Last week we heard the devastating news that we had lost a loved and valued member of our International Training Programme (ITP) global network.
Saeed joined us on the ITP in the summer of 2016 with 20 other participants from around the world.
His participation meant that we added Yemen to our list of network countries, beginning what would prove to be a sustainable and rewarding partnership. Saeed was a worthy ambassador for his country and his institution, Seiyun Museum. His passion for museums and the wider cultural sector was clear and his enthusiasm for the Programme was infectious.
During the Programme, our fellows take part in an exhibition project and Saeed’s proposal was entitled Smelling Aromatic Smoke: Treasures of Ancient South Arabia and demonstrated his knowledge, skills and experience but also his creativity and imagination. The evening was a triumph for Saeed, what he had been able to achieve in six short weeks, was greeted with overwhelming praise and I remember him being so happy and proud.
Outside of the Programme Saeed was generous with his time, his company and his knowledge and he was a friend to everyone in the 2016 cohort. I have been totally overwhelmed by the lovely messages coming into me by e-mail and more widely on social media. Everyone loved and wanted to spent time with Saeed and after their time in London, there was clearly a close bond between our fellows that year with Saeed at the centre keeping everyone working, talking and sharing their news and views – not just around museums and culture, but exchanging family and work updates and just discussing life in general.
Saeed was, for me, what the British Museum’s International Training Programme is all about. Making contacts and networks around the work and maintaining and nurturing them, not just through a shared love of museums culture but through a shared love and understanding of humanity. Saeed knew how to connect, how to be a friend, it came naturally to him, and this was his greatest gift to us all.
Manager, International Training Programme
Saeed was the first ITP Fellow I really got to know, as one of my first tasks when I started as ITP Assistant was supporting him on a visa application to attend ITP+ Photography and Documentation (December 2017). Saeed had to travel from Hadhramaut in Yemen to Amman in Jordan to complete his UK visa application. Saeed and I were pinging so many WhatsApp messages back and forth organising this! Of course this trip to Jordan was quite a challenge in itself, and then it ended up being an unsuccessful application to come to the UK. That was very disappointing and frustrating both for Saeed and the ITP team, but he was really upbeat about the whole experience. He had to stay in Amman for a week before he could get his passport back and go home, but he totally made the most of it. He used the opportunity to visit museums in Amman and share with other ITP members via the ITP blog! When he got home, and while the ITP+ short course was running in London, he also wrote for the blog about documentation and photography at his museum, Seiyun Museum. His presence was still felt even though he couldn’t be there in person. I am sure this is just one of many examples of Saeed’s positive outlook, always reaching out, making connections and making the best of the situation.
Saeed was also reigning king of ITP online engagement, especially Twitter. Saeed was guaranteed to get involved in any museum social media opportunities as well as the ITP newsletter. He was always on the list of top ITP blog contributors in every yearly round-up! He was so dedicated to ensuring that Seiyun Museum was still accessible when closed to the public, whether through global digital outreach such as his involvement in Twitter #AskACurator Day, or through special private visits for schools and universities.
Saeed never forgot to wish me a happy new year with a lovely message via WhatsApp every year since our first encounter in 2017. For me, Saeed encompasses everything that’s great about the ITP. Even though we never met face to face, we were truly connected across the globe.
ITP Assistant 2017-2019
Coordinator, British Art Network, Tate
I am so sad about Saeed’s passing, he was such a warm and kind colleague, so passionate about the museums and his colleagues. I can’t believe we won’t be exchanging messages about our post ITP developments…
Barbara Vujanović (Croatia, ITP Fellows 2016)
The ITP was an extraordinary experience for me. Personally, it was the first time I had gone to London and leaving my family for quite a long period. As for working experience, ITP opened my mind to so many new things to learn, to compare and to implement.
But what really reminded me of the ITP? It is the friendship that I kept until now. After 5 years passed by, friends still share about their works and up-and-down moments in their everyday life.
Saeed is one of my ITP friends that has never failed to be with me. Not only sharing about our museum works, he also shared with me news and photos of his newly-born daughter, wedding of his brother and the family holidays. He has never missed to wish me Eid and New Year greetings.
We were in Birmingham together, Saeed, Yolanda, Noor Khan and me. Not to forget Njeri. What an experience! We got on the wrong train to Birmingham, we went to a lot of places together – the museums, the candy and barber shops, and rows of shops looking for good clothes for his wife. We had such enjoyable dinners with Adam Jaffer and Maryam, and when we spent time with Adam’s parents. We went to the Tate together when we went back to London.
Spending time together with Saeed at the Middle East department while in BM also strengthened more of our friendship. Together we learnt a lot from Zeina Klink-Hoppe and Venetia Porter, and not to forget their assistance in our Room 3 projects.
As for our ‘chill’ moments, with Dora Jok, Saeed and I always ended up having our latte together bought from the BM staff cafe.
