The Middle East Institute’s signature annual event honors the region’s top visionaries, changemakers, cultural leaders, and philanthropists for their positive contributions to the political, economic, social and cultural landscape of the Middle East.

2019 Honorees

Issam M. Fares Award for Excellence

Nadine Labaki

Lebanese Actor and Director

Labaki is the first woman from the Arab world to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, for Capernaum (2018). The messages in her visionary films are strengthened with direct action through the work of her Capernaum Foundation, which works to help homeless children off the streets.

Middle East Institute Visionary Award

Othman & Leila Benjelloun

Co-chairs of the BMCE Bank Foundation

The Benjellouns are co-chairs of the BMCE Bank Foundation, which for nearly 30 years has been fighting illiteracy, poverty, and discrimination in rural villages across Morocco. Together they have created and financed more than 100 rural community schools throughout Morocco.

Master of Ceremonies

Steve Clemons

Editor-at-large of The Hill

A prominent journalist and foreign policy commentator, Clemons is Washington’s editor-at-large for The Hill, DC’s leading political media outlet. He also publishes the popular political blog, Washington Note.

Purchase Tickets

Tickets for MEI’s signature event of the year are now available. Reserve your seats before October 15 for a $25 early bird discount!


73rd Annual Conference

Wednesday, November 13

The day after the Gala prominent Middle Eastern and American experts and foreign policy practitioners engaged in panel conversations covering the prevailing challenges facing the region and its partners.

About the Gala

Each year, MEI’s Awards Gala provides a unique opportunity to bring hundreds of business, government, NGO, and thought leaders together for one night in celebration of outstanding individuals who are making a meaningful impact in the Middle East.

Learn more about MEI’s signature event and past awardees by clicking below.

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