The magical kingdom of Mawaheb

Nestled in Dubai’s historical area (Bastakiya) is a beautiful space called Mawaheb – an art studio for adults with special needs. It is a centre where students are trained with life skills by nurturing their creativity through art.


The goal is to help them unleash their talent to become confident and independent. Sometimes, all that is needed to realise your full potential is to be accepted and included. Mawaheb makes this happen by encouraging anyone who enjoys a creative release to join along in their art classes. Managed by Wemmy de Maaker, a Dutch social worker with over 15 years of experience working with special needs individuals, the school is a non-profit funded by donations, corporations and now the sale of art created by the students.

When we visited Mawaheb last month, specifically to buy some art, we were transported into a welcoming world full of fun, talent, warmth and kindness. It was around Christmas time; we joked with the students making human clay sculptures, danced to 80’s pop, and ate pizza. Probably the best Christmas party I have been to in a while!

And, the art is incredible. We have a beautiful painting in our bedroom, and art cushions that have brightened up our living room.


We know about Mawaheb because of our dear family friend Gulshan Karavana (also an art teacher at Mawaheb). She set-up the Special Families Support Group (SFS) in Dubai for families with special needs children to share their hopes, strengths and challenges. It is a wonderful group that anyone can be part of as it strives to integrate families with and without special needs.

If you are looking to volunteer and have some fun as well, I highly recommend doing some art at Mawaheb, or joining the SFS group.

SFS regularly plans picnics, barbecues, dance performances, fashion shows and all kinds of events that you can participate in, or even organise if you like. All they ask of you is to accept and respect everyone, and have a good time! I have been to a few of their picnics. You will be amazed at how much you will enjoy yourself and learn at the same time.

I’d like to leave you with a beautiful short documentary on one of Mawaheb’s students – Victor Sitali, an extraordinary artist from Zambia. We had the privilege of meeting Victor while at Mawaheb. This video captures the essence of the studio and what it inspires in everyone who visits.

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