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Sami Muhsin Angawi is a Saudi Arabian architect and social activist.


Angawi was born in Mecca, in the Hijaz region of Saudi Arabia, in 1948. He received a B.A. in architecture from the University of Arlington, Texas, in 1971, and an M.A. in architecture from the University of Texas in 1975. In 1988, he completed his Ph.D. in Islamic architecture from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. Angawi spent two years teaching and supervising graduate students at King Abd al-Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and was a fellow at Harvard University in 1994–1995. He also is a mutawwaf —a guide, or organizer, of parties of pilgrims making the Islamic pilgrimage ( hajj ), a position that has been been handed down through a small number of Hijazi families. Angawi also is a sufi (Islamic mystic) in a country that frowns upon such expression.

In 2001, he married his second wife, Fatina Anin Shakir (a well-known retired sociologist), with the approval of his first wife, a designer of traditional crafts and mother of their five children.


In 1975, Angawi established the Hajj Research Center at King Abd al-Aziz University in Jeddah, and transferred it to Umm al-Qura University in Mecca in 1983. The center served as a planning consultant to the Saudi government on hajj affairs, with emphasis placed on cultural, environmental, and urban and architectural studies. It also created a database to gather all information about the hajj. Angawi served as the center’s director from 1975–1988. He also founded the Ammar Center for Architectural Heritage in 1988.


Since the 1970s, Angawi has established a reputation for condemning the destruction of historical sites in Saudi Arabia and particularly in Mecca and Medina. He contends that the conservative religious establishment in the kingdom has deliberately targeted holy sites for demolition as part of their belief that such sites conflict with Islamic worship of God and invite idolatry. Angawi argues that such actions lead to intolerance, which breeds Islamic extremism.

When his outspoken views caused him to lose control of the Hajj Research Center in 1988, he founded the Ammar Center for Architectural Heritage in Jeddah. This organization has focused on the preservation and restoration of prominent examples of traditional architecture, as well as constructing new buildings based on traditional forms. In addition, Angawi regularly gave a series of illustrated lectures at his home in Jeddah chronicling the destruction of the country’s architectural and religious heritage.

A recognized expert in traditional Islamic architecture, Angawi chairs UNESCO’s International Commission for Traditional Architecture and Interior Design. He was awarded the Binladen Fellowship on Islamic Architecture for research at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University in 1994–1995.


Angawi’s career is still ongoing, and it is too soon to speak of his legacy.


Name: Sami Mushin Angawi

Birth: 1948, Mecca, Saudi Arabia

Family: Married first wife; five children; second wife, Fatina Anin Shakir

Nationality: Saudi Arabian

Education: B.A. (architecture), University of Arlington, TX, 1971; M.A. (architecture), University of Texas, 1975; Ph.D. (Islamic architecture), School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 1988


  • 1975: Establishes Hajj Research Center at King Abd al-Aziz University in Jeddah

  • 1988: Founded Ammar Center for Architectural Heritage in Jeddah

  • 1994: Fellow at Harvard University
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