Itijah - for future leaders in Europe and the Arab world

What is Itijah?

Itijah, meaning "direction" in Arabic, is a programme that expands, enriches and energises relations between European and Arab cities. It brings together leaders from both regions to learn and work together in a fresh and exciting way, and as a result develop innovative approaches to new - and old - problems.

The third Itijah took place in Doha, Qatar from 31 March to 3 April 2014, drawing together leaders from major cities in Europe and the Arab world.

Participants (approximately five from each of the below major cities) gathered for four days to address a set challenge:

Alexandria       Budapest       Frankfurt       Tripoli  
Amman           Doha             Istanbul
Amsterdam      Dubai            London

The programme is aimed at people in the mid to senior stages of their career with a track record of leadership and success in their fields and professions. They explore the context of the challenge in greater detail before working up ideas (whether big or small) to feed back to the Advisory Group.

participants on itijah programme

"The concept of Itijah is inspiring and when we see future  generations, they will find it extraordinary that people who have never met from such diverse backgrounds can reach quick and innovative consensus on some of the hardest issues Arab and European culture face."

Richard Goodfellow, Partner, Addleshaw Goddard LLP


What is the Challenge?

On each programme, the participants are immersed in a challenge and work together to come up with ideas and recommendations relevant to the challenge.

The Challenge is set by the Itijah Advisory Group and is always:

  • a compelling issue for leaders that is common to both the Europe and the Arab world
  • significant and wide-reaching in its impact but contained in its focus to ensure the participant group can explore and present feasible and meaningful solutions.

Each year another challenge will be selected for that year's participants to investigate.

The 2014 challenge was:

For every 10 million euros invested in legacy events, how can we ensure that 100 direct jobs are generated by and for young people in business and social enterprises?

Past challenges include:

2013: "As water becomes increasingly scarce the importance of how it is managed grows exponentially. What innovative solutions can be developed to create a balanced ecosystem within cities that would lead to a 40% increase in effective water management by 2030?"

2012: What would it take to multiply the number of young people who create new businesses using ICT and social media?

Expand, enhance and enrich European and Arab relations

How do I apply for Itijah?

Applications are open. Complete an application form today.

Applications are invited from exceptional leaders in the mid stages of their careers who are keen to develop as they move towards more senior roles within their organisations or sectors.

Applicants need to demonstrate:

  • a track record of leadership
  • ability to work with a diverse group to solve complex problems
  • commitment to engage with wider society/public life
  • interest in the Europe/Arab world dimension of the network.

All applications are reviewed by the Itijah Advisory Group after which some applicants may be invited to interview.

When and how much?

Course fees are as follows:

  • EUR 3,200 plus local taxes for participants from Europe
  • GBP 2,650 plus local taxes for participants from Arab world
  • GBP 2,650 plus local taxes for participants from UK

The fee includes all accommodation, food, materials and transportation for the duration of the four days. Please note that flights are NOT included.


Applicants who cannot pay the full fee should not be deterred from applying.

There are a few part-scholarship places available for applicants who can demonstrate a clear need for financial assistance and who are unable to meet the full fee.

Requests for scholarships can be made via the application form but if you would like to discuss this further then please contact the Itijah team.

Itijah helps participants to:

  • grow as leaders, by exposing them to people who lead differently
  • develop their Cultural Intelligence by showing them how another country or city works, then throwing them into a difficult task with a very diverse group
  • build new networks, by giving them access to participants and contributors they might otherwise never meet
  • stretch their analytical and creative skills, by exposing them to a new approach to innovation
  • develop their influencing skills, by putting them in front of senior decision makers to present their findings.

Who has attended Itijah previously?

A strategy consultant from an international professional services firm, a programme lead in the health service, a desk editor in the national media, a programme manager in the public sector, a freelance producer and artist, an asset manager in the petroleum industry, a programme officer for a world leading economic development organisation, and a senior sales consultant for a large engineering company.

participants on itijah programme


Itijah has lead to the creation of the following new innovative ideas to combat water scarcity:

Itijah, Doha, March 2014

Job Training Enterprise Centre

Maintaining the momentum of legacy events by recycling and re-using all the physical and human capital invested in creating these events, by creating a Training Job Enterprise Centre (TJE), which serves as a hub for creating jobs and opportunities around legacy events.


