Nashwa al-Ruwaini is as close as you can get to a one-woman media whirlwind in the Middle East.
The larger-than-life media maven has built Pyramedia into one of the region’s foremost shingles largely through the force of her personality.
Her career has taken her from her native Cairo to Qatar, London and finally the emirates of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
She has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, producer and festival director — and almost everything in between — and the touchstone that has carried her throughout has been her belief that nothing is impossible.
She began her career with Radio Qatar at age 15 before moving on to become a TV presenter on Qatar TV. “At the time there was nothing in Qatar,” says the 38-year-old al-Ruwaini. “My main job was entertaining the American troops stationed there. I was the youngest female presenter on Arab TV when I started.”
She was soon recruited by MBC, launched in 1991 as the first privately owned pan-Arab satellite channel and still the region’s most popular net. From there, a series of firsts followed. She worked on the Arab world’s first daily morning show and helped put together the region’s first show based on a format with MBC’s local version of “Wipeout.”
“We were the first people to bring formatted shows to the Middle East,” she says. “I worked on the Arab version of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,’ negotiating the rights with Celador for the show and then overseeing the production in Cairo.”
And while she remained a popular onscreen personality, she increasingly sought to work behind the scenes. Every time she tried to get out, however, they pulled her back in. While producing MBC’s femme talkshow “Kalam Nawaem” — with a format similar to that of “The View” — station bosses persuaded al-Ruwaini to multi-task as one of the presenters.
“I was only supposed to do the show for a couple of months until we found someone else,” says al-Ruwaini. “I ended up doing 180 episodes.”
It was around that time that al-Ruwaini finally decided to branch out on her own, so she set up Pyramedia in 1998. Since then, the company has continued to strengthen thanks in large part to the support she has received from TV execs in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
When Dubai TV chiefs decided to relaunch the channel in 2004, they poached al-Ruwaini to present “Nashwa” and become one of the faces of the new and improved net.
The show, which mixes celeb interviews with taboo-busting social affairs talk, is still running on Dubai TV.
It was with Abu Dhabi TV that Pyramedia enjoyed its biggest hits with poetry contests “Prince of Poets” and “Million’s Poet.”
The success of those shows has allowed Pyramedia to build a lucrative platform for itself in the ambitious emirate, supported by al-Ruwaini’s role as the exec director of Abu Dhabi’s Middle East Intl. Film Festival.
Her position has allowed her to push Pyramedia into feature film production and tap directly into the growing base of local Emirati film talent.
“We want to work with the biggest players in Hollywood and make our dream a reality,” says al-Ruwaini. “The cultural industry’s infrastructure in Abu Dhabi is (growing), and it could lead to nothing short of a magnificent future.”