History of District 79

Brief History | History of D79 | History of D79P

Brief History

District 79 is the home to the first ever club in Saudi Arabia, Dahran Toastmasters club. It also boasts of being the home of the World Champion of Public Speaking (WCPS) 2015 – Mohammed Al Qahtani. Over the years, District 79 has been reformed couple of times and now consists of the Central Region, Eastern Region and Northeastern Regions of Saudi Arabia. District 79 has the privilege to be awarded as the Presidents Distinguished District many times in a row over the past years.


Historically, District 79 has been instrumental to the growth of Toastmasters not just in the EMEA region alone but the entire world since its beginning in 2003-2004. It was awarded as District No.ONE in that very 1st year of formation. Toastmasters from district 79 have been major contributors to making the region on top of the world in growth, numbers and dynamism. Not just that, many of them have been instrumental in forming new clubs and growing districts even outside of the Middle East region.

Currently, District 79 comprises of 15 Divisions and 52 Areas spread across the metropolitan cities of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with plans to move even into the most remote of Provinces of Saudi Arabia in the near future.

From its glorious beginning, firm support and commitment of its Toastmaster members, District 79 is dedicated to becoming a center of Excellence.


District 79 directors list after first reformation at 2011

2011-2012                –           Khalid Matlagaitu

2012-2013                –           Nazeer Al Qaseem

2013-2014                –           Saif Ali Shiekh

2014-2015                –           Joey Villanueva

2014-2016                –           Abdullah Al Sharif

2016-2017                –           Soliman Al Madi


List after second reformation at 2017

2017-2018                –           James Taruc

2018-2019                –           Hassan Maghazel

History of D79

The Toastmasters movement of the Gulf Corporation Council has started in Saudi Arabia, Eastern Province more than sixty years ago back in 1953 with the chartering of the first community club in ARAMCO by expatriates working in Dhahran, a corporate club in Dhahran American Air Base and one in Jeddah American Consulate in the early 1960’s. Later in 1964 Bahrain first club Manama 2916U was chartered. Then fourteen years later Dhahran 1059U was established in 1978. This was followed by Riyadh Club 6897U of Saudi Arabia in 1988, the Indian club 1836U of Bahrain in 1989 and the Oasis Club 8258U of Khobar, Saudi Arabia. The network of clubs expanded to include other GCC countries starting with UAE which added luster to this Toastmasters fraternity by chartering the first club of Abu Dhabi Chapter 1950U in 1995. Qatar became the fourth GCC country to join by establishing its first club Doha 7148U in 1997 followed by Kuwait which chartered the first Kuwait Club 7980U in early 1999. Oman did not wait too long to make its mind to be part of this great learning organization which promotes self-development and fellowship and therefore decided to establish its first Muscat Club 6646U in July 1999. The icing on the cake came as TMI approved Jordan as a member of GTC in March 2000 when the International Club of Jordan was chartered and brought new energy to our prestigious district.


Same as our founder DR. RALPH C. SMEDLEY who never envisaged founding a World Wide Organization when he initiated the first Toastmasters Club in 1923, The Toastmaster Members of Manama, Indian Club Speakers Forum (both from Bahrain) and Dhahran Toastmasters (from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia), when they held their 1st Joint meeting in 1989, did not even dream that it will result in what it is today! As the joint meeting turned out to be a great success, it was decided to continue with the same in the succeeding years.  Once Oasis Toatmasters (Al Khobar) was chartered in 1991, it became a joint meeting of 4 clubs later followed by Riyadh Toastmasters Club (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia). After each joint meeting, the presidents (and some members from each club) used to meet together and discuss about the coming years’ joint meetings.  In 1993, representatives of all 5 clubs formed a body called GULF TOASTMASTERS EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE (GTEC) comprising of Presidents and Past Presidents of the participating Clubs. TM. Horace Caviness of Riyadh Toastmasters was elected as the 1st Chairman of GTEC. The other Toasters who served as GTEC chairpersons were TM. Enola Thomas (Riyadh – 1994) and TM. Vijay Boloor (Manama – 1995).


In the early of 1996, TM Horace Caviness (Riyadh) promoted the idea of the formation a ‘Territorial Council’ for the Gulf region with the Presidents and Vice Presidents of Education as its executive committee members (this is among the first steps towards the formation of a Toastmasters District), and which was welcomed by all members. Thus GULF TOASTMASTERS COUNCIL (GTC), with 9 clubs was formed. Later, as and when Toastmasters Clubs were formed in U.A.E., Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Oman, they also joined G.T.C.


