UAE: Meet the Emirati women driving the Louvre Abu Dhabi narrative

They speak about their journey with the museum

File photo
File photo

Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Thu 25 Aug 2022, 7:03 PM

Last updated: Fri 26 Aug 2022, 11:04 AM

As the UAE prepares to celebrate Emirati Women's Day, we profile three UAE women - Mariam Al Dhaheri, Sara Al Mahmoud and Nada Al Aydaroos - who have played an integral role in promoting Louvre Abu Dhabi – one of the largest cultural and art destinations in the country.

The Emiratis spoke about their journey with Louvre Abu Dhabi, roles and how the museum has evolved over the years since its official opening in 2017.

Mariam Al Dhaheri, curatorial assistant

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

For Mariam Al Dhaheri, communicating with a variety of the museum’s audiences is one of her favourite roles.

The curatorial assistant, dedicated to the Middle Ages, started working at the cultural destination n January 2015 after graduating from Zayed University-Abu Dhabi with a degree in communication and media sciences. In the first six years, she mainly worked in public relations.

“I joined the curatorial team in September 2021 while pursuing my Masters in History of Art and Museum Studies at Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, adapting my skills and knowledge to the scientific, curatorial, and collection management department,” she said.

“As you walk through the galleries, a journey across time and space, the responsibility lies with the storytellers. My journey evolved from the way I narrate this story being a communicator for a variety of audiences, and that is one of my favourite parts of the job. The top privilege, however, is to interact with the artworks. Meeting them at first glance, researching, and finally, communicating their many stories,” said the Emirati.

Al Dhaheri who works with the chief curator in conceiving and implementing the artworks on display and expanding loan agreements, says: “It was once in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of the opening in 2017 and witness a historic moment in Abu Dhabi’s cultural development.”

One of the most memorable moments for Al Dhaheri was meeting the UAE President, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and French President Emmanuel Macron during the opening of the galleries.

Historically, Emirati women have contributed in a big way to the development of art and culture, from opera to visual arts, and will continue to do so.

Speaking on how the exhibitions/display at Louvre Abu Dhabi have changed since its opening and what one can look forward to in future, Al Dhaheri said that as part of the intergovernmental agreement, loans from their 13 French partner museums are to be replaced gradually with the permanent collection.

“As an Emirati museum, we are also growing our own semi-permanent national collection. The museum is also actively forging new partnerships with regional museums and further afield - the most recent being with Ayala Museum in the Philippines,” she said.

“In the lead-up to the museum’s fifth anniversary this November, our visitors can look forward to the openings of three major exhibitions – including Impressionism: Pathways to Modernity, the region’s most comprehensive Impressionist exhibition to date.”

There are also a number of new acquisitions currently on display for visitors to enjoy, including Sapi-Portuguese oliphant (1490-1530) from Sierra Leone; Nautilus (1561) from China and Flanders; and a ceremonial axe (19th century) from the Kanak Culture in New Caledonia, she said.

Nada Al Aydaroos, senior loyalty programme officer

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Nada Al Aydaroos, senior loyalty programme officer at the museum, looks after individual giving, and focuses on the membership programmes. Her role involves creating a community of loyal museum lovers and engaging with them through various activations.

Talking about her journey with Louvre Abu Dhabi, Al Aydaroos says she was fortunate to join one of the museum’s internship programmes prior to its opening in 2017.

“Being part of an important intergovernmental project opened my eyes to the cultural world, and when I started this journey with Louvre Abu Dhabi, I immediately knew this was where I wanted to work. I have not looked back since,” she said.

“I manage the membership programmes, working with almost all of the museum’s departments - creating policies, procedures, events, research, and content. As my career grew, I took on an expanded remit to introduce new membership programmes –with the overall aim of to encourage and nurture the next generation of art and culture enthusiasts,” said Al Aydaroos.

Having ‘backstage’ access to the first universal museum in the Arab world is Al Aydaroos’s favourite aspect of the job. “I love it! Knowing the full story and the details behind it all motivates me to do more, and it reminds me of the reason why I am here and why I love what I do,” she said.

The Emirati said it is a privilege to be part of the team that helped open a first-of-its kind museum in the region. “Now, almost five years on, Louvre Abu Dhabi is considered one of the modern urban wonders of the world, and I am proud to play a role raising awareness and building loyalty for a monumental institution and integral part of the cultural landscape in Abu Dhabi,” she said.

Being at Louvre Abu Dhabi since pre-opening days, Al Aydaroos has seen visitors from all over the world visit the museum and watched her projects come to life. “I have had the opportunity to create a community of art lovers here in Abu Dhabi. “I will not forget the picnic event we hosted at the start of year in the museum’s park – it was inspiring to see so many people – families, children and youth – come together to enjoy themselves in one place.”

She said they focus on three main pillars: awareness, engagement, and outreach to create a community of loyal museum members. "Louvre Abu Dhabi’s art, artefacts, exhibitions and events, combine to tell the shared human stories that transcend differences of culture, time and place. My role is to bring this vision to life and create meaningful experiences for our members.

The museum engages its members in all its activities and also curates exclusive ‘moments’ and events for them, including curatorial talks, tours and exhibition previews.

“One exciting event we are working on this month is the Mirzam factory visit and curated dinner by Aptitude Café with the museum’s curators,” says Al Aydaroos

Sara Al Mahmoud, senior production officer

Supplied photo
Supplied photo

Sara AlMahmoud, senior production officer, developed the foundation of the museum’s cultural programming unit to what it is today

She says her journey with Louvre Abu Dhabi started the moment she read the announcement of the project and saw the rendered photos of the museum’s iconic dome. “I was mesmerised by how beautiful the structure was and strived that one day I will be able to work in this institution,” she said.

“Years later, in 2015, the museum launched its first “Louvre Abu Dhabi Ambassadors’ Programme”, where I had the opportunity to join as an intern in the International Affairs unit, assisting with the museum’s opening.”

The Emirati officially joined the team as an auditorium programming officer and had the responsibility of developing the foundation of the cultural programming unit to what it is today. With her background in events and love for culture, the Emirati was able to launch the film screening series, talk series, public activations, and many performances and installations.

Currently, Al Mahmoud leads on the creation of cultural programmes that link to the museum’s content and engages with the public (such as film screenings, performances, conferences, symposiums and others). The favourite aspect of her job is that it connects her to the public giving her a chance to hear what they want and to provide them with experiences they will always remember.

“I’m proud to have been a part of the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi and being able to execute more than 160 programmes in the past 5 years, ranging from symposiums and conferences, performances and concerts, film screenings and public activations such as yoga and kayaking,” she said.

“One of my biggest achievements was being the team lead for Louvre Abu Dhabi in the Department of Culture (DCT)’s Innovation Acceleration Programme in 2021 and winning first place with four bright team members. I took our winning idea to life through “The Royal Secret Soirée” immersive production which will now become a staple experience each year, linked to our temporary exhibitions.”

Al Mahmoud says being one of the few Emirati women to have made such a large impact on the cultural scene of the UAE makes her proud.

She said some of the major cultural programmes that have had a high impact on the public include “The Roads of Arabia”, “Battle of Styles”, “Electro Night”, “The Royal Secret Soirée” and “Retro Blast”, and many more. The beauty of these programmes stems from the reinterpretation of culture, and finding a common ground that unite all individuals as one.

With the museum’s 5th anniversary approaching this November, her team has plenty more exciting events to start planning.


More news from