Emirati cultural personality Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo has become the first Arab individual to receive the Medal of Honour, the highest distinction awarded by the prestigious Spanish institution Reina Sofia School of Music.
Kanoo received the award from Queen Sofia of Spain in a ceremony in Madrid on Thursday.
The Medal of honour is presented to individuals and institutions in recognition of their work in supporting and developing music culture and education.
As founder of the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation and the artistic director of the Abu Dhabi Festival, Kanoo has been honoured for her expansive career and contributions to evolving the cultural landscape of the UAE and wider region.
She dedicated the award to Sheikha Fatima, the Mother of the Nation.
“Her unwavering support empowers women throughout the UAE,” she said.
“To be awarded the Medal of Honour is a testament to the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation’s commitment to investing in creative potential and advocating for cultural diplomacy both at home and abroad.”
Kanoo further explained the foundation’s goals and key mission in a recent interview with The National.
As the administering body of the Abu Dhabi Festival, she explained how using culture to build bridges between the UAE and the wider world is at the heart of the annual event’s programming.
“It is our contribution to cultural diplomacy,” she said.
"By partnering up with more than 35 of the greatest international institutions to create new works, commissions and productions, the festival opens doors for people both in Abu Dhabi and around the globe to discover the world’s greatest talents.”
Spain has been at the forefront of international outreach.
Last month, the festival collaborated with Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu and Flamenco star Maria Pages for the world premiere of dance production De Scheherazade a Yo, Carmen.
After receiving rave reviews from the Spanish press, the production is set to embark on a two-year world tour taking in Europe and South America.
The festival also signed a partnership with Teatro Real in Madrid to stage Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida in October.
Such cultural contributions, including bringing Spanish opera stars Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo to the UAE in 2007 and 2013 respectively, led to Kanoo being awarded The Commander of the Royal Order of Isabella the Catholic by the former King of Spain Juan Carlos in 2016.
“With Spain we share values of innovation, creation and respect,” Kanoo told The National.
“Spain and the Arab world share a cultural history that dates back to the 9th century from the time of Ziryab who revolutionised music by introducing the oud to Spain and Europe and who established the first conservatoire in the world, teaching its students harmony and composition.”