Prof. Ziad Rafiq Beydoun
How a Lebanese Could do a lot
Mohammed Darsi Abdulrahman
Changchun University of
Science and Technology,
This article is about one of the most famous geologists, who gave his time and
life to studying the geology of Yemen, the country in which he spent much of his
early career, as a geologist in its southern part and maintained a life-long
interest in it. In my opinion Ziad Rafiq Beydoun, is one of the most famous of
all eastern geologists, who played a great role in the geological research
history of the Republic of Yemen. So I regard him as the third stage of the
geological research history work of Yemen. (See Yemen Times. Issue 2-January
10th through January 16 2000, Vol. IX, Culture Page, Issue 10 - March 6 through
March 12 2000, Vol. X, Culture Page and Issue 15 - April 10 through April 16
2000, Vol. X, Culture Page). We (Yemeni Geologists) are highly appreciative of
him as a brilliant mind who wrote many books about Yemen, and rendered
distinguished services to geological exploration and research. He was not only
the major scientific figure in the Middle East during the second part of the
20th-century Yemen, but also held a leading position internationally.
Beydoun’s life story
Ziad Rafiq Beydoun was born in Beirut in 1924 and grew up in Haifa, Palestine,
where he went to school. He took his first-class degree at the American
University of Beirut (AUB) in political science and history and studied geology
to doctorate level at St Peter’s College, Oxford. Beydoun joined the Iraqi
Petroleum Company in 1948 and actively spent the next 15 years in surface and
subsurface geology across the Middle East - mainly in the deserts of Arabia and
Yemen. He earned his Oxford doctorate - awarded in 1961 for his thesis on the
geology of Yemen - on the basis of his practical findings. He played a key role
in the discovery of oil in Oman. In 1963 he returned to Lebanon, and held the
posts of assistant professor at AUB- American University of Beirut and that of
geological advisor in the ministry of national economy. In 1966 he moved to
London to take charge of Marathon Oil’s Middle East and North African evaluation
studies. When he returned to AUB in 1970 as professor of geology, he continued
to advise Marathon, spending summers in its London office, frequently visiting
its research centre in Colorado. He married in 1983, and lived mainly in London
between 1985 and 1993. He became a scientific director of a World Bank/UNDP
project on hydrocarbons in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in 1987, and was
made professor emeritus in 1992. His academic contacts were on a large scale,
especially when he held consultancies for oil companies including ARCO, Bow
Valley, Aran and Hunt Oil. He participated in over 40 leading international and
regional congresses, and was an editorial board member of the Journal of
Petroleum Geology. He received the William Smith medal from the Geological
Society of London in 1994 and was awarded the Order of the Cedars in 1995. On
March 7, 1998, ZIAD RAFIQ BEYDOUN died in Beirut, at the age of seventy-three.
What his colleagues and friends said about him
- “Almost any paper on the geology
of the Middle East refers to his books. He constructed a framework of regional
geology that others will be building upon for the next hundred years,” says his
AUB colleague, Chris Walley.
- “His knowledge was
encyclopedic,” says Walley. “You could bring up any part of the region, and he
would remember that someone had drilled down to 3,000 meters and what they’d
found. Ziad was a fast, accurate writer who set the standard in the region for
writing science in English.”
- “He was a softly spoken,
straightforward, honest man,” says long-time friend, Nabeel Ashkar.
- “I was always impressed and
touched by his gentlemanly behavior,” says Pierre Azoury, AUB professor of
- “Despite pain and exhaustion, he
continued to write and produce. At his hospital bed, he was surrounded by books
and new articles,” says his widow, Muntaha Saghieh.
- “After all,” noted Helga Seeden,
“we stand on geology. Archaeology and all the rest are man-made extras.”
- I personally met him at the
first congress of the Yemeni Geological Society and spoke with him for a short
time. Really, Prof. Ziad Rafiq Beydoun was a revolution in the science of
geology with his studies on the Middle East and mainly on the Geology of Yemen.
It is known that many people today write more and more about less and less’’.
famous publication on the geology of Yemen
Beydoun had a huge output of published work, including six books and over 40
papers in international journals. His most famous works and publications on
Yemen are the following:
1. Synopsis of the geology of the Eastern Aden Protectorate. Report 2/st.
Int. Geol. Cong. Copenhagen, 21:131-149. 1960.
2. Contribution to the Geological Map of the Arabian Peninsula, Aden
Protectorate. In: Geological Map of the Arabian Peninsula, USGS-Aramco, Miscell.
Geol. Invest. Map 1-270a, USGS. 1:2,000.000 scale. 1963.
3. Geological map of Eastern Aden Protectorate. Tolworth, England:
British Directorate of Overseas Surveys. 1:1,000,000. (D.O.S. (Geol.) 1148).
