A contemporary performance examining identity, womanhood, and potential futures.

Explore the stories of young Emirati women in this reprise production developed at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Award winning director Joanna Settle and NYUAD Alumni Reem Almenhali present a reprise of their 2020 production, a poetic, contemporary performance examining identity, womanhood and the future. Arabic and English languages weave poetry with large-scale imagery in this daring and innovative production.

Al Raheel | Departure was developed collaboratively from a series of poems written in response to women persisting and developing across childhood, womanhood, and aging.


  • Reem Almenhali – Writer, Co-creator
  • Joanna Settle – Director, Co-creator
  • Marsha Ginsberg – Designer
  • Fatema Al Fardan – Projection Designer, Line Producer
  • Simon Fraulo – Lighting Designer
  • Lily Zahwa Khamizan – Stage Manager


  • Reem Almenhali
  • Maryam Al-Shehhi
  • Maitha AlSuwaidi
  • Sara Al Shehhi

Post show conversations with Joanna Settle, Reem Almenhali, and members of the cast moderated by:

  • Sep 29th – Sabyn Jillani, Senior Lecturer of Writing and Literature & Creative Writing at NYU Abu Dhabi
  • Sep 30th – Nada Raza, Director of Alserkal Arts Foundation | Curator | Researcher
  • Oct 1st – Nujoom Alghanem, Poet | Artist | Film Director
  • Oct 2nd – Mariët Westermann, Vice Chancellor of NYU Abu Dhabi | Educator | Art Historian

Co-commissioned by The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi and Cultural Foundation.
The performance is in Arabic and English.

Watch the trailer

Get behind the scenes

Watch the introduction to the performance


Reem Almenhali

Reem is an Emirati performance artist and a playwright. Her body of work includes two performances Deliberately and in Cash and Al Raheel | Departure. Reem received a B.A in theater with a minor in psychology from New York University Abu Dhabi.

Recently, Reem wrote and directed Deliberately and in Cash, a performance lecture on the practice of collecting Diya (blood money) in the Gulf. The piece is a response to a blood money raising campaign that took place in Kuwait in 2019 and successfully raised more than 10 Million Dinars (around 30 million dollars) to set free a man that murdered a female journalist for writing an article portraying the women of his tribes as paid dancers. Reem analyzes the incident through tracing the history of the practice, surveying people’s current affiliation with tribes and relationship to tribal values, and uses the performance to create a space to honor the murdered journalist.

Reem also wrote Al Raheel | Departure, and co-created the performance in collaboration with the director Joanna Settle. Al Raheel is a bilingual contemporary theater piece that uses poetry to explore how the rapidly evolving lifestyle in the UAE and its bilingual reality affected notions of womanhood and redefined belonging for women in different stages of life. Reem won the 2020 Gulf Capital ADMAF Creativity Award for writing the script of Al Raheel.

Reem has also written poems, few of which were performed in public events such as Hekayah | The Story and Rooftop Rhythms, short stories, and prose. Reem is interested in making work that traces the evolution of things in the gulf; how practices and lifestyles changed over time, the shift in lexicon, how the gulf’s post-modern fashion scene emerged. She’s also interested in writing about the idea of time being a place to belong to while utilizing the Arabic and English languages to create bilingual texts that explore how two languages can be a dual window to meaning.

Joanna Settle (Director)

Joanna is an award winning theater and opera director based in Abu Dhabi, UAE. A native New Yorker, she has received commissions from Joe’s Pub, Berkeley Rep., the Kimmel Center, the Public Theater, The Arts Center at NYUAD, and Opera Philadelphia. Her work has been seen at PS122, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, MASSMoCA, all venues at the Public Theater, The Guthrie Theater, Arena Stage, the Wilma Theater, the Kimmel Center, Opera Philadelphia, Joe’s Pub, Brooklyn’s American Can Factory, and other locations that are not formal venues. Recent productions include: Sky on Swings: a world premiere new opera about Alzheimer’s disease by Lembit Beecher and Hannah Moscovitch presented by Opera Philadelphia, world premiere of Noura by Heather Raffo presented by Shakespeare Theater of DC, NYU Abu Dhabi Arts Center and Playwright’s Horizons NYC; and most recently, Settle co-created Al Raheel/Departure with Emirati writer Reem Almenhali, which was commissioned by NYUAD’s Arts Center and The Cultural Foundation of DCT and premiered at the NYUAD Arts Center January 2020.

She is a resident artist at the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, Serves on the Board of Advisors for Exit 11 Performing Arts Company, Abu Dhabi, UAE, serves as a Committee Member for the UAE Ministry of Education Pedagogical Coordination Committee, and received NYUAD’s Shukran Award for Cultural Appreciation in 2021, as well as a Distinguished Faculty Award. She has four projects in development ranging in research locations from Armenia, Beirut, Paris, Philadelphia, Detroit, Germany, Oman and the UAE. Settle sees her artistry, teaching and residence as part of a whole approach to interpersonal and civic engagement. Since moving to Abu Dhabi, her creative and pedagogical practices have been tremendously influenced by the potential of the UAE to become a central platform for knowledge generation in the field of Theater and Performance. She holds a BA in Theater Directing and Design from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts and an MFA from the Juilliard School, Drama Division in New York City.