Maryam Behnam

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Author, public speaker and advocate for women’s empowerment in the Gulf, as well as being a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, Maryam Behnam was born in 1921 to a prominent family of pearl merchants, who have been linked to Dubai for more than a century.

She was brought up in Iran, India and Pakistan. Her education and ambitions led her to public service and diplomatic posts in Pakistan and in several provinces and remote areas of Iran, where she served as Director General at the Ministry of Art and Culture.

She left Iran in 1979 during the revolution, only a few days before her name appeared on one of the ‘mamnoo-el-khorooj’ lists, which bore the names of those forbidden to leave the country. In 1979, very shortly after her arrival in Dubai, she joined the daily Gulf News as a writer, spending three years as Arts and Culture advisor, researching articles on Islamic culture, local customs, social and educational development in the UAE and the progress of women. She helped initiate the Gulf News Lady’s Society, which promoted activities that helped empower women.

Throughout her career, Maryam has challenged the way women think about their status and their role in society. She has contributed immensely to the arts, especially women’s handicrafts, as a means of bettering people’s own and their family’s lives. Today, she is senior adviser to the Dubai International Women’s Club (DIWC), one of the oldest women’s clubs in the country.

Her books include Zelzelah – A Woman before her time; Raindrops – Journey through life; Heirloom – Evening tales from the East; and Role of a Friend, a compilation of her official speeches during her time as a diplomat.

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