4. The Stratigraphy and Structure of the Eastern Aden Protectorate.
Overseas Geology and mineral Resources Supp. Ser., Bull. Supp. 5,107p. HMSO
5. Eastern Aden Protectorate and part of Dhufar, In: Geology of the
Arabian Peninsula, U.S.G.S. Profess. Paper 560H, 49 p. Washington D.C. 1966.
6. Aden Protectorate and Dhufar. In: Lexique Stratigraphique
International, (Ed.) L.Duberret, Vol. III, fasc. 10b2, 126 p, CNRS Paris. (done
with Greenwood, J.E.G.W.,) 1968.
7. Note on the age of Hadhramut Arch. Overseas Geology and mineral
Resources, 10 (3): 236-240. 1969.
8. Southern Arabia and Northern Somalia: comparative geology. Phil.
Trans. Roy. Soc. London, A 267: 267-292. 1970.
9. Geology of Socotra Island, Gulf of Aden. Quarterly Journal Geol. Soc.
London, 125: 413-446. (done with Bichan, H.R.,) 1970.
10. The Gulf of Aden and North West Arabian Sea. In: Ocean Basins and
Marins, 6, The Indian Ocean, (eds) A.E.M. Narin and F.G.Stehli. Ch. 6: 253-313,
PienumPub. Corp., New York. 1982.
11. The Petroleum Resources Of The Middle East: A Review. Journal of
Petroleum Geology, 9: 5-28. 1986.
12. The Middle East: Regional Geology and Petroleum Resource. Scientific
Press, Beaconsfield U.K., 292 p. 1988.
13. Hydrocarbon prospects of the Red Sea-Gulf of Aden: a review. J.
Petrol. Geol., 12: 125-144. 1989a.
14. Hydrocarbon potential of the deep (pre-Mesozoic) formations in the
Middle East Arab countries. Proceeding OAPEC/ADNOC Seminar on Deep Formations in
the Arab countries: Hydrocarbon Potential and Exploration Techniques. Abu Dhabi,
Oct. 1989, 31-84.
15. Arabian Plate Hydrocarbon Geology and Potential –a Plate Tectonic
Approach. AAPG Studies in Geology No. 33, Tusla, OK, 77p. 1990.
16. Arabian Plate Hydrocarbon Geology And Potential - A Plate Tectonic
Approach: In: (Eds), Studies In Geology, American Association Of Petroleum
Geologists, 33, 77. 1991.
17. Red Sea-Gulf of Aden: re-assessment of hydrocarbon potential. Marine
and Petroleum Geology, 9 (5): 478-485. (Done with and Sikander, A.H.,) 1992.
18. The Red Sea-Gulf of Aden: Biostratigraphy, lithostratigraphy and
paleoenvironments, J. Pet. Geol., 15, 135-156. (Done with Hughes, G.W.,) 1992.
19. The Qishn Formation, Yemen: lithofacies and hydrocarbon habitat.
Marine and Petroleum Geology, 10 (4): 364-372. (Done with Bamahmoud, M.O., and
Nani, A.S.O.,) 1993.
20. Geological evolution and hydrocarbon potential of the deep formations
in The Middle East Arab countries. Proceeding to the Second Seminar on
hydrocarbon potential of the Deep Formations in the Arab Countries. OAPEC,
Cairo, Oct. 1994. 52p. 1994.
21. Productive Middle East clastic reservoirs: their depositional
settings and origin of their hydrocarbons. Sedimentary Facies Analysis, (ED.)
A.G. Plint, Special Public. International Association of Sedimentologists, 22:
22. As-Saruri, M.L., and Baraba, R.S., 1996. Sedimentary basins of the
Republic of Yemen: their structural evolution and geological characteristics.
Revde I’Instit. Francais du Petrole, 51 (6): 763-775.
23. Rift sedimentation and tectonics in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden
region. Journal of Petroleum Geology, 19: 235-245. 1996.
24. Introduction to the revised Mesozoic stratigraphy and nomenclature
for Yemen. Marine and Petroleum Geology, 14, special Issue on Yemen. 1997.
As a conclusion, I would like to say that Ziad Rafiq Beydoun, is one of those
individuals whose diverse activities defy neat categorization.
He was as much a geologist as a stratigrapher, an educator as well as an
administrator, and a popular writer on the Middle East and Yemeni geological
topics as well as the author of about 50 publications.
In this respect, I would like to invite all people, who are interested in
Beydoun Z.R.’s life and works not just to write about him often, but also to
introduce his work and life in the Middle East and mainly in Yemen to others in
a scientific documentary film. I am sure, this step is going to help others to
understand, what kind of works and activities had been done during the main part
of the third stage of the geological research history work of the Republic of
Yemen or Beydoun Z.R. Stage. As a result of this work the future petroleum
exploration activities is going to be boosted up attracting many foreign
exploration investment agencies to work in Yemen.