How I got into this is interesting. In December 2002 President Assad visited the UK, and of course Mrs Assad came with him. She had grown up in London, and spent some of this visit in going back to places she had known in her childhood. One of these was the Science Museum, where I was then working as CEO of the trading company. We got a call saying the First Lady wanted to visit, and could we discuss with her how we went about planning projects. As the trading company was the museum's project unit, I hosted the visit and led the presentation. Mrs Assad spoke of her interest in establishing a children's museum in Syria, and generally we all got along very well. As a result three of us were later (mid-2003) invited to visit Syria to get a better sense of what she had in mind, and following that it was agreed that the trading company should do some front-end work scoping out the project.
Things bumped along for a bit without really getting anywhere. Another visit to Syria was planned in May 2004 but before that happened I left the Science Museum after finding myself increasingly at odds with its then director (a whole other story). And not many weeks afterwards I got a call from Syria asking if I would consider taking on the management of the project, as they badly needed some expertise on the client side. I thought about it for a bit, talked at length with the family, took advice from some business friends, and said yes. I moved over in October 2004, and the project really started in February 2005.