Dr. Mai Yamani was born in Cairo to an Iraqi mother from Mosul and a Hijazi father from Mecca. Her early education included schooling in Baghdad, Mecca, and Lausanne. She completed her B.A. in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania and her M.St. and D.Phil. in Social Anthropology from Oxford University. She was the first Saudi Arabian woman to receive a doctorate from Oxford.
She started her career as lecturer at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and then at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University. She then went on to become a scholar at leading international organisations and think tanks in the Middle East, the U.S., and Europe. She was a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beirut, a Policy Fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington D.C., an Academic Adviser to Georgetown University, and a Research Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, London.
She is the author of several books including Changed Identities: The Challenge of the New Generation in Saudi Arabia, and Cradle of Islam: The Hijaz and the Quest for an Arabian Identity. She is the editor of The Rule of Law in the Middle East and the Islamic World, and Feminism and Islam: Legal and Literary Perspectives.
Dr. Mai Yamani is an established commentator on Muslim and Arab politics; on Saudi Arabia, and most recently on Yemeni and Iraqi affairs.
She has had articles published in over 100 newspapers around the world, including the New York Times, the Guardian, the Independent, El Pais, Corriere della Sera, Al Hayat, and Al-Quds Al-Arabi. She has been frequently interviewed on CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC World, BBC Newsnight, Channel 4 News, Bloomberg, CBS, ANB, ABC.
She has been asked to testify before the U.S. Senate on the subject of religious intolerance, and at the British House of Commons on the subject of terrorism. She has also briefed Britain’s judiciary on the topic of Islam. She has been a regular speaker at the Council on Foreign Relations, the National Endowment for Democracy, and at the State Department.
In addition to her academic and media work, she has acted as a consultant to international banks such as Goldman Sachs, oil companies such as Shell and BP, and re-insurances companies such as Swiss Re and foreign governments.
Dr. Mai Yamani speaks fluent Arabic, English, French and Spanish, and has a working knowledge of Persian, Hebrew and Italian.