Toastmaster Mathews P. Kurien of Oasis was elected as the first Governor (1996 – 1999 – 2 terms) of ‘Gulf Toastmasters Council’. The other Toastmasters who served as GTC Governors are: Toastmaster Manoj Megchiani (Doha – 1999 – 2001) and Toastmaster Janaki Prasad Pattanaik, (Riyadh – 2001-2002), Toastmaster A. Ponnuchamy (ICSF – 2002-2003) and Toastmaster Mohammad Murad, (Dubai – 2003-2004), Toastmaster Imtiaz Ahmed (Jubail, Saudi Arabia- 2004 2005). Then several Toastmaster leaders served as District-79 Governor including Vijay Boloor from Bahrain, Sonny Varghese from Qatar, RK Radhakrishnan UAE, Philip D’Milio from Bahrain, George Thomas from Qatar and later was elected as International Director , and finally our first woman District Governor Uma Radhakrishnan from UAE who later served as Region-11 Advisor.


While in 1989 it was just a joint meeting of 3 Toastmasters Clubs of Bahrain and Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, over the years GTAC has steadily but surely developed into one among the biggest events of the Toastmasters Calendar with Toastmaster members of about 100 clubs spread in seven countries all over the middle-east; next only to the ‘Toastmasters International Annual Conference’ held once in an year involving Toastmasters from all over the world.  Every year, all the member clubs of GTC meet at the GULF TOASTMASTERS ANNUAL CONFERENCE (GTAC).


Until 1991, the meetings were conducted as normal Toastmasters Joint meetings.  From 1992 onwards (until 2002 – In the District Council meeting, it was decided to drop Evaluation Contest from District Contest to find more time for Educational seminars and Workshops), 4 Toastmasters Contests (viz. International Speech, Humorous Speech, Table Topics and Evaluation) were held.


Just as Dr. Ralph C. Smedley organized the 1st Toastmasters meeting to help the community in interpersonal communication, which has over the last 80 years transformed in to the leading movement with more than 9000 member clubs spread over 110 countries serving more than 3 million people, the first joint meeting of 3 Toastmasters Clubs held in 1989 in Bahrain has now resulted in a Toastmasters District (District 79) with a phenomenal growth more than 200 member clubs spread all over the middle-east with more than 5000 members enabling them to develop and enhance their communication and leadership skills.


The phenomenal growth of Toastmasters movement in the region in quantity and quality has resulted in the reformation of District 79 into two separate districts, D-79 in Saudi Arabia and D-20 which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Jordan and Lebanon. Both districts have shown great potential of growth and proven record of being among the best Districts within the ‘Toastmasters International’. It’s not surprising both district have already produced champion speakers and Leaders and will celebrate soon having the first leader DTM Mohammed Murad as the International President.


District-79 has become number one in the world just one year after its reformation led by the first District Governor DTM Khaled Matlagaitu and has grown into a very successful district the second year by keeping its legacy as President Distinguished led by visionary leader DTM Nazeer Gazaq Alqasem who helped transform its operation using state of the art technology to conduct business meetings and election. The legacy of District-79 being President Distinguished continued under the leadership of District Governor DTM Saif Ali Sheikh in 2014. We are sure current leadership led by District Governor DTM Joey Villanueva will continue the legacy of great achievements and keep our beloved district as one of the best in the world.

History of Toastmasters International District 79P

District 79P also known as GTC or the Gulf Toastmasters Council has a wonderful history. The first club in Arabian Gulf was Manama Toastmasters founded by American oilmen and few Asian Businessmen in the year 1964. In ARAMCO by the employees Dhahran Toastmasters Club (1059 U) from Dhahran, Saudi Arabia was chartered in 1978 which was followed by Riyadh Toastmasters Club 6897U started in 1987 in American Community Center by American nationals. The Leader club Manama and the following 20 clubs are listed as per their charter date.

