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Meet the Team

CIE's  team is made up of a very diverse range of people from different backgrounds, disciplines and specialities, all united by one common theme; a passion for cultural heritage. The organisation is run from our head office in Leiden, the Netherlands. Further afield, CIE maintains a huge international network of heritage advisors that spans the four corners of the globe, as well as working closely with Leiden University and New York University Abu Dhabi.

CIE is committed to providing a platform for young professionals and students to gain experience and to open up opportunities for them to kick-start their heritage careers through offering a number of internship placements each year to work with us in both Leiden and further abroad.





CIE Team

Jonathan Sharfman

Program Coordinator

Jonathan coordinates CIE’s maritime and underwater cultural heritage (MUCH) programme. His research, focused on Africa’s maritime connections, has taken him across the continent and to the Middle East where he was engaged as a postdoctoral research associate in the Dhakira Centre for Heritage Studies at New York University Abu Dhabi. Jonathan was the head of the MUCH Unit at the South African Heritage Resources Agency from 2005 to 2013 after which he became director of CIE’s partner organization, the African Centre for Heritage Activities.  He holds a PhD in Archaeology from Leiden University....

Robert Parthesius

Research Associate

Robert is the  Chairman and  Research Associate of CIE as well as an Associate Professor at New York University Abu Dhabi and Leiden University and Associate Professor to . He holds a doctorate in the History of European Expansion from the University of Amsterdam. Between 1998-2005 he was curator of the Amsterdam Historical Museum. He managed the culture and development programme in the Bay of Galle, with the Avondster Project, through which he trained and established a Maritime Archaeological Unit in Sri Lanka. In 2005 Robert established CIE and  for over a decade acted as its director....

Claire Louise Okatch

Research Associate

Claire is a 2018 NYU Abu Dhabi graduate who advocates for inclusive policy making that creates space for the female, youth and black voice. She has worked with youth networks and community groups in South Africa, Mozambique, the UAE, East Africa and South East Asia to this end. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Policy and Global Affairs from the University of British Columbia.

Verónica Mateus Pereira

Program Associate

Verónica is an archaeologist based in Portugal. She has been collaborating with CIE, since 2016, firstly on the project Heritage on the Historic and Arabian Trade Route. Her investigation is focused on World Heritage Sites and the (de)colonisation legacy, presently using the Indian Ocean region as a case study. She combines the areas of archaeology of the Portuguese colonial period and heritage studies while also working on new platforms to engage with local communities. Verónica holds a MA in Archaeology from NOVA University of Lisbon and a postgraduate in Journalism and Audiovisual Communica...

Nurcan Yalman


Nurcan is an experienced archaeologist based in Istanbul. She completed her PhD at the University of Istanbul in 2005 and is an Executive Board Member for the European Association of Archaeologists (2013-2016) as well as on the Board of Trustees for the Cultural Awareness Foundation in Istanbul. Nurcan has worked with CIE as an Advisor for a number of years, and has taken a leading role in many of our fieldschools and identification missions such as those in Sri Lanka and Tanzania. Nurcan has also been involved in developing sustainable heritage education programmes in Turkey and Tanzania.

Mohit Mandal

Program Associate

Mohit is a graduate of NYU Abu Dhabi, where he first became interested in concepts of heritage and the ways they uniquely manifest across cultures. Mohit has worked with CIE on various projects in Zanzibar, Leiden and Abu Dhabi. Mohit will begin his PhD in Sociocultural Anthropology at Harvard University in the fall of 2018, with theoretical interests in migration, citizenship and religion.

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Program Director

Biljana coordinates our research group which stimulates academic study concerning heritage questions surrounding National Museums, World Heritage Sites and development through culture. Until 2015 Biljana was coordinating all activities relating to the Afghanistan Program for Culture and Development. Biljana is also a PhD student at Utrecht University. Her current research investigate the potential of culture in bringing social and political change in society on one side and the social and civil movements that emerge as reaction to oppressive cultural politics, on the other.

Program Coordinator

Sibongile works with CIE since 2009. She is coordinating the “Our World Heritage”; a global initiative promoted by a group of individuals involved over the years in the implementation of the World Heritage Convention with an aim of transforming the manner in which the Convention is implemented. Sibo is a lecturer in Museum and Heritage Studies at Sol Plaatje University in the Northern Cape of South Africa. She holds a PhD in environmental Education from Rhodes University. She is currently a Deputy Editor for the Southern African Journal of Environmental Education. Sibongile is also involved in two African Union projects which are; the development of a framework for the cultural and creative industries for Africa as well as a member of an Africa team conceptualising the Museum of Africa project which will be based in Algeria.

Senior Advisor

Alia Yunis has worked on projects on five continents, focusing her writing and filmmaking on memory and heritage. Her feature documentary, The Golden Harvest (2019), made its debut at Thessaloniki International Film Festival, won Best of the Fest at its US debut at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival and has gone on to play in several other festivals. Alia spent many years in Los Angeles as a screenwriter and script analyst for companies such as Village Roadshow Pictures and Miramax. Alia is a PEN Emerging Voices Fellow and the recipient of a comedy-writing award from Warner Bros.  Her novel, The Night Counter (Random House 2010), was critically-acclaimed by the Washington Post, the Boston Entertainment Weekly, and several other publications, and it is read in classes in several schools and universities.  Her fiction and non-fiction writings have appeared in numerous books, magazines and anthologies and been translated into six languages.


She is currently co-editing two anthologies looking at the connections between the Gulf and the rest of the Arab world, Africa and the Indian subcontinent through film and visual media. She is is one of the contributing writers on the Historical Dictionary of Middle Eastern Cinema (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021) and Oxford Bibliographies (2021). In 2010, she co-founded the Zayed University Middle East Film Festival (ZUMEFF), now the longest running film festival in the Gulf. She is also one of the two co-founders at UAE National Film Library housed at Zayed University

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Senior Advisor

Umayya is a writer and researcher specializing in cultural policy, identity and future planning. With a BA in Asian and African studies and MA in Media Studies, she has worked as a tv-journalist, lecturer, and as a researcher at the Finnish National Gallery. She was a member of the Arts council of Finland and chaired its first Multicultural Board. As an advisor and expert she worked for the Finnish Ministries of Education, Culture, and Finance. She actively works with the CIE with our events and heritage activities, as well as working on CIE publications.

IT Specialist

Paschal recently graduated from NYUAD with a major in Civil Engineering and a minor in Interactive Media Arts and Technology. To follow his passion for computer programming, in 2017, he established a software development start-up in Tanzania. The start-up is specialized in developing mobile and web platforms, especially education-related platforms for companies and NGOs. Besides, he manages CIE servers and develops new platforms for CIE. Currently, he is developing interactive web and mobile apps for visualizing ship voyages in the Indian Ocean in the 17th century.

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