A legacy event turned into an opportunity to create lasting memories and relationships between the host and the visitors by sharing personal time and resources. Hosts will offer accommodation, barbecue parties, cultural excursions like boating, exploring the desert, hunting with falcons etc. to visitors. Visitors will experience an unforgettable time together with their hosts.


The project has two main objectives; Encouraging young Qataris to follow local mentors in becoming ambitious achiever and later on role models in six fields of excellence ("I am Qatar") and changing the international perception of Qatar standing "just" for Energy into a world class hub for art & culture, modern technology and sports ("Made in Qatar"). Some of these youth will start projects that have the potential to become global organizations with outlets, factories, research centres and laboratories around the Middle East, but inspired by Qatar.


Young Entrepreneurs Park (YEP)

An innovations hub that will house up to 30 different SME or start-ups interested in establishing themselves in Qatar. It will include Qatari and foreign entrepreneurs and will be located in one of the Qatar 2022 venues therefore reusing valuable space to provide sustainable jobs. The Park will hold annual events and show care an expo which will attract 4000 entrepreneurs from around the world. There will also be competitions and training sessions which will include networking events.

World Event Platform

This is an online database that uses Big Data technology to provide information about Jobs, business, training and events for countries that are hosting World Events. The platform with contain the lessons learnt from previous events in other countries and will also include a live platform of business, trends, jobs etc that are ongoing. The platform will provide a beneficial tool for governments, job seekers, organisations (Private, public and not for profit sector organisations), enterprises and the main players such as FIFA and the Olympics in order for them to share and improve for every World Event.

New Industry

The aim is to bring attention to the solar industry in Qatar and to research and develop the manufacturing capabilities of the country. To do this they will make solar energy a priority in every Qatar 2022 project and bring multiple stakeholders from Qatar and the Solar Industry together. Solar energy is already big in Qatar with panels being used to power air-conditioning for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Meet the Itijah Advisory Group and the team

The Itijah Advisory Group

Itijah's Advisory Group includes senior level leaders with expertise in the public, government, private, cultural and not-for-profit sectors in Europe and the Arab world.

The responsibility of the Advisory Group is to provide strategic direction on the challenge for Itijah participants, oversee the governance and administration of the application process and determine the challenge set for participants in Itijah year-on-year.


Picture of Sir Graham Boyce (Chair)

Sir Graham Boyce (Chair)
Senior Adviser, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Picture of Amal Al Mannai

Amal Al Mannai
Executive Director of Social Development Center

Picture of Samer Asfour

Samer Asfour
Director of Government Sector for Emerging Markets, and Director of Thought Leadership & Research, PwC

Picture of Sana Bardawil

Sana Bardawil
Regional Communications Director Middle East & North Africa Shell

Picture of Attila Bodnar

Attila Bodnar
Co-Founder and Executive Vice President of Business-Development, Organica Water

Picture of Tony Bury

Tony Bury
Founder and Trustee, Mowgli Foundation

Picture of Alfonso Di Ianni

Alfonso Di Ianni
Senior Vice President, European Enlargement and Commonwealth of Independent States Region, Oracle

Picture of Simon MJ Leary

Simon MJ Leary
Partner Middle East Health Industries Leader, PwC

Picture of Amina M. B. Megheirbi

Amina M. B. Megheirbi
President of Board, Attawasul Association

Picture of Khuloud Al Nowais

Khuloud Al Nowais
Director of Projects, Emirates Foundation

Picture of Duncan Pickering

Duncan Pickering
Abu Dhabi Office Managing Partner, DLA Piper

Picture of Murat Unal

Murat Unal
Founder and Executive Board Member, Funds@Work

Picture of Paul Walton

Paul Walton
Head of Executive Office, Anna Lindh Foundation

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Tracee White
VP Talent Management, DP World

Our staff

Picture of Karen Mackley

Karen Mackley
Business Development Director


Picture of Alison Cusworth

Alison Cusworth
Business Manager


Arab and European companies have come together to sponsor Itijah

PWC itijah sponsor

PwC firms provide industry-focused assurance, tax and advisory services to enhance value for their clients. More than 163,000 people in 151 countries in firms across the PwC network share their thinking, experience and solutions to develop fresh perspectives and practical advice. See for more information.


