Azzam Abu Saud is a Renaissance man in today’s ultra-specialized world: an economist, researcher, playwright, novelist, columnist, storyteller, historian of Jerusalem’s oral tradition, arabesque art designer, and prominent Jerusalemite community activist.
He was born in Jerusalem in 1948 to an established family that has had its roots in Jerusalem since the thirteenth century. Abu Saud’s academic journey started in the schools of Jerusalem, passed through Cairo University for a bachelor’s degree, and culminated in a master’s degree in association management. He started his professional career in private business, then later took on responsibilities as director of tenders and supplies at Birzeit University, and eventually became the director of the Jerusalem Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
His first book incorporates two plays written in the political Kabarett style. Jerusalem is the location of his plays, and its dilemmas are always there in his other plays, such as Pigeons Flew and From Jerusalem with Love. He has also authored a children’s storybook that depicts traditional stories of olden times. His five novels are taken from the oral history of Jerusalem and cover the period from World War I until the end of the twentieth century. They describe life in Jerusalem, detailing its political, anthropological, and social complexities as portrayed by the characters who represent all components of the Jerusalem community.
His research work covers several fields, including developing East Jerusalem’s economy; the impact of the Segregation Wall on the socio-economic life in Jerusalem; the culture in Jerusalem during the first half of the twentieth century; the upbringing of Yasser Arafat; and a historical review and documentation of Jerusalem’s Al-Zahra Street.
His efforts in preserving Jerusalem’s oral history were presented in a TV production entitled Hikayat Makdisieh (Stories from Jerusalem).
As a columnist, Azzam has published more than 1,700 articles in daily newspapers and journals. His body of work touches mainly on political and socio-economic issues, and occasionally serves as literary critique.
His arabesque works were presented in two major exhibitions, and he is currently renovating a nineteenth-century old family home, where he aims to host interested tourists, researchers, and public events as a way to revive this lost art. The overall grand project is to restore the windows and old balconies (mashrabiyat) of the Old City of Jerusalem to their former glory of the pre-1927 era.
Abu Saud is the former chairperson of the Palestinian Theatre, a former member of the Ministerial Committee of Jerusalem, and a former member of the Arab-Jerusalem Municipality. He is currently vice-chairperson of the Palestinian Cultural Fund, a member of the boards of the Arab Thought Forum, the Yasser Arafat Foundation, and AMAN for Transparency and Accountability; and secretary general of Welfare and Development Society for renovating the Old City of Jerusalem.