Line Club Club # Year Location District Head
1 Manama Toastmasters 2916 U 1964 Manama, Bahrain DTM Vaijay Baloor
2 Dhahran Toastmasters 1059 U 1978 Dahran, KSA DTM Nazeer Gazaq
3 Riyadh Toastmasters 6897 U 1988 Riyadh, KSA DTM Horace, Nola Thomas  DTM J P Pattanaik,
4 Indian Club 1836 U 1989 Manama, Bahrain DTM Ponnuchami
5 Oasis Club 8258 U 1991 Damam, KSA DTM Mathews Kurien
6 Tanglaw Club 287  U 1995-05 Jeddah, KSA
7 Abu Dhabi 1950 U 1995-08 Abudhabi, UAE
8 Mabuhay 6059 U 1995-10 Riyadh, KSA
9 Dubai Chapter 7492 U 1996-04 Dubai, UAE DTM Mohammed Murad
10 Falcon Club 6632 U 1996-06 Riyadh, KSA
11 PRTC 8490 U 1996-01 Riyadh, KSA
12 Doha Toastmasters 7148 U 1997-01 Doha, Qatar DTM Sonny, DTM Manoj
13 Kohinoor Club 9209 U 1997-10 Riyadh, KSA
14 Sand Dunes 2789 U 1997-12 Riyadh, KSA
15 Ranao 3082 U 1998-04 Riyadh, KSA
16 Sri Lanka Club Toastmasters 8286 U 1998-06 Manama, Bahrain
17 Kuwait 7980 U 1999-02 Kuwait
18 Desert Diamonds 9462 U 1999-04 Riyadh, KSA
19 Muscat Toastmasters 6646 U 1999-07 Muscat, Oman
20 MILLENIUM 6664 U 1999-11 Dubai, UAE
21 City of Gold 8154 U 1999-01 Dubai, UAE



Some 24 years later the second club was chartered in Bahrain the Indian club Speakers Forum in Oct 1989 by then Toastmaster International president DTM John F Noonan when he visited Bahrain.


On a business visit to Bahrain Wellington Nevis visited Manama Toastmasters Club and along with A Ponnuchamy and Vijay Boloor (2916U) and Indian Club Speakers Forum (1836U) from Manama, Bahrain held a joint meeting of the three clubs in Manama. In this year There was only one contest the humorous speech contest, It was such a great success, that they decided to repeat the same again in 1990. In 1990 once again the joint meeting of three clubs were held in Bahrain.



Oasis Toastmasters (8258U) was chartered in 1991 in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Oasis Toastmasters Club also joined the group in 1991.



Riyadh Toastmasters Club, the only club in Riyadh since 1987 joined the group in this year and became the fifth member.



Until this year, during each conference, which was always held in Bahrain, Contests in three categories, namely Table Topics, Evaluation and International Speech were held with one participant from each club taking part in it.  The winners were only the best Speaker, best Evaluator and best Table Topics Speaker.


GTEC in its first meeting in 1993, decided to have:


  1. Different clubs hosting each year’s annual conference
  2. Every year to have International Speech Contest, Humorous Speech Contest, Evaluation Contest and Table Topics Contest during the Annual conference.



It was at the end of such a meeting in 1994, during the “business session” that Horace Caviness proposed to form a “body” to oversee the affairs of all the clubs. This “body” was named Gulf Toastmasters Executive Committee or GTEC. At that time there were five known active clubs.



In 1995 more clubs came into existence in Riyadh and UAE.

GTEC unanimously decided to form Gulf Toastmasters Council (GTC) with all participating clubs as members.


At that time there were nine clubs in Arabian Gulf. The primary objective of GTC was to work towards creating Toastmasters Territorial Council and later to strive to form a Toastmasters District in the Arabian Gulf. The GTC business meetings were attended by Club Presidents and Club Vice-Presidents (Education) or their proxies.  A constitution was drafted and was provisionally adopted.

1997- 1998

GTC business meeting had representatives from fourteen clubs and during this meeting the constitutions was formally adopted. The GTC Officers Election was held for three positions in GTC for a term of 2 years. The goal was set to be a Territorial Council by 1999. They elected officers were:



In this year representatives from nineteen clubs attended the Annual Business meeting of the Council. The Toastmasters work continued with enthusiasm and vigor to achieve the Territorial Recognition. This year the ritual annual gathering of Toastmasters in Arabian Gulf which used to be known as Annual Conference, received the status of Annual Convention. The most popular word GTC which stood for Gulf Toastmasters Conference became a glorious part of history. But the term GTC is used as Gulf Toastmasters Council and the conference became GTAC – Gulf Toastmasters Annual Convention. Also for the very first time the Annual Convention was not held in Manama, Bahrain and it was hosted by Doha Club 7148U in Doha, Qatar. Manoj Megchiani was the GTAC1998 Chairman. During the closing ceremony of GTAC2000 GTC Governor set the goal for GTC to strive to get the Provisional District status by 2002.



