Dubai artist SALMA AL MARRI. Photo courtesy
Arts & Culture Events

Expo 2020 Showcases Women Empowerment

The Women’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 celebrates women from every land, culture and religion, who are making history and stimulating change. Sponsored by the Cartier Foundation, the pavilion takes visitors on an educational journey showcasing both male and female contributors to women’s empowerment and gender equality. Through these stories, the Women’s Pavilion aims to raise global awareness and inspire people from all generations to make a difference within their community and beyond. 

 “The Women’s Pavilion highlights the crucial roles that women have long played as linchpins of their communities and drivers of economies, and underscores Expo 2020 Dubai’s firm commitment to empowering all women to drive their own development and create a better future for us all,” said Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau.

To showcase women’s achievements, Dr. Reem El Mutwalli (founder of the non-profit
Zay Initiative),  played an integral role in creating the Women’s Pavillion and ensuring proper representation of Arab women. Located in the pavillion, she created the ‘Draped in Heritage Photographic Exhibition’ which features twenty trailblazing Emirati women pictured within the setting of their current fields of work. The goal of the exhibition is to showcase the achievements of Emirati women as well as honor the women that came before them, paving the way.  Dr. Mutwalli discussed her vision for the exhibit with Taylor Re Lynn (Cultured Focus Magazine), the Zay Initiative’s participation in Expo 2020 and their ability to empower women by bringing their untold stories to life. 

Draped in Heritage at Expo2020

When bringing her concept to fruition, Dr. Mutwalli explained that as collectors of both the tangible and the intangible, it is a constant challenge to put across the stories of the women who owned and wore the dresses in The Zay Collection.

“We decided to choose twenty women from the UAE, representing all walks of life, but they all have to have one thing in common – they should have achieved something significant. Instead of aiming for women in top public positions who already receive recognition, we decided to feature the unsung heroes”, said Dr Reem Tariq El Mutwalli”.

It was important to tell the stories of two generations; the women who are featured in the images, as well as the generation that came before them. The outfits worn by the women in the photographs are ensembles of items with varied provenance. Some items belonged to educated women, others to members of the UAE ruling families, and some to simple rural women. 

“In those days, a woman’s value was determined by children she bared and raised. These older women, represented by the clothes, produced the women of today. Their spirit and character are draped onto the young achievers. In this way, we are empowering and honoring both generations.”

The collection of artful images depicting trailblazing Emirati women draped in historical outfits from The Zay Collection includes :

L to R: Sheikha Shamma Bint Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, Sheikha Latifah Bint Ahmed Bin Maktoum Bin Juma Al Maktoum, Sheikha Chaica Bint Sultan Al Qassimi
  • Sheikha Shamma Bint Sultan Bin Khalifa Al Nahyan, CEO of Alliances for Global Sustainability, Abu Dhabi
  •  Sheikha Latifah Bint Ahmed Bin Maktoum Bin Juma Al Maktoum, Olympic Showjumper, Dubai
  • Sheikha Chaica Bint Sultan Al Qassimi, Special Olympics, Sharjah
  • Dr. Maryam Matar, Founder Chairperson UAE Genetic Diseases Association, Dubai
  • Mariam Al Zarouni, Engineer, Head of Studies Unit, Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, Dubai
  • Hind Al Ameri, Assistant Scientist, Marine Species, Environmental Agency, Abu Dhabi
  • Hiba Al Shehhi, Director of biodiversity department, Ministry of climate change and environment, Dubai
  • Atheer Ali Bin Shakar, Senior Bulletin Editor & Presenter – Dubai Media Inc., Dubai
  • Salma Al Marri, Artist, Dubai
  • Amal Mohammad Al Shihhi, Abu Dhabi Police Cavalry, Abu Dhabi
  • Alia Abdulla Ali Salem Al Neyadi, Ballerina, Culture Programming, Abu Dhabi
  • Husa Al Khaldi, Civil Engineer, Abu Dhabi
  • Mera Al Qassim, Author, Poet, Abu Dhabi
  • Amalie Beljafla, Creative Director and Artist, Dubai
  • Zainab Rashed Al Kaabi, CEO Fujairah National Hotels Cooperation, Fujairah
  • Lamees Bin Hafiz, Tv presenter and writer – Dubai media Incorporated, Dubai
  • Noura Alserkal, Artist and Jeweller, Sharjah
  • Layla Al Hammadi, Photographer, Abu Dhabi
  • Khasiba Ali Al Dahmani, Um Nabit,? Mars Mission, al Thaid
  • Dr. Sumaya Mohammed Alblooshi, Director of Nursing Department, in EHS in the UAE and Head of National Nursing & Midwifery Committee in the UAE, Dubai

About | The Zay Initiative

 The Zay Initiative is a non-profit UK registered fashion digital library and collection archive. The initiative, founded in 2019 by Dr. Reem Tariq El Mutwalli, owns and manages the world-first Arab dress-history archive. The Zay Initiative aims to promote an understanding of the evolution of regional culture, building up public awareness and appreciation of this unique heritage, reaching out to like-minded individuals and institutions nationally, regionally and globally. 

About Expo 2020 Dubai: Connecting Minds, Creating the Future

Expo 2020 Dubai brings together millions of people to celebrate human brilliance and achievement under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. 
Opened in October 2021, Expo 2020 Dubai makes history as the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region and the first to be hosted by an Arab nation. The Expo takes place over six months with 192 participating countries coming together under one theme. In partnership with Cartier, Expo 2020 Dubai features the Women’s Pavilion to shine light on the trailblazing women who are exploring new frontiers. The UAE is a leader in gender equity, ranked first in the Middle East and 24th globally in the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security’s 2021 WPS Index

 About Cultured Focus Magazine

Cultured Focus is an entertainment news magazine that provides the latest in arts and culture within United States and globally. Founded in 2016, the publication is particularly proud of the diverse talented group of artists and female change makers that have had international exposure on the platform. For more information, visit

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