Thank you to you all, Claire, Adam, Zeina, Venetia, Njeri, Dora, Yolanda and Noor Khan for making my memories with him to be a very good one.
I have lost more than a good friend, a brother actually. My prayers are with you, Saeed. #restinpeace
With my best regards,
Rashidah Salim (Malaysia, ITP Fellow 2016)
Saeed’s journey to the UK to join the 2016 ITP was a particularly complex one which made his arrival all the more special. Kind, caring, funny and generous we were so lucky to have him on board! A master of all the communication channels, despite distance and time passing since his time in London, his updates were familiar and keeping in touch was easy. He is so missed.
Former Coordinator, International Training Programme, British Museum
It is at such a time that tears blur my vision, but allow me to celebrate the times spent together with Saeed in 2016.
I met you amongst the 23 ITP 2016 fellows. You came across a quiet fellow though your warm smile was always welcoming and noticeable. We never got a chance to interact closely until the third week. Your ICOM membership card had arrived and you requested me to walk with you to the Great Court (in the British Museum) and take you a picture of you with a poster for ICOM membership. After seeing and listening how enthusiastic you were and how you had seized the opportunity to register while in London since the communication in Yemen was not very good, I was challenged and made a resolve to join ICOM once back home. Currently I am not only a member but in the National Committee leadership. I owe this to you, my brother! How we hoped to meet in one of the general meetings!
When the time for the 2 weeks of placement with the partner Museums and I was with you Saeed, Yolanda, Rashidah and Noor. How amazing this team was? I remember the tours to art galleries and through the city in Birmingham.
We have always been in touch, chatting every now and then. Sharing with one another on work, family and life in general. Last time I recall you sent me Swahili phrases and told me that these are phrases you often hear along Yemeni’s streets. I sent you the translation and you reminded me that your desire to come to Mombasa, Kenya was still alive. You always reminded me that your grandparents had lived in Mombasa.
On June 1 2021, you sent me a message responding to my status update. The fact that I was upcountry and with connection challenges isn’t reason enough to have not responded. If only I knew that this was my last chance to communicate with you, I would have done better my friend. I believe that you can hear me and do forgive me.
But even when my pain is unbearable, I can’t help but condole more with those who knew you longer and better, your young family, whom you often mentioned in our chats, your friends and colleagues. It is my prayer that they may find peace.
My brother, my friend and colleague….
Yours was a full life…
And so we celebrate it though tearfully…
We shall miss you dearly…
Fare thee well…
Rest in Peace…
Njeri Gachihi, ITP Fellow 2010, Senior Fellow 2016
I did not want to believe my dear Saeed was gone. He was such a good and very humble person. I am speechless. He always accompanied me and Rashidah to go for dinner in ITP 2016. He was always around when no one was there to accompany us. He was so softly spoken.
“Hard times will always reveal true friends”. That was his WhatsApp status on 4 June 2021. I texted him to respond to that. His last text was “Good morning from Hadhramaut” with two stalk of red and pink flowers emoji. I never knew that was the last good morning and last text from him.
I received the email on his untimely demise on 12 June on my birthday, but I did not read my email because I was too busy. I thought my birthday is the day I must pamper myself without thinking of work, emails and Facebook. I never expected I will receive this sad news on my birthday. How am I going to enjoy my birthday in future when behind my mind, I’ve lost a great person, my dear friend is no longer around to chat with. I miss you already my friend. Rest in Peace.
With a very sad heart,
Dora Jok (Malaysia, ITP Fellow 2016)
The news of Saeed’s passing came as a shock. I have wonderful memories of ITP 2016 when Saeed spent time in the Middle East department. His contagious good humour, his willingness to help others, his knowledge and interest, his enthusiasm and engagement were some of the factors that made that summer special. Not to mention his extreme calm when everyone was running around trying to get the Room 3 projects printed in time for the Clore presentations. Saeed and I remained in contact since then, not only exchanging social greetings at Eid, Christmas or New Year, but also commenting on textiles, incense, and coffee and all sorts of matters museum or Yemen related. I count myself very privileged to have known him, worked with him, and learnt from him.
Saeed, rest in peace. You will be missed.
Phyllis Bishop Curator for the Modern Middle East
The British Museum
Such a tragic loss!!! I can’t believe he’s gone!!!
Two months ago I lost my dearest mother-in-law from COVID and Saeed was always around and very supportive to me.
Since our trip to Birmingham, Saeed and Rashida became two very special friends for me up to today. Rashida’s words ‘Yolanda, we have lost our good friend’.
I can’t even imagine the pain of his family now. I wish I could support them in the way he supported me.
Saeed was always calm and he always had a smiling face. I never saw him getting mad or being sad.
We will never forget him.
Yolanda Theodoropoulou (Greece, ITP Fellow 2016)