Cisco itijah sponsor

Cisco, (NASDAQ: CSCO), the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate, this year celebrates 25 years of technology innovation, operational excellence and corporate social responsibility. Information about Cisco can be found at

Emirates foundation itijah sponsor

The Emirates Foundation for Youth Development is one of the UAE's foremost philanthropic organisations. It offers financial and technical support to projects that enrich the lives of people in the Emirates, particularly in the area of youth development.

The Foundation facilitates links between commercial businesses and the public sector to devise new projects and strengthen existing nonprofit initiatives throughout the country. Its funding comes from programme-rated contributions and a capital reserve supported by the Abu Dhabi government and private companies.

Launched on April 12, 2005 by H.H Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, its Board of Directors is chaired by Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

DLA Piper itijah sponsor

•         Finance & Projects including Islamic Finance
•         Intellectual Property and Technology
•         Litigation & Regulatory
•         Real Estate
•         Restructuring

DLA Piper is a global law firm attracting some of the highest calibre lawyers and clients in the world. With 4,200 lawyers in 76 offices in 30 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe, the Middle East and the US, we help companies do business anywhere in the world.

DLA Piper is one of the strongest full-service international legal practices in the Middle East, drawing on experience both locally and from around the globe. We have a presence in all six GCC countries; Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates as well as a group firm, DLA Matouk Bassiouny, in Egypt. We have dedicated practitioners across the following practice areas:

  • Employment, Pensions & Benefits
  • Corporate
  • Finance & Projects including Islamic Finance
  • Intellectual Property and Technology
  • Litigation & Regulatory
  • Real Estate
  • Restructuring


Shell & Silatech



Shell is one of the largest private oil and gas companies in the world with over 93,000 full-time employees and active in more than 90 countries. In the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, Shell has over 4,000 employees with more than 90% of the employees native to the region. Working hand in hand with governments and local partners, Shell is proud to support the oil and gas industry in the MENA region, both in the upstream and downstream sectors.

Shell's relationship with the UAE dates back to 1939 as a shareholder of Petroleum Development (Trucial Coast) Ltd. Today, Shell is a joint venture partner in the Abu Dhabi Company for Onshore Oil Operations (ADCO) and in Abu Dhabi Gas Industries Ltd. (GASCO). Through our partnerships with ADNOC, ADCO and GASCO, we have sought to share learnings from our unique global experience to add value in three key areas: technology, best practice and competency development.

Shell not only looks to partner with host governments and national enterprises, but also believes in supporting local communities and environments in the countries in which we operate. Shell has developed a number of social development programmes in the MENA region, focusing on providing training and learning opportunities for local talented youth focused on three themes: human capital development, environmental awareness and road safety.



Silatech is a dynamic social initiative that works to create jobs and expand economic opportunities for young people throughout the Arab world. It promotes large-scale job creation, entrepreneurship, access to capital and markets, and the participation and engagement of young people in economic and social development. Founded in 2008 by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Silatech finds innovative solutions to challenging problems, working with a wide spectrum of NGOs, governments and the private sector to foster sustainable, positive change for Arab youth.

"Silatech" comes from the Arabic word "Sila," which means "connection." In Arabic, "Silatech" means "your connection." Silatech brings NGOs and civil society, governments and the private sector together to address youth unemployment issues from every angle.

Their mission is to connect young people with improved opportunities for employment, enterprise and civic engagement. We do this by mobilizing knowledge, investment, technology and networks, and by influencing mindsets and policies that are key to unlocking wider impact.

Cultural Intelligence (CQ) is the ability to cross divides and thrive in multiple cultures.

Visit our CQ section to find out how to develop and assess your CQ.

Find out more.