In memory of Abdullah Jonathan Wallace

25 January 2023
MEED says goodbye to a visionary former editor and chairman of MEED

Abdullah Jonathan Wallace, a former editor and chairman of MEED, died on 17 January after a period of illness, aged 80.

If a life tells a story, Abdullah’s is about how much the Middle East has changed since his birth in March 1942.

The region was then dominated by European powers that had finally completed the destruction of the Ottoman Empire just 20 years before. Only Saudi Arabia and what is now northern Yemen were free from foreign control.

The end of the Second World War – in which Abdullah’s father lost his life – marked the start of a new era for the Middle East. Between 1945 and 1971, imperial control of the region was ended, though it rarely found peace.

In 1956, Britain and France’s failed attempt at collaboration with Israel to regain control of the Suez Canal precipitated radical change. 

MEED was launched in 1957 by Abdullah’s mother Elizabeth Collard to help the world understand what was happening and to benefit from it. The actions of oil producers’ group Opec to quadruple oil prices in 1973-74 led to a Middle East boom that also lifted MEED’s fortunes.

Abdullah’s first visit to the region was as a student in 1960. After working in Fleet Street and television, he became MEED’s editor in 1965 and its publisher in 1975. 

The vision he shared with his mother transformed the journal into a multimedia enterprise that reflected the Middle East’s rosy prospects, but the region and MEED were quickly hit by shattering events. 

The 1979 Iranian revolution, the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon and the 1986 oil price crash were economically devastating and divisive.

If a life tells a story, Abdullah’s is about how much the Middle East has changed since his birth in March 1942

Making Bahrain home

MEED was bought by a media corporation in 1987. Abdullah’s career took a new direction, but it was inevitable he would return. He moved to Bahrain at the turn of the century to live and work, and made many friends.

It was the perfect place to observe the ascent of the oil-exporting nations of the Arabian peninsula – which none had foreseen in 1942 – and the turmoil in parts of the region once full of dreams.

Abdullah accepted the Islamic message and vowed never to leave. This was a promise completed with his burial in Manama on 18 January.

Abdullah made his final journey saddened by the divisions in a region where he had invested so much, and the failure to secure justice for the Palestinian people. But he never lost hope in a better future for all. 

That will no doubt eventually be realised, though now witnessed by others and not by him.

Abdullah leaves his wife Meriel, two sons and a daughter.

Everyone wanted a piece of the coming oil wealth, be it a replacement for a camel killed on the road, money for a cataract eye operation, or a multimillion-pound desalination plant 
Abdullah Jonathan Wallace, former editor and chairman of MEED Group from 1966-86

> Read Abdullah's fascinating account of MEED's journey from newsletter to newsstand here

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