Sheikh Saleh Abdullah Kamel was the son of a well known and respected Makkan family. His father, Abdullah, worked at the Royal Court for His Majesty the late King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz for more than 40 years, while his grandfather, Sheikh Muhammad Kamel, was one of the senior scholars of the Holy Mosque in Makkah.
Saleh Kamel was born in the Summer of 1941 in Taif. He grew up with his parents, three brothers and four sisters, in a modest home in the Al Hajla neighborhood of Makkah. After completing his studies locally, he was awarded a high school diploma qualifying him to enroll at the College of Business Administration at Riyadh’s King Saud University.
Sheikh Saleh showed his love of commerce at an early age when he would sell Baleela and various children’s games to the neighboring kids. During the Hajj season he worked in the Tawafa profession (guiding and aiding pilgrims), which was passed down from generation to generation in Makkah. The young Saleh realized that the Hajj season offered great work opportunities, which he took full advantage of to secure funds for future investments.
When the young Saleh Kamel discovered scouting, he was able to turn his hobby into another business opportunity by importing and selling various items of clothing and equipment to his fellow students. Later, at university, he expanded his scouting supplies business and – seeing a gap in the market – opened a printing and copying service in a shop close to the university where he produced and sold copies of lecture notes.
After successfully graduating from university, Sheikh Saleh worked at the Ministry of Finance for a decade where he fine honed his economic skills. With his Ministry experience he well placed to identify a range of business opportunities emerging in the burgeoning Saudi economy. He established the Dallah Establishment in a small office in Riyadh in 1969.
With Sheikh Saleh at the helm, Dallah successfully bid for a number of government maintenance and operation contracts including:
- A mobile mail services project to ferry postal correspondence to small towns in the Kingdom in cooperation with the Ministry of Post, Telegraph and Telephone.
- The operation of various electrical and mechanical equipment at King Abdul Aziz Seaport in Jeddah.
- Cleaning and maintenance of the city of Jeddah.
- Maintenance and operation of sewage projects in most of Saudi Arabia’s cities.
- Maintenance and cleaning of government departments in Madinah.
- Maintenance and operations of traffic lights at various cities in the Kingdom.
- Establishment and management of driving schools in Riyadh and Jeddah initially and later in other cities countrywide.
- Implementation of a series of projects for Saudi Arabia’s Meteorological Department.
Saleh Kamels’s contribution to the world of media was highly significant. In the early 1970s, he formed a media production company and expanded his involvement in the sector throughout subsequent decades. He was among the pioneers of satellite channels, participating in the launch of MBC from London, followed by the introduction of the new ART channel network a few years later. Sheikh Saleh invested millions of riyals in the expansion of television broadcasting rights for football leagues and other sports tournaments, bringing a host of new experiences to an enthusiastic new audience. He was also on the board of directors of a number of newspapers and other media outlets.
Among his contributions to the media and one close to his heart, was the launch of the Iqraa channel, which broadcasts the values of moderate Islam around the world in three languages.
Sheikh Saleh Kamel developed good and frequently close relationships with world leaders, including prime ministers and presidents, through his many business interests. He won the confidence of influencers and decision makers as he established a variety of innovative international projects for which he was rewarded with numerous accolades in the form of awards and medals.
Sheikh Saleh made an international name for himself as a pioneer of Islamic economy and finance, working diligently on developing its tools and structures. He opened many Islamic banks in various countries of the world, providing the opportunity of participating in Islamic finance – frequently for the first time – to a vast number of individuals. He also launched the groundbreaking Albaraka Symposium for Islamic Economy, which has been held annually for more than forty years.
Sheikh Saleh Kamel made many important contributions to real estate development. He established the Durrat Alarous complex in Jeddah, considered one of the leading real estate projects in the region, and also contributed to the establishment and development of King Abdul Aziz Road in Makkah which, in addition to providing essential transport links to and from the Holy City, includes residential and retail projects; hospital and other related facilities.
Sheikh Saleh Kamel immersed himself in charitable works throughout his life, through the Saleh Kamel Humanitarian Foundation and the Iqraa Humanitarian Foundation, both of which continue to work to preserve his charitable legacy. The two organizations strive to preserve Sheikh Saleh’s aims of helping the development of mankind through the provision of educational and employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia and around the world.