produced its first feature film Winter of Discontent in 2012.
3Ghassan MassoudActorSyriaBest known for his role as the Muslim leader Saladin Al Ayoubi in Ridley Scott’s The Kingdom of Heaven, the Syrian actor Massoud has acted in Pirates of Caribbean: At World’s End in 2007, Exodus: Gods and Kings in 2014 and lately All the Money in the World by Ridley Scott in 2017. The actor teaches Drama at the Damascus Music and Drama School and High Institution of Theatrical Arts. He has appeared in numerous Syrian series and plays such as The Chant of Rain, and in Haytham Hakky’s well-known work Memories of the Forthcoming Age, and in August Strindberg’s Miss Julie.
1Mohammed SalahFootballerEgyptKing—as Liverpool fans like to address him—has bagged the prestigious Golden Boot award, set a new record in the Premier League with 32 goals in 38 games and has led Liverpool to the UEFA Champions League final. He has earned a number of awards including CAF African Footballer of the Year, PFA Player of the year, and Liverpool's Player of the Season and Players' Player of the Season in the English Club. Salah was named as the top Arab football player worldwide 2017 by Forbes Middle East and was included among the Arab 30 under 30 class of 2018.