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H.E. Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa Nominated As Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization

The internationally recognised royal has played an integral part in advancing Bahrain’s cultural infrastructure and sustainable tourism projects.

Her Excellency Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa is in the running for the post of Secretary General of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Nominated by the Bahraini government, the President of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities has numerous achievements under her belt. The royal, who is also Chairperson of the Board of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage and Founder/Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research, is mostly known for her prominent work in enhancing sustainable tourism and developing a robust cultural infrastructure. 

“I am humbled to be nominated as the Secretary General of the UNWTO. The contributions of the tourism sector in supporting economic development cannot be underestimated, it has the power to alleviate poverty, support local industries and enhance education and healthcare systems,” said Shaikha Mai, who was appointed as the Special Ambassador of the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development in 2017 by the same organisation. “I have been fortunate to contribute to the growth of the cultural sector in Bahrain and have seen first-hand the impact it has had in enhancing tourism and developing cross-cultural understanding.” 

Shaikha Mai's candidacy comes as the tourism sector is going through significant challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“As we look toward post-pandemic recovery, we must continue to support sustainable tourism to drive socio-cultural progress and achieve greater economic prosperity,” she added while talking about her impressive feat.

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About H.E. Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa

Shaikha Mai has held several important positions, including Assistant Undersecretary for Culture and National Heritage and Minister of Culture. She was also the first Bahraini woman to become Information Minister. Widely recognised as a pioneering figure in the Arab cultural scene, Shaikha Mai has been behind a variety of annual cultural and tourism initiatives, including the Spring of Culture and Bahrain Summer Festival.

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Regional and International Accolades

Shaikha Mai has received many distinguished international and regional awards, including France’s highest honour, Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, and the World Monuments Fund’s Watch Award. In 2010, she made news as the first laureate of the Colbert Prize for Creativity and Heritage, plus she has earned the Social Creativity Award from the Arab Thought Foundation. The inspiring woman is also recognised as an outstanding leader. She is the recipient of the Distinguished Arab Woman prize (in the field of Administrative Leadership) from Paris’s Center of Woman Studies, as well as the Administrative Competence and Excellence trophy from the Arab League.

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Here are some of the projects H.E. Shaikha Mai has kickstarted, which have contributed to cementing the Kingdom’s status as a cultural hub and stimulating urban development:
  • Establishing the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research to enhance cultural dialogue and preserve the traditional architecture of Bahrain.
  • Launching the ‘Investing in Culture’ initiative, which encourages partnerships between the public and private sectors to advance cultural projects.
  • The registration of three national sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  • Founding the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage, a UNESCO Category 2 Centre.
  • Leading the ‘Revitalisation of Muharraq’ initiative, a series of restoration and reuse projects, which was awarded the 2019 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. This included the restoration of the iconic Pearling Path that showcases Bahrain’s rich heritage.

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