Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities (Baca) chair Sheikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa has been dismissed from her post, after reportedly refusing to shake hands with Israel’s ambassador to Bahrain Eitan Naeh. The two had met at a reception hosted by United States ambassador Stephen Bondy on 16 June, to mark the recent death of his father.
King Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa appointed Khalifa Bin Ahmed Bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa as the authority’s new president, via a royal decree on 21 July, while Mai was out of the country. On the same day, Prime Minister and Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa phoned Israel’s Prime Minister Yair Lapid to discuss bilateral relations and other regional issues.
In a statement on 24 July, Mai thanked the king and Salman Bin Hamad for their support for the cultural sector. She said she had been “well-informed in advance of the change in the presidency” and that the change in leadership “should not be misinterpreted, or circulated in any way that undermines national interests.”
Mai Bint Mohammed had been Baca president since 2015. She has also been Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage chair since 2012. Prior to that she served as culture and information minister (2008-10) and culture minister (2010-15). She is also a historian and has written a number of books on notable Al-Khalifa figures of the past, as well as a biography of former British adviser to Bahrain Charles Belgrave.
Bondy’s tenure in Manama is proving to be an eventful one. The US ambassador was reprimanded by his Bahraini hosts soon after starting his job in February, after he had held meetings with local civil society activists (GSN 1,142/14).