Noor Aldabbagh

Executive Leadership Program - Amsterdam Class 16

Noor Aldabbagh
Director of Culture Incubators
My experience and deep interests:
I am based in: Riyadh

My name Noor means 'light' in Arabic. I was born and grew up in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and currently work in Riyadh. My love for learning new things, and for art and culture as a means of promoting intercultural understanding have been driving forces in my life and career. Culture gives life a deeper meaning and has the power to go beyond words, but also to trigger conversations that may not otherwise take place.

I studied Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard college, focusing on art history, theory, and criticism. As a hands-on practice, I focused on non-fiction video. After I graduated I made a documentary about Saudi Arabia through the eyes of first-time visitors called 'Seeing Through the Sand', and screened it at a few film festivals in Dubai, Berlin, and California. I worked in Alwaleed bin Talal Foundation for 4 years, focusing the first year on job creation for youth in the Middle East, and for another 3 years on promoting intercultural exchange globally through education and creative means. One of the most exciting projects I worked on was facilitating a grant for the construction of the Islamic Arts Hall in the Louvre in Paris. On the side of my job, I started a local 'Acumen' chapter to promote social entrepreneurship in Riyadh, together with a couple of colleagues who soon became friends.

In 2012 I pursued my MA degree in Art Business at the Sotheby's Institute of Art in London, focusing my dissertation on museum development in the UAE. Upon graduating, I started 'Banafsajeel', a curating platform allowing artists and designers in the Gulf to develop their work and collaborate across disciplines. I lived in Dubai for two years, curating exhibits and creative collaborations, then moved to Riyadh to do the same. As changes swept through the country with a new direction to open up, I started working for the government to develop the cultural sector: last year I was in charge of the Visual Arts department within a newly established 'General Culture Authority'. Currently, I'm leading an effort to develop a 10-year strategy for advancing cultural entrepreneurship in the country, working at the newly established Ministry of Culture.

When I'm not working, I'm discovering somewhere new, gathering with good friends, or indulging in yoga. I'm passionate about catalyzing and enabling a vibrant creative ecosystem in my region. We are now witnessing a cultural renaissance, and finally clawing our way out of our dark ages!