I recently finished Ali Al-Naimi’s autobiography, Out of the Desert. It was an interesting read that tells the story of how a he, a lowly Bedouin boy, rose the ranks to become the president of Saudi Aramco and then the minister of petroleum and mineral resources of Saudi Arabia. He is now in his 80s and I think pretty much retired.
Who is Ali Al-Naimi and why does his life interest me anyway? Well I hear his name a lot around KAUST. He was the main person tasked by King Abdullah to build KAUST from the ground up. He and his team met with architects to build the campus and consulted with top academics to design the curricula. The king made sure to provide the funds and the vision while Ali Al-Naimi turned that vision into reality. He still serves as Chairman of the KAUST Board of Trustees today.
I had a chance to listen to Ali Al-Naimi speak when he gave a keynote lecture (that was more of a Q&A session) at this year’s Winter Enrichment Program. I also got him to sign my book! Prior to that when my co-workers and I were headed to his lecture we noticed that a man was holding the elevator door. We rushed inside and said “thank you” but then he said, “Sorry you have to get out,” or something to that effect. When we looked out Ali Al-Naimi and his entourage were being ushered into the elevator we were in. We hastily got out and apologized. They were very gracious though and invited us back in. So that was it, our one-minute brush with a Saudi minister.