Current activities & diversions to other websites


What I’m currently doing or have recently done:

  • Helping to set up NaiFlow, a tech start-up to map traffic flows in Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Recently completed the Museum of Contemporary Ancient Arabia (MoCAA), an online museum which is the reflection of my research project for NYU Abu Dhabi, called Searching for Ancient Arabia (see the Tumblr page here, and the FB page here). I have also produced a magazine for the museum with the findings of field trips made by me and contemporary Gulf artists during the project.
  • Preparing my submission to the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) of the Qatar Foundation, 4-6 November 2014 in Doha. I will speak about the use of contemporary art in teaching social sciences based on my experiences at the Paris School of International Affairs/Sciences Po, on Ahmed Mater’s Desert of Pharan series and the MoCAA project.
  • Starting to work on Crisis of History part 2: Against History, which will open in Amsterdam in Feb 2015.
  • Settling my family in Nairobi

Unwinding the history of the UAE

Historic consciousness in the UAE and in the other GCC states goes back only a few centuries, at most; this is how far back most prominent Emirati families can reliably trace their genealogy.

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What happened in these lands before the advent of Islam is as alien to the current population, as if it had happened on another continent.

This disconnect, which is the driving force of my research project Searching for Ancient Arabia, was explored in the case of the UAE in this article I wrote.




Making an exhibition with my students at the Paris School of International Affairs

This was my fifth year lecturing at the Paris School of International Affairs (the international Master programme of Sciences Po) and the third year teaching the course ‘Contemporary Art and Geopolitics in the Arab World’. I have been experimenting with ways of making the course more relevant to students and the society at large. Two years ago I decided to put the best papers of my students online, to share them. Last year I went a step further and asked my students to write a Wikipedia article as their end-of-term paper, to share their knowledge with the world at large. And this year I asked them to write their papers as catalogue contributions to an exhibition I made in Paris to coincide with the end of the term.

Here one can find the links to their papers and images of the exhibition, which I made with the help of the Window, an art space in the center of Paris run by a good friend of mine and those that contributed to the crowd funding project I ran – especially my father!

Most of my students: from left to right Alexandre Nawath, Sarah Smail, Anna-Katharina Kraft, Emma Ghariani (hidden), Lily Matras, Kristina Keenan, Kata Pali, Leo Teste, Joice Barbaresco (partially hidden), Mariam Kandil, Lucile Gasber and Malika Touddimte

Most of my students: from left to right Alexandre Hawath, Sarah Smail, Anna-Katharina Kraft, Emma Ghariani (hidden), Lily Matras, Kristina Keenan, Kata Pali, Leo Teste, Joice Barbaresco (partially hidden), Mariam Kandil, Lucile Gasber and Malika Touddimte

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‘Searching for Ancient Arabia’ – further information about the research project

A workshop will be held for all those interested in participating in this research project at the Downtown Campus (off Hamdan Street) of NYU Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 25 February, from 18:00 to 20:30.

For details about the workshop and registration see the bottom of this page.

Introduction to the research subject

Stone Altar from Marib (5th - 4th Century BC) and Bronze Statuette of the warrior Ma'dikarib, South Arabia, 6th century BC
Stone Altar from Marib (5th – 4th Century BC) and Bronze Statuette of the warrior Ma’dikarib, South Arabia (6th century BC). These and all other photos and maps/diagrams on this page are reproduced from the book “Arabia and the Arabs from the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam’ by Robert Hoyland, 2001. See below for ordering information

“Only a small proportion of the lore of the Arabs has come down to you. Had it reached you in its entirety, much scientific and literary knowledge would have been yours”

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Making Environments Hostile

A few days ago I got my certificate for Hostile Environment Awareness Training (HEAT) from the Carabinieri in Livorno. The Carabinieri are the Italian counterpart of the Gendarmerie, or Guardia Civil – the police force that depends from the Ministry of Defense. The training was given by the First Paratrooper Regiment (“Tuscania”), who engage in difficult operations abroad, like protecting VIPs in enemy territory or liberating hostages. They are strong, self-confident, good-looking and easy-going Italians, the real stuff, machos beyond posturing. Continue reading

Security through integration, not isolation

La Taverna du Liban Kabul

Afghan security in front of bombed restaurant in Kabul. Photo by Johannes Eisele for AFP/Getty Images

The news of the bombing of La Taverna du Liban, a Lebanese restaurant in Kabul, reached me while I was following a pre-deployment course for a EU mission in Libya. I think I knew Kamal, the owner of the restaurant, who died in the assault; if it was the same man who set up the restaurant somewhere in 2004-5 (and it seems so from this personal account), he was a hearty, generous man and I regret his death, especially for his children.

This attack was the most deadly one for the international civilian community in Afghanistan since the post-Taliban international involvement began. Afghan police reports 21 dead, of which 13 internationals and 8 Afghans (ABC news).

Several of the people following the EU-course, a group of seasoned international civilian experts, knew some of the victims, and we discussed the event at length, especially as security is a main item on the agenda of this course.

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Searching for Ancient Arabia

I’m about to start a FIND fellowship at New York University Abu Dhabi called ‘Searching for Ancient Arabia’ and I’m looking for artists, curators, critics and scholars to participate in this research project.Ancient Arabia 1

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