Did Arabian Business get hoodwinked by the Arab World’s most intelligent person?

Did Arabian Business fully fact check Dr Manahel's credentials before publishing this interview?

Did Arabian Business fully fact check Dr Manahel’s credentials before publishing this interview?

I just love obscure words, and hoodwinked is one of those phrases that we just don’t use enough. The term’s original meaning was to blindfold; its contemporary connotation is to deceive. I’ve finally got a reason to use this phrase in a question which I have on the cover story of the latest edition from Arabian Business.

For those of you who don’t know, Arabian Business is the most widely-distributed English-language weekly business magazine in the Gulf. The publication regularly breaks exclusives and its editorial team are among the most respected journalists in the business regionally.

This last issue was an interesting one. The cover was headlined by a lady called Dr Manahel Thabet, the founder of a business consultancy firm called Smart Tips. According to the Arabian Business piece, Dr Manahel Thabet has an IQ of more than 168, putting her in the top 0.1 percent of the world. Impressed? There’s more (and I’m now quoting from Arabian Business).

Arguably the smartest living Arab, Thabet has three PhDs. The latter, which she received a few days after our interview, suggests how education systems should cater to gifted and talented students to ensure they reach their greatest potential, a subject she is passionate about given her own experience as a gifted child.

Thabet considers herself a polymath — someone who is passionate in many areas — similar to Leonardo di Vinci, who was as great a scientist as he was an artist and engineer. Far from her latest thesis topic, her first PhD — which she obtained at the astonishing age of 25 — is in financial engineering and goes a long way to explain interest rate behaviour. She became the youngest person ever and only Arab to receive such a PhD magna cum laude (with great distinction).

The second is a 350-page groundbreaking formula that scientists and space researchers believe could help them measure distances in space without using the speed of light. The likes of Nasa and the French space agency have been competing for access to it.

All this has been achieved while running her own financial advisory firm and contributing to numerous organisations and boards.

All of this is remarkable, but the more people claim, the more I want to see and understand their credentials. And, this is where it gets interesting thanks to the internet, Google and a wonderful service called Reddit.

A number of Reddit users have taken it upon themselves to discuss Dr Thabet’s credentials, and they’ve taken a sledgehammer to a number of those qualifications.

At the end of the day, this isn’t about a person but more about a process. How do journalists in the region verify their sources? This isn’t the first time I have been left questioning a piece of journalism due to a lack of credibility (does anyone remember the fake press release on a non-melting ice concept for Dubai which was published in AMEInfo, Al Bayan, Al Khaleej and Gulf Today). But if there’s any doubt at all as to what a source is saying or their credentials, shouldn’t the journalist call it out?

Thoughts anyone?

7 thoughts on “Did Arabian Business get hoodwinked by the Arab World’s most intelligent person?

  1. Dear Alex,

    Accept my imaginary tip of the hat for your post. Your love for obscure words is unmatched with our affinity for using words in passe’. (Reminds of the MEPRA session – “iconic?”)

    I see they’ve used the word ‘official’ in their cover. I believe using this word entails the stamp of an authoritative body and not just Wikipedia? What this blog post means to me is the seriousness with which journalists and writers need to exhibit in the region, especially Dubai. The digital world allows for editing and deleting but if we start scrutinizing the printed word like you do, we can (maybe?) contribute to better journalistic and verficiation standards. If this was a country like India, unverified claims would take a hitting – the most scathing of it on Twiter.

    There’s an (un)popular educational institute in India that gets a hammering everytime they come out in the media with their advertisements and gimmicky claims – http://scroll.in/article/738333/iipm-may-finally-be-shutting-down-its-campuses-but-bogus-institutes-mushroom

    Let’s hope I never make these mistakes myself, so it’s a self-reminder first. 🙂

    Hopefully, somewhere, journalists and PR writers are reflecting on their “facts” from the fear of being blog-busted by a certain Alex of Arabia…

    • Thank you Beneath the Froth. Love you comment about PRers out there scurrying around in horror that I’ll call them out (that would be a fun day). I really hope I’m wrong on this and that Dr Manahel is everything she claims to be and more (goodness knows we need more educational role models in the Middle East). However, my gut tells me there’s something wrong and that someone didn’t do their fact checking.

  2. Oh wow, so there seem to be two issues the first is lazy journalism in regards to not researching a person’s credentials, specially when they are claiming so much. A simple Google search and alarm bells should ring.
    The second issue how she has been able to reach this position with no questions being asked. And been able to sell her business services off of what seems to be fake credentials.
    Unfortunately I think there maybe a regional issue of laziness as middle eastern governments push to develop the home grown talent, and move away from a reliance on western expats, which is a good thing, but being trained by the expats that moved there maybe 10-15yrs ago and stuck around rather than bring in fresh foreign talent to redevelop, i wonder what short cuts will occur next. mistakes and errors these days are seen on a global scale and very difficult, if not impossible, to keep contained. I think a cultural shift may need to take place, as this is respected publication, what would be occurring in lesser known brands, is a question I would ask as someone looking into the region. Sitting in London, if I showed this to colleagues I’m sure I’d get answers like ‘typical’.
    Anyway….. That was a good read Alex, will certainly be sharing and looking forward to more. I love your articulate use of words and language quite refreshing

  3. Good to see this blog.

    I also read the article some time ago, wanted to know more about her and discovered many red flags online. It seems she is a pathological liar (in the same category as Rachel Dolezal) with a strong PR machine and knowledge of SEO and I find it strange that nobody else in the UAE has challenged the claims made in the article. It was even written by the magazine’s deputy editor (an Australian expat).

    I think the matter will eventually end with Manahel Thabet being quietly removed from the “100 Powerful Arabs” list.

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