Rida Saïd

Sabah Kabbani / translated by Peter Clark

Many who have faced writing about that outstanding man, Rida Saïd, have hesitated, acknowledging their inadequacy. But the writer of this book has succeeded because he has approached the little information he has come across with the gifts of an artist and has written it in the form of a story to attract the reader. The author has discharged an obligation on behalf of us all to a man whose work is timeless and who worked for the benefit of generations. Rida Saïd’s life was a closed volume of memories that Kabbani has opened and from it has produced, with delight and elegance, a work that is an instructive pleasure.
Dr Burhan al-Abid, former Professor of the History of Medicine, graduate of the Faculty of Medicine in the Syrian Univeristy, 1950.


Dr Rida Saïd was one of the founders of modern Syria. This story of his life, translated into English for the first time, sheds new light on the dilemmas and challenges of bygone and contemporary Syria.

Born in Damascus in 1876, Saïd studied medicine in Istanbul and Paris. Serving as a field doctor with the Ottoman Army in the Balkan Wars, he became disillusioned with the Ottoman Empire; like other Syrians, he was aware of an aggressive Turkish nationalism that alienated Arabs. After his medical work in Damascus during the First World War, and following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Saïd was becoming a pioneering educationalist in Syria under the French mandate. He was the first Head of Damascus University, and then Minister of Education. He died in 1945, a few months before Syria finally achieved independence in 1946.

Rida Saïd: A Man for All Seasons tells the story of this remarkable man who helped to shape many aspects of modern Syria and lived through the Ottoman and French occupations, staying true to his commitment to the education of Arab people.

SABAH KABBANI (1928–2015) was born in Damascus and educated in Syria and France. He had a career in public service as Director of Syrian Television and as a senior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Ambassador to the United States in 1974. 

PETER CLARK is a writer, translator and consultant who was director of the British Council in Syria (1992–97). He has written books on Marmaduke Pickthall, Wilfred Thesiger and Charles Dickens, and has translated fiction and non-fiction from Arabic. He is the author of Damascus Diaries: Life under the Assads (2015).

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