She herself is a bridge between cultures, of a Syrian mother, Saudi father, raised in Lebanon until the civil war, student of French Literature and History of Art in Paris, married to a businessman and artist from Bahrain and settled in Abu Dhabi, in the heart of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where she is today one of its great figures, a true cultural ambassador: in 1996 she decided to create the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation so that culture, especially classical music, would reach all citizens, especially young people, and to promote creativity and artists in their country.
The initiative, almost three decades later, has been a success, it has given rise to a great competition, the Abu Dhabi Festival, and in addition to having achieved that today there are classical composers in that area, it has spread its influence throughout the world, especially in Spain, where it has taken the Macba collection to Abu Dhabi, it has co-produced with the Liceu the latest show by María Pagés or it has sponsored the first tour of the symphony orchestra of the Reina Sofía School of Music, an institution that on Thursday gave her Medal of Honor, presented by Queen Sofía, a friend of the patron.
“It was a great honor to be recognized as a philanthropist and for trying to bring our cultures closer together. And for her majesty, Queen Sofía, who unswervingly supports cultural understanding, ”says Alkhamis-Kanoo in a room at the Mandarin Ritz in Madrid, where she combines softness and passion in her responses and breaks stereotypes about the her country. A country that she, she affirms, supports men and women equally and where she has not been a rare bird.
“I think there is nothing like the UAE in tolerance, open-mindedness. The country has long ago opened the doors to women's education, to opportunities, we have ministers, members of parliament, women in the arts. It wasn't new when I arrived. What I was able to bring was to open more doors for our artists and those of the world to work together. Support the classic, give the Abu Dhabi scene another dimension. As a woman I was lucky to be there, perhaps in another country in the Arab world I would not have had this support. My motto has been to invest in culture, in young people. It is a right”.
Does your country, which has a Louvre headquarters, reinvent itself through culture? “The UAE is rooted in culture, we are not reinventing ourselves with it, it is in our traditions and history. Today we want innovation, creation, working together to seek new horizons and possibilities that we still do not know and we are going to discover together. Commissioning new projects, productions, supporting artists, writers, moving forward. It is what the UAE is betting on. If we want to continue building civilization, the only way is to continue investing in culture, and the ambassador of culture is the artist. We must invest in the arts, in the cultural industry, in possibilities that have no end if we open the door to free creative thought”.
In that sense, about Huntington's clash of civilizations, he is clear: “We chose that clash or that there is understanding. It is a choice. The clash of civilizations is people who decided not to understand each other. It's so easy to do when we open the door, we listen, we see where their culture, their beliefs come from."
Regarding his deep relationship with Spain, he says that “first it is because of the people, there is an exceptional energy, they are open to culture, they love life. And historically the Arab world and Spain have had exceptional relations. It's time to get back together and work together, to give musicians and artists opportunities to innovate. If we talk about building civilization, about looking for a new renaissance, we have to invest in young people now, the future starts now, there is no more time”, she concludes.