In July the GTC received the recognition from Toastmasters International as a Territorial Council. It was a land mark in the Toastmaster movement in Arabian Gulf. The same year Jordan had it’s first Toastmasters Club, which was only for the women. The very first women’s Toastmasters Club was formed in Jordan. UAE region hosted GTAC1999 and the Chairman was Major Mohammed Murad CTM, CL. During this convention twenty two clubs participated and the election for 1999 ~ 2001 was held during the business session. Goal was set to get the Provisional District Status by 2002. By a resolution the tenure of the GTC officers were reduced from two years to one year.

Second area was formed in UAE comprising Abu Dhabi Chapter, Dubai Chapter, City of Gold and Millennium chapter and the elected Area Governor was K. S. Manian CTM. Oman had its Toastmasters Club and the Toastmasters of Oman visited GTAC1999 as guests for the first time.



Toastmasters of Riyadh led by Riyadh Toastmasters Club hosted GTAC2000 with the co-host Manama Toastmasters club. The Chairman was David Lloyd CTM, CL from Riaydh Toastmasters Club, Vijay Baloor Coordinator and Janaki Prasad Pattanaik DTM as Chief coordinator. During this convention twenty six clubs participated. The same set of officers continued to build the Territorial Council. Jordan was made the member country of GTC by TMI. Third Area was formed in Bahrain and ATM A. Ponnuchami was elected as the Area Governor



Manama Toastmasters Club hosted GTAC2001 the Chairman was Santosh Pai ATM. During this conference 30 clubs participated. The GTC election was conducted and the officers were as follows:


The Area one in Riyadh was split to create two new areas named Four and Five. A new area was created in Oman, the elected Area Governor was Mahmood Safar CTM. Area Two in UAE was spilt to create two more areas. Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar had special officers from GTC office known as GTC Coordinators. The first Executive committee meeting was conducted in Amman hosted by Toastmasters of Jordan. Three Divisions were formed. Division A comprised of Saudi Arabia and Jordan was led by Governor Syed Abuzafar CTM. Division B was led by Governor DTM Royston Fernadez which comprised of UAE and Oman. Division C was led by Governor Vijay Boloor which comprised of Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait. By December 31, 2001 there were 45 clubs and the number required to form Provisional District was met. By June 2002 a total chartered clubs went up to 62 and 11 clubs were in the making. There was no election and the same set of officers continued to build the Territorial Council. Jordan was made the member country of GTC by TMI.


The Toastmasters who served as GTEC Chairpersons are:

Year Chairperson Club Membership
1993 Horace Caviness DTM Riyadh Toastmasters 6897U
1994 Enolia Thomas CTM Riyadh Toastmasters 6897U
1995 Vijay Boloor ATM Manama Toastmasters 2916U
Year GTC Governor Club Membership
1996 Mathews Kurien ATM Oasis Club 1059 U Al Khobar
1997-99 Mathews Kurien ATM Oasis Club 1059 U Al Khobar
1999-01 Manoj Megchiani ATM Doha Club, Doha, Qatar
2001-02 Janaki Prasad Pattanaik DTM Riyadh Toastmasters Riyadh,
2002-03 A. Ponnuchami ATM, CL Indian Club speakers Bahrain
2003-04 Mohammed Murad DTM Dubai Toastmasters Club


Since our beginning back in 1964, District 79P today is a tribute to the Hundreds of members who have passed through the Clubs in the last 40 years and who have contributed in their own ways to the growth and establishment of Toastmasters as the leading communication and leadership training organization in the Middle East.

We have had many fine leaders and success stories – all too numerous to mention here.  But… in the years to come we look forward to even greater success.


This history has been compiled and revised over many years. Our thanks are extended to those who made their records available, contributed research, wrote and edited the material. In particular, thanks go to Austin Nevis, DTM Janaki Prasad Pattaniak , DTM A Ponnuchamy, DTM Mathews Kurien.

Written by

Vijay Boloor, ATM-G

2nd May, 2003
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