Founder & CEO of Silkroad Images, Riham Mahafzah

Succeeding Against the Odds: Silkroad Images Inc

Founder & CEO of Silkroad Images: Riham Mahafzah

After more than a decade in the advertising business, Riham Mahafza hit upon her big idea. While creative agencies regularly subscribe to large, international and expensive photo sites like Getty Images and Shutterstock to aid in their creative work, a big stumbling block was always the lack of photos that reflect the culture and social life of the Middle East. This was a gaping hole in the market, and Mahafza set out to fill it.

“The need for the service was there and I had the needed experience, which is why I started Silkroad Images,” she explained.

In 2011, Silkroad Images was founded under the name “Gallery AlSharq,” which only served the MENA region. The company acted as a provider of exclusive Middle Eastern stock photography images and digital content.

But Mahafzah soon rebranded her startup to Silkroad after securing funding from Silicon Valley’s 500 Startups, a leading global venture capital seed fund, that also advised her to think globally. This was a main turning point for Mahafzah’s startup, she said, and that was when she decided to scale and provide services to different clients in Turkey, the GCC, and the United States.

She also relocated to the UAE after receiving investment from twofour54, an Abu Dhabi-based business incubator.

Silkroad’s achievements might still be small, but the team is determined to use them to reach new heights in the future. Mahafzah’s next step is to meet the growing needs of the GCC region, the Levant, and Turkey. By then she hopes to be ready to scale to the Far East.


This is part two of a 12-piece story. Other parts include:

Part Three:

Succeeding Against the Odds: Kama Local Gourmet

Part One: