Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan,
Minister of Tolerance

Founded in 2004 and organised by Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation, the annual multidisciplinary Festival is the largest cultural celebration in the entire region and reaches across the world through co-commissions and the international presentation of innovative Arab creativity. In essence, Abu Dhabi Festival strives to deepen global cross-cultural dialogue whilst inspiring a deeper interest in the cultures of the Arab world.

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Founder & Artistic Director

H.E. Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo

Founder, Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF)

Founder & Artistic Director, Abu Dhabi Festival

Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo is a patron of the arts who has dedicated her life to inspiring artists to create, generations to innovate and communities to unite and prosper. She worked tirelessly to found the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation (ADMAF) in 1996 and is also the Artistic Director of the jewel in its crown, the Abu Dhabi Festival, which she established in 2004.

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Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo’s unquantifiable contribution to the UAE’s national cultural sector was recognised by H.H. President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2006. His Highness appointed her to the Board of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture & Heritage (now Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi), on which she served until 2012. 

Huda has received numerous awards for her dedication to the arts, education and women’s development, including The Abu Dhabi Award and Abu Dhabi Medal (conferred by H.H. General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi), the UN-affiliated Women Together Award, the Aspen Institute Emerging Voice Award for Cultural Stewardship, the Puccini Festival Foundation Award, an honorary doctorate from the American University of Paris, and the Middle East Institute’s Visionary Award, among many others. 

Amongst the orders bestowed upon her are The Commander of the Royal Order of Isabella the Catholic (Orden de Isabel la Católica), conferred upon her by HM Juan Carlos, former King of Spain, by order of HM Philip IV, King of Spain; The Medal of Civil Merit of Spain; the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz); Commendatore dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà of Italy; Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur of France; Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of France; the Belgian Officer of the Order of the Crown, bestowed upon her by HM Albert II, King of Belgium; The Gloria Artis Medal of Poland; and the Order of the British Empire (OBE), bestowed upon her by HM Queen Elizabeth the Second.

She serves on the boards of the Cleveland Clinic International Leadership Board, the International Circle of the Reina Sofía College of Music,and the International Advisory Board of the Edinburgh International Festival. She is also a founding member of the American Ballet Theatre’s Global Council, and she sits on the National Advisory Board of Zayed University – College of Arts and Creative Enterprises.

An Emirati National, the daughter of a pioneering Saudi businessman and a Syrian mother, Huda was born in Beirut, Lebanon. Raised at a crossroads of cultures, her education took her to the American College of Paris, where she studied French literature and art history. Huda returned to the region and settled in Abu Dhabi. She is married to businessman and artist Mohamed Abdul Latif Kanoo, a member of the prominent Yusuf bin Ahmed Kanoo business family, with whom she has three children, Abdul Latif, Noor and Abdul Rahman.

“Invest in the young. Create the future. Partner with the world.”

Huda I. Alkhamis-Kanoo

About Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation

Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan,
UAE Minister of Tolerance


ADMAF is among the oldest, non-profit cultural organisations in the Arabian Gulf. Founded in 1996, it is dedicated to the advancement of knowledge, of development, of culture and of creativity. Over those last 20 years, ADMAF has pioneered new practices and new works, it has supported Middle Eastern debuts and nurtured the careers of gifted young professionals throughout the Arab world.

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Today, ADMAF reaches nearly 40,000 children, young people and adults annually through arts-education and community-outreach programmes as well as the Abu Dhabi Festival. The annual multidisciplinary Festival is the largest cultural celebration in the entire region and reaches across the world through co-commissions and the international presentation of innovative Arab creativity. Each year, the Festival Awards honour outstanding individual contributions to arts and culture with previous recipients including Plácido Domingo and Amin Maalouf. In essence, the Abu Dhabi Festival strives to deepen global cross-cultural dialogue whilst inspiring a deeper interest in the cultures of the Arab world.

The diversity of ADMAF’s programmes has been astonishing and seminal, including pioneering music in hospitals; embedding best practice for art therapy among PMLD and SEND children; co-commissioning with international cultural organisations, such as the Zaha Hadid JS Bach Chamber Music Hall (with Manchester International & Holland Festivals); City of Light: Ravel’s Mother Goose with Installation (with the Los Angeles Philharmonic); presenting the Arab world debuts of Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Valery Gergiev, The London Symphony Orchestra and The Bolshoi; fostering innovation through initiatives such The Christo & Jeanne-Claude Award; and nurturing contemporary cultural expression among musicians such Naseer Shamma and composers Mohammed Fairouz.

The Abu Dhabi Festival Vision

Patron: H.E. Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahyan
UAE Minister of Tolerance

Reflecting the Abu Dhabi vision

Reflecting the vision of the UAE capital as an international cultural crossroads, the Abu Dhabi Festival is rooted in the principles of the country’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan: tolerance, respect and enlightenment. As a thriving metropolis that places art, education and culture at the fore, the Festival plays an intrinsic role by further expanding the boundaries of creativity and innovation through the arts. Through its Main and Education & Community programmes, it permeates the farthest reaches of the UAE, engaging children, young people and adults while providing memorable and meaningful experiences that unite visitors, residents and citizens alike.

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Engaging Audiences

Each year, artists from around the world converge on Abu Dhabi to perform, engage and inspire alongside their Emirati counterparts. Strengthened by a growing network of international strategic cultural partners, the Festival has increased its audience dramatically since it began in 2004. With hundreds of events in venues across the seven Emirates, each edition maintains its formidable reputation as a ‘Festival of Firsts’. Alongside commissioned works and international collaborations, audiences experience national, regional and world premieres that celebrate the creative genius of mankind.

Investing in the Future

Since its inception, the Abu Dhabi Festival has placed education at its core, building upon the vision of the Festival’s Founder and Artistic Director, Huda Ebrahim Alkhamis. By working with a range of academic partners, it presents a wealth of opportunities for children and young people aged 18 months and upward. By demonstrating just how effective arts-based learning can be, its thriving and motivational educational programme invests in the development of young minds; shaping tomorrow’s leaders by sowing the seeds of creative innovation today.

Access for All

Today, over 90% of the Abu Dhabi Festival is free, providing events across the country. In addition to staging high-profile events and commissioning exciting new works by Emirati artists for everyone to enjoy, the Festival programme also works with local partners in the special needs, health and welfare sectors to provide unique experiences that complement existing provision for specific groups including hospital patients and those with profound and multiple disabilities.


A partnership with the arts offers a cost effective way to associate with creative excellence and national identity in order to address a corporate social responsibility agenda or stand out in a competitive marketplace.

Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation and Abu Dhabi Festival have collaborated with some of the leading businesses and media organisations in the United Arab Emirates. These visionary businesses are ensuring that ADMAF and Abu Dhabi Festival’s impact on society continues to deepen and grow. From unique branded initiatives to broad marketing visibility and employee benefits, our sponsorship team work closely with each partner to develop meaningful relationships and tailored packages that are rooted in CSR and business goals.

To learn more about how you can become part of the largest cultural celebration in the region, reaching across the world and embedding your principles in local communities, contact georgia.c@admaf.org